The attractive, low maintenance and beginner friendly zz plant, also known as the Zanzibar gem, has strong stems with glossy, green leaves and is native to eastern Africa. This plant grows quickly in the home and can reach up to four feet tall and four feet wide if given the proper watering and light conditions throughout the year. Here in Virginia this plant grows best as a houseplant, where the temperatures are around 70 degrees fahrenheit and never fall below 65 degrees. We’ve outlined all the information you need to care for your zz plant in this guide.
These plants do not need frequent watering and thrive on neglect. They do best if they are watered every two to three weeks, with time for the plant to completely dry out between waterings. If your zz plant is in brighter light it may need more water, and if it is in lower light, it may need even less. ZZ plant leaves will wilt, wrinkle and dry out if it needs water, so if you notice this happening to your plant, you can give it a good drink. When it is time to water your plant, wet the soil thoroughly until water runs out of the drainage holes of the container. Afterwards, you can get rid of any excess water sitting in the saucer so that the plant is not sitting in water.
Sunlight and Temperature
ZZ plants can tolerate a wide variety of light conditions from low light to bright indirect sunlight, provided they do not sit in direct sunlight as their leaves will be burned by the intensity of the sun’s rays. If you have a window that faces south, east or west, you can place the plant a few feet away from the window or behind a sheer curtain where the plant won’t be hit directly by the sun. ZZ plants can be placed directly in a north facing window without any need for a sheer curtain. As for temperature, these plants thrive when they are in areas that get temperatures from 65 degrees to 85 degrees fahrenheit. You can place the plant outside during the summer months, if you like, but be sure to place it in a shaded area where temperatures will not exceed 85 degrees. When it starts getting colder in the fall, you can bring the plant back inside for protection from cold weather.
Soil and Fertilizing
Low maintenance zz plants require little specialized care when it comes to their potting mediums and fertilizers, but there are some steps you can take to make sure your plant has an ideal environment. ZZ plants perform best with a well-draining potting mix, such as our Merrifield Potting Mix. If you wish to increase aeration, you can mix in perlite, sand or lava rocks to the potting medium. ZZ plants do not need to be fertilized, but if you do decide you want to give your plant a little boost, you can fertilize your plant monthly with Schultz all purpose fertilizer or Osmocote during the growing season of spring to summer.
You can propagate your ZZ plant either by division or by stem cuttings. Division is the fastest method. When you are repotting your plant in the springtime, this is a great time to divide your zz plants if you wish to try propagating them. To accomplish this by division, simply lift your plant out of its pot and carefully look at the roots and rhizomes to see if there is any natural split between the roots. You can take these rhizomes and roots and transplant them into new pots with a new potting mix.
To propagate by stem cuttings, cut an entire stalk of the plant and remove the bottom leaves from the stem, using a clean, sterilized set of clippers. Then, put the sample into a jar of water and place it in indirect sunlight. Change the water weekly to prevent the growth of bacteria as the stem develops. You should see roots forming in three to six months. Once you see roots of two inches long, you can place your propagated plant into a new container with a potting mix.
ZZ plants are ready to be repotted when you see that they are starting to outgrow their current container. You may see the plant starting to show signs of stress, such as falling or yellowing leaves, if it has become root bound. If you see this happening, you can choose a new container that is one size larger than the previous one. Look for a container with drainage holes in order to protect the plant from root rot. The best time to repot is during the growing season in spring or summer, but you can repot at any time if your plant is suffering in its current container.
Mushy, Wet or Yellowing Leaves
If your plant’s leaves are mushy, wet or yellow, this means that it is being overwatered and is experiencing root rot. You can take your plant out and split off the rotten roots from the healthy ones. If you have some healthy roots, these can be transferred to a new pot with new potting mix.
A zz plant’s leaves are typically very glossy and vibrant, so if you see that your plant’s leaves are dull, your plant has probably accumulated dust. It happens! To get your plant polished up and glossy again, you can simply wipe the plant’s leaves with a damp washcloth.
If your zz plant’s leaves are dropping, this means that the plant is dehydrated. You can check the soil with your finger and if the length of your finger is totally dry, give your plant a good drink. These plants love neglect and can go without water for weeks at a time, but they will begin to suffer if left alone for too long.
ZZ plants are a wonderful plant to start with if you are bringing home your first houseplant, due to their easygoing and maintenance free nature. If you find yourself having any issues with your plant, please feel free to contact us at the plant clinic or bring your plant into the store for help. We are happy to assist you!