How to Grow and Care for ZZ Plant

zz plant

Quick Overview

Plant Type: Tropical perennial
Family: Araceae
Sun Exposure: Bright to low indirect light
Watering: Drought resistant. Every 2/3 weeks
Colors: Green
Size: 3-4 ft. tall
Hardiness Zones: 9-10
Soil Type: Well-drained
Soil pH: Neutral to acidic
Propagation: By division or stem cuttings.
Toxicity: Mildly toxic to humans and animals

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, most commonly known as the ZZ plant, has become one of the most popular houseplants in recent years thanks to its resilience and dependability. ZZs have wand-like stems with shiny, waxy leaves and they are often mistaken for a fake plant! Incredibly easy to care for, ZZ plants are perfect for any plant enthusiast. Honestly, you could almost forget about this plant, and it would still thrive. 

ZZ plants are extremely low-maintenance houseplants. This plant can tolerate almost anything. They thrive when left alone, making them perfect for beginners and those with a black thumb. This plant loves indirect light. Medium to bright light is best for growth, but ZZs can even tolerate rooms without any natural light at all. The leaves will sunburn with direct sunlight, so they’re best suited for indoors.

Pot them in well-draining soil and make sure to water every 2-3 weeks. About the only thing that will harm a ZZ is overwatering. So when in doubt, water less often and make sure the soil dries out completely between waterings. ZZs grow from bulbous rhizomes that store water. They’re drought-resistant plants, and the rhizomes allow for survival without a regular watering schedule. They can go without water for months. They’re slow-growing plants, but they can grow to be anywhere between 3-4 feet tall over time. 

Just keep up that watering schedule and gently dust the leaves with a damp washcloth when needed, and your ZZ will be content on its own. 

ZZ Plant

About the ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant originated in Eastern Africa and is popular anywhere from Kenya to South Africa. Introduced as a house plant in the early ’90s, ZZ plants are known for their easy-going nature. ZZs are most often grown outdoors in Eastern Africa where the climate is harsh and dry. They are known to bloom in this habitat. The blooms are white and appear similar to that of a peace lily. ZZs bloom near their base hiding the blooms between leaves and stems. Outside of their natural environment, ZZs tend to survive better indoors and it’s extremely rare for them to bloom as houseplants.

ZZs grow from bulbous rhizomes buried under the soil. These rhizomes resemble potatoes and store the plant’s water supply. They have wand-like stems with fleshy, pointy leaves that are dark green. The lush leaves are shiny and waxy in appearance. This plant is ideal for livening up any space and is equipped to survive even the harshest of conditions. It can survive low light, low humidity, and a sporadic watering schedule. That would surely kill most houseplants, but not this resilient one. They are the optimal plant choice for offices, plant newbies, and forgetful humans.

The ZZ plant can tolerate neglect but follow the guidelines below for the best growth conditions.

ZZ Plant

How to Care for the ZZ Plant

Watering ZZ Plant

Watering is the most critical factor when it comes to caring for your ZZ plant. They are drought resistant, but you will still want to pay attention to your watering schedule. ZZs originate from a harsh, dry environment. They grow from rhizomes which store their water supply. The rhizomes enable the plant to survive dry conditions without regular watering. They’re equipped to survive these harsh conditions when needed. A forgiving plant for those of us who are busy and forgetful.

For a healthy, vibrant houseplant, you’ll want to water your ZZ every two to three weeks once the soil completely dries out. A pot with drainage holes is helpful with this, but it isn’t necessary. Watering needs vary based on the plant’s lighting levels. In low light, the plant will require watering less frequently and in bright light, it will require more water more often. ZZs are prone to rot so it’s important not to overwater. Err on the side of caution and water less often until you figure out the proper schedule for your ZZ. If you notice mushy, yellow leaves, it’s a sign of overwatering. Stop watering the plant for four to six weeks and make sure the soil is draining well before resuming. This resilient plant should survive if you catch the signs of overwatering early enough.

Soil & Fertilizing

Soil needs for ZZ plants are pretty low maintenance. They prefer well-draining soil with a pH anywhere between 6.0 and 7.0. It should be no surprise that this plant isn’t picky when it comes to soil. Any store-bought potting mix or succulent blend will work. If more aeration is needed, you can add some perlite or sand to the mix.

Most houseplants need regular fertilizing during the growing season, but not the ZZ. This plant is generally happy and healthy without fertilizer. You can fertilizer one or two times during the growing season to encourage new growth. Use diluted liquid fertilizer during a watering session. It’s as simple as that. You might be tempted to fertilize more often but it’s important to keep in mind that ZZs are slow growers and that over-fertilizing will damage plants. 

Light & Temperature

ZZ plants are also flexible when it comes to lighting. They can tolerate any level of indirect sunlight from low to high levels. This plant will grow best in medium to high indirect light but can survive even in environments without any natural light at all. This flexibility makes ZZ plants perfect for offices and bathrooms that don’t receive a lot of natural lighting. It is possible the plant will grow leggy in low light conditions. If this is something you’d rather avoid, just move the plant to an area where it’ll receive more light. The only thing the ZZ plant can’t withstand is direct sunlight. The leaves will quickly sunburn in direct sun. Be sure to move it away from the window or throw up some sheer curtains if needed. 

ZZ plants prefer temperatures ranging from 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit (18-30 Celcius). Most homes stay within this range. Keep in mind that they don’t tolerate cold well and are not frost-hardy. Anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celcius) is a no-go and can cause damage or be fatal to the plant.

ZZs also tolerate a range of humidity levels. Normal household humidity works well for the ZZ. Most homes sit somewhere between 40 and 60 percent humidity. The plant will also do fine in lower humidity levels. Keep an eye on the plant during the winter months when artificial heat is in use. If the plant appears unhappy with the dryness of the air, it’s okay to use a small humidifier. If you don’t want to purchase a humidifier, you can place several plants together to increase humidity levels in the area naturally.

ZZ Plant

Pruning & Repotting a ZZ Plant

ZZ plants also don’t require a lot of pruning or repotting. This is a slow-growing plant, so it’s happiest when left alone to grow. If you notice any yellowing leaves, prune them. Plants naturally shed some leaves as they grow, so don’t worry about a couple of yellow leaves. You can either pinch them off or use clean scissors to remove them. In low-light settings, ZZs can have some leggy growth. If you’re unhappy with any stems, you can prune them. Just use clean scissors and trim the stems wherever you like. This resilient little plant will accept it and work on putting out some new growth.

Since they’re slow growers, ZZ plants will also be happy in the same pot for a couple of years on average. You’ll be able to tell when it’s time to repot because of the rhizomes. They’ll start to push up against the sides of the pot or start protruding out of the soil. When you notice this, move up one pot size. Too much room leaves more opportunity for root rot. Pots with drainage holes are preferred, but ZZs will be fine in pots without drainage holes as well. When using a pot without holes, use a layer of perlite at the bottom to allow the soil to get rid of excess water. ZZs adapt to change better during their growing season, so try to save any significant pruning or repotting until Spring or early Summer. 

Pests & Toxicity

ZZ plants are relatively resistant to pests and diseases, so there isn’t much to worry about there. It is possible for ZZs to get pests such as mealybugs and spider mites, but it’s not common. If you notice any pests, be sure to spray with a neem oil solution and wipe down the plant. Check back in a few days and re-treat if needed. ZZs are resilient, so the pests shouldn’t harm the plant unless left untreated. 

These plants are mildly toxic to both pets and humans. ZZs produce calcium oxalate – a compound that causes irritation upon contact. Skin and eye irritation can occur when contact is made with the plant’s sap. If ingested, symptoms can include upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms tend to be mild and won’t cause any permanent illnesses or death. Try to keep ZZs away from pets and small children to avoid any issues.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia

ZZ Plant Propagation

ZZ plants can be propagated in two ways: division or stem cuttings.

Division is the easiest propagation method. When repotting, separate the plant, making sure to include a rhizome and pot into fresh soil. This method will give you multiple ZZs without a lot of work.

Stem cuttings are a bit more complicated but worth the wait as well. Anything you cut off the plant can be propagated. Place the stem cuttings in water and wait, but you’ll want to be patient. ZZs are slow-growing, and it can take anywhere from 6-9 months for a new rhizome to form. You should start seeing some roots within a couple of months. You’ll want to make sure the water stays fresh so the stems will be content while you wait on new growth. Once the roots are over an inch long or a new rhizome forms, the plant can be potted into fresh soil.

Varieties of ZZ plants

The ZZ family is relatively small, but there are a few known varieties of the ZZ plant. All the varieties are similar in appearance. Each has a slight difference in leaf coloring or size, as detailed below.

Raven/Dark Beauty 

This variety sprouts lime green leaves that darken over time until almost black. The colors are striking and make it stand out amongst the ZZ varieties.

Dwarf/Zamirco

This variety is a smaller version of the traditional ZZ. It won’t grow more than two feet tall indoors, making it perfect for smaller spaces.

Lucky Classic

This variety has rounder leaves, making it stand out most from the traditional ZZ. Care guidelines are the same for this variety.

Zenzi

One of the more uncommon varieties, this ZZ has curlier leaves that grow more bunched near the top of the stems. It follows the same care guidelines as the traditional ZZ.

ZZ Variegata

This is a variegated version of the traditional ZZ. This plant will have yellow-white leaves. Care for this plant is similar, but it does require more light than the conventional ZZ.

Keep your eye out for these varieties to add some depth and interest to your ZZ collection.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia

Takeaways

If you’re new to plant care or are looking to add to your current collection, the ZZ is the easy choice. Literally. It’s such a forgiving plant that will thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Forget to water? That’s okay. Not a lot of sun? That’s okay, too. ZZ plants are the perfect introductory plant. If you think you can’t keep anything alive, try a ZZ! This plant will brighten up your space without a lot of demands. Comment below if you have any questions about growing your own ZZ. Also, feel free to share any additional tips. We’d love to hear how you care for your ZZ plant.