ZZ plants, also known as Zanzibar gem or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, are a popular choice for indoor gardeners offering a host of beneficial properties and symbolic value. Not only do these attractive plants require little maintenance and tolerate low light exposure, but they’re also known for their ability to clean volatile pollutants from indoor air. Native to eastern Africa, ZZ plants thrive in dry conditions, thanks to a highly effective rhizome root system that processes water efficiently. Read on to learn how to water your ZZ plants.
- When and How to Water ZZ Plants – The Essentials
- About Zanzibar Gem (ZZ Plants)
- The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
- When to Water ZZ Plants
- How to Check When to Water ZZ Plants
- How Often do ZZ Plants Typically Need Watering
- How to Water ZZ Plants
- Signs You Might be Overwatering Your ZZ Plant
- Signs You Might be Underwatering Your ZZ Plant
- What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
- Watering ZZ Plant FAQs:
- Wrapping Up
When and How to Water ZZ Plants – The Essentials
ZZ plants typically require watering twice per month in spring and summer and once per month during the winter or in low light exposures. ZZ plants are semi-succulents that thrive in well-draining soil. They like to dry out completely between waterings. Before watering, check the plant’s moisture at the root level using a probe.
About Zanzibar Gem (ZZ Plants)
ZZ plants are the only species in the Zamioculcas genus, which belongs to the Araceae or arum family. These plants are prized for their fleshy, glossy foliage, displayed on upright, arching green stems. ZZ plants grow slowly and may reach from 2 to 3 feet tall.
ZZ plants are native to Africa, where they thrive in semi-arid conditions. In their indigenous habitat, ZZ plants grow best in dry spots with partial shade. When grown indoors, they prefer bright but indirect light, average to warm indoor temperatures, and sandy, well-draining soil. With due care and attention, ZZ plants can live for years. For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position ZZ plants in the home or office.
The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
As with all other plant life, water is essential to ZZ plants’ life and health. This dependence on water starts with seeds; without fresh water, seeds can’t germinate. Water delivers the vital nutrients plants need, such as minerals and organic nutrients. Plants retain the water they need to grow and hold their shape and form.
Plants also depend on water for photosynthesis. This process, by which plants take up water through the roots and transpire moisture back into the atmosphere through their foliage, is key to our planet’s water and carbon cycles.
When to Water ZZ Plants
ZZ plants prefer soil on the dry side, mimicking the semi-arid conditions in their native habitat. Water only when the soil feels completely dry, including at the root level. Use a moisture probe to ensure there’s no water around the roots. Be particularly cautious with recently propagated ZZ plants.
In the summer, water only when the soil has dried out completely, or about twice per month. During the winter and in low light conditions, plants usually need watering about one time each month.
How do You Know When a ZZ Plant Needs Watering
Your ZZ plant only needs watering when the soil is completely dry. Signs you need to water your ZZ plant include:
- Shriveled, brown, or dry leaf tips
- Leaves dropping one at a time
- Wrinkled or shriveled petioles (stems that grow off the rhizome or rootball)
How to Check When to Water ZZ Plants
Before watering, use a moisture meter to ensure roots aren’t wet. You can also stick a wooden chopstick down into the soil; if it comes back dry, it may be time to water.
You may also pick up your plant (including the pot). If it feels heavy, there’s probably still enough moisture in the soil, and you don’t need to water. If the pot feels light, it may be time to water.
How Often do ZZ Plants Typically Need Watering
Water about twice per month in the summer, but only when the soil has dried out completely. During the winter and when grown in low light conditions, plants may need watering only once per month.
Environmental Considerations That May Impact Watering Cycles
If your ZZ plant is exposed to bright light, it may need more frequent watering. Generally, ZZ plants that are grown in low light conditions need less water.
How to Water ZZ Plants
The Fundamental Importance of Good Drainage
Good watering isn’t just about how much, or how often, you provide water. It’s also about drainage, and in the case of ZZ plants, excellent drainage is vital.
ZZ plants grow best in drier conditions. That means they don’t like wet feet; in fact, too much water leads to rot root and poor plant health.
Use a container that has good drainage holes in the bottom. Choose sandy, loose soil that provides proper aeration and quick drainage. Otherwise, moisture will collect around your ZZ plant’s roots, leading to health problems.
Wear gloves when handling your ZZ plant and the pot. The plant’s sap contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin and eye irritation.
What Type of Water is Best for ZZ Plants
Unlike many other houseplants, ZZ plants aren’t bothered by fluoride and other minerals commonly found in tap water. While filtered water is never a bad choice, you can use regular tap water for your ZZ plants.
How to Water ZZ Plants
- Water your ZZ top from the top. A good option is to place the plant in the sink, and pour water gently into the pot until the water flows freely from the bottom of the container.
- Start by pouring a small amount of water and waiting a few minutes for the soil to absorb the moisture. Then slowly add more water until the excess flows from the drainage hole.
- Remove any excess water that disperses into the tray. ZZ plants should never sit in water, as this may lead to root rot.
Signs You Might be Overwatering Your ZZ Plant
Your ZZ plant will let you know if you’re overwatering it. Look for signs such as:
- Yellowing leaves
- Droopy or mushy stems
- Browning stems
- Many leaves drop at once
- Rotting rhizomes (roots)
Signs You Might be Underwatering Your ZZ Plant
Though ZZ plants prefer to be underwatered rather than overwatered, look for these signs that your plant needs a drink:
- Brown or dry leaf tips
- Shriveled foliage
- One leaf dropping at a time
- Shriveled, wrinkled stems
What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
Here’s my go-to checklist for ZZ plants:
- Dust leaves with a damp cloth or mist and wipe with a cloth.
- Rotate the plant periodically.
- Keep an eye out for yellowing, multiple leaves dropping, and mushy stems (signs of overwatering).
- Watch for brown, crispy leaf tips and singular leaf drop (signs of overwatering).
- Fertilize your ZZ plant with a light feed in spring and summer also.
- Keep an eye out for common ZZ plant pests and diseases.
- Consider repotting your ZZ plant if it has outgrown its current container.
Watering ZZ Plant FAQs:
What are the most common signs a ZZ plant needs watering?
When a ZZ plant needs water, its leaves may develop brown, crispy, or dry tips. Shriveled foliage and stems and one leaf dropping at a time are other signs of underwatering.
What is the best way to water ZZ plants?
Water ZZ plants from the top. Add enough water that the excess flows through the drainage holes.
How much water do ZZ plants need?
ZZ plants don’t need much water. They prefer to dry out completely between waterings.
Is it ok to get water on ZZ plant leaves?
While it won’t harm your ZZ plant to get water on its leaves, you don’t need to mist or water the foliage.
What do I do if I overwater my ZZ plant?
If you overwater your ZZ plant, prune any mushy or rotted leaves or roots and poke some aeration holes in the soil using a chopstick. Do not water the plant again until the soil is completely dry, which may take weeks or a month.
Can I water my ZZ plant with tap water?
Unlike many other houseplants, the minerals in tap water don’t harm ZZ plants. Go ahead and water your ZZ plant with tap water.
Should I mist my ZZ plant?
You can mist your ZZ plant in order to dust the leaves, but otherwise, you don’t need to mist it.
ZZ plants are attractive houseplants that seem to thrive on neglect. With their preference for dry conditions and low light, they’re a perfect plant for rooms with indirect light or even in an office setting. You’ll only need to water your ZZ plant’s a couple of times each month, and these African natives’ will reward you with glossy leaves and vibrant character.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.
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