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|
|Plant Type||Tropical perennial|
|Mature Size||3-4 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Low, indirect light; semi-shade|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic (6.0-7.0)|
|Flower Color||Yellow-brown spadix|
|Native Area||Eastern Africa|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic to humans and animals|
Watch Now: How to Grow ZZ Plants Indoors
ZZ Plant Care
ZZ plants are known for being a 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. 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 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.
ZZ plants are tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, which makes them well-suited to indoor growing. The plants grow well in low light conditions but prefer 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.
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.
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 two weeks, depending on their growing conditions. It's 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 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.
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 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 roots begin to grow.
- Using a sterilized and sharp cutting tool, cut an entire stalk, including leaflets.
- Remove the bottom leaves from the stem, and place the stalk in a jar of water.
- Place in indirect light. Roots should form in a few months. Change water weekly to prevent bacterial growth.
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. It may also show signs of stress if the plant 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 disturbances during the active growing period. Be sure to choose a potting container with drainage holes for your Zanzibar gem.
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.
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?
The zz plant | horticulture and home pest news. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.