ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant is a simple but attractive houseplant. It has prominent stems and deep green, waxy leaves with a pointed oval shape. It’s hard to kill and doesn’t mind being ignored for a week or two. If you’re a fan of jade plants but need a houseplant that’s better suited for low-light conditions, the ZZ plant is likely to be on your shortlist.

It’s easy to assume that the ZZ plant is so named because it’s some kind of sleep aid or it has leaves that curl up and go to sleep at night, but the truth is that the ZZ plant is named after its official botanical name, zamioculcas zamiifolia. The species is the sole member of the genus, Zamioculcadoideae, but is one of several types of Araceae houseplants.

Plant Overview

zamioculcas zamiifolia

Indoor Size & Growth Habits: 2-3’ of vertical growth with densely spaced stems and pointed oval leaves that are about the size of a golf ball to a large egg.

Light Requirements: 1-3 *

Water Frequency & Soil Moisture: 3 *

Potting Mix, Fertilizer & pH: Standard potting mix, slightly acidic to neutral. Likes but doesn’t require fertilizer during growing season.

Humidity & Temperature: Tolerates dry air well but likes moderate humidity levels and temperatures between 60-80 degrees

Toxicity Level: Mild to Moderate

Cost: $

Placement: Light, Size, and Décor

The ZZ plant certainly tolerates low-light conditions well, but we’ve found it often does best with a generous amount of indirect light. You can put these plants on desks and tables away from windows. You can also put them near windows or on windowsills, but avoid a lot of direct sunlight. North-facing windows or windows with filtered light are best.

A medium-to-large houseplant, most indoor ZZ plants will stay between 2-3 feet tall. The foliage has densely packed stems that may angle out or even droop down as they reach for more light. These plants can grow to fill 6-12+” wide pots as they should regularly give off new shoots. The ZZ plant has a reputation as a slow grower, but the placement and care routine will determine how fast the plant grows. In the right conditions, the plant can grow 6-12 inches a year, but even then, it is unlikely to flower as an indoor plant.

In many ways, the ZZ plant has the look of a prototypical houseplant with vertical growth and dark green leaves. Rather than being the focal point of a room itself, the ZZ plant can be a great compliment to help frame a large painting or other wall hanging. It’s great for your home or office space. It’s popular among tenants, homeowners, and interior decorators.

Care: Water, Potting, and Soil

The ZZ plant likes semi-watering—usually somewhere around once a week in the summer and every other week during the winter. The densely packed stems can make it difficult to reach the middle of the pot when watering, especially on high wall shelves. Be careful but be diligent in watering all sides of the pot.

Standard potting soil with good drainage is great for this plant. The ZZ plant likes slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. There shouldn’t be a need for acidifying soil amendments unless you regularly use very hard tap water or soil compost with strong alkalinity. It should thrive in room temperatures but can tolerate temperatures as low as 45 degrees in drafty windows.

We’ve never found these houseplants to attract pets more than other plants around the house, but they are toxic to cats and dogs. The good news is that it’s rarely fatal, especially if the pet is relatively healthy. However, people who are sensitive to the plant’s calcium oxalates should use gloves when handling the plant.

Pests and Other Problems

This houseplant is hard to kill and provides a considerable margin of error for plant care. The upside of their toxicity is that they rarely suffer from pests. Like many houseplants, the biggest threat is overwatering to the point of root rot. Some occasional yellowing and die-off is normal, but if the plant is showing regular or extensive discoloration, consider whether you’re watering too much, need to add fertilizer, or if the plant has become so large that it’s pot-bound.

Cost and Availability

The ZZ plant is easy enough to cultivate and grows just quickly enough to be an affordable houseplant. Most commercially available plants will sell between $5-$50 depending on the size of the plant and how nice the pot is.

Propagation and Repotting

More than just easy to care, the ZZ plant is also one of the easiest houseplants to propagate. You can use a leaf cutting to start a new baby plant, or you can unearth and repot an entire bulbous rhizome, known as crown division. If you’d prefer to let this houseplant go, it will likely take a few years of solid growth before the plant becomes pot-bound and needs repotting.

Similar Types of Houseplants

Visually, the ZZ plant is similar to a large jade plant, but botanically, the ZZ plant is more closely related to pothos and philodendrons. All these popular houseplants are easy to care for. They also have evergreen leaves that keep their dark green color throughout winter, but rarely produce flowers. A lucky bamboo has a comparable height and is a good visual counterpoint for decorating purposes. Looking for a different type of houseplant but something that’s still easy to care for? Check out the sprawling growth of the spider plant.