Why ZZ Plant Stems Droop and Other Care Questions

Hi,
We have this house plant (my deceased mom’s) and we have no idea what the plant is. Currently the large stems are starting to droop (causing some to break off) and we don’t know how to care for it. All advice welcome.

Hi Karen,

Your plant is called a ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. The main reason the stems droop is from lack of light. Stems will stand up straighter if the light is coming from above. Very dry soil is another reason stems droop.
 
ZZ plants can survive in low lightWhen you select “Low Light” a list of the most adaptive plants in our database appears. These plants can live in lighting conditions too low to support any other plants in our database, but will grow faster in medium and high light. Variegation (color) in the leaves is often lost in low light. A plant in low light needs less water and fertilizer than the same plant in better light. Place a low-light plant within 2-3 ft. of a window with a northern exposure, 3-5 ft. of a window with an eastern exposure, 4-10 ft. of a window with a western exposure, and 10-18ft. of a window with a southern exposure. A low light area has between 50-150 ft. candles of light. The best low light house plants are: Chinese Evergreen, Dracaena Janet Craig, Peace Lily, Heart leaf Philodendron., but grow faster in bright, indirect light. Since a ZZ plant is a slow grower even in good light, in low lightWhen you select “Low Light” a list of the most adaptive plants in our database appears. These plants can live in lighting conditions too low to support any other plants in our database, but will grow faster in medium and high light. Variegation (color) in the leaves is often lost in low light. A plant in low light needs less water and fertilizer than the same plant in better light. Place a low-light plant within 2-3 ft. of a window with a northern exposure, 3-5 ft. of a window with an eastern exposure, 4-10 ft. of a window with a western exposure, and 10-18ft. of a window with a southern exposure. A low light area has between 50-150 ft. candles of light. The best low light house plants are: Chinese Evergreen, Dracaena Janet Craig, Peace Lily, Heart leaf Philodendron. these plants rarely produces new leaves. Direct sun fades and burns the leaves.
 
Over-watering is the main way to kill a ZZ plant. They do not like wet feet, so allow the soil to dry out before watering. ZZ plants have thick roots called rhizomes that store water, so when in doubt, do not water. Unlike most plants,  Zamioculcas are very forgiving, allowing you to over-water a few times before showing signs of serious damage. Yellow leaves are an indication that the plant has been over-watered or severely under-watered. water meterHow to know if your plant needs water. Learn how to use a water meter, also called a soil moisture meter, to find out how wet or dry your plant soil is and whether it's time to water.s are not always reliable. Salt in the soil from too much plant food or if you are using water that has passed through a water softener (too salty), a water meterHow to know if your plant needs water. Learn how to use a water meter, also called a soil moisture meter, to find out how wet or dry your plant soil is and whether it's time to water. registers incorrectly. In very warm weather, a ZZ plant may need water every 7-10 days. In cooler weather, the plant may go 2-3 weeks before drying out. When you do water, water well enough so that the water comes out the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Do not allow the plant to sit in the excess water. 
 
Feed monthly when a ZZ plant is actively producing new leaves and every other month when it is not in a growing phase. Use a balanced, liquid plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Too much plant food causes yellow leaves; this is called nutrient burn.
 
These plants are very poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched, immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.  More poisonous houseplant information and pictures of common plants that are dangerous to children and pets can be found in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants so please keep it away from small children and pets.
 
You can read all my care tips in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.