Friday, July 1, 2011

The (Almost) Indestructible ZZ Plant

If all you can grow is artificial plants, consider this succulent that is as close to indestructible as any plant can possibly be. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, fairly new to the world of interior plants but increasing in popularity rapidly, is a very attractive plant that thrives on neglect and requires very minimal care. With its dark green, glossy, fleshy and oval-shaped leaves, you’d never guess just by looking at it that this eccentric-looking specimen, commonly-referred to as the ZZ plant, belongs to the Araceae Family of plants, which includes popular members such as Aglaonema, Alocasia, Anthurium, Caladium, Dieffenbachia, Epipremnum Aureum (Pothos), Philodendron, Spathiphyllum, Syngonium, and quite a few others.

Resources providing information about care for this plant do not exaggerate when they say that Zamioculcas Zamiifolia is very difficult to kill. About the only thing that will do in this foolproof specimen - that is native to the dry grasslands and shady areas of lowland forests in Tanzania and Zanzibar in Africa - is over-watering. But not just a one-time incident of over-watering, but a few of them back to back. It will not just succumb to the extra moisture; it will give you a chance to improve the situation first, by dropping hints of dissatisfaction, like a lower leaf or two turning yellow. And if you improve your watering habits, it will forgive you, with one less leaf or two, and keep on going.

Having said all that, it’s obvious that you must water this plant carefully. Use a highly-porous, fast-draining soil and water moderately during the active growing period, from spring to early fall. Give the plant a thorough drink and then allow it to dry considerably before the next one. In the winter, let it dry more and water sparingly, especially if the spot it’s growing in is cool and shady. In addition, you will have to use some common sense with watering techniques for this succulent. For example: if your ZZ plant is growing in a warm, brightly lit area during the growing season, it will get dry faster and probably require more water. And if it’s growing in a low light area where temperatures are cool, the medium will take much longer to dry and less water will be needed. If you’re ever hesitant, err on the side of dryness, put the watering can down and step away from it. It’s much better to under-water this plant than to over-water it.

As an alternative, you can convert to the hydroculture system and get rid of water woes for good. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia converts eagerly but must be inspected regularly while it forms water roots. Every week to ten days disassemble your hydroculture setup and check for signs of rot on the tuber. If you find any, remove it, wash the area well and repot; no need to worry, the plant will be fine.

A ZZ plant can tolerate very low light areas quite well (another reason for its appeal), and look attractive in spite of it. But if you can provide it with brighter light, even better. This is a painfully, slow growing plant that will grow even more slowly if placed in a dim area. Choose a spot that offers bright, filtered light; protect against direct middy sun, which can burn the leaves. Some early morning and late afternoon sun can be tolerated.

Cold temperatures can cause rotting, so keep the plant warm. A temperature as low as 15 °C (59°F) is tolerable (although plant growth will slow down considerably), but ideally, the optimal temperature range is between 18 °C to 26 °C (64° - 79 °F). Like bright light, warmer temperatures will encourage new growth, which is already terribly slow. Every little bit helps. Finally, humidity is not critical; dry air is tolerated extremely well.


Apparently, there are several other common names applied to Zamioculcas Zamiifolia like Eternity Plant, Fat Boy Plant, Aroid Palm and Arum Fern, but I’d personally never heard of them until I conducted some research on the internet. Regardless of what it’s called, this is a plant everyone should add to their indoor collection. If you see one locally at a decent price, don’t hesitate to pick one up. It’s worth it.

3 comments:

  1. I first heard of this plant on "Gardening by the Yard", and I've been sorta curious about it except it's kinda plain. However, there are areas in my house that are too dark to grow much, and I'm terrible about watering houseplants. Soooo... I should still maybe have one. :)

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  2. I'm not convinced Martha, even this plant has it's 'needs' too...prefers some light, doesn't like to be cold or overwatered, appreciates highly porous, fast-draining soil... sheesh! Picky, picky lol!

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  3. NotSoAngryRedHead, yes it is kind of plain compared to some other plants, but it looks very nice when it's healthy. The leaves can be quite shiny and attractive.

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    Ha ha, yup, it seems to be picky, doesn't it, Jane? I think the main appeal is that it will hang on for a long time if it's neglected, unlike some others that drop quickly if their needs are not met.

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