All About ZZ Plants: Sunlight, Care, & Growing Tips

No green thumb required: This popular houseplant thrives with minimal care

zanzibar gem plant

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak  

Low-maintenance zz plants are Zamioculcas zamiifolia, characterized by their shiny, wide, oval-shaped leaves that shoot upward and quickly grow in a home indoors. The plant natively grows in East Africa, namely Zanzibar and Tanzania. The plants are also called Zanzibar gems for their spotless, waxy leaves that are so deep green that sometimes, these plants are mistaken as artificial.

ZZ plants are slow-growing plants that prefer bright, indirect sunlight. One of the benefits of zz plant is that it can thrive in many lighting conditions. If you plant or repot a zz, do it in the spring or summer when it's in an active growth phase. These plants are toxic to humans and animals if ingested.

Common Name ZZ plant, Zanzibar gem, eternity plant
Botanical Name Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Family Araceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 2-4 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wice
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow, green, white
Native Area Africa
Toxicity Toxic to humans, toxic to pets
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Watch Now: How to Grow ZZ Plants Indoors

ZZ Plant Care

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

Though it thrives outdoors in Africa, it's best grown indoors elsewhere. If you want to grow it outside, plant it in a container that can be brought indoors when the temperatures cool.

ZZ plants have naturally shiny leaves that can become dull as dust accumulates. Never clean the leaves of a Zanzibar gem with a commercial leaf shine, as it will clog the plant's pores. Instead, gently wipe away dust and debris with a damp washcloth to restore its shine.

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

Light

ZZ plants are tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, which makes them well-suited to indoor growing. The plants can grow in low-light conditions. They can quickly become leggy if not given enough light. When placing the plant in your house, choose a bright, indirect light spot, preferably in a room with south-facing windows. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves of your plants.

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 plant. If additional drainage is required, mixing in perlite or sand will help.

Water

These plants are highly drought-tolerant and can handle infrequent watering thanks to their thick rhizomes. You should generally water zz plants once the soil dries out completely—usually once every two weeks, depending on their growing conditions. It's better to water your plant less than give it too much water. When watering, wet the soil thoroughly until the water is running out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Get rid of the excess water.

Temperature and Humidity

Average household temperatures and humidity are acceptable for Zanzibar gems. ZZ plants do not tolerate cold temperatures well (no lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit), so avoid placing your 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 plant by purchasing a humidifier or placing it on top of a tray filled with pebbles and water.

Fertilizer

ZZ plants generally do not require regular fertilizing to thrive. However, if you're hoping to increase your plant's size or vigor, fertilize your zz plant with indoor plant fertilizer diluted to half-strength one to two times during its active growing season.

Types of ZZ Plant

Some of the best zz plant varieties are as follows:

  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Raven’: a relatively new variety that is distinguished by its dark purple-maroon foliage
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Lucky Variegated’: characterized by green foliage that is variegated with white and yellow; variegation fades if not given adequate light
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zamicro': a dwarf version of the zz plant with shorter stems and smaller leaves

Propagating ZZ Plant

ZZ plants propagate in two main ways: through division and stem cuttings. Propagation by division is the simplest way to create more plants—separate the rhizomes the next time you repot your plant and place them in separate containers.

Propagating with stem cuttings takes longer than propagating by division, and you may need to wait six to nine months before roots begin to grow.

  1. Cut an entire stalk, including leaflets using a sterilized and sharp cutting tool.
  2. Remove the bottom leaves from the stem, and place the stalk in a jar of water.
  3. Place in indirect light. Roots should form in a few months. Change water weekly to prevent bacterial growth.
  4. When root growth is substantial, place the plant into a container filled with potting mix.

Potting and Repotting ZZ Plants

ZZ plants should be repotted only once they have outgrown their potting container. Repotting is needed when you see the rhizomes pressing up under the soil against the edge of the container or warping the shape of the container. The plant may also show signs of stress if it has become root-bound.

As with most houseplants, it is usually a good idea to wait until the spring or summer to repot the plants because they will be better able to tolerate being disturbed during the active growing period. Choose a potting container one size larger with ample drainage holes for your Zanzibar gem.

Common Pests

ZZ plants are virtually disease-free, but keep an eye out for common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, scale, fungus gnats, and aphids that may infest this plant. Use insecticidal soap to eliminate most of these pest problems.

Common Problems With ZZ Plants

A common problem with a Zanzibar gem is how much water the plant is receiving. If the leaves drop, the plant is dehydrated and needs water. The opposite is true if the leaves are yellowing and dropping simultaneously; give the plant more water. If the top 3 inches (roughly the length of your finger) of soil are dry, the plant is ready for water.

FAQ
  • Are Zanzibar gems easy to care for?

    ZZ plants are said to be impossible to kill because they tolerate poor conditions and neglect, making this an excellent plant for beginner indoor gardeners.

  • How fast does the zz plant grow?

    This plant grows somewhat slowly. But, it does generate a handful of new stems per year. It also grows in spurts of a couple of inches or more at a time in a season.

  • How long can a zz plant live?

    Since it's tough as nails, it's a long-lasting plant. ZZ plants are also called heirloom plants because you can pass them from generation to generation.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The zz plant | horticulture and home pest news. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

  2. Zamioculcas zamiifolia. North Carolina State University Extension.

  3. Common Houseplant Insects and Related Pests. Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center.