By Jennifer Poindexter
Are you in the market for an easy-to-care-for plant that purifies the air in your home or office space? The ZZ plant could be what you’ve been searching for. The zamioculcas zamiifolia plant (ZZ plant for short) is a great choice for those who are new to gardening, caring for houseplants, or have an all-around brown thumb.
It consists of gorgeous green foliage that has a waxy finish which makes it a great choice for natural décor in your home.
Whether it’s the ease, the look, or the benefits of raising a ZZ plant that has gained your attention, here’s what you must know to raise the plant properly:
Growing Conditions for the ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant originated in Africa. It is accustomed to a tropical climate, but in its native growing conditions, the plant had to adjust to periods of drought and moisture.
This means it can thrive in flexible growing conditions. The plant can only be grown outdoors in planting zones 10, 11, and 12.
If it’s growing in these zones, the plant should be placed in well-draining soil where it receives dappled sunlight. The ideal spot will only provide the plant with morning light to avoid scorching the leaves.
In most cases, the ZZ plant is a choice houseplant. Indoors, it should be placed where it will receive indirect sunlight or fluorescent light. This will keep the foliage from becoming scorched.
Pay attention to placement inside the home. If you place the plant too close to an air conditioning unit or heat vent it can impact the plant. It should be placed where it can receive typical room temperatures.
Once you’ve determined proper placement, your ZZ plant is ready to thrive.
How to Plant a ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant should be grown in a container. It’s vital to make sure the planter is only approximately 1/3 larger around than the plant’s root system.
This will provide a snug fit for the plant and get it off to a healthy start. When placing the plant in the container, fill the bottom portion with quality soil that will drain well.
When the soil is in place, plant the root ball to where it’s one inch below the rim of the planter. Fill in the rest of the pot with the same quality soil.
Provide the plant with a thorough watering, and it should grow beautifully. Be advised the ZZ plant can have slow growth, but it will depend upon where you live. If the plant lives in a warmer climate it may grow faster than if living in a cool climate.
Be sure to place the planter where the ZZ plant has room to stretch. When full-grown the foliage can reach approximately 36 inches in length, and the whole plant can become as large as two feet in diameter.
You now know how to plant or transplant a ZZ plant, but what about propagating more of them? Propagating the ZZ plant is easy and can be done in a couple of ways.
The first method is dividing an existing plant. By unearthing the plant’s root system, you should notice bulbs. These bulbs are known as rhizomes.
Separate the rhizomes, but keep the stems attached to their correlating rhizomes. Each division equates to a new plant. Plant the rhizome in a pot and care for it as the ZZ plant requires.
The other method of propagating the ZZ plant is by using cuttings. Pick a stem from the plant that has two leaves on it. Cut the stem away from the plant and set it aside for two to three hours. This will allow the plant to harden where it was cut. Next, place the cutting in water for approximately three weeks. Be sure to change the water daily to avoid mold from growing on or around the cutting.
At the end of the three weeks, you should see where roots have formed. Place the cutting in quality soil and care for it as you would any other ZZ plant.
Growing the ZZ plant isn’t complicated, and one plant can be transformed into many by using the proper propagation methods.
Caring for a ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant requires very little from its gardener, which is what makes it so appealing as a houseplant. You barely have to take care of it at all. To begin, you should only water the plant approximately one time per month.
This plant doesn’t require the same amount of water because of its rhizomes. They hold water beneath the plant which allows it to thrive during times of drought in its natural setting.
This means you should do the “knuckle test” before watering. Place your finger into the soil, and test to see if the soil is dry to the second knuckle on your finger. If it’s dry, this means it’s time to water. If the soil is still damp to the second knuckle, hold off on watering and test again later.
When watering the ZZ plant, it’s a good idea to have deep watering sessions on a sporadic basis instead of shallow watering more frequently.
Water the plant over the kitchen sink until it pours out of the planter. Let it finish draining in the sink before putting it back in its proper placement. This will deter water building up in the saucer beneath the planter.
It’s better to underwater the ZZ plant than overwater. A typical rule is if you’ve placed the plant where it receives more sunlight, it will probably require more water.
If the plant is placed where it’s receiving fluorescent or dappled lighting throughout the day, it may not require watering as frequently.
Another general rule of thumb is if the plant displays yellowing leaves or brown leaves, chances are it’s being overwatered.
The next step in caring for the ZZ plant is to fertilize it one time per month during the spring and summer months. If your plant only requires watering one time per month, you can fertilize and water simultaneously.
You may need to prune the ZZ plant over time, but prune with care because each sprout of the plant is actually a leaf.
The sprout consists of a thick stem and foliage. Therefore, if you trim the sprout in the center of the stem it won’t regrow.
However, if the sprout looks discolored or sickly, cut it at soil-level to remove it from the plant. This will allow the stem and foliage to regrow.
This houseplant is from a tropical climate which means humidity does play a factor in its care. In most cases, you won’t need to do anything to increase the humidity in your home.
Yet, if the plant displays brown spots on the tip of the foliage, this is a sign of low humidity. You can increase the dampness around the plant by placing it in specific rooms, such as the bathroom or kitchen, which are naturally higher in moisture.
You can also spritz the plant with a bottle of water to raise the humidity around it or place the plant in a container with rocks in it.
The rocks will elevate the plant to keep it from sitting directly in the water. Pour water over the rocks but stop before it reaches the plant. This will naturally boost the humidity surrounding your ZZ plant.
The only other care the ZZ plant requires is to repot it yearly during the spring or summer months. This will give the roots more room to sprawl out and freshen the nutrients in the soil.
Do be aware that the ZZ plant will flower, but it isn’t what you may think. The flowers form at the base of the plant and many times aren’t even noticed because of the foliage.
For this reason, you won’t need to supply any care to the blooms. By performing these few basic tasks for your ZZ plant, it should flourish for years to come.
Garden Pests and Diseases for the ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant isn’t known for having pests or diseases. Its largest struggle, as previously mentioned, is being overwatered.
However, you should always be on the lookout for aphids and mealybugs when raising houseplants. Aphids and mealybugs both enjoy the sap the ZZ plant provides.
You can get rid of aphids by spraying the plant with soapy water. Be sure to spray under the leaves to make sure all pests are dislodged from the plant.
Mealybug infestations can be treated with a cotton ball dredged in rubbing alcohol. Rub the alcohol on the stems and foliage of the plant.
You can also use insecticidal soap to treat both pests in one method. The ZZ plant is a great choice for a house or office plant because of its forgiving nature and lack of interest by most pests and diseases.
You’re now prepared to tackle raising the ZZ plant. If you can provide basic care, it should grow beautifully for you.