How to Grow and Care for ZZ Plant (Zanzibar Gem) Indoors

zanzibar gem plant

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak  

ZZ plants, also known as Zanzibar gems, are low-maintenance houseplants characterized by their shiny, wide, oval-shaped leaves that shoot upward. The spotless leaves are waxy and so deep green that sometimes these plants are mistaken as artificial. They are slow-growing plants, so you won't need to repot often, but if you do plant or repot a zz, do so in the spring or summer when it's in an active growth phase. The plants are mildly toxic to humans and animals.

Common Name ZZ plant, Zanzibar gem, eternity plant
Botanical Name Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Family Araceae
Plant Type Tropical perennial
Mature Size 3-4 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Bright to low indirect light
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH Neutral to acidic (6.0-7.0)
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow-brown spadix
Native Area Eastern Africa
Toxicity Mildly toxic to humans and animals
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Watch Now: How to Grow ZZ Plants Indoors

ZZ Plant Care

ZZ plants are notorious for being low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for houseplants that even gardeners with the blackest of thumbs can keep alive with minimum care. 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—these plants grow from rhizomes, which help them to store water under the soil, making them a drought-tolerant plant. Though it thrives outdoors in Africa, it's best grown indoors elsewhere.

ZZ plants have naturally shiny leaves that can begin to look dull over time as dust accumulates. Never clean the leaves of a Zanzibar gem 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.

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. While the plants can survive without any natural light, they do best in bright, indirect light. The plants can quickly become leggy when not given enough light, however. Avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves of a 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

Thanks to their thick rhizomes, these plants are extremely drought-tolerant and can handle infrequent watering. ZZ plants should generally be watered once the soil dries out completely—usually once every week or two depending on their growing conditions. But, if necessary, the plants can survive months without water, so it is better to water your plant less than giving it too much water. When watering, give it enough so that the moisture runs out of the bottom of the pot and throw out the excess water.

Temperature and Humidity

Average household temperatures and humidity are fine for Zanzibar gems. ZZ plants typically 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 water tray.

Fertilizer

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

Types 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

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—simply 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 any new rhizomes begin to grow.

  1. Using a sterilized and sharp cutting tool, take a cutting from a mature plant that has at least two leaves and a portion of the stem.
  2. Plant the stem in a pot of well-draining soil mix.
  3. Place the container with the cutting in a warm spot that receives bright (but not direct) light throughout the day.

Potting and Repotting ZZ Plants

ZZ plants should be repotted only once they have outgrown their potting container. This is usually evident when you see the rhizomes pressing up under the soil 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 the plants because 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 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 an insecticidal soap to eliminate most of these pest problems.

Common Problems With ZZ Plants

The one common problem you may have with a Zanzibar gem is how much water the plant is actually receiving. If the leaves are dropping, the plant is extremely dry and in need of water. If the leaves are yellowing and dropping at the same time, it usually means the plant is getting too much 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 a great plant for beginner indoor gardeners.

  • How fast does the zz plant grow?

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

  • 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 they can be passed from generation to generation.

Article Sources
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  1. The zz plant | horticulture and home pest news. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.