Zamioculcas plant care, repotting and varieties

Zamioculcas

Zamioculcas is a houseplant that survives irregular care.

Zamioculcas key facts

NameZamioculcas zamiifolia
FamilyAraceae
Type – indoor plant

Foliage – evergreen
Height – 1 ⅓ to 3 ft (0.5-1 m) indoors

Exposure: well-lit      –      Soil: soil mix      –      Care: easy

Repotting, watering and proper exposure are easy care tasks. Each will make your Zamioculcas even more beautiful!

Planting and re-potting Zamioculcas

Upon purchasing, if the pot is too small, repot your zamioculcas. This helps the plant grow more adequately.

Usually, plants are sold just before repotting is needed, so don’t delay. After that, every 2 or 3 years, repot your zamioculcas plant.

Repotting zamioculcasSpring is the best season for repotting. Use a pot of a slightly larger size (1 inch/2-3 cm).

  • Zamioculcas roots hate excess water. Ensure that the pot has proper holes at the bottom. Also, increase drainage with a layer of gravel or clay pebbles along the bottom of the pot. Extra water will flow out more easily.
  • Good soil mix is needed. Since it lives indoors, soil mix is the only source for all nutrients the Zamioculcas needs.
  • Splitting a large Zamioculcas will rejuvenate both halves.

Best exposure for zamioculcas

The best place to set your zamioculcas up is near a window. It should let a decent amount of light through, but not direct sunlight.

Zamioculcas have been noted to survive with very little light.

  • Exposure for ZamioculcasIndeed, Zamioculcas is vulnerable to excess sun, and tolerates part shade when outdoors.
  • Avoid setting your zamioculcas near heat sources such as radiators. These tend to dry the air and leaves. Moisture is what this tropical plant needs most.
  • Although it will survive in low light, it grows faster the more light it gets.
  • If lacking light, the plant will try to produce very long stems to search for light. Low light won’t kill your Zamioculcas, but will slow its growth.

When well-exposed and watered, a new Zamioculcas shoot can grow up to an inch in three days (1 cm/day)!

Watering zamioculcas

Watering zamioculcasRegular but moderate watering will help your zamioculcas thrive.

If you don’t water enough, fronds fall over and leaves start drooping.

  • Soft water is preferable by far, especially rainwater.
  • When using tap water, let it sit for an hour for chlorine to evaporate.

How often should you water zamioculcas? It depends on the season:

Watering in spring and summer

Mist spray zamioculcasKeep the soil mix moist and check that water drains properly.

Add leaf plant liquid fertilizer every 8 to 15 days during the growing phase.

  • Mist or spray leaves on a regular basis with calcium-free water.
  • Clean the plant with a rag dipped in rainwater if dirty.
  • Shower the plant with soft water to remove dust.

Fall and winter watering

Reduce watering and wait for soil to be dry before watering again. Your Zamioculcas will benefit from having a dry, dormant season every year during winter.

Growth slows, and in some cases leaves fall off entirely, much like deciduous trees outdoors. Don’t worry: new sprouts appear in spring.

  • Stop adding fertilizer.
  • Water is usually colder in winter. Let the cold water sit near your plant for at least an hour. It will warm up and won’t cause cold shock.

Propagating Zamioculcas zamiifolia

It’s easy to multiply zamioculcas, but it takes months. An effective technique is that of leaf cuttings.

  • Zamioculcas propagationCut a healthy stem off from the Z. zamiifolia plant.
  • Detach each leaf from the stem, pulling it gently
  • Prick the leaves halfway in soil or river sand, water.
  • Keep moist but not soggy.

After about 2 to 4 months, leaves wilt away. From underground, new shoots appear. Transplant to individual pots at this stage.

Instead of preparing cuttings, another option is to simply split the root bunch. This is called dividing the plant.

Diseases and pests found on zamioculcas

If your Zamioculcas stems and leaves turn yellow, it is most certainly due to excess watering. Overwatering also results in leaves losing their firmness and become soft.

Diseases and pests on zamioculcasIf you haven’t watered the plant in a very long time, it might trigger a baffling reaction. Indeed, it may be that your Zamioculcas loses its leaves.

This might happen after forgetting to water for over a month. Simply resume watering, a bit more regularly this time. New growth will sprout.

  • Tip: if your plant has recently shed its leaves, collect them for cuttings instead of tossing them away.

One last point regarding parasites: Zamioculcas is vulnerable to scale insects.

Types and varieties of Zamioculcas

Zamioculcas is a recent commercial plant. In 30+ years, not many prized mutations have appeared.

An exciting development appeared in 2017: a black Zamioculcas. It is sold under the name Raven ZZ plant.

  • As of today, there are many more new Zamioculcas varieties, you’re sure to find the one to suit your home!

Learn more about zamioculcas

Zamioculcas got its “ZZ plant” nickname from its botanical name: “Zamioculcas zamiifolia”. It originated in southern Africa in the Zanzibar region. This explains why one of its common names is also “Zanzibar gem“.

  • The deep green of the lush, original variety led the plant to also being called “Emerald palm“, which suits it well!

One of the previous names was Caladium zamiifolium, possibly because of the resemblance of its roots to those of the Caladium family. However, that name has since been replaced.

Is Zamioculcas zamiifolia poisonous?

Zamioculcas contains microscopic calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are irritating compounds in sap, leaves and roots. Calcium oxalate causes rashes. Although this may be uncomfortable, there’s no need to panic if your child or pet have ingested small amounts.

Zamioculcas isn’t toxic, poisonous or life-endangering in small quantities. The irritation may cause light swelling and pain.

Smart tip about Zamioculcas

Zamioculcas is considered a “succulent”. In the wild, stems store water during floods. It can survive for months without watering. Zamioculcas is an appealing houseplant for forgetful people!


Images: CC BY 2.0: Maja Dumat, CC BY-SA 2.0: titanium22, Wendy Cutler, Pexels: Lokesh Tiwari, SHVETS production, Unsplash: Severin Candrian