Another tough plant to add to your collection of indoor ornamentals is the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). Despite low light and drought conditions, its foliage will remain glossy as if it’s been freshly polished. It has been popularized as a welcome plant where red ribbons are tied into its stem for added attraction.
ZZ plant is an easy-to-grow plant so you’ll never have to seriously worry over care and maintenance. On top of that, NASA researchers have also found out that it has the ability to purify your air from harmful toxins such as toluene, benzene, and xylene. This makes this ornamental an even better option for your home.
||ZZ plant, aroid palm, African coontie, arum fern, Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, and Emerald palm
||Cardboard palm (Zamia furfuracea)
||Native to eastern Africa, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania
||Upright, arching stems filled with fleshy, oval-shaped leaves (feather-like appearance)
||3 to 4 feet tall
||Low to Medium
||Bright, indirect light to low light levels
||Warm, tropical 65°F–90°F (18°C to 32°C)
|Soil or Potting Medium
||Any well-drained peat- or bark-based potting soil
||Apply low-dose liquid fertilizer according to manufacturer instructions twice per year
||Leaf cuttings, rhizome division
||Mildly toxic to cats and dogs
Overview of Growing ZZ Plants Indoors
ZZ plant is a member of the Araceae (aroid) family and is natively found in eastern Africa, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania. Many names have been attributed to this plant including aroid palm, African coontie, arum fern, Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, and Emerald palm. Unlike other indoor plants, there are only two varieties available for the ZZ plant so you have a pretty narrow option to choose from.
You can grow ZZ plant in small pots to keep it small and handy like a bonsai. Or, you can let it grow naturally reaching a mature size of around 3 to 4 feet tall. The choice solely depends on your preference and aesthetic purpose.
Drought is not a problem when it comes to the ZZ plant. It can tolerate low water level because it has rhizomes which are modified stems that grow horizontally. You can find them either just above the ground or under the soil.
These rhizomes can store water for your ZZ plant so they’re able to survive low water levels in the soil. In that case, water your ZZ plant only when the soil is completely dry. This will prevent the plant from getting overwatered.
Overwatering is often a problem that newbies experience with the ZZ plant. Just because it has dark, green, shiny foliage doesn’t mean it needs a lot of water. Limit water application especially when the season is wet and cold.
A bright, indirect light is suited for the ZZ plant but it can also tolerate low light conditions. In fact, it will survive in a room without windows. It can efficiently harness whatever available light there is including artificial light.
By providing a generous amount of light, the ZZ plant will have the tendency to grow fast. If the light level is low, the growth rate is reduced. So if you want to keep your ZZ plant small, place it in a low light level environment. Avoid exposure to direct light unless the intensity is not that strong.
Bright, direct light can cause scorching on the leaves especially during summer seasons. If it’s winter, it’s safe to expose the plant under direct light. You just have to be cautious in transitioning your plant to varying light levels to avoid stress.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
A warm temperature ranging from 65°F–90°F (18°C to 32°C) is preferable for your ZZ plant. It’s wise to keep it away from your air conditioner or cold drafts. Cold temperature can cause the ZZ plant to wilt and get limp.
As for humidity, your ZZ plant will not require a highly humid environment. The normal humidity inside your home should suffice. If the environment gets too dry, you may opt to spray water around it or place a humidifier somewhere close.
Plant Food and Potting Media
ZZ plant will do well with any well-drained peat- or bark-based potting soil. Keep in mind that this plant is prone to overwatering so it’s important that the soil drains well. To check, pour in water to the mix and see if the liquid leaves the soil fast.
There’s no much demand for fertilizer when it comes to this plant. You’ll only need to apply fertilizer twice a year (every six months) during the growing season. Always dilute the balanced liquid fertilizer to half before you apply it to the soil to avoid overfertilization.
As part of maintenance, you have to prune your ZZ plant from time to time. Brown and yellow leaves, aged and diseased portions have to be cut. When you make a cut, make sure to do it down to the bottom of the stem.
Use sterile tools to avoid spreading diseases. Remember that cut portions are wounded areas. They can be a point of contamination for bacteria and/or viruses to thrive on.
As a slow-growing plant, your potted ZZ ornamental won’t be needing frequent repotting especially if it’s kept under low light level. If bright light is abundant, growth will be faster so repotting should depend on the rate of growth. You can repot every year to keep the plant healthy.
When the shoots are already crowding the pot, you’ll have to consider repotting. The same thing when the rhizomes start outgrowing the container. Start by thoroughly watering the pot until it drains well.
After a while, slowly remove the plant with its root ball from the pot. Shake off excess soil and trim off excess roots. You may also divide the plant by its rhizomes for propagation.
Prepare a well-draining potting mix and pour into the new pot. Place your ZZ plant and fill in spaces with soil. Make sure that it’s not too loose nor too compact.
Water the pot and drain before setting it aside. Keep in mind that newly repotted plants have undergone a stressful process so find a location where it won’t be disturbed. Allow enough light to penetrate and maintain a warm condition to help the ZZ plant establish in its new home.
There are two ways to propagate your ZZ plant. One is by leaf cuttings and the other is by rhizome division. Once your plant is mature enough, you can start propagating it to produce new offsprings.
Cutting the rhizomes can be done when you’re repotting your ZZ plant. Once uprooted, divide the rhizomes and plant them individually in pots. This is a straightforward process where you get an instant replica of your mother plant.
If the rhizomes of your mother plant aren’t yet developing new shoots but you badly want to propagate it, you may try using leaf cuttings. All you need is to cut whole mature leaves from the stem and set it aside for a few hours.
Prepare the potting mix and insert the cut end of the leaf on the medium. Place the potted leaf in a location where there’s a bright, indirect light and warm temperatures and water occasionally. You’ll have to wait for a month for the leaves to develop roots.
Pests & Diseases
Pests aren’t much of a problem to your ZZ plant. It’s not that susceptible to infestation unless the other plants have housed mealybugs and aphids, they can go roam around your ZZ. Manually remove them once spotted to prevent them from hosting and reproducing on your plant.
As for diseases, ZZ plant can be susceptible to root rot. This happens if the soil you’ve used is not well-draining. Stuck water will create a flooded condition making it difficult for the roots to respire.
ZZ plant is believed to have mild toxicity on humans as well as cats and dogs. Members of the Aroid family contain calcium oxalate which is the toxic compound present in all parts of the plants. When ingested, it creates irritation on the mouth and throat and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
When in contact with skin, it can cause irritation so better use your protective gloves when handling it. Keep it away from your pets as a way of prevention.
Typical Questions for ZZ Plants
Why are my ZZ plant’s leaves yellowing?
Yellowing in the ZZ plant is primarily caused by overwatering. When your plant receives more water than it can utilize or the soil is holding too much water, the roots will be the first to suffer. Waterlogged soils will limit the presence of oxygen in the soil.
When this happens, the roots will have difficulty taking in oxygen for the respiration process of the cell. This will further cause the death of the roots. Damaged roots will have difficulty channeling in water and nutrients to the upper part of the plant.
The result of this abiotic stress is expressed as the yellowing of the leaves. So, if you notice this sign, be quick to postpone the water application. Allow your plant to receive ample light to hasten evapotranspiration.
Does the ZZ plant produce flowers?
ZZ plant belongs to the genus of flowering plants so they naturally produce flowers. However, this happens very rarely. Most probably, what you usually see is the dark green foliage and not the blooms.
If you’re lucky, you can observe the flowers to appear in summer or autumn. It’s situated at the base of the plant. You’re most likely to see white spadix there where the tiny small, brown flowers are attached to its bottom.
Is ZZ plant frost-tolerant?
No. ZZ plant doesn’t like a cold environment much more a freezing one. What it likes is a warm temperature so you have to keep it away from cold drafts. Insulating the plant might be needed during winter.
It also helps to provide an artificial light source during cold seasons to add extra warmth. Increasing the room temperature using the heater is also a big help. Just provide ample space to avoid direct contact with those heat sources.
With all the good characteristics mentioned about the ZZ plant, it’s no doubt that more people have taken interest in keeping it inside their homes. ZZ plant is undemanding and will surely survive tough environmental conditions. Having it around will not only add beauty to your house but will also clean your air.
Just remember two important things: less water and warm temperature. These factors are of most importance to the success of your ZZ plant. So go ahead and start planting now!