Zamioculcas Zamiifolia - Plant of the Month
Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (mercifully shortened to ZZ plant) is known to be an easy to care for house plant, especially during the winter months when it goes into it’s dormant period. Whilst you will get the best growth from your plant if watered regularly, they can tolerate extremely long periods of drought. It’s similarly relaxed when it comes to light levels – it will much prefer to be in bright light (not direct sun) but will live happily in a shady spot too. ZZ’s are also generally a pest and disease free plant.
The ZZ plant is native to Eastern Africa where, although you will find it growing across many different terrains, it is accustomed to experiencing a rainy and a dry season. This is handy to remember when caring for it at home as it gives you a good idea of how much/little water it needs.
As mentioned above, Zamioculcas are happiest when watered regularly during the growing months. Make sure it’s planted into a pot with plenty of drainage and a free draining compost (cactus soil is best but you can mix sand or perlite into regular compost too), and wait for the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. The frequency of watering is dependent on how warm a spot it’s in.
Over the cooler months it’s best to decrease watering significantly – the ideal is to wait for the compost to almost completely dry out before watering again, so roughly once a month. But you don’t need to worry too much, as during dormancy they have been known to go up to 4 months without water! Just be aware that if left to dry out for extended periods of time your Zamioculcas will likely drop its leaflets – this isn’t a sign of death and they will start to grow back again in spring, it just helps to reserve energy.
Overwatering in cooler temperatures is what will cause the most damage to ZZ plants. It’s waxy leaves prevent water from escaping, and the thick, fleshy rhizomes (almost like a bulb) at the base of their stems store water and nutrients to keep it ticking over during dormancy. But rhizomes can easily rot if they get too wet and the plant isn’t getting enough heat to allow them to dry out, so be sure to stick a finger into the soil and check its mostly dry before you water!
Zamioculcas tend to like their roots quite compact in the pot so you shouldn’t have to re pot very often. Just make sure to feed it with fertiliser in the spring and summer to give it the nutrients it would otherwise get from fresh compost. If it’s in a plastic pot you may notice the roots start to bulge outwards and change the shape of the pot – this is a good indicator that it’s time to give it a new home. Re plant your ZZ into a pot just a little bigger than it’s current one, roughly 2-3 inches wider, using a free draining compost as mentioned above.
ZZ plants are easily propagated, either by division of rhizomes or by leaf cuttings.
To propagate by leaf cutting, simply remove a leaflet from the stem and place the cut end into a moist potting medium. Make sure not to bury the leaf too deep as it will rot. Keep your cuttings in a spot with bright but indirect light and plenty of warmth, and mist of surface of the soil if you see it drying out.
It can take a couple of months before your cutting takes root and starts to grow (you will see new plantlets grow around the leaf) but be patient as it’s well worth the reward!