When it comes to growing houseplants, it can feel like you’re constantly fighting to keep things alive. We’ve all lost plants over the years. If you’re looking for something that isn’t a challenge at all, consider growing ZZ plants.
ZZ plants, also known as Zanzibar gems, are perfect houseplants for beginners and experts alike as they’re low maintenance and tolerant of all kinds of environmental conditions. They have an unusual look that will stand out from the usual pothos and dracaena, too.
Ready to learn all about these stand-out beauties?
All About ZZ Plants
The botanical name for ZZ plants is Zamioculcas zamiifolia. No wonder we call it ZZ plant. It’s native to eastern Africa, but today, people around the world keep it in their homes.
The oval leaves on ZZ plants are often mistaken as artificial because they produce a vivid green, variegated, or nearly black color with a waxy coating. The plants can grow up to five feet tall with leaves up the entire length of the stems.
Outdoors, this plant thrives in USDA Growing Zones 10-12.
There are three cultivars of this plant that you’ll commonly find in your local gardening store or online. These are the standard species, plus ‘Raven’ and ‘Variegata.’
The only difference between these three cultivars of ZZ plants is the color. ‘Raven’ cultivars are known for their dark purple foliage which looks almost black inside your home. The variegated cultivar has green and yellow foliage. The main species has medium green foliage.
Then there are a few rare cultivars that you might be able to hunt down.
‘Zenzi’ is a dwarf cultivar with a dense, compact growth habit, while ‘Zamicro’ is petite but proportional, making it look like someone simply shrank a full-sized plant. ‘Jungle Warrior’ has nearly black foliage and is known for being exceptionally hardy.
Finally, ‘Lucky’ comes in the classic cultivar with rounded leaves, while ‘Lucky Giant’ has huge, rounded leaves.
Choosing the Right Soil
Finding the right potting mix is essential when you bring any new plant home. The good news is, that ZZ plants aren’t too picky when it comes to which soil they prefer. That means, as long as it’s well-draining, they’re happy. Any standard potting mix will do.
If you’re concerned about the moisture levels or you tend to overwater, add a handful of perlite. This will provide more drainage and keep your plant happy as it’s growing.
They also grow well in leca, if that’s what you prefer.
Make sure whatever pot you use has good drainage so standing water doesn’t sit against the roots.
Ideal Light Levels
ZZ plants are not only adaptable to different types of soil, but they can also grow in various light conditions. For many plant growers, lighting is one of the hardest things to get right. This houseplant takes the guesswork out of the situation.
Even though ZZ plants will grow in darker areas, they prefer bright, indirect light. In front of a window with a sheer curtain is perfect. Avoid direct sun. It’s best not to place your plant straight in front of a window that receives a lot of sunlight.
Black or variegated cultivars need a bit less light to maintain their color.
Temperature and Humidity
The lowest temperature that ZZ plants can grow in is 40℉. If you’re thinking of placing your plant near a window and you live in a cold region, be cautious about drafts that can harm your plant.
In addition to the temperature, another factor to consider is humidity. Despite ZZ plants being tropical, they don’t need a lot of humidity when growing.
Now that we’ve covered the three main growing elements for ZZ plants, let’s move on to caring techniques.
Caring for ZZ Plants
All plants require water in order to grow. If you’re new to the world of gardening then it can be easy to overwater your plants. Getting the balance correct for each plant is tricky as the same watering schedule won’t work for all your houseplants.
For ZZ plants, the rhizomes make your life easier as they store moisture in case you forget to water one week. You can leave your plant for a few days and nothing bad should happen. That being said, it’s ideal to check on your houseplant as much as possible.
If you feel that the soil has become dry and hard, then you waited way too long to water your plant. The soil should be just dry to the touch on the surface before watering. For most of the year, you’ll likely need to water weekly or every two weeks. It’s better to water too little than too often, though.
Fertilizer helps your plant grow big and full, but you don’t want to overdo it. ZZ plants aren’t terribly heavy feeders. Use a mild, balanced houseplant fertilizer like this one by Easy Peasy Plants, but dilute it by half.
Apply fertilizer once a month during the spring, summer, and fall.
Are ZZ Plants Toxic?
Nature can be wonderful. It provides us with lots of lovely plants, but even the pretty ones can be harmful.
ZZ plants contain calcium oxalate crystals which can cause irritation to your skin and can potentially lead to stomach pain if digested. These crystals can also be toxic to pets which is another reason to pick a location wisely when growing this plant.
However, just because these plants have toxic elements, that shouldn’t stop you from bringing a ZZ plant home. There are some safety measures you can take to make sure that you and your family stay safe when handling this plant.
Any gardener should own a pair of gloves for when pruning and you should place your plant out of reach from children and pets.
Pruning and Cleaning
Some plants are needy and will have to be pruned regularly to keep them in shape and prevent them from overgrowing. Luckily, ZZ plants are an exception. They don’t need to be pruned. All you have to look out for are leaves that turn yellow.
You can simply remove the leaves if they become discolored. Discolored leaves are just a drain on the plant, plus they look ugly.
Clean your leaves if dust gathers on them. You should never clean the leaves with soap. Instead, gently run over them with a moist cloth.
Common Diseases and Pests
When you’re caring for houseplants you’ll often be able to tell if there’s something wrong by just looking at them. The color and texture of the leaves is a dead giveaway.
Houseplants are normally affected by the same pests, so you can train yourself to spot them quickly so you can get rid of them. Here is a list of the most common pests:
If you don’t already have a supply of neem oil or insecticidal soap, then you need to stock up your cupboard. A solution of neem oil or insecticidal soap is the perfect cure for these household pests that tend to infect ZZ plants.
Another amazing thing about these plants is they rarely catch any diseases. Root rot is the most common issue.
The reason for yellow, brown wrinkled, or mushy leaves is often because of your watering schedule. It’s easy to overwater these plants and when you do, they tell you through the leaves.
Practice makes perfect. If you discover discolored or soggy leaves, reduce your watering and check in on your plants frequently to see how they are recovering. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it!
Plants like to be kept with other species that have similar needs. Why not collect several houseplants and display them in your home? The best companion plants for ZZ plants are aglaonema, calathea, and kalanchoe because they have similar requirements.
Growing ZZ plants is straightforward if you give your plant the right climate, enough water, and keep an eye out for pests. It’s that easy!