The ZZ Plant gets its common name from its botanical name. As Zamioculcas zamiifolia was long and difficult to say, many nursery workers simply shortened it to ZZ.
ZZ Plant stems grow in a graceful, wand-like shape that starts thick and bulbous at the base and then tapers to a point. Along the stem are fleshy, oval-shaped leaves that make the plant look like stylized feathers. The entire plant has a waxy, shiny coating that makes it appear to resemble those made of plastic. Between the sculptural qualities of the plant and its waxy coating, it is not uncommon for people to insist that it must be an artificial plant.
If ever there was the perfect plant for the ultimate brown thumb, the easy ZZ Plant is it. This virtually indestructible houseplant can take months and months of neglect and low light and still look amazing. Previously, the ZZ Plant would only be found in planters in malls and large office buildings where they would frequently be mistaken for fake plants, partially because they needed so little care and always looked healthy. But in recent years, they have found their way onto the shelves of both big box and hardware stores where anyone can purchase one. This has led to many people wondering how to grow ZZ Plants. The short answer is that it takes very little effort.
Light: Bright light is good but not essential. The ZZ Plant grows fine with low levels of light, but it's best to avoid direct sunlight.
Water: Allow the soil to become dry at the top to the touch between watering and do not over water. It's best to water this plant less than too much because over-watering can cause stem and rhizome rot.
Temperature: During the rest period should be kept at above 59°F (15°C) if grown on its own roots, 46°F (8°C) if grafted.
Soil: Most well draining potting mixes will suffice that contains a high amount of perlite or sand within the mix (you can add more perlite or sand if needed to a mix that is bought). Good drainage holes at the bottom of the pot is essential.
I would repot the ZZ Plant once a year at the beginning of spring, especially during the first 3 – 5 years – whilst it's growing up.
Cut away leaflets that are turning yellow near the base of a stem. Once a stem has grown much longer than all other stems you can remove that stem or cut it to size at the tip. The problem with cutting it to size at the tip is it can look quite odd, so removing it completely might be the best option.
You may propagate by dividing rhizomes or with leaf cuttings. Leaf cuttings have to be placed in a pot with a plastic covering and then the wait for roots to begin growing, which could take up to a year.
ZZ Plant care starts with a lack of care. In fact, ZZ Plants will do better if you leave them alone. Much like cacti, they need less rather than more water. Water the plant only when the soil has dried out. The rare way you can kill this plant is to over water it. A ZZ Plant turning yellow means that it is getting too much water and its underground rhizomes may be rotting. So if you remember nothing else about caring for a ZZ Plant, just remember to forget to water it. It can survive months without water, but will grow faster if watered somewhat regularly.
ZZ Plants are happy without fertilizer, but if you would like, you can give the plants half strength fertilizer one to two times a year and only in the summer months. Growing ZZ houseplants is easy and especially suited for the forgetful gardener.
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