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ZZ Plant Problems & How To Fix It

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The ZZ plant’s problems vary from root rot, wrinkled stems, black spots, mushy stems, yellowing of leaves, brown tips, falling stalks, and even to the extent of new leaves failing to grow. Although they are very resilient plants, in some cases, if the problem is extensive, they cannot be saved.

The ZZ Plant contains an unusually high water content of 91% in leaves and 95% in petioles. Petioles can twist the leaf to face the sun.

Watering ZZ Plants: Everything you Need to Know

The root storage system called rhizomes can store water and filter to the rest of the plant in harsh conditions, which is why the plant can survive without water for up to 4 months.

Although ZZ plants are notorious for their ability to thrive despite neglect, often specific problems become overwhelming even for a plant of this statue, and it starts to reflect in their appearance.

Let’s explore the difficulties experienced by ZZ plants and how you can fix them?

ZZ Plant Root Rot

Root rot is a prevalent problem among ZZ plants, caused by fungi or soil that has become waterlogged. Some factors that cause root rot are overwatering, heavy rainfall or poor drainage.

Since the ZZ plant is drought-tolerant, there is no need for overwatering. It would be overwatering if ZZ plants had an Achilles’ heel.

The challenge about overwatering is that the water becomes logged in the soil.

Hence you must have a sound drainage system and try to revive the ZZ plant by following the below steps.

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How To Fix A ZZ Plant That Has Root Rot?

Prolonged root rot may lead to the death of your ZZ plant. If the case is extreme, the ZZ plant can die off within ten days. If it does not survive, chances are you can propagate. Although root rot is lethal, it is treatable.

Before you expect that scenario, you can still give the plant a fighting chance at survival by;

Pruning Of The Damaged ZZ Roots

  • When pruning a damaged ZZ root, you will need to ensure that the tools are sharp and clean, almost like performing surgery.
  • Remove any dying roots by cutting away at them. Cutting them off gives the plant a better chance at survival. Remember, once a root has died, it will not grow back.
  • Also, remove any brown and mushy rhizomes by adopting the process of quick and clean cuts.

Re-Planting The ZZ Plant In A New Pot

  • It is generally advisable to purchase a new pot, as fungus from the affected ZZ plant will often remain in the pot even after removing the plant. If not possible to buy a new pot, clean the existing pot with a mild bleach solution.
  • Allow your ZZ plant to completely dry out before re-potting into a container with a sound drainage hole.
  • Discard the old soil that contributed to the root rot, as this may still consist of the fungi.
  • Choose new soil that is lighter and moisture draining. Regular potting soil and half succulent blends are perfect.
  • Once re-potted, water the ZZ plant lightly.
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Pruning The Top Of The Plant

  • Remove all dead leaves and stems, especially if they have turned yellow.
  • Using sharp, clean scissors, you can prune the leaves from the base close to the stem or gently pull the infected stems from the soil.
  • Once you have followed this process, leave in the shaded area for a few weeks to allow the ZZ plant to bounce back from its initial near-death experience.

Your ZZ Plant Wrinkled Stems

The sign of a wrinkled stem on your ZZ plant can be caused by:

Overwatering Of The ZZ Plant

The rhizome is the storage unit of the ZZ plant. The rhizome absorbs excess water and filters to the plant when required. If the rhizome is full and the plant is overwatered, it can wrinkle the stems.

Under watering Of The ZZ Plant

If the soil’s surface appears dry, the plant’s storage system may have exhausted its resources causing the ZZ plant to dehydrate, leading to the withering of the stem.

Old Hydrophic Potting Mix

Old and damaged soil can cause the stems of the ZZ plant to appear wrinkled. A coating is developed on the old potting soil, causing it to become hydrophilic, leading to the soil’s inability to absorb water.

  • Too much direct sunlight can cause the stems of a ZZ plant to wrinkle.

Replacement Of Old Stems By New Stems

Old ZZ plant stems will dry and wither to give way to new branches.

How To Fix A Wrinkled Stem On A ZZ Plant?

Revive your wrinkled ZZ plant by:

Repotting Of The ZZ Plant

An abundance of roots at the end of the pot could mean that the old soil is causing the stem to wrinkle and requires a change. Select a pot about 1-2 inches wider and deeper than the original pot.

Place some new potting soil with good aeration and moisture retention like the Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil to the base and the outer edges. Water deeply to settle the soil and then bring it indoors.

 Reduce Watering

To fix the problem of wrinkled stems, you can reduce the ZZ plant’s watering cycle. The plant should only be watered once every four weeks and left to drain for at least 10 minutes at a time before bringing indoors.

ZZ Plant

An Under watered Plant Needs The Soil Soaked

Place the ZZ plant with the pot in a bucket of water and add some seaweed solution; leave to soak for 10 minutes; this will help the withered stems recover.

Reposition The ZZ Plant

If the ZZ plant is exposed to excess sunlight, it might be advisable to move the plant out of direct sunlight into a spot where it can get some filtered light.

Divide The ZZ Plants Rhizomes

Divide the rhizomes by tipping the plant over and pulling apart the rhizomes to make new plants.

Black Spots On Stem Of ZZ Plant

If there is an appearance of black spots on your ZZ plant, this is often a sign of direct exposure to sunlight, overwatering, fungal infection, or insect infestations. It is imperative to find the cause before trying to remedy the problem.

How To Fix These ZZ Plant Problem

Overwatering

The simple solution is to drain the excess water and re-pot with good drainage soil.

Sunlight

Remove the plant from direct sunlight and place it shaded. Place the ZZ plant in an area exposed to at least 8 -10 hours of sunlight per day.

Fungal Diseases

The appearance of black spots resembling a dark powdery substance is often a sign of a fungal disease called “Sooty Mold.”  You can remedy this using a wet cloth and wiping off this mold.

Bacterial Diseases

If you have tried a fungicide and it has not worked, bacteria could be the culprit. Often there is no cure for bacterial infection, so the best would be to get some sterilized pruning shears and remove the infected stems to prevent the spread of the disease.

Using drip irrigation, irrigate the soil, which will help rid the soil of fungal and bacterial pathogens. If the disease is severe, you can apply high toxicity fungicides and bactericides when the lower toxicity methods have failed.

A 2- 3 inch layer of organic mulch such as wood chips placed on the soil will restrict fungal and bacterial pathogens from creating an entry point to damage the ZZ plant.

ZZ Plant Mushy Stem

What Causes A Mushy Stem On A ZZ Plant?

The mushy stem is a casualty of root rot. The most common cause of mushy stems is overwatering. If a ZZ plant is overwatered and the soil is not well-drained, the excess water tends to cause root rot.

How To Fix A Mushy Stem On A ZZ Plant?

 If the root rot is extensive and has advanced fully to the stems, then the chances are it cannot be revived; however, if the stems are still sound, you can consider cutting off the weak stems above the soil.

Replant in a clay pot, as clay is porous and allows easy airflow. It might be advisable to change the soil to pro-mix and perlite soil. If you do not modify the soil, you risk transferring the rot to the new growth, starting the rot cycle again.

Consider cutting back on the water and placing it in moderate sunlight for at least 8-10 hours per day. Check that the soil has completely dried through before watering. Ensure that you have good drainage for the excess water to run off when you water.

The recovery may be slow, sometimes even up to a year, as the root needs to fully recover before you start to see any significant change in the stem.

ZZ Plant Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellow leaves on a ZZ plant are the result of overwatering. The rhizome is the ZZ plant’s storage system; hence, the ZZ plant does not require constant watering; effects are eventually seen in the discoloration of its leaves when the rot of the rhizomes leads to fungal development.

How To Fix a ZZ Plant that Has Yellow Leaves?

The first step is to uproot the ZZ plant. Check the roots and cut off any mushy, rotting roots. Pluck off any yellow leaves and clip off any yellow stems, with clippers soaked in alcohol and off as much soil as possible, discarding the old soil to avoid the fungal transfer.

Using a fungicidal solution drench the roots, scrub the pot with nine parts water and 1 part bleach, rinsing thoroughly—re-pot the ZZ plant in potting mix and perlite. Move the plant into a warm room with low light and withhold water for a week to recover.

Since ZZ plants are resilient, they will tend to bounce back quickly, and you will soon start to see the appearance of new shoots. Ensure that you keep the temperature between 76- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit.

Ensure that the plant dries out between watering. Feed with a well-balanced water-soluble houseplant fertilizer while the ZZ plant is actively growing.

ZZ Plant Isn’t Growing New Leaves

ZZ plants are slow growers and grow in cycles around late winter to early spring. Often you might be lucky to have some leaf growth during spring or early fall, perhaps about two to three leaves at a time. If you speak to any ZZ plant owners, they will term this plant as “slow growers.”

How To Fix The Problem?

You can try re-potting them or placing them in medium sunlight to see if anything changes.

You can even propagate by planting some leaves into potting soil. Sometimes, exercising patience and letting them grow at their own pace might be best.

ZZ Plant Leaves Are Curling

If the leaves on your ZZ plant are curling, it could mean that the plant is thirsty and in need of some water.

Excess watering can also cause leaf curl. Often exposure to too much sunlight can also contribute to leaves curling and sometimes even appearing dry.

Root damage, transplant shock, chemical infection from herbicides, viral infections, and pruning are also factors that may cause leaf curl.

How To Fix The Problem?

Check the soil with your finger if it is too dry, then the plant needs more water. When it comes to a ZZ plant, it is advisable to water every two weeks in summer.

You can adjust the watering cycle based on the plants’ exposure to humidity, sunlight, and temperature.

Include some cactus soil mix and water from the soil base. Also advisable to move the ZZ plant to a shadier area away from direct sunlight.

ZZ Plant Has Brown Tips

ZZ plants developing brown tips can result from improper watering or too much sun exposure and humidity, root rot, and over-fertilizing. The use of tap water can also significantly affect the browning of the tips.

Tap water contains salts, minerals, and chlorine; this causes a build-up on the soil, which results in burnt-out tips.

How To Fix The Problem?

Below are some tips on fixing brown tips and preventing them from reoccurring;

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Pruning of ZZ Plant

Brown tips will not turn green again. They can only grow back into healthier leaves if you cut off the brown ends. Cut the leaves in stages, focusing on cutting off 20% of the infected tips. Pruning of more than 20% can cause the ZZ plant to go into shock. Between each snip, ensure that you wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol.

Avoid Using Tap Water On ZZ Plant

One way you can remedy this is by using a water filtration system. Alternatively, you can leave the tap water in an open container overnight so that some of that chlorine can get evaporated.

 Give Your ZZ Plant A Watering Schedule

If your ZZ Plant does not receive enough water, the soil can dry out. Overwatering can lead to root rot. You want to avoid both these scenarios by sticking to an appropriate watering schedule. Use the soil as a guideline, only water when 50- 75 % of the topsoil is dry.

Increase the Humidity Around The ZZ Plant

The humidity around the ZZ plant can be increased by regularly misting the leaves using a pebble tray, ensuring that the tips do not dry out.

New Growth On Your ZZ Plant Is Light Green

The ZZ Plant has been known for its dark green, waxy, smooth leaves that brighten any room or office. Starting to see the light green leaves on new growth directly contrasts with what this plant embodies.

How To Fix The Problem?

New growth often appears light green as fresh leaves grow into glossy dark green leaves over time.

However, you need to ensure that you follow the proper care routine of watering, good soil drainage and aeration, 8-10 hours of sunlight per day, and the appropriate soil nutrients.

This care routine will ensure that the light green leaves will turn into healthy dark green leaves without facing the risk of browning before they reach their full potential.

Also, remember that too much fertilizer is not always the best for the ZZ plant; they depend on photosynthesis to make their nutrients.

If the leaves have still not matched the rest of the foliage over time despite you following the proper care routine, then it may be due to a nutrient deficiency; in this case, you might want to add a little more fertilizer.

The Root Bulb Of Your ZZ Plant Is Exposed

The extreme development of the roots may be due to the ZZ plant not getting enough nutrients or enough water.

Over time, watering can cause the topsoil to become washed away, causing exposure to the ZZ plant root bulbs. The root bulb can also become exposed if the ZZ plant becomes root-bound. 

How To Fix The Problem?

You can add on more soil to cover the root bulbs, but this will not fix the actual problem. The fundamental problem is that the roots may have become root-bound and must be re-poted.

Gently slide the ZZ plant out of the pot and inspect the roots; if tangled or coiled around the pot, it is advisable to re-pot. Using your fingers, gently loosen the root ball. If they are entangled, use a fork or stick to separate the soil from the tangled roots gently.

Fill the pot with well-aerated drainage soil to the stem’s base level, ensuring the rhizomes are covered.

Water the plant generously and leave it to grow in low light. Avoid potting too deeply as this can cause root rot.

ZZ Plant Stalks Are Falling Over

The most common factors affecting ZZ plant stalks from falling over are overwatering and under watering.

The stalk is often too thin at the base, and as soon as its plants are overwatered, and if there is poor drainage, the roots can rot, which can cause the ZZ plant stalks to fall off.

How To Fix The Problem?

The first step would be to assess the current damage. The problem would have started from the root and filtered to the stems. Clean out the roots by separating the soil —re-pot the plant in well-draining soil.

If the stalks are falling over and there’s no chance of revival, it might be advisable to clip off the fallen stalks and focus on the stalks that you can revive.

The best way to ensure that ZZ plant stalks do not fall over is to plan a good watering schedule.