ZZ Plants: The Resilient Beauties

If you’re in search of plants that are practically impossible to kill, look no further than ZZ plants. These resilient and easy-to-care-for plants have become a staple on many “indestructible” plant lists. With just a little bit of knowledge on how to grow and care for ZZ plants, you can effortlessly enjoy their exotic appeal and impress your loved ones. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of ZZ plants and discover what makes them truly special.

Understanding the Basics of ZZ Plants

The name “ZZ plant” derives from its botanical classification: Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Originally hailing from the tropical regions of East Africa, this low-maintenance plant is also known as the Zanzibar gem or aroid palm. It belongs to the same plant family as the peace lily, another highly adaptable and undemanding plant. However, unlike peace lilies, ZZ plants rarely flower when grown indoors. When they do flower, their inconspicuous bloom somewhat resembles the early stages of a peace lily flower.

In their natural habitat, ZZ plants thrive in drought-prone grasslands and dry forests. They spread through underground stems called rhizomes, which resemble plump potatoes. These rhizomes play a vital role in helping ZZ plants store water, much like other succulent plants. This unique water-storing feature allows ZZ plants to endure times of drought. While ZZ plants are slow growers, they can reach heights and widths of 2 to 4 feet.

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ZZ plant leaves grow from the rhizome at the soil line, with each “stem” consisting of a single leaf adorned with waxy green leaflets. The new growth stands out with its lighter and brighter appearance, creating a captivating two-toned effect. As ZZ plants continue to gain popularity, a variety of options have emerged, ranging from bright green leaflets to dark green-black ones paired with lime-green new growth and long, arching stems lined with leaflets.

ZZ Plant Leaves
ZZ Plant Leaves

Caring for ZZ Plants: Keep It Simple

Growing ZZ plants successfully mainly relies on providing them with the fundamentals while allowing them to flourish with minimal effort and fuss. Fortunately, ZZ plants thrive under conditions typically found in most homes. Let’s explore the key aspects of ZZ plant care:

Light: The Perfect Balance

ZZ plants can tolerate low light conditions, but they shouldn’t be deprived of light completely. Ideally, position them near a north-facing or east-facing window where they can benefit from indirect or filtered light. Harsh, direct sunlight should be avoided as it can scorch the leaves, leaving unsightly marks.

Soil: Draining and Aerating

For ZZ plants, well-draining soil with good aeration is essential to support their rhizomes and roots. Using a commercial potting mix for indoor plants or a specifically designed succulent mix ensures adequate drainage, suiting ZZ plants perfectly.

Watering: Less Is More

ZZ plants have excellent water storage capabilities, enabling them to endure extended periods without watering. Always check the soil before watering and ensure it is dry approximately 3 inches down. In spring and summer, watering ZZ plants twice a month is normal, as long as the soil is dry. During winter, when ZZ plants rest, reduce watering to once a month.

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Fertilizer: The Nutrient Boost

ZZ plants benefit from a well-rounded supply of essential plant nutrients, particularly during the planting stage and each spring. Applying Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 kickstarts the feeding process immediately and provides continuous nourishment for up to four months. For lush, green growth, consider incorporating nitrogen-rich Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, an OMRI-listed product. However, during winter, it’s best to pause fertilization.

Pruning, Propagating, and Repotting: The Extra Touches

ZZ plants generally don’t require regular pruning. However, removing dead or damaged leaves at any time can help maintain their appearance. When pruning, make sure to wear gloves as the ZZ plant sap can cause skin reactions.

If you wish to propagate ZZ plants, division is the simplest method, similar to peace lilies. Gently separate the rhizomes from the plant and repot them at the same depth they were growing before. You can also start new ZZ plants from single leaflets with the assistance of GardenTech RootBoost Rooting Hormone, much like propagating succulents from leaves.

Repotting ZZ plants isn’t a frequent requirement since they grow slowly and don’t outgrow their pots easily. If repotting becomes necessary, choose a container slightly larger than the current one, ensuring it has unobstructed drainage holes. To minimize transplant shock, consider using Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1 during the repotting process.

Toxicity: Caution Is Key

It’s important to be aware that all parts of ZZ plants are toxic to humans, dogs, and cats if ingested. Additionally, some individuals may experience allergic reactions from touching ZZ plants or their sap. Educate children and pets about the potential hazards and discourage them from handling ZZs or any other houseplants.

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ZZ Plant Roots
ZZ Plant Roots

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Under proper care and conditions, ZZ plants encounter very few problems. However, most issues arise due to overwatering. Overly wet soil can cause soft, weak, and droopy leaves, eventually turning them yellow, brown, or black. At this stage, rhizome and root rot may also occur.

Should your ZZ plant encounter such problems, start by checking the moisture levels in the soil. If necessary, remove the plant from its pot and discard any soft or rotted rhizomes. Repot the firm and healthy rhizomes in fresh potting mix to get your plant back on track.

A Final Word

ZZ plants offer unparalleled beauty with minimal effort. By mastering the art of ZZ plant care, you’ll not only enjoy their low-maintenance charm but also become an exemplary gardener in the eyes of others. These resilient plants also make fantastic gifts, ensuring success even for those new to gardening. Explore the world of ZZ plants with confidence and let their captivating presence bring joy to your home.

Always remember to read and follow product labels thoroughly.


  1. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, “Zamioculcas Zamiifolia,” NC State Extension.