ZZ Plant Care
PRO TIP: ZZ's are not only one of the easiest houseplants to keep alive, but one of the most beneficial for your health too. They've been scientifically found to remove several volatile organic compounds from the air, so breathe easy!
The ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), or Zanzibar Gem, is a semi-succulent native to the semi-arid regions of Eastern Africa. It is accustomed to long periods of dry conditions interspersed with bursts of generous rain. As such, the ZZ has evolved an efficient rhizomous root system that holds on to as much water as it can absorb, as well as fleshy, moisture rich leaves.
This is a plant that thrives on neglect and is a great choice for frequent travelers, those who occasionally forget to water, or for the office. Indirect bright light is ideal for a ZZ, but they are also content in low light situations and in direct light, making it a versatile and near foolproof indoor plant.
If you are unsure of the lighting conditions in your home or office, we have a guide for how to measure light in your space.
ZZ's are one of the hardiest plants in nature, and can be propagated from a single leaf.
PRO TIP: When it doubt, let it drought! The most common mistake made with these plants is overwatering.
Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your ZZ a drink, it is best to check the moisture level deep in the soil first to ensure it isn’t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. Aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released. As ZZ's prefer a dry environment, it is very important to see how damp the soil is at the root zone before watering.
The best way we have found to obtain an accurate moisture reading throughout the soil is with a soil probe, which allows you to check your plant's moisture level at the root level and can also be used to aerate the soil if ever overwatered. Our Monitor Brass Soil Probe is an elegant option.
ZZ’s like to dry out completely between waterings. They have an extremely efficient water retention mechanism, so you shouldn't water this plant until its soil has become dry throughout the pot. In low light environments or winter, this can mean watering as infrequently as once a month.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests. We recommend using a microfiber cloth and a fine-spray mister to clean your leaves once every couple of months.
Note if you are using a container made from organic materials to pot your ZZ Plant in, we highly recommend using a waterproof saucer underneath to protect your floors, as humidity may accumulate beneath the pot.
Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your ZZ and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if I am overwatering my ZZ?
- Overwatering results in mushy brown stalks and yellowing of the leaves. Dropping leaves can also be an indication of overwatering. Hold off on watering and prune your plant. Once the soil is completely dry all the way through the pot then your plant is ready for a drink. This can take up to a month.
How can I tell if I am underwatering my ZZ?
- Underwatering results in dry crispy tips on the plant's leaves. If this is the case, prune your plant and increase your frequency of watering.
Can my ZZ tolerate really low light?
- It can, however this is likely to stunt the growth of your plant. Also the risk of overwatering becomes heightened, so take extra care not to be too heavy handed when watering you plant in a low light environment.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
- In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
- For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
- For larger floor plants, we suggest repotting every 18-24 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 2”- 4” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plants roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
Standard Planter Instructions
All of our Standard Planters include a removable drainage plug to give our customers the option of drainage. While no drainage is sometimes preferred for its aesthetic simplicity, we don't recommend this option for beginners as watering mistakes can be hard to rectify.
Whether you choose to use drainage or not, we always recommend using a layer of drainage (such as our Aeration Stones) at the base of the planter. A drainage layer allows the plant's roots access to oxygen in the pockets between the drainage medium, and a lack of drainage can cause anaerobic damage to your plant.
If you decide to utilize the drainage hole for your pot, make sure to include a Plant Saucer beneath your pot to collect excess water. For most plants in standard planters, we recommend watering about once a week. Water the soil mass until water begins pooling in your Plant Saucer.
With no drainage hole, you will need to be more precise in your watering. While we would love to give you a specific measurement of water to provide for your plant, the reality is that a plant's water requirements vary wildly depending on factors such as light exposure and the overall health of the plant. You will need to learn to tell when the plant is thirsty based on how its foliage looks. Droopy foliage is usually the first sign: when your plant looks a little slumped over that's usually a visual indicator that it's thirsty.
The best solution for checking your plant's moisture level, drainage hole of not, is to use a Soil Probe to determine the moisture content of the soil at the bottom of the planter.
Self Watering Planter Instructions
The Self-Watering Planters require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first planted. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Water your plant from the top for two to four weeks before using the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for longer.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the bottom water reservoir. If the water in the reservoir is absorbed into the planter, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks until the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the reservoir empties on its own, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, most plants require a drying out period. Allow for the reservoir to empty all the way between watering. All plants are different in their needs so the amount of time the reservoir sits empty will need to be determined, but know that for most plants this period is between 1-3 days.
From here on out, you should rarely topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. Watering from below allows the plant to drink at its own pace, and can help combat certain issues like fungus gnats by allowing the top layer of soil to dry out more. Please note that if your plant's soil dries out too much, it can impair the wicking ability of the Aeration Stones in your planter. If your soil becomes too dry, we recommend giving it a thorough watering.
For more information on our Self Watering Planters include planting instructions, visit our blog post on How to Use Our Self-Watering Pots.
Aeration Stones promote healthy root growth by creating air pockets in the soil and absorbing excess water in the basin of your planter. These porous clay stones are a natural, efficient and invaluable material to set your plant up for success. We always suggest using these when working with a planter without drainage holes.
Stainless Steel Pruners
Salts and moisture from potting soil wreaks havoc on cheaper metals. Stainless steel is one of the most durable metals available on a consumer scale, and these heavy duty pruners are built to take a beating. Great for pruning jobs large and small.
Neem Oil is an all purpose insecticide, miticide, and fungicide used for organic gardening. It's systemic, which means the plant will absorb the neem oil into its circulatory system and poison pests from within. Be careful not to overuse, as this can weaken plants and cause discoloration.
Plants do poorly without air to the roots. Overwatering causes the air to be pushed out of the soil, compacting the soil around the waterlogged roots of the plant. Using the Soil Probe aerates the soil as it checks for moisture.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes, and the perfect one for your home is the one you're happiest living with. Look for long spouts and a container volume that's appropriate for your plant collection.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest contains all the features we look for when aiming to ensure the long term health of a plant: excellent water retention, breathability, texture, and is made from organic materials.
10-4-3 fertilizer is a great, gentle choice for indoor foliage. Simply mix this in to your watering can using the supplied directions every other week. Ensure that your plant is receiving a good amount of light, otherwise it won't have the energy to process the nutrients and burnt tips may occur on the foliage.