Zamioculcas, the ZZ plant

Zamioculcas is a superb indoor plant native to tropical Africa.

Zamioculcas plant key facts

NameZamioculcas zamiifolia
Common Name – ZZ plant

Type – indoor plant
Height – 1 ⅓ to 3 ft (0.5 to 1 m) indoors
Exposure – well-lit

Soil – soil mix
Foliage – evergreen

Care, repotting, watering and exposure are some of the few small things to do that will make your Zamioculcas even more lush.

Planting and re-potting Zamioculcas

Upon purchasing, if the pot is too small, proceed to repot it so that the plant may grow adequately.

After that, every 2 or 3 years and preferably in spring, repot your zamioculcas plant in a pot of a slightly larger size.

  • Zamioculcas roots hate excess water.
    Ensure that the pot has proper holes at the bottom, and increase drainage with a layer of gravel or clay pebbles along the bottom of the pot, to make water flow through more easily.
  • Good soil mix is needed.
    The plant, since it lives indoors, needs soil mix because that is its only source for the nutrients it needs.
  • Upon repotting, you can split the crown into two parts to propagate your plant and regenerate it, too.

Best exposure for zamioculcas

The best place to set your zamioculcas up is near a window that lets a decent amount of light through, but isn’t in direct sunlight.

Zamioculcas have been noted to survive with quite little light.

  • Indeed, this plant is vulnerable to excess sun, and tolerates part shade when outdoors.
  • Absolutely avoid setting it near heat sources such as radiators, because moisture is what this tropical plant needs most.
  • Although it will survive in low light, it grows faster the more light it gets.

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

Watering zamioculcas

Regular but moderate watering is called for if you want your ZZ plant to thrive, preferably with soft water. How often you water zamioculcas depends on the season:

In spring and summer

Keep the soil mix moist and check that water drains properly.
Add leaf plant liquid fertilizer every 8 to 15 days during the growing phase.

  • Spray the leaves on a regular basis with calcium-free water.
  • Clean the plant with a cloth dipped in rainwater if dirty, or even carefully dunk it in a barrel from time to time if you need to remove dust from your ZZ plant.

In fall and winter

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

Growth slows, and in some cases the zamioculcas leaves fall off entirely, much like deciduous trees would do outdoors. Don’t worry though, new sprouts will appear come spring.

  • Stop adding fertilizer.

Propagating your Zamioculcas zamiifolia

It’s quite easy to multiply zamioculcas, although it takes months. On top of crown division mentioned above, another common technique used is that of leaf cuttings.

  • Cut a healthy stem off from the zamioculcas plant.
  • Detach each leaf from the plant.
  • Prick the zamioculcas leaves in soil or river sand stem facing down, to a depth of half an inch (1 cm).
  • Water.

After about 2 to 4 months, leaves will wilt away and eventually new shoots will appear. Transplant to individual pots when this happens.

Instead of preparing Zamioculcas cuttings, another option is to simply split the root bunch in two and divide the plant.

Diseases and pests found on zamioculcas

If the Zamioculcas stems and leaves turn yellow or lose their firmness and become soft, it is most certainly due to excess watering.

Good light is needed, and if lacking, you’ll see the plant try to produce very long stems to search for light. Low light won’t kill it but will slow its growth.

If you haven’t watered the plant in a very long time (several fortnights), it might trigger the following drought coping response: your Zamioculcas loses its leaves. Simply resume watering, a bit more regularly this time. New growth will sprout.

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

Types and varieties of Zamioculcas

The ZZ plant has only recently been introduced to commercial-scale horticulture, in the 1990s, when Dutch firms started cultivating the plant in massive growing stations.

In these nearly 30 years, there hasn’t yet been much time for prized mutations to evolve and reach a stage where they can consistently be reproduced.

An exciting new development, dating back only to 2017 and still being rolled out in North American and European markets, is the Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Raven’ plant.

Several more classical varieties that resemble the type species are marketed under the following names:

  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Lucky classic’ – leaves are more slightly rounded.
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’ – leaves only grow on the top half of stem. They’re thicker and stacked closer together.
  • Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zamicro’ – this variety is a dwarf ZZ plant or dwarf Zamioculcas. Stems stay under 16 inches long.

Some mutated leaves have given rise to variegated Zamioculcas zamiifolia, these are quite rare with green and white leaves.

Learn more about zamioculcas

A fabulous indoor plant, zamioculcas got its “ZZ plant” nickname from its Latin scientific name…  “Zamioculcas zamiifolia”.

It originated in southern Africa in the Zanzibar region, which is why one of its common names is also “Zanzibar gem” – another Z thrown in for fun!

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

Is Zamioculcas poisonous?

Zamioculcas sap, leaves and roots contain sharp microscopic calcium oxalate crystals, an irritating compound that may cause rashes when handled intensively. Although this may be quite uncomfortable, there’s no need to panic if your child or pet have ingested small amounts of the ZZ plant, since it isn’t toxic, poisonous or life-endangering in small quantities.

It will teach them not to chew on unknown plants, though, since the irritation may cause swelling and be deemed painful.

Smart tip about Zamioculcas

Zamioculcas plant growing in the wildZamioculcas is often associated to the “succulent” family type: when found in nature in the wild, its stems and leaves store water in times of flood and can sometimes go for months without watering after that.

This makes Zamioculcas an extremely easy houseplant to care for!

Read also:

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Zamioculcas in pot © Wilfried Overwater & Petra van der Veel /Bloemenbureau Holland
Blooming zamioculcas flower © CC-BY-SA-3.0, Public Domain
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Zamioculcas, zz plant) © CC BY 4.0 Forest & Kim Starr

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