ZZ plants or Zamioculcas zamiifolia plants are heralded as THE easy care plant of all the easy care plants. Is it true? Can you really put them in a dark corner and never water them? Well, sort of… as for everything in life, nothing is ever really that simple so here is what you’ll need to know to care for the ‘easy‘ ZZ plant!
I’ve had my ZZ plant for approximately two years as of writing this. I do very little to care for it and yes, I’d consider it an easy, albeit, slow grower. It had fresh and bright green growth points on it when I got it, which aged and then it sat stagnant for a year doing absolutely nothing and I really do think that’s typical of the plant. It grows in rather harsh conditions in the wild and is known to be a hearty survivor. The way a plant becomes a survivor is to be cautious and the ZZ plant is absolutely cautious in using it’s resources.
TIP: One thing to keep in mind is that your ZZ plant will lean towards the light so if you prefer a well rounded plant, rotate it around at each watering.
General ZZ Plant Care Tips
Light: Zamioculcas zamiifolia are often recommended for places with low lighting. It is true that you can plop a ZZ plant down somewhere rather dim and it will survive. But there’s a difference between surviving and living. If you want your ZZ plant to grow and be beautiful for years to come, give it bright, indirect light. ZZ plants in the wild can be found in the African countries of Zanzibar and Tanzania. In their natural habitat they grow in grass lands and forests which are going to be brighter than your windowless bathroom. Now, if you have a high traffic bathroom with a good quality bright electric light that remains on for a good portion of the day, sure, you can put a ZZ in there. You just might wish to rotate it out every now and then for more light exposure to encourage growth. Mine is 2 feet from an east facing window and this spring it flushed out with several stalks of new growth.
Water: More so than lighting requirements, watering is likely going to be the thing that people struggle with in their ZZ plant care. In nature, ZZ plants go through periods of drought and then periods of rain. The roots of Zamioculcas Zamiifolia are rhizomatous like a potato. A potato can sit, plump and ready to roll for quite a while in your pantry before it eventually shrivels up and dries out. The same goes for your ZZ plant. It is designed to store water so that means you can leave it alone for weeks with no issue (I sometimes go 6 weeks between watering mine.) Eventually though, you’ll see the lower portions of the stem wrinkle up and that’s when you know it’s in need of a drink. Back to that potato in your pantry, how do you store it? Dry right? If it was sitting in a bag of water you’d surely have a rotten mess on your hands. Same goes for ZZ. Don’t let it sit wet or it’s over. The lower stems will tell you what you need to know. Smooth and plump? It’s hydrated – don’t water. Wrinkled? Give it water and check it in a week. If the soil is dry but the stem is still a bit wrinkled, go ahead and water it again. If it has plumped back up? Leave it be.
Soil: I treat ZZ plant much like a succulent in that it really needs a well draining soil mix. Remember, we don’t want heavy wet soil or those potatoes will be gonners. A sandy cactus soil will work well or amend a general potting mix by adding in some perlite for good drainage – about 3 parts soil to 1 part perlite will do. My mix even has some lava stones to further aid draining and I have it in a terra cotta pot as well. I’m pretty confident that after a week from watering, my soil will have dried out.
Humidity: No need to fuss over humidity for our friend the ZZ plant. It’s used to heat and dryness so your standard home humidity will be perfect.
Fertilizer: In nature, ZZ plant is living through periods of drought and then periods of rain. This means that it’s likely not going to get a tonne of nutrition from the soil just because breakdown and rot of nearby debris requires still air and dampness. In dry windy places, nutrients blow away. You can fertilize your ZZ a few times in the growing season (I like to fertilize mine in spring until after it’s new growth has flushed out then I ease off) but it doesn’t need much. Give it a balanced cactus fertilizer or better yet, some slow release pellets in the soil and you won’t even need to think about it.
Pruning and propagation: This plant will not require pruning unless you wish to remove damaged or dying growth. ZZ plant can be propagated in many ways including leaf and stem cuttings grown in water but be aware, they are very slow to grow this way. The easiest route is to separate rhizomes from an existing plant. You’ll be off to the races.
Pests: I have not had any pest problems on this plant and ZZ plants are rather resistant, however, if you get one, it would likely be a mealy bug or scale.
Toxicity: ZZ plants are aroids and as such, toxic. Do not allow curious chewers of any species to munch or handle broken foliage. Review Plants safe for Cats if you’re looking for non-toxic houseplants.
ZZ plant care really is easy if you know what to look for and what your plant expects from you. I hope this guide provided a bit of insight so you can grow a long lived and wonderful plant. They are quite beautiful and the leaves are usually shiny and firm. ZZ plant makes a great floor plant or topper for a shelf up high that you don’t get to for watering all that often. I think everyone should have one!