This ZZ Plant Care Routine is Just Shy of Too Easy

It doesn’t get much easier than this. Brighten up your home with a ZZ—the perfect houseplant for brown thumbs.

ZZ Plant Care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, better known as the ZZ or zeezee plant, is a universally popular houseplant due to its foolproof maintenance requirements. ZZ plant care instructions are about as easy as they come, and these houseplants are a perfect choice for those who might occasionally forget to water their plants for weeks at a time. Read on for everything you need to know about caring for a ZZ houseplant, including their soil, light, water, and temperature needs.

ZZ Plant Care At a Glance

Common Name: ZZ Plant
Scientific Name: Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Soil: well-draining, pH 6 to 7
Light: indirect sunlight
Water: every 2 to 3 weeks
Food: 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer
Temperature and Humidity: not sensitive to high or low humidity
Propagation: division of rhizomes, stem and leaf cuttings in soil or water
Safety: keep away from children and pets

ZZ Characteristics

ZZ Plant Care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Zamioculcas zamiifolia plants are generally referred to simply as ZZ plants because of their wordy scientific name. They also go by a number of other colloquial names, including Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, eternity plant, and emerald palm. They are a species of a tropical perennial that is native to eastern Africa, from Kenya to South Africa. It’s actually relatively new as an internationally popular houseplant, having only been exported from South Africa in 1996.

The ZZ plant features glossy green leaves that reach up to 6 inches long and range from a pale hue to a deeper green as they mature. The plant typically grows to a height of between 2 and 3 feet. When mature, ZZ plants produce a pale yellow flower at the center that almost looks like an ear of corn.

This houseplant is known for its easy care and is used around the world as an ornamental plant. ZZ plants thrive in a number of climates, and are even drought-tolerant, so they are a popular choice for those living in arid regions.

Types of ZZ Plants

  • Raven ZZ Plant: This variety features glossy dark purple leaves that almost appear to be black.
  • ZZ ‘Zenzi’: A rare variety with curlier leaves than a standard ZZ plant.
  • Dwarf ZZ: Also known as ‘Zamicro’ and almost identical to a standard ZZ except that it’s shorter, growing to no more than 2 feet high.
  • ZZ plant ‘Lucky classic’: This cultivar has rounder-tipped leaves than a standard ZZ plant.

Selecting Soil for ZZs

ZZ plants require well-draining soil because they do not tolerate an overly moist environment. Ensure your pot has a drainage hole so that water does not pool inside the planter. For an ideal ZZ plant soil mix, add 1/4 compost and 1/4 sand to standard potting soil. The soil should have a pH of between 6 and 7 and the mixture should be altered if it is not within that range.

zz plant care repotting

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Related: The Dos and Don’ts of DIY Potting Soil

The Right Light

One thing that makes ZZ plants particularly easy to care for is their low-maintenance light requirements. They can survive in any level of indirect light, and the only thing they can’t tolerate is bright direct light, meaning you probably shouldn’t keep them on a sunny windowsill. While ZZ plants can tolerate extremely low-light conditions, they will grow more quickly if they receive moderate indirect sunlight.

Watering ZZ Plants

ZZ plants stand out from other houseplants below the soil; they have rhizomes instead of standard roots. These rhizomes conserve water for weeks at a time, making ZZs extremely drought-resistant. If you tend to chronically under-water your houseplants, a ZZ plant might just be perfect for you.

These easy-going plants only need water every 2 to 3 weeks, or when the top 3 to 4 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. Overwatering can cause the rhizomes to rot and deprives them of the oxygen they need. Cut back on ZZ plant watering in winter months, when the plant goes through a period of dormancy.

Fertilizing ZZs

ZZ plants don’t necessarily require fertilizer but could benefit from a standard 20-20-20 mixture. This type of fertilizer is available on Amazon and includes 20 percent nitrogen, 20 percent phosphate, and 20 percent soluble potash. Fertilize the plant if desired once or twice a year.

Setting the Temperature and Humidity

Like most common houseplants, ZZ plants thrive when temperatures are between 65 and 85 degrees. In cool climates, make sure the temperature in your home is always above 60 degrees in order to help your ZZs survive. As with most houseplants, it’s important to keep your ZZ plant away from air conditioners, radiators, and other heat sources to avoid drastic temperature and humidity changes.

ZZ Plant Care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Propagating ZZ Plants

Like every other aspect of ZZ plant care, propagating these houseplants is incredibly simple. To propagate a ZZ plant, remove it from the potting soil and separate the rhizomes. Replant each rhizome in its own planter. Or, to promote optimal growth, keep several rhizomes together since the plants thrive when there are multiple rhizomes in the same container.

Alternatively, you can snip off a stem or even a single leaf and immediately place it in water or a small pot with soil. Soon the cutting will develop a new rhizome and become its own little ZZ plant.

Related: 10 Houseplants You Can Propagate the Fastest for an Ever-Expanding Indoor Garden

Safety Considerations

All parts of the ZZ plant are poisonous, so it’s important to keep these houseplants out of reach of pets and young children. Even if children or pets consume part of the ZZ plant, they will likely experience digestive issues rather than more severe side effects.

Rumors once circulated that ZZ plants caused cancer, but there is no evidence that they are carcinogenic. It is important to wash your hands after interacting with the plants because calcium oxalate crystals in their sap could cause skin irritation.

ZZ Plant Care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Potential Pests and Diseases

ZZ plants are not known to have major pest problems, but they might attract aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. If you notice any of these pests attacking your plant, rinse off the leaves with plain water. When a larger infestation is present, use a natural or chemical insecticide to eradicate the pests.

If you notice the leaves yellowing or becoming soft, it likely means your ZZ plant is suffering from root rot.

Related: 10 Houseplants That Thrive Where Others Die

FAQs About ZZ Plant Care

While you’ve learned more about how to care for the ZZ plant, you may still have some questions about its maintenance needs.

Q. How often should I water ZZ plants?

ZZ plants should be watered every 2 to 3 weeks in summer, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Cut back to monthly watering in winter.

Q. When to water ZZ plant?

Water your ZZ plant when the top 3 or 4 inches of soil are dry to the touch.

Q. How big do ZZ plants get?

ZZ plants typically reach a maximum height and diameter of between 2 and 3 feet; some grow to 4 feet high.