Zamioculcas Zamiifolia-ZZ Plant

 ZZ  Plant Description

A ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, has many names around the world: Eternity Plant, Emerald Palm, Zanzibar Gem, ZuZu Plant, and Aroid Palm. It was originally found growing as an outdoor, flowering plant in eastern Africa but can now be found growing in tropical areas around the world. It was a Dutch nursery in Africa that realized a ZZ plant would be a perfect houseplant and started to propagate and sell it world wide. A ZZ plant is a member of the Araceae family and a close relative of the dieffenbachia, anthurium, philodendron monstera, and caladium.

The unique looking, almost impossible to kill  ZZ plant, is a slow growing, upright succulent plant that burst onto the houseplant market in the 1990’s. It became an immediate hit with indoor plant lovers because it grew almost anywhere and was tolerant of all types of care, except being over watered. What we call the the stems of a ZZ plant really the leaves of the plant. These long, thick “stems,” 15″-20″ tall (   ) are covered in hundreds of small, plump, shiny green, leathery leaflets (not leaves) that are about 2″-3″ long. During the summer and early fall the plant may produce small flowers hidden inside a 2″-3″ dark yellow or bronze colored spadex; flowering usually occurs when a ZZ plant is grown outdoors. The roots of the plant are fat rhizomes, underground horizontal stems, that store water and enable a ZZ plant to be drought resistant. In a lowlight, cool area, a ZZ plant can sometimes go three or four months without being watered; it simply uses the water that has been stored in the rhizomes to survive.ZZ Plant Varieties


ZZ Plant Varieties

ZZ plants are more expensive than common houseplants like a pothos or dieffenbachia because they are slow growers and it takes more time for them to grow large enough to be sold commercially. A variegated ZZ plant needs more light than the solid green variety. Direct sunlight can easily damage the leaves on all ZZ plants.

Regular ZZ plant has medium, dark green, shiny, plump leaves and tall thick stems with a swollen base. 

“White Variegated” ZZ plant has green and white, shiny leaves and tall thick stems with a swollen base. 

“Gold Variegated” ZZ plant has a mixture of leaves that can be solid green, solid yellow, or a green and yellow mix, and tall thick stems with a swollen base. 

“Raven” ZZ plant has bright green leaves when first grown; but, as the plant matures, the leaves turn a very dark greenish black color.

“Lucky” ZZ plant is more compact with leaflets that are flatter and rounder.

Zenzi (“Dwarf Zenzi”) is a smaller, shorter, denser variety with the dark green leaflets growing closer together.


Raven                          White Variegated                    Gold Variegated

Quick Care Tips for a ZZ Plant

ZZ plant stores water in thick rhizomes so it very drought resistant. Over watering is the main reason a ZZ plant dies

Direct sun damages the leaves

Too much plant food causes yellow leaf burn

This is a 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 plant so wear gloves and long sleeves when propagating or pruning.


The ZZ plant may be one of the hardiest and most forgiving indoor plants I can recommend; just try not to kill it with kindness! Although a ZZ plant has also been shown by NASA to remove toxic pollutants such xylene and benzene  from the air and is considered a “clean air” plant, it is also a very poisonous plant and extremely toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. Small children are often attracted to the plump, bright green leaves, so keep your ZZ plant well out of reach. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.


Why Is the New Growth on My Zz Plant Turning Brown and Not Opening?

The new growth on your ZZ plant may be turning brown and not opening because it is getting too much light, too much fertilizer, or too little humidity. The ends of the stems of your ZZ plant may be getting sunburned if the plant is in direct sunlight. Too much fertilizer causes salts to build up in the soil and this injures the ZZ plant leaves. If the air is extremely dry, ZZ plant leaves develop brown edges.

Why Are the Leaves on My Zz Plant Turning Yellow?

Yellow leaves are an indication that the plant has been over-watered or severely under-watered. water meters are not always reliable. If there is a lot of salt in the soil from too much plant food or if you are using water that has passed through a water softener (too salty) then a water meter is unreliable. In very warm weather, a ZZ plant may need water every 7-10 days. In cooler weather, the plant may be able to go 2-3 weeks before needing water. 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 in the saucer for more than 10 minutes. Yellow leaves can also be the result of nutrient burn. ZZ plants do not need much plant food. Feed monthly when actively grow and every other month the rest of the time. Always dilute your balanced, liquid plant food to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Why Hasn’t My Small Zz Plant Gotten Any New Growth for the Last Year or So? Should I Fertilize More Often?

You should never fertilize a houseplant that is not actively growing. I think moving your ZZ plant to a brighter location might encourgae new growth. Do not rush to move it to a larger container. These plants produce more leaves when root-bound.