How to Grow and Care for ZZ Plant (Aroid Palm)

All the tips and tricks you need to grow this lush, easygoing houseplant.

A ZZ plant with green leaves in a white pot

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If there’s one houseplant that can thrive even in the face of neglect, it’s the ZZ plant. This lush, tropical perennial (also known as the aroid palm) is adaptable to infrequent waterings and all kinds of light conditions. That means you can incorporate the ZZ plant and its shiny, vibrant green leaves into many different spaces, from fluorescent-lit offices to rooms with lots of natural light. As a bonus, this species improves air quality and filters out volatile organic compounds in indoor spaces.

ZZ plants are slow growers that are highly adaptable and low-maintenance. At maturity, these plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall and wide with long, spreading compound leaves on a central shoot. While this species is easy to care for, it's also toxic to humans and animals—so be sure to keep it out of reach of children, cats, dogs, and other pets.

Because they can tolerate many different conditions, ZZ plants are a great option for beginner plant parents and spaces like offices, waiting rooms, and restaurants. Here's all you need to know about caring for your ZZ plant.

  • Botanical Name: Zamioculcas zamiifolia
  • Common Name: ZZ plant, aroid palm, emerald palm, Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant
  • Plant Type: Perennial succulent
  • Mature Size: 2–4 feet high
  • Sun Exposure: Shade to partial, indirect sun
  • Soil Type: Standard potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0–7.0
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and pets
zz plant

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Plant Care

Allow your ZZ plant’s soil to dry out fully between waterings. Its rhizomes (or underground stems) store water beneath the soil to tolerate periods of drought. Too much water or soil that’s overly moist can cause the rhizomes to rot.

Check the soil moisture frequently when you first bring your plant home, then water as needed moving forward. While ZZ plants have been known to survive up to four months between waterings, they should be watered regularly to avoid dormancy. 

To feed your ZZ plant, use a fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during the spring and summer growing seasons. Avoid fertilizing during the winter. Feeding your plant will help encourage it to grow faster and taller to aid its typically slow growth habits.

zz plant close up

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Best Growing Conditions for ZZ Plants

ZZ plants can withstand low light and adapt to conditions from full to partial shade, although they do best when grown in bright, indirect light. An east-facing window that gets only morning light or a north-facing window are good options for ZZ plants. Too much sunlight can create brown spots on your plant’s leaves. 

Plant your ZZ in a well-drained, all-purpose potting mix or a growing medium that’s three parts all-purpose mix and one part succulent soil mix. These tropical plants need temperatures no lower than 65 degrees at night. While their natural habitat is humid, ZZ plants can adapt to low-humidity indoor spaces as well.

Types of ZZ Plants

Among the varieties of ZZ plants, 'Zamicro' is a dwarf cultivar that is smaller in size than the typical variety. Raven ZZ is another variety, grown in North America, which features dramatic dark-purple leaves that are nearly black in color.

How to Propagate ZZ Plants

ZZ plants can be propagated by leaf cuttings, rooting leaflets, and division. Division is the easiest option, but the other methods are more successful when it comes to propagating smaller specimens. Here's how:

Propagating ZZ Plants by Leaf Cuttings

Step 1: Prepare a clean glass filled halfway with water. To reduce the risk of root rot, you can also use a small container of moist, well-draining soil instead.

Step 2: With a clean, sharp blade, cut through the leaf as close to the base as possible. Remove any leaflets growing on the bottom 6 to 8 inches—these can be propagated separately. 

Step 3: Root the plant in water by placing the leaf in the glass. Once new rhizomes grow from the base of the cutting (within two months to one year), plant and care for them as usual.

Propagating ZZ Plants by Rooting Leaflets

Step 1: Find a shallow container with a clear lid, then add 1 to 2 inches of potting soil. Spritz the soil with water for moisture.

Step 2: Using a clean, sharp blade, remove a leaflet by cutting as close to the central shoot of the leaf as possible. 

Step 3: Plant the leaflet in the tray of soil at a 45-degree angle so that the petiole end (the part connecting the leaflet to the central shoot) is beneath the soil. You can propagate several leaflets in the same container at once this way. Cover and close the container. 

Step 4: Check the container periodically to monitor growth and mist the soil with water when dry. While it may take several months, the buried leaflet ends should grow small potato-like tubers even as the original leaflets wither away. These can be planted in moist soil and will eventually produce a new plant. 

An easy way to fill out your existing plant is to collect healthy leaflets that break off, then bury their petiole ends halfway within the soil of the mother plant. 

Propagating ZZ Plants by Division

If your ZZ plant is large and healthy, you can propagate it by division to grow new plants separately. Keep in mind that this method should only be used every few years, as dividing a plant that’s too small or immature risks damaging it. Here's how:

Step 1: Prepare two or three small pots with fresh potting mix.

Step 2: Carefully remove the mother plant from its current pot by placing the container on its side. Gently pull the pot away from the roots. If the pot is stuck, loosen the soil around the edge with a digging knife, trowel, or utility knife. 

Step 3: Grasping the plant by the base of its leaves with one hand, loosen the root ball and remove excess soil. Use pruners or a utility knife to cut away any rotten or shriveled roots. 

Step 4: Inspect the root ball for natural points of division that need the fewest cuts to separate the roots. Using your utility knife, carefully cut the root ball and rhizomes as cleanly as possible at the separation points. 

Step 5: Pot each section of the plant into an appropriately-sized container with fresh soil, and then water until the soil is moist. Care for the plant as usual. 

Common Problems With ZZ Plants

While ZZ plants are typically a very low-maintenance species, it's still possible to run into a few growing problems. The most common issues are caused by inadequate water or light. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:

Brown or Crispy Leaves

An underwatered ZZ plant will begin to turn brown with crispy or curling leaves; in this case, give it a thorough soaking while allowing excess water to drain from the pot. Increase the frequency of your watering schedule to prevent it from quickly drying out again, monitoring the top two inches of soil to ensure they feel moist.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves can indicate an underwatered ZZ plant, but they can also mean that your plant is receiving too much direct sunlight. This low-light species prefer dappled, indirect sun, so move your plant to a shadier spot.

Yellow Leaves

Since ZZ plants store water in their rhizomes (underground stems), overwatering is a common growing problem. Err on the side of under-watering to avoid root rot. If your plant is overwatered, you'll notice that its leaves begin to turn yellow on the tips. Cut back on watering to allow the plant to dry out before adding more water.

Root-Bound

It's common for ZZ plants to become root-bound when they're overdue for repotting. If you see signs that it’s root-bound—such as browning leaves, roots growing out of drainage holes, or soil that drains and dries out very quickly—your plant is likely too root-bound for water to penetrate its roots.

If your plant is situated in an environment with little to no humidity, mist the leaves with water to offset dry air. ZZ plants don't prefer the extra-humid conditions of other tropical species; they grow best in average household humidity.

Potting and Repotting ZZ Plants

ZZ plants should be repotted every other year during the spring or summer growing season. This allows the plant to become established in its new container before entering a period of dormancy over the winter.

Carefully remove your plant from its pot, loosen the root ball with your fingers, prune back any black or rotten roots, then replant it with fresh potting soil in a plant container one size larger.  

How to Get ZZ Plants to Bloom

While ZZ plants are mostly grown for their vibrant foliage, mature specimens will sometimes produce tiny flowers with a pale green spathe (a single leaf-life structure protruding from the flower) partially surrounding a white or pale yellow spadix (a central floral spike).

It's unlikely for ZZ plants grown indoors to bloom, but it's still possible to find flowers growing low amid the base of your plant's leaves during midsummer or early fall. Ensure your plant receives the proper water, light, and fertilizer requirements to make blooms more likely during the growing season.

FAQs

Are ZZ Plants Succulents?

While their foliage doesn't resemble the water-filled leaves of popular succulents like hen and chicks or burro's tail, ZZ plants are a member of the succulent family. These plants are characterized by their shiny, hardy green leaves.

Do ZZ Plants Like to Be Root-Bound?

ZZ plants can tolerate many different conditions and more neglect than many houseplants, but if they become too root-bound, these plants have a hard time soaking up water. If your ZZ plant shows signs of being root-bound, transplant it to a larger container.

How Fast Do ZZ Plants Grow?

It typically takes this species a few years to reach its mature height of 2 to 4 feet, but especially healthy ZZ plants may grow 6 inches per month or more during spring and summer.

Article Sources
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