ZZ Plant Guide: How to Take Care of a ZZ Plant - Backyard Boss
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ZZ Plant Guide: How to Take Care of a ZZ Plant

ZZ plants have more lives than a cat, more durability than a tank, and better healing powers than Wolverine. These plants just won’t die. I know. You might think, “Well that is because they haven’t met me, a notorious plant killer wanted in seven states for killing everything from herbs to succulents to even air plants.” Trust me, even the worst plant people on the planet will have a very hard time killing this plant.

In fact, you would probably have to try to kill it.

This complete guide covers everything you need to know about ZZ plants, including how to provide them with the small amount of care they require.

What is a ZZ Plant?

corgi and zz plant in home office on floorZamioculcas zamiifolia
AKA: Zu Zu plant, Zanzibar Gem
Light: Indirect, low to bright light
Water: Infrequently, only when soil is dry 1.5 to 2 inches below the surface
Temperature range: 60-72° F
Height: 6-18 inches
Fertilizer: Weak, infrequent.
Special care: Leaves should be wiped clean or dusted as needed.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia plants grow fleshy, oval-shaped leaves with a dark-green, glossy color to them. They have wand-shaped stems that taper off from the bottom to the top. They also have a waxy-sheen that makes them look like fake plants, which they often are mistaken for in the halls of offices and malls which they have adorned for decades due to the minimal amount of care they require, and aptitude for growing in low-light conditions. ZZ plants are truly the only living thing that actually looks better because of fluorescent lighting.

Are ZZ Plants Succulents?

ZZ plants, like succulents, store their water in their fleshy leaves, which enables them to endure drought, or you forgetting to water them for the umpteenth time in a row. They are herbaceous plants that grow from a succulent rhizome.

Can You Touch a ZZ Plant?

Don’t throw all of your ZZ plant growing dreams away, but they are technically poisonous to humans and animals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t touch them, they only mildly irritate the skin, but you should make an effort to touch them as little as possible and always wash your hands after doing so. It does mean that you, and your pets, cannot eat them. Ingesting ZZ plants is what causes the real problems- like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomachaches. ZZ plants contain Calcium Oxalate, a substance with a crystal-like form, whose sharp edges irritate the skin, eyes, and internal tissues.

Do ZZ plants Cause Cancer?

No, ZZ plants do not cause cancer. Do you really think I would advocate for you keeping a poisonous-cancer-causing plant in your home? What next then, a guide on How to Paint Your House With Lead? Anyway, there is no existing scientific evidence that links ZZ plants to cancer. Why you may have heard that they cause cancer is because the rumor mill really did a number on them in the nineties.

Do ZZ Plants Bloom?

ZZ plants do not typically bloom. You will get no flowers out of this guy but can admire its dark, glossy leaves all year long.

ZZ Plant Benefits

a zz plant from above closeup leaves

ZZ plants can have tons of incredible benefits for you and your home aside from adding gorgeous greenery to your interior. Indoor plants, in general, have amazing indoor benefits, cleaning the air and making you feel happier.

Do ZZ plants Clean the Air?

Yes, ZZ plants are powerful air-purifiers. Air pollution is consistently rising, and so is the time we spend inside, so it’s important to make an effort to breathe clean air, which is where ZZ plants come in.

ZZ plants clean the air, removing pollutants like xylene, toluene, and carbon dioxide. By improving air quality, ZZ plants reduce stress and enhance cognitive functioning.

Do ZZ Plants Give Oxygen at Night?

ZZ plants do give off oxygen at night, which is part of the reason ZZ plants are good for your bedroom. More oxygen means easier breathing which means a better night’s sleep.

ZZ Plant Varieties

There are only three varieties of ZZ plants to choose from.

Traditional ZZ Plant

Traditional ZZ plants have glossy green leaves. They can grow to be up to 3 feet tall indoors.

Raven ZZ Plant

Raven ZZ plants are a newer breed that has purple-black leaves. They grow to be about 30 inches tall.

Zamicro ZZ Plant

Zamicro ZZ plants are an adorable dwarf variety that stays much smaller than traditional ZZ plants.

ZZ Plant Care

As previously mentioned, your ZZ plant does not need a lot of care to survive but does need some to thrive. Below are some tips to make sure that your ZZ plant flourishes.

Do ZZ Plants Need Sunlight?

The reason that ZZ plants make such great indoor plants is because they actually don’t like the sun. They prefer moderate, small amounts of indirect light, and love fluorescent light. Because of this, feel free to keep them in windowless rooms with fluorescent bulbs.

ZZ PLant indoors on table with unfocused shelves in background

Can a ZZ Plant Grow Outside?

You can grow your ZZ plant outside, but the chances of running into growing difficulties are higher. It is best to grow ZZ plants outdoors in USDA Grow Zones 10 – 12, in a spot with filtered light and well-draining soil. Your plant should never be exposed to peak-day sunrays but can tolerate some less powerful morning sun.

How to Propagate ZZ Plants

To propagate your ZZ plant you can either divide it or try rooting leaf cuttings.

Dividing Your ZZ Plant

You can divide your ZZ plant every once and a while, but keep in mind they ZZ plants are slow growers and it takes time for them to produce new rhizomes. If you remove them too frequently you will damage the plant. It’s best to wait until after a period of growth so you can safely dig them up and transplant them to a different pot.

Rooting Leaf Cutting

Use cuttings with two leaves and a bit of mature stem. Allow the cutting to callus over for a few hours before putting them in your soil mix, which should contain vermiculite, perlite, and a small amount of actual soil, callous-end-down. Leave them in a warm, sunny area and water them occasionally. When grown at 80 F, the leaf cuttings could have new rhizomes in as little as 4 weeks, however, at colder temperatures, it could take as long as 9 months

How to Grow a ZZ Plant

Step One: Where to Buy a ZZ Plant

closeup underside leaves of zz plantYou can go to your local garden store to buy a ZZ plant or even have one shipped to you.

ZZ plants are extremely durable so they can handle the shipping process much better than most other plants.

The Costa Farms ZZ Zamioculcas Plant is an excellent, premium ZZ plant choice. For those people with brown thumbs who have chosen ZZ plants as their last attempt at actually keeping something alive, you will be happy to know that the plant comes pre-potted and over 12” tall, so all that is left for you to do is to neglect it.

Step Two: Where to Grow Your ZZ Plant

ZZ plants are as indestructible as Superman but their kryptonite is sunlight.

You should grow your ZZ plant in a spot with moderate, indirect light, or in a room with fluorescent lighting. If you plant it in a spot with too much direct light your ZZ plant will let you know by having yellow, curling leaves. If that happens, move the plant to a shadier spot. ZZ plants grow best in temperatures that are over 65 F.

Step Three: How to Care for Your ZZ Plant

ZZ plants want to be mistreated. They love to be left alone, ignored, forgotten, spilled on, you name it, it somehow will make them stronger.

Only water your ZZ plant when its soil dries out. When in doubt, just don’t water it. You will run into far fewer problems watering less than watering more.

Pro Tip: Consider fertilizing your ZZ plant with half-strength fertilizer 1-2 times a year. It’s not necessary but it will speed up this plant’s slow growth.

Step Four: Common Problems

While death is an uncommon ZZ plant problem, slow growth is a very common one. Make sure that your plant is in the ideal light, temperature, and watering conditions to ensure that it flourishes.

If you grow your ZZ plant outside or ever bring it outside, it may become exposed to aphids. If infected with aphids your plant will contract a yellow pattern with spots or a mosaic design. You can rub them off with your fingers or spray the plant to eradicate them. Mix a spray that is 1 part liquid soap and 19 parts water.


It’s easy to care for your ZZ plant and easy to enjoy it’s gorgeous, glossy leaves and amazing health benefits!

Whether you are an indoor plant enthusiast, someone who is plant-challenged, or just looking for something to naturally purify the air in your home, ZZ plants are an awesome growing option.

I hope you found this guide helpful! If you did, be sure to share, and comment below with any growing questions!