Black ZZ plants, three easy-care ink-black Zamioculcas plants

Black ZZ plant

Many are now familiar with the striking designer-like fronds of the ZZ plant. Did you know that at least three types of black zz plant exist? These make for fabulous additions to black-themed gardens and home interiors.

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The black ZZ plant

Houseplant-wise, the ZZ plant is a young find. It has only been seriously grown for selling for just over 30 years.

This slow-growing leaf plant is ideal for many homes and office settings because it survives the many discomforts our homes provide… for plants that is! Dry air, irregular watering, low light, distorted seasonal temperatures… the ZZ plant survives them all and even thrives!

Most plants are green thanks to the chlorophyll that colors their leaves. Some, however, develop an interesting trait: they have black leaves! Zamioculcas is one such houseplant that sometimes turns out entirely black. There is more than one black type of ZZ plant, though. Here, you’ll discover the three most common ones:

  • the Raven ZZ plant
  • ‘Jungle Warrior’
  • and the small ‘Zamicro Black’ Zamioculcas

What makes the leaves black?

The black color results from a mutation in the plant’s genome. A strand of the plant’s DNA was modified as the plant grew and split. Such changes are often random, they’re due to factors such as stress, ultraviolet-light in the sun’s rays, and simply “coding mistakes” in the plant’s cells when they multiply.

In most cases, anthocyanins are the compounds responsible for the black color. In the case of the black ZZ plants, this mutation helps the plant cope with too much sun: sunburn. However, it decreases plant growth, which is why it isn’t very common in the wild.

The original black ZZ plant: ‘Raven’

Different types of black ZZ plantOriginally, only the black ZZ plant ‘Raven‘ existed. It has the same shape and size as the normal ZZ plant. It grows to about 2 feet (60cm), 3 feet (90 cm) when in exception growing conditions. Leaf stems unfurl from the base and are bright green at the start. They open up and grow longer within about 10-20 days, and as time passes the bright green color subsides and turns black, usually within a month. The more light it gets, the quicker the dark color takes over.

It’s an excellent choice for elegant homes where green would clash with the home decoration. A black plant will pair well with almost all interiors, and the ZZ raven is often easy to find in both brick-and-mortar and online garden stores.

New black ZZ plant varieties

Two newcomers also share the same mutation that makes leaves dark-colored.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Jungle Warrior’

‘Jungle Warrior’ is a curious choice for this ZZ plant, since there’s nothing aggressive about it at all. Furthermore, it’s mostly only sold in Australia, where Jungles aren’t the first that come to mind at all! Maybe the meaning behind this name is the strength this black ZZ plant variety shows… in the Urban jungle! It copes perfectly well with growing in low-light settings or with just a few hours of direct light a day, courtesy of sun-blocking high-rises.

More importantly, it survives polluted city air without any problems. The Jungle Warrior Zamioculcas will actually help you clean the air around it! Zamioculcas plants extract pollutants from the air and store them in their thick leaves and tuber-like roots, where they can’t hurt anyone anymore. The most filtered-out toxic compounds include toluenes and fumes from house-cleaning detergents.

ZZ ‘Dark Zamicro’ plant

The Zamicro series derived from a small-sized ZZ plant variety. It grows with just the same proportions as the original ZZ plant, just smaller! At most, the Zamicro Black variety grows 1 ½ feet tall. You couldn’t imagine a better plant for small apartments! With its distinctive appeal, small footprint, and near-zero need for care, you can even grow this as a plant to decorate guest rooms and stay-in apartments. Since it only needs water once every couple weeks, you won’t need to disturb guests often to care for it.

Upcoming black Zamioculcas varieties

In the world of horticulture, the ZZ plant is a “slow and steady” plant. Slow to grow, but easy to keep alive. This also means that any mutations and variegation that appears takes years to hit the market. Nonetheless, be on the lookout for these future patent-pending varieties. They’re sure to please us all, whether at home, in hotels, and in the office!

These are beginning to appear in stores online and in garden stores:

  • Zamioculcas ‘Oscura’
  • ‘Midnight’ ZZ plant
  • ZZ Phoenix plant

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Black in orange light by Vladyslav Tobolenko under Unsplash license
Deep green leaves by Severin Candrian under Unsplash license