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ZZ Plant Care Tips: A Tough As Nails, Glossy Houseplant

Are you looking for an easy care yet gorgeous houseplant? Please check out the ZZ Plant's because your search will be over. Here are ZZ Plant care tips to guide you in growing this tough as nails houseplant.

As far as houseplants go, can we ever have too many? I think not. My home is loaded with them and 1 of my very favorites is tough as nails and so easy to grow. I want to share with you these ZZ Plant care tips so you can enjoy this gorgeous, glossy plant too.

My ZZ was growing like crazy and had gotten tight in its pot so I divided it into 3 plants about a year and a half ago. I gave 1 away and kept 2. Their care requirements are few and they do well and look good even here in the Tucson desert. The leaves have very few dry tips and they’re shiny as can be.

many zz plants in orange grow pots on stacked pallets in a greenhouse

ZZ Plants in 10″ grow pots in the greenhouse. See how upright they are?

The botanic name for the ZZ Plant is Zamioculcas zamiifolia and it also goes by the name Zanzibar Gem. It’s a relatively new introduction ( the late 90’s) and wasn’t around when I started my horticultural career in the interior plantscaping trade. I’m sure we would have used the ZZ Plant a lot!

How ZZ Plants are used:

I’ve seen them used both as table top & floor plants. 1 of mine is directly planted into a decorative pot & sits on a plant stand. The larger 1 is a wide floor plant. I’ve also seen them in larger dish gardens.

Size:

The average size a ZZ Plant grows to is 3′-4 x 3′-4. Mine floor plant is 4′ tall (in a 14″ grow pot) by 4′ wide. Over time they can reach 5′. I’ve seen them commonly sold in 4″ to 14″ grow pots.

Growth Rate:

They’re reputed to be a slow-growing houseplant. They’ll grow slower in low lights conditions & when the temps are cooler. For me, they have a moderate growth rate. But then again I’m in the warm (almost always) sunny Arizona desert.

Mine didn’t do too much growing this summer but both are putting out a lot of new growth in October. I’ve noticed that they grow in spurts.

a zz plant with arching leaves in a purple pot on a patio

This is my smaller ZZ Plant which came as a result of dividing my larger ZZ Plant. The leaves arch & spread out much more than those in the photo above. 

ZZ Plant Care Tips:

Exposure:

Moderate or medium light is the key for this plant to look its best. They’re often billed as a low light plant but they simply tolerate it; it’s not their sweet spot.  Low light = little new growth & stretchy stems. In other words, your ZZ Plant will become very leggy.

Conversely, if they’re in hot sun or against a hot window, they’ll burn in no time. If you have a room with moderate to high light, keep your ZZ at least 10′ away from any windows.

Watering:

It’s good to know that these plants grow from thick, round tuberous rhizomes. These store water as do the thick, fleshy roots & somewhat spongy stems. It’s very important that you don’t over water (ie: too frequently) a ZZ Plant.

I give mine a thorough watering every 2-3 weeks in summer & every 3-4 weeks in winter. Adjust accordingly for your conditions. This post & video on houseplant watering 101 gives you factors to consider.

Temperature:

If your home is comfortable for you, it’ll be so for your houseplants too. Just be sure to keep your ZZ Plants away from any cold drafts as well as air conditioning or heating vents.

close up of a zz plant leaf with sunburn

This is a sunburn on a ZZ Plant leaf. I put mine out in the rain 1 afternoon & left it out the next morning until 11. Only this 1 leaf burned. And, it was the end of October – they burn fast!

Humidity:

ZZ Plants are native to tropical regions. Despite this, are adaptable & do just fine in our homes which tend to have dry air. Here in hot dry Tucson, mine only has a few teeny, tiny brown tips.

If you think yours look stressed due to lack of humidity, fill the saucer with pebbles & water. Put the plant on the pebbles but make sure the drain holes &/or the bottom of the pot isn’t submerged in water. Misting a few times a week should help out too.

Fertilizing:

ZZ Plants aren’t fussy at all when it comes to fertilizing. I feed mine with worm compost & compost. I’ve been doing it once a year but next year I’m going to start doing an application in late February/early March (here in Tucson where the weather warms early) & then again in July.

Liquid kelp or fish emulsion would work fine  as well as a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer (5-5-5 or lower) if you have that. Dilute any of these to half strength & apply in spring. If for some reason you think your ZZ needs another application, do it again in summer.

You don’t want to fertilize houseplants in late fall or winter because that’s their time for rest. Don’t over fertilize your ZZ Plant because salts build up & can burn the roots of the plant. Avoid fertilizing a houseplant which is stressed, ie. bone dry or soaking wet.

Soil:

What works for me is a mix in this ratio: 3 parts potting soil, 1 part succulent & cactus mix, & 1 part coco coir. I always mix in a few handfuls (how many depends on the size pot) of compost & top with a 1/4- 1/2″ layer of worm compost.

The compost, succulent & cactus, & coco coir I buy from a local company. This is the potting soil & worm compost I use. Here are more online options for compost, succulent & cactus mix, & coco coir.

Repotting/Transplanting:

This is best done in spring or summer; early fall is fine if you’re in a warm climate. The faster your plant is growing, the sooner it’ll need repotting.

Both of mine are growing in plastic pots but terra cotta or ceramic are just fine too. I potted them up a few sizes to give them room to grow.

a large zz plant with glossy green leaves in a square white decorative pot

This is the mother plant. See how jazzy & glossy the leaves are! It’s putting out so much new growth this fall.

Pruning:

Not much is needed. The main reasons to prune this plant are for propagation or to prune off the occasional lower yellow leaf or bending, arching stem.

If you needed to prune your ZZ Plant all the way back for some reason, new growth would eventually appear.

Just make sure your pruners are clean & sharp before you do any pruning.

Propagation:

I’ve propagated a ZZ Plant successfully by division & rooting stems in water. These posts will explain everything to you. They apparently propagate via seed for me but I’m way too impatient for that. With division, you get instant plants!

Pests:

Mine has never gotten any nor have I heard that they’re subject to any. You might want to keep your eyes open for mealy bugs & aphids.

Pet Safety:

All parts of this plant are reported to be poisonous but who knows. I’ve never eaten any of it & neither have my kitties. We have plans to do so. The ASPCA site (the 1 I refer too) doesn’t list this plant.

Most houseplants are toxic to pets in some way & I want to share my thoughts with you regarding this topic. I’d be careful if your cat or dog likes to chew on plants &/or dig – keep it away from them to be safe.

Cleaning:

Houseplants don’t like a build up of dirt or dust. I put mine out in the rain 2 or 3 times a year. Yours would appreciate a gentle hosing off in the shower or sink if you can’t put it outdoors.

Good To Know:

It’s billed as a low light plant but I’ve found it looks much better in moderate or medium light conditions.

The leaves are naturally shiny. They look even better & the plant functions better when they’re clean. Please don’t use commercial leaf shine. It clogs the pores & the leaves have trouble breathing.

When you buy a ZZ Plant, it’s tight & upright. With age, it spreads & fans out.

Leaves which get too “spready” can be cut off & propagated in water.

Speaking of propagation, I divided mine about a year & a half ago. I won’t do it again for at least 3-5 years.

Burns in direct sunlight & is easy to over water. These are worth saying again!

Speaking of watering, don’t water yours too often & back off on the frequency in the winter. Plants are resting at this time of year.

There’s word floating around here & there that this plant is toxic to humans. The opinions vary & all I can say is that it’s never bothered me when I’ve touched or gotten it on my skin. To be safe wear gloves. Don’t get near your hands near your eyes, mouth or nose when handling this plant. And of course, don’t eat any!

many large zz plants in 15 gallon grow pots

This was taken at the Plant Stand in Phoenix.  ZZ Plants in 15 gallons grow pots – yes, please!

I love my ZZ Plants and so do others who see them. They almost always get the comment: “what is that plant?”. When they put out that glossy green fresh new growth (like mine is doing now) it’s music to my eyes. Why not give the ZZ Plant a try? As you can see, ZZ Plant care tips are abundant here and easy to follow. If you can’t find 1 where you live, here’s an online option for you.

Happy gardening,

Nell-Foster-Joy-Us-Garden

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