ZZ Plant Care: Growing Zamioculcas Zamiifolia [HOW TO GUIDE]

The ZZ Plant – Zamioculcas zamiifolia one very popular foliage plant is used in homes and offices around the world.

Interior plantscapers always look for “new” houseplants they can use indoors to provide different looks.

Growers always look at new items to offer customers something different.

10"-inch and 14'-inch potted zz plants -Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

Zamioculcas zamiifolia Perfect Houseplant Qualifications

Known by several names – the Zee Zee plant, steel plant, zizi plant, zanzibar gem, the aroid palm and “eternity plant” the Zamioculcas plant fits just about every qualification needed for a new indoor plant introduction:

  • The ZeeZee plant handles low light
  • Low water requirements
  • Tough under indoor conditions
  • Drought tolerant
  • Handles neglect well

The ZZ Plant Not New

When many people see the ZeeZee plant for the first time, they assume it looks and resembles a cycad or sago palm plant – Zamia furfuracea or cardboard palm.

However, the ZZ plant is a native of eastern Africa belonging to the family Araceae family, along with the philodendron, Peace plant – Spathiphyllum and aglaonema and been around for decades.

Is the ZZ a “Clear Air” Plant?

Although, the ZeeZee did not find it’s way into the NASA Clean Air Study (it was not commercially grown at the time of the study) many of its cousins are considered “Clean Air Plants.” Its durability and toughness would make me put in the “clean air” category.

I grew Zamioculcas zamiifolia 35 years ago but wasn’t smart enough to introduce it :).

The base of the swollen plant stalks (rhizomes) host dark green foliage, naturally shiny leaves. Making it easy to assume someone applied leaf shine to the plant.

How Poisonous Is The ZZ Plant?

One area of caution. Beware of coming in contact with any of the “juices.” The calcium oxalate crystals in the ZZ may cause skin irritation.

The crystals are found in many other plants. The most “famous” is the dumb cane Dieffenbachia plant.

Touching the plant without coming in contact with the “juices” should not present any issues.

If you have very sensitive skin follow these safety ZZ Plant Care tips:

  • Wear gloves when handling the plant is advisable.
  • Keeping dogs, cats, and children away from the Zee Zee plant.
  • Wash your hands after working with the plant.

Can ZZ Plants Cause Cancer?

The topic of ZZ plants causing cancer was an unfounded rumor started in 2010. Pay no attention to the “hysteria.” [source]

One Characteristic Of The Best Indoor Plants

Video Discussing ZZ Plant Care

Most of the BEST indoor house plants grow slow and the ZZ plant is no exception. It propagates easily but develops slowly.

Like growing African violet plants and “jade trees“, ZZ’s can be started from leaf cuttings.

They make an excellent accent plant in areas where allowed to “spread its wings.”

As for being a tough, durable indoor plant, Zamioculcas handles low indirect light well and abuse exceptionally well, it even grows.

The Zamiocalcus is one of the best plants for a windowless bathroom or office.

In the tough plant category, it’s equal with Sansevieria (snake plant | mother-in-law tongue) and Aspidistra the cast iron plant.

How Do You Care For A ZZ Plant?

ZZ Plant – Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

Zamioculcas Care – Soil Requirements and Plant Fertilizer Needs?

The ZZ plant does not need any special type of potting soil or potting mix. Any well-drained soil recommended for houseplants will work.

As for the fertilizer requirements. A complete, balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer (20-20-20) applied once per month when watering will provide the nutrients the ZZ needs.


ZZ Plant Handles Low Light Levels Well

Even though the plant does well in lower light levels, by placing it in bright light it performs even better. It is one of the plants that thrive in fluorescent light.

Keep the plant away from any hot direct sunlight as the plant can burn. Good bright filtered afternoon sun would work well.

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia Don’t Let It Sit In Water

Don’t let the plant to sit in water or stay wet or you may experience root rot. The plant does better when kept on the dry side. If you water the ZZ too much or the plant sits in water you may find yellowing leaves.

A little more about watering from my side. I purposely neglect plants to test their toughness.

I didn’t do anything to the ZZ in my office (for the past 16 months). Let me tell you – It looks pretty good considering… ready for this – drum roll please – watered only 6 times in 16 months.

Of all the ZZ’s great attributes:

  • It’s toughness
  • Ability to handle low light
  • Low watering requirements

Its best attribute bar none… no insect problems. Or none anyone can identify.

Eliminating this one element makes caring for your plant much easier. The plant leaves you with only a couple of things to manage – light and water, making care easier.

When Should You Water A Zamioculcas Plant?

From my experience give the plant a thorough watering every 10-14 days.

By thorough, I mean soaking the entire rootball and allowing all the excess water to drain out.

Another option is to plant the ZZ up into a SIP – sub-irrigation planter.

How Do You Clean The Leaves On The Zee Zee?

The leaves of the ZZ are naturally glossy and shiny. No need to apply any type of leaf shine (we don’t recommend them anyway).

Cleaning leaves on the zanzibar gem

Every week or two using a soft damp cloth or damp mircofiber cloth wipe the dust off the leaves. This helps the plant get all the light available and “breathe.”

For more read our article on Cleaning Leaves on Indoor Houseplants

How Big Do ZZ Plants Get?

The average Zamioculcas in a 10″-inch pot reaches approximately 24″-36″ inches with an equal spread. Growing from a small 4″-inch pot found in many garden centers to a 36″-inch tall plant can take years.

Growing from a small 4″-inch pot found in many garden centers to a 36″-inch tall plant can take years.

I have a Zamioculcas about 3′ feet tall growing outdoors on a shaded patio, living in a 10″-inch pot for over 8 years.

I have seen very old, ZeeZee plants in 17″-inch pots reach 4′ feet in height.

Repotting Your Zamioculcas ZZ

ZZ’s can live in a container for a long time without the need for repotting.

  • Repot Zamioculcas in spring
  • Using a pot one size larger than the current container. Make sure the pot has drainage holes. Example: 4″-inch to 6″-inch
  • Use a good quality potting mix like an African Violet soil mix.
  • Fill the bottom of the container with potting mix.
  • Remove the plant from the old pot.
  • Remove bad soft or mushy rhizomes
  • Place plant in the new pot on top of the soil at the same depth it was previously growing
  • Add soil and fill in the open space in the pot with soil. Do not “pack” soil
  • Water plant thoroughly until water drains out the bottom of the container
  • Allow any excess water to drain
  • Move the plant to its growing location away from direct light.
  • Never allow the plant and pot to sit in water.

Why Do ZZ Plant Leaves Turn Yellow?

There are several reasons the leaves on your ZZ may turn yellow!

  • Older leaves may naturally turn yellow
  • Leaves may turn yellow (may take months) from total plant neglect with no water or light
  • Root problems begin to show with yellowing leaves often from over-watering.
  • Plants deficient in nutrients may begin to yellow
  • Yellow leaves from sunburn

Does The ZZ “Zanzibar Gem” Plant Flower?

Yes, the ZZ does flower and the “bloom” looks much like a Philodendron or Monstera flower.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia "ZZ" flower

Zamioculcas zamiifolia “ZZ” flower image via wikipedia

Propagation of the ZZ is primarily by division or leaves and a slow process. I’m not aware of any attempts to hybridize Zamioculcas at this time.

Propagation Of ZZ From Leaves (11 months) 

ZZ The Downside

The downside, we can always find a downside. The downside to ZZ – slow growing so slow production.

Ask at your favorite nursery or garden center about the ZZ – the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia. You will not regret it. Share your ZZ plant experiences!