ZZ Plant (Zanzibar Gem) Profile

Looking for a low-maintenance houseplant? Look no further

zanzibar gem plant

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak  

Looking for a low-maintenance houseplant to spruce up your space without a big commitment? Look no further than the infamous ZZ plant, also known as the zanzibar gem! Characterized by their shiny, oval-shaped deep green leaves, ZZ plants make excellent additions to any home or office. 

closeup of zanzibar gem leaves
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak 
closeup of zanzibar gem leaves
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak
closeup of zanzibar gem soil
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak 
Botanical Name Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Common Name ZZ Plant, Zanzibar Gem
Plant Type Tropical perennial
Mature Size 3-4' tall
Sun Exposure Bright to low indirect light
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH 6.0 - 7.0
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow-brown spadix
Native Area Eastern Africa

How to Grow ZZ Plants

ZZ plants are notorious for being low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for houseplants that even gardeners with the blackest of thumbs can keep alive. All they need to thrive is adequate light, and a good watering every couple of weeks. However, don’t worry too much about forgetting to water your ZZ plant—ZZ plants grow from rhizomes which help them to store water under the soil, making them a ‘drought-tolerant’ plant.

Luckily, ZZ plants are not prone to any pests in particular. However keep an eye out for common houseplant pests such as mealy bugs, scale, fungus gnats, and aphids as ZZ plants can get infested by these pests.

Tip

ZZ plants have naturally shiny leaves that can begin to look dull over time as dust accumulates. Never clean the leaves of a ZZ plant with a commercial leaf shine as it will clog the pores of the plant! Instead, gently wipe away dust and debris with a damp washcloth to restore its shine.

Light

ZZ plants are tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions which makes them well-suited to indoor growing. While ZZ plants can ‘technically’ survive without any natural light, they do best in bright, indirect light and can quickly become leggy when not given enough light. Avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves of a ZZ plant.

Soil

ZZ plants are not overly picky about their potting medium as long as it is well-draining. Most standard potting mixes should be sufficient for your ZZ plant. If additional drainage is required, mixing in perlite or sand will help.

Water

Thanks to their thick rhizomes, ZZ plants are extremely drought-tolerant and can handle infrequent watering. In general, ZZ plants should be watered once the soil dries out completely—usually once every week or two depending on their growing conditions. But if necessary, ZZ plants can survive months without water, so it is better to under-water your ZZ plant than to over-water it.

Temperature and Humidity

Average household temperatures and humidity are fine for ZZ plants. In general, ZZ plants do not tolerate cold temperatures well (no lower than 45F) so avoid placing your ZZ plant in a location close to drafts or particularly cold areas of your home. ZZ plants don't require humid conditions, but if your home runs on the dry side consider increasing the humidity around your ZZ plant by purchasing a humidifier or placing it on top of a water tray.

Fertilizer

Generally, ZZ plants do not require regular fertilizing to thrive. However, to keep the plant in optimal health, fertilize your ZZ plant with indoor plant fertilizer diluted to half-strength one to two times during its active growing season.

Potting and Repotting

ZZ plants should be repotted only once they have outgrown their previous potting container. This is usually evident by the rhizomes under the soil pressing up against the edge of the container or warping the shape of the container. As with most houseplants, it is usually a good idea to wait until the spring or summer to repot ZZ plants as they will be better able to tolerate disturbances during the active growing period. Be sure to choose a potting container with drainage holes for your ZZ plant!

overhead shot of zanzibar gem and its future pot
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

Propagating

ZZ plants propagate in two main ways: through division, and through leaf cuttings. Propagation by division is the simplest way to create more ZZ plants—simply separate the rhizomes the next time you repot your ZZ plant and plant in a separate container. Alternatively, ZZ plants can also be propagated by leaf cuttings. Take a cutting from a mature ZZ plant that has at least two leaves and a portion of the stem and plant it in a well-draining soil mix. Place the cutting in a warm spot that receives bright (but not direct) light throughout the day. This method takes longer than propagation by division and you may be waiting six to nine months before any new rhizomes begin to grow!

Varieties of ZZ Plants

  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Raven’: a relatively new variety that is distinguished by its dark purple-maroon foliage.
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Variegated’: characterized by green foliage that is variegated with white, and yellow. Variegation fades if not given adequate light.

Toxicity of ZZ Plants

During the early 2010s, rumors circulated that ZZ plants were so toxic that they could cause cancer and that they should be avoided at all costs. While this proved to be false, unfortunately, ZZ plants are mildly toxic to both humans and pets as all parts of the plant contain calcium oxalate crystals. Symptoms of ZZ plant toxicity include irritation to the affected area and stomach upset if consumed.