If You Can’t Keep Greenery Alive to Save Your Life, Meet the ZZ Plant
This laid-back species thrives on neglect.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:46 AM
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If you’ve experienced more house plant casualties than you’d like to admit, meet the ZZ plant. This notoriously black thumb-friendly tropical species has built its entire reputation around being suspiciously difficult to kill. The East African perennial basically subsists on sub-par sunlight and neglect, making it an excellent choice for rookie plant parents.
“It’s drought-tolerant, meaning it can go weeks without water,” said Anum Tariq, co-founder of Ansel & Ivy. “Plus, it will grow well in just about any lighting condition.” For being so laid-back, they’re incredibly hardworking. NASA found that ZZ plants actually purify the air, drawing out toxins like xylene, toluene, and benzene.
More importantly, these beginner botanicals are an asset to any shelf or windowsill—just look at its glossy leaves and vibrant green color. But before you give plant parenthood another try, heed Tariq’s expert ZZ plant advice below.
Does it need a lot of direct light?
Place in the room of your choosing—ZZ plants aren’t picky. Most houseplants are incredibly temperamental when it comes to light (we’re looking at you, fiddle leaf figs). But ZZs do well in just about any room. Tariq recommends placing it next to a moderately bright window or even in a dimly lit office with fluorescent light. ZZs thrive in room temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with standard indoor levels of humidity—about 40 to 60 percent.
What type of soil does it enjoy?
For a ZZ, a happy home consists of an appropriately-sized pot filled with rich, well-draining soil. “This plant can live in its nursery grow pot for up to a year,” Tariq explains. If the soil is loose or the roots have filled the bottom of the pot, it’s ready for a bigger space. Pro tip: Irrigate the pot in order to loosen the soil before transplanting.
How often should you water it?
Similar to snake plants and other tropical species, ZZs prefer moderate, infrequent waterings. “It’s important to feel the soil and only water when it’s completely dried out,” notes Tariq. Watering will also need to be reduced during the colder months of the year. She suggests aerating the soil about every other watering for even liquid distribution. “Loosen the soil by gently poking a few holes using a chopstick or similar blunt object, then water as usual.”
Does it need much maintenance?
If you want your ZZ to grow quickly, place it in a bright place and rotate occasionally to encourage even growth. Wipe down the leaves occasionally using a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and promote shine. “This also helps the plant photosynthesize properly,” adds Tariq.
How do you know if it’s sick?
Discolored leaves are a sign of distress. True to form, overcaring for a ZZ plant can result in an untimely death. “Yellowing, browning, or falling leaves may be a sign of overwatering,” explains Tariq, which is the most common cause of expiration for this tropical plant. Alternatively, dropping leaves could be an indication of underwatering, while browning leaf tips can mean that the air is too dry. In this case, use a humidifier or occasionally mist the plant to increase humidity.
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