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ZZ Plant- Easy Low Light Houseplant

ZZ plant, Low Light HouseplantZamioculcas zamiifolia is a tropical perennial plant native to eastern Africa. The scientific name comes from the fact that the plant's leaves resemble a Zamia which is a genus of cycads. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is better known as a ZZ plant because the scientific name can be hard to pronounce. It has become a popular indoor plant and can be seen growing next to Snake Plants in places like malls and offices and is increasingly found for sale at the average greenhouse or florist.

I've wanted a ZZ plant for a while but didn't buy one because some of the prices I saw for them were pretty ridiculous in my opinion. One thing that bothers me is that this plant is often sold as a "bonsai" in places like the Home Depot greenhouse and can cost you anywhere from $10.00-$15.00. ZZ plants are slow growing and it takes time and money to produce them but I don't think that planting a six inch tall plant in a bonsai pot justifies that price. After checking the greenhouse all winter looking for a sign of ZZ plant shipments I finally found one at the same Home Depot for $5.00 in the spring.

Why grow a ZZ plant?

ZZ plant has a reputation for being an easy to grow, low light houseplant that can survive just about any condition you put it in. I've been toying with the idea of confining my houseplant collection to a specific theme. That theme being plants that we consider to be indoor plants that are native to Africa. After seeing ZZ plant touted in magazines, houseplant forums and just about every public space imaginable I wondered if they were really such an easy houseplant. Part of me wanted to buy a ZZ plant and see if I could kill it without really trying.

I tried to kill a ZZ plant.

I've often read that after a nuclear holocaust the only thing to survive would be roaches. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the ZZ plant can withstand such an event and be one of two things to survive. I don't think it is possible to kill a ZZ plant but if you kill a ZZ plant maybe you should take up computers or crocheting as a hobby and leave houseplants alone.

When I bought my ZZ plant in the spring I brought it home and placed it in an east facing window and kept the shade drawn for two weeks and didn't water it. After two weeks nothing happened so I took the plant outside and left it on the porch where it received full sun and was watered by the rains. For the past two weeks it has been growing back inside in a west facing, low light, window and the ZZ plant has only lost one leaf since the spring. I don't recommend treating your houseplants like this I only did it to test how tough of a houseplant the ZZ plant really was. To my surprise my ZZ plant lived up to the hype and is even sending out new growth.

Watering a ZZ plant.

A ZZ plant prefers to be on the dry side and too much water will result in leaves turning yellow and falling off. ZZ plants develop thick underground tubers that the plant uses to store water this allows the plant to go for long periods of time without water. It may even drop all of the leaves to conserve water usage if you don't water it and as long as the tubers are firm your plant should still send out new growth when regularly watered. Too much water and you'll not only have leaves turning yellow but the tuber will begin to rot. Learn how to water your houseplants by picking them up.

Soil for a ZZ plant.

ZZ plants are succulent plants so use a fast draining soil. I'd opt out of growing it in a normal houseplant soil and would go with a cactus and succulent potting mix that you can find at your local greenhouse or home improvement store.

Lighting for a ZZ plant.

ZZ plants can tolerate low light as a houseplant but don't stick the plant in a windowless room and expect it to thrive. Just because a plant can tolerate low lighting indoors doesn't mean it is the best growing condition.

Propagating a ZZ plant.

ZZ plants can be propagated by separating the tubers or by leaf cuttings. You can remove a leaf and place it in moist soil and wait about a year for the leaf to start producing a new tuber. Can also be grown from seeds.

Caution with ZZ plants.

ZZ plants are considered toxic if eaten by pets or humans.

Can ZZ plants flower?

ZZ plants are Aroids and the only Aroid that can be grown from a leaf. It produces a flower similar (looks like corn on the cob to me) most other Aroids.


  1. Well maybe that's why mine won't grow, or die, or do anything: I'm not torturing it enough. (What was the word? Hortitorture?)

    1. Anonymous3:25 PM

      LOL. I have an area of my house and garden called the "rehab" center. I am so used to calling it that, only recently did a shocked looked from a guest prompt an explanation. Love Hortitorture...that is a book in the making...

    2. Anonymous3:36 PM

      I'm laughing because I have a "rehab center" too. One outside for outdoor plants and one indoors. I've gotten so used to the term that a few time I have mentioned it in passing and gotten the strangest looks...only to realize I had to explain. I also "quarantine" new plants, especially ivy, to make sure they don't have spider mites etc, before bringing close to other healthy plants.

  2. Darn!

    You just made me realize that I forgot to reuse my word in this post. :0)

    I'm wondering if I hortitorture it some more maybe I can get it to freak out and think it is dieing and flower for me.

    BTW I think this is your first visit right? Thanks for commenting.

  3. ZZ plants are neat looking. Sort of plants which grew during the dinosaur age.

    We bought one but it quickly grew very large and put out many new shoots but we got rid of it because the plant took up too much room indoors. The plant had interesting looking brownish purple flowers and when you mentioned that it was an aroid the flowers made sense. It does look like an aroid flower with a spathe and hood.

  4. No, I've commented at least once before (She Fought the Lawn, etc.). And a reader from well before then.

    I haven't seen them in person, but I ran across a picture of a ZZ flower before, and . . . you're not missing much.

  5. Sorry about that Mr. Subjunctive I think I've got you confused with another blogger I've noticed on technorati that does entries on houseplants. I know I recognize you from the GW forums and I've been to your blog and recently saw your entry on Lucky Bamboo so I've put mine on hold until I can find something more interesting on it to say that you haven't on yours.

    The flower isn't spectacular but making a plant bloom is all part of the appeal for me. Without getting it to flower I feel like my work with them isn't complete.


    It's funny that you mention that it looks like a plant from the dinosaur age. I've read a lot of comments calling it a pre-historic plant but I can't find anything on Google that indicates just how old this plant is.

    But you're right it looks like something that dinosaurs would have munched on.

  6. Anonymous12:57 AM

    Hortitorture, I like it.

    Hey, that is one weird looking plant.

    It's kind of outerspacy.

  7. Heh, I'm probably deep into hortitorture since my seedlings are dying an horrendous death right now.

    The ZZ Plant was popular in Sweden about two or three years ago. At the same time IKEA sold them cheap, and almost anything IKEA sells runs like a plague through the country. It was called (in swedish) a "wardrobe plant". You don't see many of them today - I think the fad has died out.

  8. chigiy,

    I does look like something from outer space. You should see the tuber or maybe I should photograph it for the blog.


    I was just in that store the other day and wondering why they had no ZZ plants in there. LOL.

  9. I did not even know that the zz plant existed. I am just wondering how you got it for 5$ at home depot. was it on a TLC rack? I really like the form of that plant and the fact it is low light. I have been searching for months on low light plants for my wish list and now this was added and now i am wanting to know if you have more goodies i do not know about....
    I will be searching your blog !!


  10. Krista,

    No, it was the regular price for the plant and I bought a pony tail palm for the same price.

    I have a few more plants around the house that I'll be adding later.

  11. Anonymous2:18 AM

    I keep seeing these plants in stores but have been hesitant about getting them because I didn't know what they were and whether they were easy to grow or not. After reading this post I think I shall give one a try. They are sold very cheap here (in Singapore) - about S$5 per pot (US$1 = S$1.52) or less even.

  12. Am,

    That's a very good price. You probably get a larger plant too in your climate than I do. I've been seeing them for upwards of $15 USD in some stores.

    1. Anonymous2:13 AM

      I have found ZZ Plants for 50% off at walmart made em about 4.00 good looking plants.

  13. Anonymous2:02 AM

    Does any one know just how toxic the ZZ is to pets? Does it just burn their mouths or does it make them deathly ill?

  14. Anonymous4:34 PM

    I killed one!
    House dropped to 36 degrees when I was on vacation when my thermostat broke.
    Was all black and mushy

    1. Anonymous2:46 PM

      If you would have ignored the plant for several months it would have come back. I left one in a store front window in subzero temps. It was black and oozy. It got stuck in a store room and it came back only to "die" again. I "killed" it twice and now it's thriving.

  15. Anonymous12:14 AM


    I can't really say how toxic it is. But I've got three puppies around right now and none of them have touched the plant.

    Anon, sorry to hear about your plant.

  16. Anonymous10:13 PM

    All, is the ZZ really toxin? Has anyone die having the plants outside their house?

  17. Anonymous10:14 PM

    how about inside the house? Has anyone die of the ZZ plant?

    1. No. Why would they be selling a plant as a houseplant, if having it in the house would kill people? C'mon.

  18. Anonymous10:41 AM

    I love my ZZ plant.

    One of my two cats nibbled on it -- once! It must not have been to his taste; he suffered no side affects that I noticed. The other cat totally ignores it. Strangely enough that cat will normally do anything to get to a plant.

    Now that I know that it is poisonous I will move it up when my little grandson visits.


  19. Anonymous10:06 AM

    Excellent post dear blogger

  20. Anonymous10:09 AM

    I recently purchased a ZZ at Lowes. End of the summer deak. I think I gave a little over $5 for it. It is quite large (2ft tall), and looks very healthy. Green as green can I was impressed with the fact that it is very resilient, and low maintenance. Thanks for the advice of what type of soil to pot it in. The tag on it didn't give very much information. But I did read, it wasn't actually "deadly". It tastes horrible and will make your mouth sore, but not deadly to humans. Pets, I don't know. Have also read that if you plant it in a clay pot, that the pot will never be good for any other plant, as it will cause them to die. Myth?? Don't know.

  21. Anonymous8:54 PM

    ZZ is not really an indoor plant. It needs the sun everyday. You have to water it everyday. But make sure the soil is sandy. When it leaves turn yellow, it is dying. You have to put it outside to revive it.

  22. Anonymous10:49 PM

    I've had mine for many years now. I bought it at Wal-Mart for next to nothing, knowing absolutely nothing about it, but just thinking it was a really cool looking plant. I learned on my own that it was impossible to kill and it's been through multiple moves (during each of which many other houseplants died) and has still thrived. It looked to be gone a couple of times, all the way down to the soil, but I just added a little water and in a matter of weeks, it was right back. Last summer, we had something get to my houseplants out on my balcony except for the ZZ Plant. It's the only one I have at the moment.

    My sister, however, did manage to kill not one, but TWO of these guys. I separated mine twice and had them well established before giving to her and both times she managed to kill it fairly quickly.

  23. Anonymous3:01 PM

    I divided my ZZ plant in the spring. I made four pots out of it, mixing it with annuals, for my outdoor pots. I am now moving it back inside and have numerous new shoots!

  24. Anonymous5:32 PM

    ive worked in a grocery store floral dept since its inception in this area.i occassional get in plants w no names just says good easy to take care of plants . ive had this one plant in my dept. thats been growin straight up for quite a while.. turns out its a zz.. highly reccomend this plant for indoors w little care

    1. Thanks for the feedback. ZZ plants are the best houseplants in my opinion for people who say they kill everything else.

  25. When I visited Norway, I saw the ZZ plant growing indoors. I loved the way the plants had grown; they had proudly occupied the container, and the Green color of the leaves oozed some sort of warmth during the colder days. I made a mental note that I had to buy the plant for my terrace garden (back home). Yes, I bought one plant (at India), replanted, and propagated many more. All of them are fit and fine; seems to have adjusted to Indian climate. I've used mixture of coco peat and manure as planting medium. Happy weekend!

  26. I bought a good size one (about 15") but i left it outside and we had a freeze. it was black and mushy. i put several of the leaves in soil and 5 leaves grew tiny new plants. i repotted and they are all thriving now

  27. Anonymous5:33 PM

    I love the ZZ plants. They are so lush, shiny and healthy looking. They have very sturdy leaves. They sell for about 10 bucks at the K Mart in NYC. I've seen florists sell them in fancy pots for $55. Saw them in a restaurant in Switzerland recently. They are beautiful healthy looking plants for restaurants or apartments/houses.

  28. I snipped a small branch of leaves off a ZZ at work and stuck it in water. It seemed to grow some root but then looked slimy, so I put it in a pot with another plant. The branch is still alive with green leaves, we'll see if it grows or not but after reading this I'm liking my odds!

  29. Anonymous1:11 PM

    I just bought a ZZ plant at Ikea yesterday. They still sell them. BTW, great blog!

  30. I stuck a stem of a ZZ plant in water and it took a few weeks but some tiny roots have began to grow. It IS an amazing plant. Do you know, do the leaves normally fall off along the bottom of the stem as it grows taller? Some of mine have started to do that...maybe watering it every 3 weeks is too often?? ;-)

  31. Anonymous10:32 AM

    There are many zz plants in nmy office building, so i decided to get one for my home. I was not lucky to find a cheap one, so i ended up paying 25 dollars at Lowes. However, i was very pleased to have mty plant, because it looks so healthy and thriving. I did do some research on it and did not put it under direct sunlight. The plants in my office building are most placed in hall way and bathrooms, where no direct sunlight available. I also only water it once a week with about 8 ounce of water. Have had it for 3 months so far, and very pleased! As for toxicity, not too sure. However, since it is recommended in house plant, and the company i worked for is a leading pharma, i can not imagine how toxic can it be?

  32. Just a random tip on ZZ plants. Don't water them until the main stem starts to wrinkle. You'll see noticeable wrinkles in the bas of the biggest stalk when it starts needing water. Really makes it easy. Water it a little, wait a day, and water more if it doesn't plumpen out. easy stuff.

  33. I've had a ZZ plant for 3 years now. It goes outside in the spring and comes in the late fall when the weather starts getting into the low 40's. I really don't do anything to it but water it once a week. It is in a room with only one north window that has a curtain over it. It is also the laundry room. I had to remove some withered stems but the rest of the plant looks good. I can hardly wait for it to get warm enough to go outside. May need to separate it as it has filled the large clay pot it is in.

  34. Hi, I need help!
    I am trying to plant, since I have retired and have time to do so.
    I bought a ZZ plant online, in February, and it was looking good until I noticed today that it fell over!
    When I got it, it had a bulb on the end with three stems with leaves. Now the bulb has burst, and is smelly. What do I do?
    Please let me know asap, right now, I'll just repot whats left, after I clean off the bulb stuff and hope that's ok.

    Thank you

  35. That is why mine isn't dying. I really like plants but usually forget to water them and usually neglect them. They usually end up dying but my zz plant has been alive for about a year now and is still healthy.

  36. Anonymous6:47 AM

    I just bought 2 HUGE ZZ Plants from Calloway's. They are both in 14" pots and are almost 3 feet tall. They are regularly $89.99 but on sale right now for $29.99. They are BEAUTIFUL. I don't usually have much luck with houseplants but from what I've read I am hoping that I can keep these alive. They look amazing.

  37. Anonymous9:45 PM

    I recently bought a ZZ plant and the person that sold it to me said that it should be watered approx. every 2 weeks. He also said that I needed to feed it at every watering. Is this true from you experience. If so, what is the best food for it?

  38. how do i remove flower when its ready to remove



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