How to Grow ZZ Plant (Zanzibar Gem) Indoors

zanzibar gem plant

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak  

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The ZZ plant, also known as the zanzibar gem, is a low-maintenance houseplant characterized by its shiny, wide, oval-shaped leaves that shoot upward. The spotless leaves are waxy and so deep green that sometimes the plant is mistaken as artificial. It's a slow-growing plant, so you won't need to repot often.

Botanical Name Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Common Name ZZ plant, zanzibar gem
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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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

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 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 survive without any natural light, they do best in bright, indirect light. The plant can quickly become leggy when not given enough light, however. 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 45 degrees), 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.

ZZ Plant Varieties

  • 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 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. This method takes longer than propagation by division, and you may need to wait six to nine months before any new rhizomes begin to grow.

  1. Take a cutting from a mature ZZ plant that has at least two leaves and a portion of the stem.
  2. Plant it in a well-draining soil mix.
  3. Place 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 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.

Common Pests

Keep an eye out for common houseplant pests such as mealy bugs, scale, fungus gnats, and aphids that may infest ZZ plants. ZZ plants are virtually disease-free.