Understanding the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (Zanzibar Gem)

A popular choice of indoor plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia has gained a name for itself as an easygoing and robust houseplant. It grows thick and beautiful foliage with minimal care, making this an ideal species for even inexperienced gardeners. You can spruce up any room with this plant’s elegant, almost exotic appearance. Its versatile nature allows it to grow in almost any indoor conditions. As long as you provide the Zanzibar gem with just a little bit of light and water, you can expect your plant to develop into a healthy and full-bodied adult.

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Origins and History

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or the ZZ plant for short, has long been a popular decorative accent in office buildings, malls, and other public spaces around the globe. Native to East Africa, it’s known by a number of common names, including the Zanzibar Gem, the Aroid Palm, the Money Tree, the Eternity Plant, and the Chinese New Year Festive Plant. The species’ booming popularity as a houseplant is primarily due to its hardy yet undemanding nature. The Zanzibar gem has been gaining popularity in recent years amongst homeowners who are seeking a plant that will look good in their living room with minimal effort.

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (Zanzibar Gem)Photo by Forest and Kim Starr licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can recognize Zamioculcas zamiifolia by its thick, graceful stems lined with fleshy green leaves. Stems grow from rhizomes and can reach up to three feet in length when living indoors, but it takes a few years for the foliage to grow to its mature size. At maturity, the plant is able to produce small flowers, but this rarely happens with indoor ZZ plants. When plants do blossom, flowers are small and grow close to the base of the stems. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is grown more for its glossy leaves than its underwhelming flowers. In fact, this plant’s picture-perfect foliage sometimes causes people to mistake it for fake.

The ZZ plant is poisonous if ingested, and it should be kept out of reach of pets and young children. When you handle your plant, it’s a good idea to wear gloves and wash your hands afterward as a precaution.

Why Grow a Zamioculcas zamiifolia Plant?

As a native to the rocky and arid terrain of Eastern Africa, the ZZ plant is used to growing in extreme conditions. It tolerates low light, bright light, and different levels of water. Zamioculcas zamiifolia can even handle drought conditions.

This plant is well adapted to life indoors, equipped with everything that it needs to survive as a potted houseplant. The breed is virtually indestructible, able to handle neglect and abuse in a forgiving manner. In fact, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is actually known to thrive when left alone.

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Caring for Your Zamioculcas zamiifolia

The ZZ plant is ideal for novice gardeners and busy homeowners, as it requires very limited care and attention to stay healthy. As long as you give your plant proper conditions for growth, it will reward you with thick, luscious foliage year-round.

Potting and Propagation

Zamioculcas zamiifolia grows slowly and doesn’t need frequent repotting. At most, it will need to be transferred into a larger pot once per year in the spring, right before growing season. You will need to repot more often during the first few years of the plant’s life as it reaches its mature size. The pots that you transfer your plant into should have plenty of holes in the bottom to promote drainage and reduce the risk of overwatering.

You can easily propagate your ZZ plant by dividing rhizomes or by using leaf cuttings. If you decide to use cuttings, simply plant each leaf in potted soil and cover with plastic, then wait for roots to develop. New root formation can take several months to a year to develop. If interested, you can learn more about propagating your ZZ plant from gardener Khang Starr.

Soil and Fertilizer

When potting, you should use a medium that drains well to prevent the buildup of water in your plant’s soil and around its root system. The best potting mixtures for the ZZ plant are similar to the rough soils found in its natural habitat. You should include a healthy amount of perlite or sand in your plant’s potting mixture.

During the Zamioculcas zamiifolia growing season in April through August, you can apply a balanced, diluted liquid fertilizer to your plant once per month to give your plant access to the nutrients that it needs. You should always apply fertilizer to moist soil to avoid burning the plant’s roots, and try not to get any directly on any leaves.

Watering and Humidity

The ZZ plant is able to survive through rain and drought, but it grows best when kept in moderately damp soil. You should water your plant when the soil starts feeling dry to the touch. This helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally overwater your ZZ plant. The amount of water you give your plant will vary slightly based on where you choose to store it, with plants in sunny areas requiring more water and plants in darker rooms requiring less water. Zamioculcas zamiifolia also prefers a somewhat humid environment for optimal growth.

Lighting and Temperature

Zamioculcas zamiifolia grows best at moderate temperatures of around 60 to 75°F, and shouldn’t be kept at anything lower than 45°F. While the plant grows faster in bright light, the ZZ plant is also able to thrive in low or indirect sunlight. It’s the ideal plant for areas of the home that don’t get a great deal of natural light from windows.

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Common Mistakes and Missteps

While Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a forgiving species, it can still suffer from improper care. Overwatering is the most common mistake that homeowners and gardeners make when it comes to this plant. Overwatering can lead to stem and rhizome rot, fungal infections, disease, and more health problems. It’s better to underwater your plant than to overwater it.

Leaves turning yellow or brown can indicate that you are giving your plant too much water. The right irrigation schedule and a potting mixture that drains well can help you to easily eliminate issues related to soggy soil and standing water. The experts at PlantzNThings can tell you more about how to provide your Zamioculcas zamiifolia with a healthy amount of water.

A moderately humid environment is best when it comes to the ZZ plant. While this species doesn’t need the same moisture levels as other tropical plants, Zamioculcas zamiifolia can still suffer when kept in an arid environment. If you live in a dry region, your plant may need artificial humidity from misting, a tray with wet pebbles, or a humidifier. You may also need to provide humidity during winter months, when weather and indoor heating dry out the air in your home more than usual. If you see the tips of your plant’s leaves starting to turn brown, this may indicate that its surrounding environment is too dry.

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