How to Grow ZZ Plants (Zanzibar Gem)
ZZ plants, also known as Zanzibar gems, are low-maintenance houseplants characterized by their shiny, wide, oval-shaped leaves that shoot upward. The spotless leaves are waxy and so deep green that sometimes these plants are mistaken as artificial. They are slow-growing plants, so you won't need to repot often, but if you do plant or repot a ZZ, do so in the spring or summer when it's in an active growth phase. The plants are mildly toxic to humans and animals.
ZZ Plant Care
ZZ plants are known for being a low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for houseplants that even gardeners with the blackest of thumbs can keep alive with minimum care. All they need to thrive is adequate light and a good watering every couple of weeks. However, don’t worry too much about forgetting to water your ZZ plant—these plants grow from rhizomes, which help them to store water under the soil, making them a drought-tolerant plant. Though it thrives outdoors in Africa, it's best grown indoors elsewhere. If you want to grow it outside, plant it in a container that can be brought indoors when the temperatures cool.
ZZ plants have naturally shiny leaves that can begin to look dull over time as dust accumulates. Never clean the leaves of a Zanzibar gem with a commercial leaf shine as it will clog the pores of the plant. Instead, gently wipe away dust and debris with a damp washcloth to restore its shine.
ZZ plants are tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, which makes them well-suited to indoor growing. The plants grow well in low light conditions but prefer bright, indirect light. The plants can quickly become leggy when not given enough light, however. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves of a your plants.
ZZ plants are not overly picky about their potting medium as long as it is well-draining. Most standard potting mixes should be sufficient for your plant. If additional drainage is required, mixing in perlite or sand will help.
Thanks to their thick rhizomes, these plants are extremely drought-tolerant and can handle infrequent watering. ZZ plants should generally be watered once the soil dries out completely—usually once every two weeks, depending on their growing conditions. It's better to water your plant less than giving it too much water. When watering, give it enough so that the moisture runs out of the bottom of the pot and throw out the excess water.
Temperature and Humidity
Average household temperatures and humidity are fine for Zanzibar gems. ZZ plants do not tolerate cold temperatures well (no lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit), so avoid placing your plant in a location close to drafts or particularly cold areas of your home. ZZ plants don't require humid conditions, but if your home runs on the dry side, consider increasing the humidity around your plant by purchasing a humidifier or placing it on top of a water tray.
ZZ plants generally do not require regular fertilizing to thrive. However, if you're hoping to increase your plant's size or vigor, fertilize your plant with indoor plant fertilizer diluted to half-strength one to two times during its active growing season.
ZZ plants propagate in two main ways: through division and stem cuttings. Propagation by division is the simplest way to create more plants—simply separate the rhizomes the next time you repot your plant and place them in separate containers.
Propagating with stem cuttings takes longer than propagating by division, and you may need to wait six to nine months before roots begin to grow.
- Using a sterilized and sharp cutting tool, cut an entire stalk, including leaflets.
- Remove the bottom leaves from the stem, and place the stalk in a jar of water.
Place in indirect light. Roots should form in a few months. Change water weekly to prevent bacterial growth.
Common Problems With ZZ Plants
The one common problem you may have with a Zanzibar gem is how much water the plant is actually receiving. If the leaves are dropping, the plant is extremely dry and in need of water. If the leaves are yellowing and dropping at the same time, it usually means the plant is getting too much water. If the top 3 inches (roughly the length of your finger) of soil are dry, the plant is ready for water.