Learning How to Grow the ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant is an excellent choice for a plant with low-maintenance needs. It’ll tolerate neglect and perhaps even thrive. That is because this plant evolved having to survive in challenging conditions. Your home is a piece of cake compared to drought. Continue reading to learn more about this user-friendly houseplant.

What Is the ZZ Plant?

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) has nothing to do with sleeping. Rather, the ZZ name refers to its genus and species name. It is the sole member of its genus that belongs to the Araceae or Arum Family. The group includes many plants you’ll likely recognize such as jack-in-the-pulpit and peace lily. Rather than regular flowers, they have a spadix for a bloom.

Maybe we were premature so say it isn’t about sleeping. This plant is slow growing, so you might wonder if it’s still awake. It won’t flower most likely. You may not need to repot it. For someone looking for a no-fuss houseplant, you can’t do much better than growing a ZZ plant. It’ll continue to thrive in most any conditions—even the occasional neglect.

Care and Maintenance

A little background of the ZZ plant will tell you most of what you need to know about its care. The plant grows in eastern Africa where it has evolved under drought-like conditions. It is a tough plant that you may put in the category of houseplants that are hard to kill.And it has few special needs. Basic houseplant care will suffice. At full maturity, it reaches heights up to three feet.

Light and Temperature

The ZZ plant prefers indirect light that is neither too bright nor too shady. Direct sun will scorch its leaves while too little will affect its already slow growth. Overall, it will tolerate most indoor settings as long as you avoid extremes. The ZZ plant will do just fine in normal indoor temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer conditions will spur growth.

While it is a tolerant plant, it won’t thrive in a windowless room. It needs some light to undergo photosynthesis. You can place it in most rooms, except for a north-facing room which likely won’t have enough light for it to make food and energy.


The ZZ plant is a succulent which is one way plants adapt to dry conditions. Their thick, fleshy leaves allow the plant to store water to get it through tough times. Cacti and other plants from dry areas share similar adaptations. That means you needn’t worry about relative humidity as much as you’d have to with a tropical plant. The conditions in your home are all right.

Since it evolved to handle drought, you should let the soil dry between waterings. In fact, if there is one way to kill a ZZ plant, it is through over-watering. The telltale yellow leaves will tell you that you’re overdoing it. It’s essential to avoid watering it too much to prevent root rot. It is the bane of many houseplants, especially when you grow them in containers.

This video from Fulton Mason Peoria Tazewell Extension explains the proper way to water your houseplants to keep them happy.

Soil Conditions and Fertilizing

Proper drainage is essential for growing the ZZ plant. That means you should select a container with holes on the bottom even if you have to make them yourself. The soil should also lend itself toward fast-draining conditions. You can use a soil mixture appropriate for cacti and succulents. These lighter soils will prevent water from pooling and create a healthier environment for roots.

The soil mixture will directly impact your choice of container. You’ll need to compensate for the lighter soils with a pot that is heavier to keep the plant from becoming top heavy. It’s a good opportunity to use a decorative ceramic or terra cotta container instead of a plastic one.

As you may expect with a slow-growing plant, fertilizing will not be your top maintenance priority with a ZZ plant. However, it still needs to get its nutrients from the soil. You should plan on fertilizing it quarterly with a weak, all-purpose product. It’s especially important for plants actively growing in lighter conditions. It’s probably something you want to encourage.

Fitting In

The ZZ plant is one of many plants that can improve indoor air quality by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You may think of air pollution as an environmental problem. But indoor air quality is also a concern simply because we spend so much time inside, especially during the winter months.

You can propagate additional ZZ plants from cuttings. But do you remember that part about it being slow growing? That will also apply to the new plants you’re trying to grow. Stay patient, and you’ll see them take hold, eventually. Provide the cuttings with same conditions that your adult plant enjoys. Believe us; it’ll happen.

Given the right conditions, the ZZ plant will reach its mature height, albeit, over period of time. You also have some control over its spread. If you plant it in a wide container, it’ll become a bushier plant over time. The reverse is also true. So, you can easily match this plant with the space which is something you can’t say with a lot of houseplants.

Special Care Notes

The one caution is that it may contain calcium oxalate crystals. They can cause mouth and throat irritation if a pet or child accidentally ingests any part of the plant. Otherwise, that is the only drawback to an otherwise smart choice for an indoor plant.

The ZZ plant is a handsome plant with beautiful foliage. It has a lot to offer the home gardener. It is low maintenance and will tolerate lapses in good care. As long as it has some indirect light, it’ll fare well in your home. It will pay you back for its optimal growing conditions with a plant that will improve your indoor air quality. Now that’s what we call a win-win situation.

Photo by CITYEDV licensed underCC0

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