Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a gift to those who want living green in their homes but are wary of adding another victim to their list of accidental killings. The ZZ plant comes from eastern Africa's warm, dry, and shady habitats. It is one of the most popular indoor plants globally because it's undemanding and impactful, with sturdy, high-sheen leaves.
The effort-to-beauty ratio is, arguably, unsurpassed as far as houseplants go, and the hardy ZZ is a notable air purifier, too.
When selecting a ZZ plant, look for a specimen with leaves that aren't turning yellow, pale green, or brown. The stems should not be limp, nor should the leaves be curling. If the plant seems to be leaning to one side, it probably hasn't been receiving enough light. Look also for signs of rot on the potato-like rhizomes in the pot.
You've got the green light if the leaves and stems look shiny and healthy. Pay up and transport it by placing the nursery pot on the floor near the passenger seat of your car.
You'll need a fast-draining indoor potting mix like those earmarked for succulents. If you're removing your ZZ plant from its nursery pot, ensure your new pot has holes at the bottom. And rather than covering the stems with potting mix, leave the fleshy rhizomes slightly exposed.
You can aerate the soil before watering to help the plant settle—simply poke holes in it with a chopstick.
ZZ plants can thrive in low-light conditions, but eight to ten hours of moderate to bright indirect light is best and facilitates faster growth. Direct sunlight can scald the leaves.
ZZs tolerate fluorescent lighting, so if you're looking to brighten up a windowless office or retail store, this is the little plant buddy for you.
ZZ plants have bulbous rhizomes at their base, and these underground stems store water to help the ZZ make it through droughts. Too-frequent watering can lead to root rot, so your ZZ plant — the soil around it, not the leaves — should only be watered when a finger stuck in the soil senses no moisture; every three weeks should be fine.
That's one less thing to concern yourself with when you go away on vacation!
ZZ plants require average household humidity, so you don't have to get too technical on this front. Humidity between 40 and 50 percent should work, and high humidity can cause issues.
If you live in a very arid region, you can mist the leaves or use a cool mist humidifier. Regarding temperatures, 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit will keep your ZZ plant happy.
ZZ plants don't require frequent fertilization. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer and dilute it in half. Feed your ZZ every two or three months during the growing season: between spring and fall. ZZs become dormant during winter, so don't stress about providing extra nutrients during the colder months, or you risk compromising the plant.
You won't need to prune your ZZ plant extensively. Maintenance stem and root trimming can keep it at the desired size, and you can repot with new soil in the same planter. Prune entirely yellow leaves, so the plant can optimize its nutrients and focus on the growth of green leaves.
The good news is that you won't need to repot for another two years after you bring your ZZ home.
If you notice your plant becoming rootbound, select a pot that's an inch or two wider and taller than your ZZ's current abode. Get rid of the old potting mix and fill the new pot a third of the way full of fresh soil.
Yes! Propagation isn't complicated. First, take the plant out of its pot and gently divvy up individual tuberous roots. Each rhizome can grow in a new pot. Or cut a stem and place the cut portion in water. Keep the container warm and bright, and watch for mold over the next few months until you get inch-long roots.
Another option, if you've got more time to work with, is to place the cut end of a leaf in some soil. Practice patience like Stormi Webster, and you'll be delighted a year later.
Black spots on your ZZ plant's stems and leaves may be due to unsuitable environmental conditions, or they can result from fungal diseases. Waterlogged soil encourages fungi, and you might notice your stems becoming mushy.
Remove damaged roots, repot with a well-draining mix, and water from below in the future.
ZZs are not immune to pests, and aphids enjoy their juicy sap. Address any pest issues as soon as you notice them. Your plant may be in mortal peril, so be a superhero and get your hands on some neem oil. Remove the tiny bugs with a paper towel and spritz weekly with this natural pesticide.
Choose a neutral pot that goes well with the rest of your interior decor. Don't use leaf shine on your ZZ—it's unnecessary, as the plant's waxy foliage looks fantastic with a mere wipe down.
You can style your ZZ in baskets, too, and place them on the floor or tabletop. Just pop the nursery pot in an appropriately-sized basket.
There are at least four super low-maintenance alternatives to the ZZ plant:
If you plan on going to a garden nursery soon, the ZZ plant also goes by the following names: aroid palm, cardboard palm, arum fern, Zanzibar gem, and, aptly, eternity plant.
And FYI, it is mildly toxic if ingested, so keep it out of reach of small children and domestic animals. ZZs contain calcium oxalate crystals, which may cause swelling and pain when eaten. Wash your hands after handling to prevent skin and eye irritation.
More than 12 cultivars of ZZ plants are bred for desirable traits. They differ in height, size, or color, but tend to have similar care needs.
Cultivars include the Raven, with almost black foliage, the Lucky Classic with round glossy leaves, the compact Zenzi, and the Supernova, which has dark and petite leaves.