Yes, the ZZ plant, or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is a succulent. It belongs to the Araceae family and is native to Africa.
It is a popular houseplant thanks to its beautiful foliage and low-maintenance requirements.
As is the case with most succulents, this plant’s leaves are fleshy enough to absorb and retain water for the plant to use in times of drought.
As well as being drought-tolerant, it can also tolerate hot weather than the typical houseplant, which makes it a great choice for people who are just starting with their plant collection and need a resilient plant.
In this article, we will discuss more about the ZZ plant and its proper cultural care. So, if you are thinking about adding one of these to your collection, keep reading to learn more.
What is a ZZ plant?
A ZZ plant is a low-maintenance house plant with shiny, wide, oval-shaped leaves that are waxy and a deep green in color. The leaves all grow almost straight upward. Because of the look of its leaves, it is easy to think that the plant is actually fake and made of plastic.
This plant is a slow grower and only reaches an average of four feet in height at full maturity.
It blooms in the springtime and is mildly toxic to both humans and animals, so if you have pets or small children, it is best to keep the plant out of their reach.
Is a ZZ plant a succulent?
Yes, the ZZ plant is a succulent, because it has thick, fleshy leaves that absorb and store water for the plant to use in the event of drought.
The plant is native to Africa, where it is used to warm, dry weather and hot climates. This means it can survive longer in these conditions than most other houseplants.
ZZ plant care
The ZZ plant thrives in bright, indirect light. If you are growing the plant outdoors, the ideal location would be under the shade of a large tree, alongside a building, or on a patio or porch.
If you are keeping it indoors, place it near a west- or south-facing window, as these are the windows that provide the ideal light intensity.
If you deprive a plant of its necessary light, it will become pale and develop stunted growth. To produce chlorophyll, which is the natural pigment that gives plants their green color, plants require sunlight; thus, their leaves become pale in the absence thereof.
Conversely, if you place the plant in direct sunlight, this may result in sunburn and damage to the leaves. The leaf tips will wither and turn brown. If you fail to shade the plant in time, it may also suffer severe dehydration and may even die.
If you live in an area that gets little natural sunlight for certain months of the year, you may need to supplement it with a grow light. Make sure that the plant receives 12 full hours of exposure to the grow light and no more, as too much can also result in leaf damage. Keep the plant six inches away from the light to maximize its effectiveness.
As with most succulents, ZZ plants do not require frequent watering because their leaves are capable of storing water for when the soil’s moisture is depleted.
Water your plant when the soil in the pot is dry, and keep in mind that watering it unnecessarily can result in overwatering.
An overwatered ZZ plant will have yellowish, drooping leaves that are soft and mushy to the touch. This is because the plant will continue to absorb excess water from the soil until its cells literally burst from the overload. This is also why the leaves might feel slimy.
Another adverse effect of overwatering is root rot. Root rot occurs when a plant has been overwatered for an extended period of time and the roots have been unable to dry out between waterings. These conditions mean the roots are unable to absorb oxygen, which the plant needs to survive. The roots will die as a result of being submerged in waterlogged soil, and the dead roots will be particularly vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria.
These pathogens will exacerbate the rot and accelerate its spread throughout the plant. Soon enough, the rot will affect the leaves, by which time it is unlikely that the plant can be saved.
If you believe your ZZ plant is overwatered, immediately stop watering it and move it to a sunnier location where the soil can dry out faster.
Do not water the plant again until the top two inches of soil are completely dry.
If root rot is suspected, the plant must be removed from its container to check the roots. Carefully remove as much soil as possible from the roots – they will be fragile in this state and can easily break.
Inspect all the roots for brown or black parts. These sections are decaying and must be removed using sterile scissors, until only the healthy, white roots remain.
Then, lay the plant on a dry surface for a few hours to allow the roots to air-dry.
Fill a new pot halfway with a well-draining potting mix, place the plant in the center, and cover the roots with more soil. Water the soil until excess water begins to drain from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Position the plant where it can get plenty of bright, indirect light.
If you underwater your ZZ plant, the leaves will wilt and die. Although this plant is drought-tolerant, this does not mean you can neglect to water it whenever you like.
If you believe your ZZ plant has become underwatered, you must water it immediately. Soak the soil thoroughly to ensure that all of the roots have access to water.
Going forward, water the plant when the top layers of soil in the pot become dry, but never wait until the soil is bone dry before watering it.
If you are able to collect rainwater, this is the best and most cost-effective method of watering your ZZ plant. If rainwater cannot be collected, distilled or filtered water can be used.
Use lukewarm water, because water that is either too hot or too cold can shock the roots.
Also avoid wetting the plant’s leaves when you water it, as this can encourage the growth of fungi that can cause rot.
ZZ plants, like the majority of succulents, prefer soil that is well-draining, loose, and airy. Heavier and denser soils do not support succulent growth because they retain too much moisture, which significantly increases the likelihood of overwatering and root rot.
The soil should be loose enough that, even if you accidentally give the plant too much water, the excess water will simply drain through the soil.
The pot that you use for your ZZ plant should also be well-draining in order for the plant to thrive. It should have enough drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain away, which will aid in the prevention of overwatering and root rot as well as other problems.
Keep your ZZ plant in an area where the temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
This plant is native to Africa and will not do well in very cold temperatures. If you live in a place with cold winters and are keeping your ZZ plant outdoors, be vigilant about temperature changes and bring the plant indoors when the temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for any length of time.
The plant’s growth can become stunted when exposed to cold temperatures, and this includes placing it near air conditioners or next to windows or doors that let in cold drafts.
While the ZZ plant can tolerate low humidity, it prefers a humidity level of around 40 to 50 percent.
If you live in a place with a dry climate, you may need to take some measures to increase the humidity around the plant.
You can mist the plant every once in a while, or place a water pebble tray under the pot so that, as the water evaporates from the tray, it adds moisture to the air around the plant.
You can also keep the plant in a humid part of the house, such as the bathroom or the kitchen.
If you have other plants that like humidity, group them together with the ZZ plant so that they can create a microclimate around each other.
And finally, if you have the means, you can always go and buy a humidifier that will automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
Only fertilize this plant once a month, from April to August, using a balanced liquid fertilizer. Succulents do not need potent fertilizer because they usually get their required nutrients and minerals from the soil in the pot.
When you fertilize the ZZ plant, read the package instructions and dilute the recommended dose by half.
If you fertilize the plant during the cold months or if you give it full-strength fertilizer, this can lead to soil toxicity which can damage the roots and even kill the plant.
If you think your ZZ plant has been over-fertilized, you may need to flush the soil with water to remove the salt buildup.
ZZ plant propagation
The ZZ plant is a slow-growing succulent that can easily be propagated.
You can separate the rhizomes and plant them individually, but the easiest way to propagate the plant is using leaf cuttings. When rhizomes are removed from the plant, it risks damage to the main plant and it will take a long time before it can grow a new rhizome.
Interestingly, the ZZ plant is able to grow from a leaf cutting because it does require a node on the cutting for it to root. So, when choosing which leaves to cut from the parent plant, you can choose leaves with or without nodes.
Having chosen the leaves, use a sterile pair of scissors to cut them off and place them on dry paper towels for a day or so, so that the cut ends can form a callus. The formation of the callus will protect the new root growth from rot.
Prepare a new pot by filling it with well-draining potting mix. Place the cuttings, cut end down, into the soil. Make sure that the leaf on the cutting does not touch the soil, because this could cause it to rot. Make sure there is enough space between the cuttings if there is more than one in the pot.
Place the pot in a spot where the cuttings can get lots of bright, indirect light, and water them just enough to keep the soil moist. Never overwater the soil because this can cause rot.
After four weeks, check for root growth by gently pulling on the cutting. If you can feel resistance, that means the roots have grown in nicely and you can transfer the new plants to their own pots and start caring for them as you would a mature plant.
Repotting the ZZ plant
If your ZZ plant is fully mature and is a big floor plant, you typically only need to repot it every two years. If your plant is smaller, you may need to repot it every year or every year and a half.
In the case of a larger plant, the new pot should be two to four inches larger in diameter than the old one, to allow the plant’s roots enough room to grow into. The pot should not be too big, however, because a bigger pot needs more soil, and more soil will retain more moisture. This, of course, will increase the risk of overwatering and root rot. For a smaller plant, the new pot should be one to two inches larger in diameter than the old one.
Every time you repot the plant, check the roots for rotten sections and remove them. If you prune off a substantial number of roots, the plant may still be able to fit in its old pot, so in this case it is okay to reuse it.
Repotting is best done in the spring or summer because that is when the plant is actively growing, so it will recover faster from the trauma of repotting.
Is the ZZ plant toxic?
Yes, all parts of the ZZ plant are poisonous when ingested. There is a belief among some people that the plant causes chronic diseases just by its presence, but this is not true and its presence will not pose any kind of threat to your health or that of your family.
Just make sure that you keep the plant out of the reach of your pets or small children to keep them from nibbling on it.
Yes, the ZZ plant is a succulent. It has large, fleshy leaves that can absorb and retain water, which helps it survive long periods of drought or neglect.
This plant is native to Africa, so it is more accustomed to hot, dry conditions than most houseplants.
ZZ plants like bright, indirect light, and to be watered only when the top layers of soil are dry to the touch. They need well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes, stable room temperatures, moderate humidity, fertilizer during their growing season, and minimal pruning.
This plant is very easy to grow and care for, and its perfect, glossy leaves give it an almost artificial look that adds an interesting touch to your decor.
Image: istockphoto.com / Ramann