Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Spotlight: ZZ Plant

Zamioculea zamiifolia, also known as the ZZ plant, is one of the best low maintenance houseplants around because it requires very little water or light to thrive. It also has a great shape and lends itself well to a range of designs spanning modern to classical.  Everything Grows provides ZZ plants and care to our commercial customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  Designers and architects are big fans of ZZ plants because of their geometric leaf structure.


The ZZ plant is a tropical perennial plant that is native to Eastern Africa from Southern Kenya to Northeastern South Africa. Zamioculca is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, containing a single species, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia. Dutch nurseries started wide-scale propagation of the plant in the mid 1990s and it wasn't well known before that.

ZZ plants are used medically in the Mulanje district o Malawi and the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania where the juice from the leaves is used to treat earaches. Roots from the ZZ plants are often used as a local application to treat ulceration by the Sukuma people in North-western Tanzania.

The ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant can get about 3' tall and about 3-4' wide, but usually it is only about 20-24" tall. It is in the same family as Dieffenbachia, Caladium, and Spathiphyllum. The ZZ plant does produce a flower, though it is considered insignificant. The flower is a greenish or brownish spathe and half hidden in the leaves. The plant usually flowers from mid-Summer to Autumn. Usually ZZ plants are not grown for their flowers, but for their toughness and beautiful leaves. ZZ plants are normally evergreen but become deciduous during drought periods. They survive through their rhizomes that store water.

The ZZ plant grows about 17-25" tall from a stout underground succulent rhizome. The leaves are pinnate, 16-24" long with 6-8 pairs of leaflets which are 3-5" long. The stems of those pinnate leaves are thickened at the bottom. Each leaf on the ZZ plant contain an unusually high-water content of around 91%. And each leaf will last up to 6 months, so each plant is very hardy. The ZZ plant survives periods of drought in its native Africa, so it makes a great houseplant and can withstand neglect.


The ZZ plant likes to be in a bright and warm location for the best growth, however it will also thrive in a darker place. ZZ plants are happy in almost any type of light. They tolerate low, medium or bright light; but they don't want direct sun. When the ZZ plant has less light, the plant tends to be a darker green and a lighter green in a brighter area. ZZ plants should be grown in temperatures of at least 60 degrees F. They thrive in temperatures from 65-79 degrees F. During the Winter, the ZZ plant does better in a situation with higher humidity which also helps to prevent insect pests.

The best soil for a ZZ plant is one that is fertile but fast draining. It should be slightly acidic with a PH of 6.5. It should contain sand or clay to help enhance drainage. ZZ plants don't want to be water-logged. A good potting soil for indoor ZZ plants would be 1/3 cactus soil and 2/3 regular potting soil. This mix would provide ample nutrition and ample drainage for the plant.

The best time to repot a ZZ plant is after the Winter rest period and after the first shoot-up growth during March or April. Most ZZ plants only need repotting every 2-3 years. If the ZZ plant has optimal conditions and is growing quickly, it might need repotting every year. When choosing a pot, make sure to choose one with a drainage hole. The ZZ plant needs to be able to have excess water draining away from the plant. If you use a saucer under the plant, be sure and empty in after 15 minutes. It is difficult to say how often a ZZ plant will need to be watered, but usually once every 2-4 weeks is sufficient. ZZ plants do best if they are too dry rather than too wet. This is due to the fact that the rhizomes store water and use it when no moisture can be drawn from the soil. During the Winter, the water requirement is reduced, but the ZZ plant will benefit from occasional water and misting. The best water for ZZ plants is soft water with few minerals - rainwater or distilled water are good for them.

ZZ plants don't typically need a lot of fertilizer. They do best when fertilized about once a month during the growing season of March to October. Any liquid fertilizer that is suitable for houseplants is fine for ZZ plants.

Pests and Disorders

The main pests for ZZ plants are spider mites and scale. These can be hosed off with a stream of water if the infestation isn't too bad. You need to protect the pot and soil before you do this by wrapping them up in a plastic bag. If plant is really infested with insect pests, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to contain the pests. Try to avoid putting the ZZ plants near radiators or heaters because they tend to dry out the air around the plants. This tropical plant needs moisture and will be subject to more pests without it. If the ZZ plant turns yellow, its usually due to excess water. Overwatering also results in leaves losing their firmness and becoming soft.

ZZ plants are poisonous to both humans and pets. They can cause skin and eye irritation with direct contact, and can cause stomachache, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. ZZ plants are in the Araceae family and they produce Calcium Oxalate. This substance is what causes skin irritation on contact with the sap and can cause irritation of the internal tissues if ingested.

If a child or pet eats part of a ZZ plant, they will experience discomfort but will be fine in the end. You can expect them to have a stomachache and a bad case of diarrhea. They may also have vomiting. To keep pets away, you can sprinkle orange peel or coffee grounds onto the soil around the ZZ plant. Cats and dogs tend to dislike the strong odors produced and will often stay away from the ZZ plants. You can also spray the ZZ plants with a very dilute vinegar solution and this will deter most animals.

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