ZZ Plant Care

A ZZ plant in a terra cotta pot sitting next to a computer monitor, coffee, and glasses
     ZZ plants are very popular as a low light, low water alternative to snake plants in the same family as peace lilies, philodendrons, and any other houseplants. They get their name from their Latin binomial, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. You may also know this plant as the Zanzibar gem, aroid palm, eternity plant, or zuzu plant. They're native to eastern Africa, ranging from Kenya all the way to South Africa. ZZ plants grow wild in a wide variety of ecosystems, including grasslands, dry forests, rocky areas, thickets, riverbanks, and humid evergreen forests. The amount of areas in which this plant grows means it can survive a variety of conditions within the home, as well. There are a few different types of ZZ plants, however, they are all the same species and thrive in the same conditions. Without further delay, let's get into the care!


      ZZ plants are cherished for their ability to tolerate low light conditions without etiolating (stretching for the light) and for their drought tolerance. Though, low light does not mean no light. If there is little to no natural light in the area you place this there is a possibility for this plant to etiolate, grow slower, and eventually die. No photosynthetic plant can survive without light. The idea light conditions for ZZ plants includes bright, indirect light, just like most houseplants. They do tolerate low light levels, however, the growth will be slowed significantly. As an already slow grower, this may or may not be noticeable. If moving this plant outside during the warmer months, do not place in direct sun for more than a few hours, as that can cause burns to the foliage. Dappled sun or a covered porch would be perfect. Variegated and Raven ZZ plants need brighter light in order to keep their color and thrive.

Close up of the black leaves of a ZZ raven plant


     Due to the conditions they've adapted to in the wild, this plant has adaptations for drier conditions. Beneath the soil are structures that appear to be similar to potatoes called rhizomes. One of the functions of these rhizomes is water storage. Because of this, over watering is a common reason for the death of ZZ plants. Be sure to check the soil before watering. Water when the soil is completely dry, similar to that of cacti and succulents.

     When you water your plant, be sure to saturate the soil. Over watering is not the quantity of water, it is the frequency. Giving a small amount of water more frequently will not allow the soil to properly dry between watering and can lead to root rot. No matter if you are watering from the top or the bottom, the soil should be saturated. When watering from the top, continue adding water until excess begins draining through the holes in the bottom of the pot. It may be beneficial to continue adding water, just to ensure the soil is properly saturated, as dry soil takes longer to absorb water. If watering from the bottom, submerge the pot in sufficient water to saturate the soil and leave to soak for as long as it takes to dampen the surface. Depending on the size of the pot, this could take minutes to hours.


     ZZ plants need nutrient rich, well draining soil. The Aroid Soil mix available in my shop would be a great choice, as it is a nutrient fortified, fast draining, chunky mix. Other cactus mixes will work well, but may benefit from being amended with additional perlite. Overall, you want to be sure there isn't too high of an organic content that will hold onto the water for too long. That being said, these plants will also thrive in regular cactus mix without amendments, though watering can be a bit of a tougher game. Because these plants like to dry between watering, it may be beneficial to pot them in a terra cotta pot, as the porous clay will allow more air flow and the soil to dry more efficiently.


     ZZ plants are a fantastic beginner plant for those difficult areas of the home that aren't quite as hospitable to other plants, but also thrives in areas that other plants would be happy in. They are a unique plant that provides a tropical feel. They fill the niche of snake plants, if they aren't quite your cup of tea.


As always, if you need any help with your plants, please feel free to reach out!

Happy Growing!

<3 Gina