Everything You Need to Know About ZZ Plants Including Origins, Symbolism, and How-to-Grow
ZZ plants, or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, have become a trendy choice for houseplant collectors everywhere, and with good reason. This plant adds a lush, glossy texture to your indoor space without requiring much upkeep or natural light. This plant is excellent for folks who want to bring a bit of life to their office or living space but don’t have much time to devote to plant care. Follow along to discover everything you need to know about growing and caring for this low-maintenance houseplant. You’ll learn everything from the ZZ plant’s benefits to essential tools for optimal plant care. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- About ZZ Plants
- The Most Popular ZZ Plant Varieties to Grow at Home
- ZZ Plant Uses
- ZZ Plant Benefits
- ZZ Plant Meanings & Symbolism
- How to Grow ZZ Plants at Home (for Indoor Plants)
- How to Care for ZZ Plants
- When and How to Repot ZZ Plants
- Pest and Disease Considerations
- Common ZZ Plant Problems and How to Treat Them
- Essential ZZ Plant Tools
- Final thoughts
About ZZ Plants
The ZZ plant is also commonly called the Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, fern arum, eternity plant, or the emerald palm. Let’s dive into some other facts about this ornamental plant before we get to its growth and care.
Origins and History
The ZZ plant is a tropical perennial plant that is native to the region of eastern Africa spanning from southern Kenya to northeastern South Africa. Over the years, this plant has become popular for its low-maintenance quality. Eventually, in 1996, Dutch nurseries began propagating the species for commercial purposes on a larger scale, and the ZZ plant earned its role as one of the most common houseplants across the globe.
Scientific Facts about ZZ Plants
The ZZ plant belongs to the genus Zamioculcas, which is a flowering plant in the Araceae family. As it turns out, the only species in this genus is the ZZ plant, known scientifically as Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Initially, only the classic green ZZ plant was sold commercially. These days, however, you’ll find several different varieties of ZZ plants in plant stores everywhere.
The Most Popular ZZ Plant Varieties to Grow at Home
Here are a few of the ZZ plant varieties to look out for:
- Lucky Classic ZZ variety: This variety has rounder leaves than the traditional type of ZZ plant.
- Raven ZZ variety: This rare variety gets its name for its stunning jet-black foliage.
- Dwarf or Zamicro ZZ variety: This is a smaller variety of the ZZ plant that will stay under two feet in height.
- Zenzi ZZ variety: This variety has curlier leaves that grow closer together than other types of ZZ plants.
ZZ Plant Uses
These days, this species functions primarily as an ornamental plant. However, the plant does have roots in traditional medicine. In Tanzania, it has been used to treat inflammatory conditions, and in Malawi, it was once used as a remedy for earaches. With that said, it’s important to note that the ZZ plant is on a list of toxic plants for both pets and humans, so do not try these remedies at home.
ZZ Plant Benefits
In a study at the University of Copenhagen in 2014, the ZZ plant proved useful as an air purifier. The species successfully removed benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene from the air around it.
Many consider ZZ plants lucky, as their evergreen, upturned, succulent foliage is said to represent wealth, steadiness, and growth.
ZZ Plant Meanings & Symbolism
This houseplant also makes a great addition to the feng shui of your home. In this practice, the plant is commonly used as a money plant. Practitioners place it in the ‘wealth corner’ of the living room to bring fortune into their lives. Since the plant thrives in a variety of lighting conditions, you can place it anywhere you’d like based on your home’s particular feng shui needs.
How to Grow ZZ Plants at Home (for Indoor Plants)
Before growing an indoor Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right tools on hand. Read on to learn what to do before planting, the materials and tools you’ll need, and how to plant your ZZ to keep the species happy and thriving.
What to Do Before Planting
Here are some steps you’ll want to take before purchasing your new ZZ plant.
- Purchase an appropriate pot and saucer to repot your ZZ plant if needed.
- Make sure you have the correct tools and soil mix for planting your ZZ plant. These details are listed below.
- Find a space in your home to plant the ZZ, ensuring optimal conditions for the plant to thrive. This plant is extremely resilient, so it should work well in most areas of your home.
How to Plant ZZ Plants
Your ZZ plant is a resilient and hardy evergreen species, making it an ideal choice for first-time plant owners. With that said, you’ll want to ensure the following conditions when planting your ZZ.
- Terracotta pots and planters are the most suitable choice for your ZZ plant. Make sure the container you choose has at least one drainage hole to eliminate excess water.
- The pot or planter you choose for your ZZ plant should be about one inch larger than its previous container.
- This plant is slow-growing. Unless its roots are bulging out of its current container or it appears to be root-bound, you do not need to repot the plant immediately. You also do not need to repot more often than once every year or two.
The Best Soil Mix for ZZ Plants
ZZ plants grow best in well-draining compost or potting soil. You can mix a standard houseplant soil with sand or perlite, or use cactus potting mix. The key is to allow excess water to drain from the soil, so your plant does not develop root rot.
For more, see our essential guide to the best soil mix for ZZ plants.
How Big do ZZ Plants Grow?
Zamioculcas zamiifolia plants usually grow to be around three feet tall. However, the dwarf variety will typically stay under two feet. Some larger plants can reach up to five feet in height, although this is rare.
ZZ Plant Light Preferences
Your ZZ plant loves medium to low indirect lighting. For this reason, many people buy the plant to place in low-light spots other plants won’t tolerate. You can place the species virtually anywhere throughout your house, avoiding locations that receive direct sunlight throughout the day.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the best light conditions for ZZ plants.
Temperature & Humidity Preferences:
ZZ plants thrive in a range of temperature and humidity conditions. They prefer average indoor temperatures that range from 65 to 85 degrees F. They prefer drier conditions and grow well in a humidity range between 40 and 50 percent, which is typical for many households.
How to Care for ZZ Plants
Next, it’s time to discover how to keep your ZZ plant healthy and beautiful. This plant is famed for its low-maintenance nature, so it will tolerate your care methods as you learn its preferred conditions.
Your ZZ plant needs minimal water. In fact, you’ll only need to water your ZZ plant every three weeks to one month. You may need to water more often if the plant receives more light exposure. Let the soil completely dry between waterings and don’t give in to the temptation to over-water. This plant grows slowly and needs minimal hydration to keep its lively appearance.
Unsurprisingly, your Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant is also tolerant of minimal feeding conditions. In fact, the plant does not need much fertilizer, if any, to stay happy. If you’d like, you can use a half-strength fertilizer to feed the ZZ plant one or two times per year during warmer months.
Pruning ZZ plants
Luckily, you won’t have to worry too much when it comes to pruning your ZZ plant. However, if you notice any wilting or yellowing leaves, or dying stems, you may remove them carefully with a pair of shears.
Since this species is considered toxic to humans, we recommend wearing gardening gloves when pruning your ZZ plant to avoid skin irritation. Remember to wash your hands after handling any part of your ZZ plant.
ZZ Plant Propagation
So, another great thing about ZZ plants is that you can easily propagate them. However, you won’t want to do this very often, as frequent propagation can damage the plant. Here are the ways you can propagate your Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant.
You can easily propagate this plant by separating its roots. Use sharp shears or a saw to separate or cut the roots into smaller plants. Then, repot the divided plants in separate containers.
Rooting leaf or stem cuttings
Use sharp shears to take leaf or stem cuttings from a mature ZZ plant. The cuttings do best if there is some stem attached. Once you take your cuttings, allow them to heal over for an hour or so.
Then, place your cuttings in water and put them in bright, indirect light. Wait a month or so, until your cuttings develop roots. When you see roots form, you can place these new plants into their own pots or add them back in with the mother plant.
If the cutting does not stand up on its own, you can use a stake and twine to keep it standing tall. Read on to learn how to repot cuttings or entire ZZ plants.
Here’s a great video from Nature for some more visual tips!
When and How to Repot ZZ Plants
You should consider repotting your ZZ plant if you notice it is developing a crowded root system. Here are a few tips for repotting your Zamioculcas zamiifolia.
- The best time to replant your ZZ is during the winter months, while it is not actively growing.
- Gently remove the plant from its current container, making sure not to damage the roots, rhizomes, or foliage.
- Place the plant in a terracotta planter around one inch bigger than its current pot. Use the same free-draining soil when repotting your ZZ plant.
- Once you’ve repotted the plant, water it thoroughly. After this watering, the plant likely will not need watering for at least one month.
Pest and Disease Considerations
Your ZZ plant is unlikely to encounter many issues with pests or diseases. Here are a few rare problems you may notice:
- Aphids: Yellow marks may be a sign that aphids have infested your plant. This pest is attracted to the ZZ plant’s sap. You can use a mild soap on the leaves to remove these creatures if they infest your plant.
- Spider mites: If you notice a spiderweb material developing around your ZZ plant’s leaves, spider mites may have infested the plant. Take the ZZ away from other houseplants and use an insecticide to eliminate the infestation.
- Yellowing leaves: Yellow leaves are usually a sign of overwatering. If you notice discoloration in your ZZ plant’s foliage, try reducing the plant’s watering schedule.
- Root rot: This is another symptom of overwatering. If you suspect root rot, lift the plant out of its container to inspect its root system. Gently cut away rotted areas with a pair of sharp shears.
Common ZZ Plant Problems and How to Treat Them
Although ZZ plants are relatively problem-free, there are a few characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind. Here are some final things to know about your ZZ plant’s care.
- Dusting: It is good to remove dust from your ZZ plant’s leaves to maintain its glossy appearance and promote healthy aspiration. Simply use a wet cloth to gently remove dust from the plant’s foliage every week or so.
- Toxicity: Unfortunately, ZZ plants are considered poisonous to both humans and pets. Wear gloves when handling your ZZ plant and keep it away from curious pets or children.
- Products to avoid: As previously mentioned, your plant’s glossy leaves give it a lush aesthetic. However, using leaf shining products is not suitable for this plant. Avoid using commercial products to shine your plant’s leaves. Simply remove dust with water to keep it looking lush and shiny.
Essential ZZ Plant Tools
While your ZZ plant requires minimal upkeep, we’ve mentioned some tools throughout the article that you’ll want to have on hand. Here is a summary of the items you’ll need for optimal care of your new ZZ plant.
- A terracotta pot
- A terracotta saucer
- A well-draining soil mix
- A half-strength fertilizer
- A pair of sharp shears for pruning
- A pair of gloves for handling your ZZ plant
- A stake and twine for propagating ZZ plants
Buy a ZZ plant to add a low-maintenance splash of vibrance to your home. If you’ve been meaning to try plant care, this resilient species will give you the confidence you need to develop your green thumb. Whether you’re a complete beginner or an expert plant owner, the ZZ plant will make a fantastic addition to your home.
Looking for your next ZZ Plant? Check out our expert guide on Where to Buy ZZ Plants.