How to Care for a ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant, also known as the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, is a houseplant that is not only easy to care for but also looks gorgeous nearly anywhere you place it in your home.

Photo by Kadarius Seegars on Unsplash

The ZZ plant, or Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (talk about a mouth full), is a tropical perennial that is native to Eastern Africa. This plant can tolerate a wide range of conditions, which makes it a great gift or starter plant. The ZZ plant can sometimes be referred to as the “Zanzibar Gem” as this plant grows gorgeous, naturally shiny leaflets that start out bright green in their early days and develop into an emerald hue as they mature.

Individual leaves are typically 1-3 inches long and grow from thick, bulbous stalks, which grow from large, water-storing rhizomes hidden underneath the soil. Or like mine, which sticks out a little above the soil and is often mistaken for decorative rocks.

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Light

The ZZ plant can handle lower levels of light than many of its other plant counterparts. For example, I have bright, sunny, South-facing windows in my apartment’s living room and I have opted to place my ZZ plants across the living room, away from the windows. While they still get a good amount of light, I have seen a slower growth of new stalks.

Which is an issue you will run into if you choose to place the ZZ plant in a less sunny spot in your home or office. If you want your ZZ to thrive, give it some bright but indirect sunlight.

Water

Remember earlier when I mentioned rhizomes and how they sometimes get mistaken for rocks?

Those rhizomes are super important as they store water! This is why it is very important to remember to not overwater your ZZ. Overwatering will kill them faster than underwatering.

In a warm, bright spot, you should check the soil every 2-3 weeks and water accordingly. If you’re like me and have your ZZs in lower light, checking your soil every 4-5 weeks is better.


Speaking of checking the soil, you don’t have to get your hands dirty! (If you don’t want to.) One of the easiest ways I have discovered to check the soil in my plant’s pots is to grab a chopstick and gently poke it into the soil. Stay closer to the sides so as to not poke or damage the plant or roots. (Or in this case, the rhizomes.)

If your chopstick comes out of the soil clean (or with minimal soil on them) then your plant needs a drink. If your chopstick comes out of the soil with soil sticking to the chopstick, then err on the side of caution and give your plant a little while longer before watering. No fancy tools are required!

Also keep in mind when you do water your ZZ plant, to let the water run completely through the pot. This is why it is super important to have drainage holes in the pots your plants live in. Once the water has run out of the pot, make sure there is no water left in the saucer and you’re good to go.


Soil

ZZ plants need soil that drains water really well to help avoid root rot. If you use your favorite potting soil (like I do) make sure your pots have good drainage. Otherwise, you can mix in some perlite or cactus mix for even better drainage.

I have planted my ZZs in half potting mix and half cactus mix. They also have fantastic drainage and thus, are thriving!

Fertilizer

Luckily, ZZ plants remain easy to care for even in this area. A balanced liquid fertilizer that is formulated for use on houseplants is all you’ll need for your ZZ.

Varieties

If you have come to love plants, you’ll know that most plants come in many varieties. The ZZ plant is no exception. Alongside the ZZ plant, there is also the Raven ZZ and Zenzi ZZ.

Photo by Nicolas Solerieu on Unsplash

The Raven ZZ is (as you probably guessed) similar to the classic ZZ but grows leaves that have a deep purple hue, which in low light, can make the plant look like it has black leaves.

The Zenzi ZZ is usually labeled as the “dwarf zz” as it is essentially a more compact version of the Zanzibar gem. Unlike the classic ZZ, the leaves on the Zenzi ZZ grow in a spiral around the stem and don’t get as tall.

My Favorite ZZ Tips

  1. Don’t overwater, but be sure to water thoroughly when you do. Since ZZs can go for longer periods without water, make sure you give them a good drink when it is their turn to be watered.
  2. Sometimes you have to just let them be. ZZ plants tend to thrive on a little neglect, so let their soil dry out in between waterings.
  3. Make sure to dust them! Their leaves can easily become dusty. Be sure to take a damp cloth and gently wipe down the leaves to help your plant with photosynthesis.
  4. Avoid direct light! Direct sunlight can burn your ZZ plant. If you want your plant to grow, give it some bright but indirect sunlight. (Filtering light with a sheer curtain will do the trick.)
  5. Your ZZ plant will grow towards the light, especially if you place it further away from a window. Be sure to rotate your ZZ to help keep it growing evenly.

Pet Safe?

One of the most important questions to ask is if you have pets or young children. The ZZ plant is unfortunately labeled as not safe as it is toxic if ingested. However, if you keep your ZZ in a space that is away from pets and young children, you can have the best of both worlds. Safe pets and children and the beautiful ZZ plant.

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