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Troubleshooting ZZ Plant Problems

The ZZ Plant is native to East Africa. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is considered a low-maintenance plant and excellent for beginners. It tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and thrives best when slightly neglected.

ZZ Plant

ZZ Plant General Information

The ZZ Plant is a slow-growing houseplant both drought tolerant and accepting of low-lighting conditions. Its root system consists of rhizomes, which store water for long periods of time. The plant’s foliage features wide, shiny, oval-shaped leaves that resemble artificial plants. Mature ZZ Plants grow two to four feet tall and wide. 

The ZZ Plant grows well in a standard potting soil. The plant prefers bright, indirect light near a South-facing window but tolerates low lighting conditions such as a windowless room or offices with artificial light. The ZZ Plant does not bloom easily and often won’t flower until the plant is five to six years old. 

ZZ Plant Root Rot

Root rot is a common issue for the ZZ Plant and results from overwatering. The rhizome root system stores water but when the rhizomes become saturated it prevents absorption of oxygen, nutrients and even water. Once saturated, the roots begin to rot, affecting the plant’s health. 

If your ZZ Plant’s leaves are turning brown or yellow it can be a sign of root rot. To confirm rot, gently remove the plant from its pot and inspect the rhizomes. Healthy roots are white and firm. Any dark or mushy roots signify rot, which will spread if not dealt with. Use a pair of sharp and sterile shears to carefully cut away any affected roots. Follow up by mixing one part 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle. Generously mist the remaining roots to kill the rot bacteria and repot the ZZ Plant into a clean pot with fresh soil. Advanced cases of ZZ Plant root rot may not be reversible and the plant cannot be saved. 

ZZ Plant Leaf Issues

ZZ Plant Leaf Issues
The Healthy Houseplant

Leaf health is often the first indicator of a plant’s general health. Healthy ZZ Plant leaves are green and shiny. When ZZ Plant leaves are turning brown or yellow and dropping it is often due to overwatering. Decrease the amount of waterings to no more than one to two times per month or when the top 3 inches of soil feels dry. Use a water meter to measure moisture in the soil if you’re unsure. 

Leaf drop or browning on the leaves’ edges may indicate dehydration and low humidity. Increase waterings gradually but do not let the soil become waterlogged. Brown leaf edges will not revert, but the browning should not advance if increased moisture solves the issue. If increasing water does not fix the problem, exposure to too much heat, sunlight, or fertilizer may be the cause. 

Ensure your ZZ Plant is not exposed to excessive, direct sunlight or high temperatures from heat vents. If overfertilization is suspected, decrease feedings to no more than once every three weeks with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Only feed the ZZ Plant in the spring and summer, withholding fertilizer in the fall and winter when the plant goes dormant.

ZZ Plant Problems from Sun Exposure

The ZZ Plant thrives in a variety of lighting conditions but too much direct sunlight scorches the leaves. Signs of overexposure include curling leaves, yellow leaves, and a leaning plant as it attempts to move away from the sun. Decrease lighting by providing indirect sunlight or filtered light through a sheer curtain. 

While the plant does well in low-lighting, growth is slowed and the plant may become leggy to seek more light. If legginess occurs, move the plant to a location with more indirect lighting. Rotate your ZZ Plant a quarter turn every few months to ensure even light exposure to all sides of the plant and prevent lopsided growth. This is especially important if your plant receives light from a single source such as a window. 

Cleaning ZZ Plant Leaves

Ensure optimal photosynthesis and healthy foliage by cleaning away dust build-up on your ZZ Plant leaves. Use a cloth dampened with water and gently wipe each leaf. Do not use commercial leaf shine products that coat and suffocate the leaves, causing issues. While cleaning the leaves, inspect the foliage for signs of pest infestations to catch issues early.

ZZ Plant Common Pests

Mealybugs: Mealybugs are soft, oval, wax-covered insects that feed on plants by piercing them. They excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which often leads to black sooty mold if not treated. Spot treatment with 70 percent or less rubbing alcohol is the most effective course of action. Use a cotton swab dipped in the alcohol and wipe away the insects. Treatment with an insecticidal soap is another option, most effective for younger insects.

Scale: Brown soft scale is the most common scale to infest houseplants. Typically found on the underside of foliage, the mature females are light tan, yellow-green, or yellow-brown in color. Immature crawlers are yellow. Multiple treatments with an insecticidal soap often rid the plant of these pests.

Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are small flies that infest the plant’s soil. The larvae feed off organic soil material and the roots of the ZZ Plant. Adults emerge from the plant and easily infest other house plants. Treat the infestation with an insecticidal soap. Adult fungus gnats can be controlled by placing a shallow dish filled with apple cider vinegar near the plant as a trap.

Aphids: Aphids are small, green insects that suck the plant’s nutrients and create honeydew. Curling, stunted or yellow leaves may indicate their presence. The insects multiply quickly and infestations should be treated early. Treat the plant by wiping the insects away with a mixture of water and a few drops of dish detergent. An insecticidal soap also works. 

ZZ Plant Blooming Issues

ZZ Plant Blooming Issues

Failure for the ZZ Plant to bloom can be caused by many issues. While considered a low-maintenance house plant, they do not bloom easily and require optimal conditions to do so. Remember that the ZZ Plant will not bloom until at least five to six years old. Incorrect lighting, temperature, and waterings cause blooming issues. Ensure you’re following the best practices for each to encourage flowering. When ZZ Plant root bulbs are exposed it indicates a root bound plant trapped in a pot too small, which affects blooming. Repot your ZZ Plant,  in the spring or summer, to a pot one to two sizes larger to correct the issue. ZZ Plants rest and go dormant in the winter, so blooming will not occur during this time no matter how healthy your plant is.

Pruning a ZZ Plant

Dead leaves and stems are unsightly and consume energy the ZZ Plant needs to promote growth and blooming. Use a pair of sharp and sterile shears to remove any dead areas. Trim leaves at the base near the stem and trim stems at the base near the soil. Excessive amounts of dead leaves and stems may indicate stress caused by root rot, improper care, or pest infestation.

The ZZ Plant is considered easier to care for than many other house plants. While each type of houseplant is susceptible to issues, minimal maintenance is required to keep a ZZ Plant healthy. Regular inspections, and following its minimal care needs, eliminate most issues with this easy-going houseplant.

ZZ Plant FAQ

What Temperatures Should I Keep My ZZ Plant In?

During the spring and summer, the ZZ Plant will tolerate temperatures up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). During fall and winter dormancy, temperatures between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius) are preferred.

Will My ZZ Plant Survive in Artificial Lighting? 

Yes, while growth will be slowed, a ZZ Plant will grow by artificial light alone as long as the level of light is sufficient and consistent. Leaf discoloration or plant leaning are indicators the lighting is too low.

What Do ZZ Plant Blooms Look Like?

The blooms of the ZZ Plant are long and cone-shaped resembling the flowers of the Peace Lily. The blooms are white and encased by leaves at the end of a stalk.

Can I Grow My ZZ Plant Outdoors?

Yes, a ZZ Plant will do well outside in USDA growing zones 9 and 10. Ensure the plant is brought inside in areas where frost occurs as they are not frost tolerant.

Are ZZ Plants Toxic to Pets and Humans?

Yes, the ZZ Plant is considered toxic to both pets and humans. Chewing or swallowing of any parts of the plant may result in pain, a burning sensation, and swelling.