Garden Nature Traveler

How to Care for and Grow ZZ Plants

Bring one of these popular, air-purifying tropical plants into your home.

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) is a tropical perennial that is native to dry grassland and forests in Eastern Africa. The alliteratively named variety became a popular houseplant in the 1990s, most likely because it can tolerate low light conditions and it doesn’t need a lot of time or attention to thrive. Their popularity endures today. Ahead, exactly what you need to know about caring for these leafy fan-favorites.

ZZ Plant Care Basics

This easy-to-care-for, air-purifying plant is perfect for new plant parents—or those who don’t have a ton of time for plant care, says Alfred Palomares, the Vice President of Merchandising at 1-800-Flowers.com. “While this green plant is low maintenance, that does not mean ‘no maintenance,'” he says. “This houseplant can survive bouts of neglect, but still has proper care requirements to help it grow and maintain its beauty.”

How to Plant and Water ZZ Plants

Due to its dark glossy-green leaves, the ZZ plant will thrive in low- to moderate-light environments, including dark corners of homes and office spaces, says Palomares. “Be mindful of how often this houseplant receives a drink of water,” he says, adding that you should check the top two inches of soil every two to three weeks to see if it has dried out before offering your plant another drink. “If your plant is sitting near brighter light, expect to water it a bit more.” Because ZZ plants prefer to dry out between hydration sessions, a well-draining indoor potting mix is a must.

And if you’ve noticed that your ZZ plant has developed yellow leaves? It may be a sign you’re giving it a bit too much water. “Prune your ZZ plant, removing the yellowing leaves, and allow the soil to dry out a bit,” says Palomares.

How to Fertilize and Repot a ZZ Plant

ZZ plants are typically happy without food, says Palomares, but if you would like, you can apply an all-purpose fertilizer one to two times a year (only in the summer months). If your plant goes through a growth spurt as a result, it may be time to size up to a bigger pot. “Check out the roots to determine when this plant needs to be repotted,” he says. “If the roots of your plant have grown out of the bottom of the drainage container, it’s time for a new home.”  

Where to Buy a ZZ Plant

Because the ZZ plant is actually a rhizome (which means its roots grow horizontally and closer to the surface of the soil), purchasing an established plant from a retailer, instead of growing your own from seed, is a better choice. Another reason why choosing a more mature plant is preferred? “ZZ plants grow slowly,” Palomares says. “If you are hoping to add greenery to your space right away, then it is best to purchase a potted plant.”

If you know someone who already has a ZZ plant and is willing to give you a cutting, or if you want to propagate your existing plant, you can do so in water or soil. “Either method requires patience, as it can take months for cuttings to develop roots,” Palomares says. “If you choose to propagate this houseplant in water, be sure to change the water once a week.” When growing a cutting in soil, make sure to water it as you would a fully grown ZZ plant.”