The Essential ZZ Plant Care, Growth, and Safety Tips for Beginners

By: Matt Slaymaker
November 28, 2023
ZZ Plant Care & Grow Guide
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You will often find the ZZ plant on lists of easy-to-care-for houseplants, and rightfully so. They have the deserved reputation of being one of the hardiest, nearly indestructible plants that are amazing for inexperienced plant owners. How to care for a ZZ plant is what often puzzles beginners. Let’s take a look at some of the essentials this plant needs to flourish.

What Is a ZZ Plant?

The ZZ plant, short for Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is a beautiful plant from the Araceae family recognizable by its glossy dark green leaves growing on gracefully curved stems. It’s also known as the Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, eternity plant, or Fortune Tree.

In its natural habitat, the ZZ plant produces greenish or yellowish flowers resembling those of the peace lily. It’s much rarer for it to bloom when grown indoors, though.

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History and Origin: Where Does the ZZ Plant Come From?

The ZZ plant originally comes from Eastern Africa, growing outdoors in several African countries, from Kenya to South Africa. It only became available as a houseplant in the 1990s; until then, they were mostly unfamiliar to American and European houseplant owners.

ZZ Plant and Feng Shui: The Fortune Tree

The ZZ plant is known as the “Fortune Tree”, and it is used in Feng Shui to attract prosperity. The tradition of using plants to increase the good energies of wealth and well-being in your home has ancient origins. The most popular plants used as a symbol of good luck and fortune in Feng Shui include the resilient and hardy ZZ plant.  

What Does the ZZ Plant Symbolize?

Because of its vitality and resilience, the ZZ plant symbolizes growth, endurance, and long life (which is why it’s nicknamed the “eternity plant”). It’s also considered a lucky plant in many cultures, symbolizing fortune, prosperity, and stability.

ZZ Plant Varieties: An Overview

Types of ZZ Plants

 

There are many different varieties of ZZ plants with leaf color ranging from lighter yellowish greens to black-green. Some notable varieties include the miniature, dense-leafed Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’, the stunning Black Raven ZZ plant with its dramatic, nearly black leaves, and the recent variegated variety – Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Variegata’.

How Big Does an Indoor ZZ Plant Get?

The ZZ plant grows slowly, but it can reach 2 to 3 feet when fully grown. Normally, the plant doesn’t grow more than 5 or 6 inches per season, forming several new leafy stems during the process.

What to Look for When Buying a ZZ Plant?

When you buy a ZZ plant, check it for pests by looking carefully at its leaves. Luckily, the ZZ plant is very resistant to common houseplant pests. If there are any yellowing or unhealthy-looking ones, choose a different specimen.  

ZZ Plant Benefits: The Ultimate Air-Purifier

In addition to being an easy-care plant with gorgeous, glossy leaves that will brighten up any room, the ZZ plant is also a well-known air purifier. As it takes in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, the indoor plant also absorbs harmful contaminants from the air and cleanses it. Some of the pollutants it helps neutralize include formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and xylene.

ZZ Plant Care and Growing Tips

ZZ Plant Care Tips

In order to flourish, ZZ plants need moderate light, well-draining soil, occasional fertilizing, and little else. They have low watering needs and their soil should dry completely before repeated watering. Here are some ZZ plant care and growing tips to help these amazing, easy-going plants flourish: 

Sunlight: How Much Light Does a ZZ Plant Need?

The ZZ plant can grow in a variety of light conditions, but it feels best in low to medium light. Direct sunlight can scorch your plant’s leaves. Because they can survive in rooms with artificial lighting, they are best plants for the office and a popular choice for dimly lit rooms.

Can a ZZ Plant Grow in Low Light?

ZZ plants grow very well in low-light conditions. If you’re looking for the ideal spot, choose a place with medium bright, indirect light.

Should a ZZ Plant Be Near a Window?

It’s not necessary to keep your ZZ plant next to a window, but if you want to do that, try putting it next to a north-facing or east-facing window. These plants don’t require a sunny location, and they may get too much sun if placed near a south-facing window.

What Room Is Best for a ZZ Plant?

The ZZ plant can thrive in rooms where few other plants can grow, so you can put it practically anywhere – in the living room, kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. It’s also a great low-light plant for your office. If you want to keep Feng Shui harmony considerations in mind, place your ZZ plant in the southeastern corner of your home.

ZZ Plant Watering: How to Water a ZZ Plant

How to Water a ZZ Plant

 

Since ZZ plants come from drought-prone areas, they store water in their underground rhizomes and thus have low water requirements. In fact, it’s important to remember not to overwater this plant. Always allow the soil to dry completely before watering.

How Do I Know If My ZZ Plant Needs Water?

If left without water for a long time, the ZZ plant’s leaves will start wilting and looking wrinkled. The soil in the pot will also feel dry and crumbly. You can easily check the soil with a digital moisture meter.

Should I Water My ZZ Plant From the Bottom?

You can use both over-the-soil or the bottom-watering technique for your ZZ plant. Check on the plant several minutes after you water it to see whether it has absorbed the water from the tray under the pot and add more if needed. If there’s still water after 30 minutes, pour it out to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.

How Often Do You Water a ZZ Plant?

You only need to water your ZZ plant once in 2-3 weeks under normal conditions, as it’s considered a drought-tolerant plant. You may need to water more frequently in the summer or if the temperature in your home is higher than usual. Plants that get more sunlight may also need to be watered more frequently than those in the shade. 

Should I Mist My ZZ Plant?

You shouldn’t mist your ZZ plant. It doesn’t require any extra moisture, and there’s the danger of the water collecting at the base of the plant and causing root rot. Instead, wipe the leaves to remove dust.

Cleaning a ZZ Plant

How Long Can a ZZ Go Without Water?

A ZZ plant is capable of going without water for up to three weeks. ZZ plants use their tubers to store water for later use.

ZZ Plant Temperature and Humidity Tolerance

The ideal temperature for a ZZ plant is from 65℉ to 75℉. ZZ plants grow well in average humidity. They are best kept away from drafts, however, as temperature fluctuations can harm these plants.

How Cold Is Too Cold for a ZZ Plant?

It gets too cold for ZZ plants if the temperature falls under 45℉. Exposure to freezing air can harm the plant, so it’s important to keep it out of the cold.

Do ZZ Plants Like Humidity?

ZZ plants are hardy and can thrive in various conditions. Still, they do best in averagely humid environments that we associate with regular indoor spaces.

Soil Requirements: What Type of Soil Does a ZZ Plant Need?

ZZ plants grow best in well-draining soils. Normally, the houseplant potting soils you can find in the stores are good. If you want to ensure better drainage, you can mix the soil with some perlite, orchid bark chips, or horticultural charcoal.

Potting and Repotting a ZZ Plant: When Should I Repot My ZZ Plant?

Potting and Repotting a ZZ Plant

 

ZZ plants need to be repotted approximately once in two years or they get rootbound. It’s important to choose the right kind of pot; it should be only slightly larger than the old one. If it’s too large, it may be difficult for your ZZ plant to absorb moisture from the superfluous soil, which can lead to root rot. Also, the pot should have sufficient drainage holes. The ideal time for repotting your plant is before the start of the growing season in spring.

How Deep Should a ZZ Plant Be Planted?

When repotting your ZZ plant, first inspect the roots and rhizomes. If you spot any that are damaged or mushy, cut them off with clean pruning shears. Place your plant in the new pot with its roots hanging down and elevate the rhizomes with a layer of soil. They should be situated midway between the roots and the base of the leaves. The top of the root ball should be a few inches below the pot’s rim.

Should I Fertilize My ZZ Plant?

A mistake, beginners often make when learning how to take care of a ZZ plant, is overfertilizing it. ZZ plants are slow growers that don’t need a lot of fertilizing – only a little at the beginning of the growing season to boost the formation of new leaves and promote growth. 

What Is a Good Fertilizer for ZZ Plants?

A balanced NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizer is the best option for your ZZ plant. You can use granular, liquid, or slow-release fertilizers. Always dilute the fertilizer to prevent it from harming your plant’s roots.

How Often Should I Feed My ZZ Plant?

Fertilize in portions once a month during the growing season or once a year if you’re using a slow-release fertilizer.

Pruning: Should I Trim My ZZ Plant?

Mature ZZ plants can have long and heavy leaves. Sometimes, you’ll need to prune your ZZ plant to remove damaged leaves, but the most common reason for pruning your ZZ plant is propagation. 

How to Prune a ZZ Plant

To prune your ZZ plant, cut the stems close to the base. You can also shorten individual stems by trimming the ends. Remember to use clean pruning shears and to wear gloves for protection from the plant’s sap.

How to Propagate a ZZ Plant

ZZ plants are very easy to propagate. If you want to grow more ZZ plants from your original plant, here are several ways you can propagate your ZZ plant:

  • From stem cuttings – Choose a healthy, strong stem and cut it off. Put it in water in a light place and wait for roots to appear at the bottom of the stem.
  • From leaf cuttings – Snip a leaf off, cutting it as close to the base as possible, put the leaf into the soil, and water it. The leaf will gradually form a rhizome at the base.
  • By division – When repotting your plant, divide the roots and rhizomes into separate plants, and plant in a separate container.

When to Propagate a ZZ Plant

The best time for propagating your ZZ plant is during its growing season – from spring to summer. This will give your new plants time to adjust and start growing.

Common ZZ Plant Problems

Although ZZ plants are some of the toughest plants, they can still develop a variety of issues. Most of them aren’t hard to fix.

  • Rotting

Drooping leaves, brown tips, and an unpleasant odor from the roots are all signs that your plant has developed root rot. Remove your plant from its pot, cut off all the rotting roots and rhizomes, and repot the plant in a container with good drainage. Add new well-draining potting soil. Don’t water the plant until it recovers.

  • Yellowing leaves

The most common reasons for yellowing leaves are overwatering or temperature stress. Check the soil to see whether it’s too moist. If it is, move the plant to a spot with plenty of bright indirect light and stop watering until the soil dries. Make sure the room temperature is even. 

  • Pests (aphids)

ZZ plants can occasionally be attacked by aphids or other pests. ZZ plant care includes checking the underside of your plant’s leaves to detect pests early on. You should normally be able to get rid of the bugs by removing them with a cotton pad soaked in warm soapy water. Use an insecticidal spray if necessary.

  • Falling leaves

Your ZZ plant’s leaves may fall over due to overwatering or, in some cases, extreme low-light conditions. Check the soil first to see if the plant has been overwatered. If so, stop watering and move to a bright place where the soil can dry out properly. If your plant is located in a very dark corner, insufficient lighting may cause it to grow spindly over time. If the stems are too long, prune them a bit so that they’re more manageable, and move the plant to a lighter area of your home.

ZZ Plant Safety Considerations

ZZ Plant Safety Concerns

ZZ plants aren't highly toxic, but their sap can irritate the skin and stomach, so no part of the plant should ever be ingested.

Are ZZ Plants Toxic to Humans?

The ZZ plant can be toxic to humans if ingested. The calcium oxalate contained in the plant is considered an irritant, and depending on how much is ingested, its effects can range from mild stomach irritation to more severe consequences (although not normally fatal).

Is it OK to Touch a ZZ Plant?

The sap may cause contact dermatitis if it stays on your skin, so wear gloves when pruning or transplanting and wash your hands when you’re done.

How Toxic Are ZZ Plants to Dogs and Cats?

The ZZ plant is considered poisonous for cats and dogs, as its sap can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, as well as irritation of the mucous membrane in the mouth and throat. Therefore, keep your ZZ plant away from your pet or consider other pet-safe plant varieties.

How to Care for a ZZ Plant: FAQs

Q: Is it OK to have a ZZ plant in the bedroom?

A: Yes, ZZ plants are some of the best plants for bedrooms because they are natural air purifiers and help neutralize harmful toxins in the air.

Q: Is the ZZ plant good for beginners?

A: Absolutely! A ZZ plant doesn’t need much attention or frequent watering, making it a perfect choice for beginners.

Q: Is my ZZ plant overwatered or underwatered?

A: To find out whether your ZZ plant is overwatered or underwatered, check its soil first. If the soil is moist and the plant’s leaves are falling over and yellow, it’s overwatered. If the plant’s leaves are wrinkled and the soil is dry, it’s underwatered.

Q: Can a ZZ plant get too much light?

A: Yes, if you put your ZZ plant in bright direct sunlight, its leaves may get scorched.

Q: Why is my ZZ plant crying?

A: The drops of water you see forming on your plant’s leaves aren’t tears, they’re part of the process called guttation. It usually occurs at night, when the soil and air are moist.  

Conclusion

The ZZ plant is an amazingly vibrant and tenacious plant that thrives in low-light conditions and is very easy to care for. It doesn’t require frequent fertilizing or pruning and can be propagated without too much effort.

One of the best plants for beginners, it looks great alone or grouped with other plants, introducing an elegant, exotic note into your home’s interior. Some complementary plants that look great together with a ZZ plant are golden pothos, snake plant, Sago palm, and the money tree. This hardy, rewarding houseplant will help you create a corner of tropical paradise inside your home in no time.