Zanzibar Gem, more commonly known simply as ZZ Plant makes a great houseplant for any self ascribed black thumbs. It has graceful stems filled with glossy green leaves and is almost impossible to kill.
Zanzibar plant has even been nicknamed “eternity plant’ because it will be alive forever. It’s the plant that lines the edges of the mall food court and has old coffee and gum discarded into it and yet its waxen leaves don’t even get a spot of yellow.
If “plant killer” is your title, give Zanzibar plants a try, it is sure to turn any black thumbs back to green.
Zanzibar Gem Plant Details
Zamioculcas zamiifolia, Zanzibar gem, or as it is commonly known as ZZ plant is native to East Africa ranging from Kenya to South Africa. It is a genus of flowering plants in the Araceae family.
The plant has tuberous rhizomes growing alongside their roots that hold on to moisture and allows the plant to be drought tolerant. It has thick glossy leaves along stems that grow in an up and outward vase like shape.
It is a nice compact plant growing to a maximum of 3’ high and 3’ wide, however it is very slow growing and will not outgrow its space for a long time.
ZZ Plant Varieties
The common garden variety of Zanzibar gem has the rich green waxy foliage, and it is widely available to purchase at garden centers and nurseries.
But there are a couple of other varieties that should be mentioned as they are becoming more widely available on the market (which makes sense because of the beautifully easy nature of this plant).
Raven ZZ Plant
Zamioculcas Zamiifolia ‘Raven’ was used to be considered very rare, if news was out that any store had them it was a mad rush to buy them. They still are very trendy, but the supply is starting to keep up with the demand and they are easier to find at the bigger garden centers.
This variety is so striking because its new growth is a bright shiny vibrant green, but as it matures it turns to a burgundy plum purple. Its leaves have the same shine as the regular green Zanzibar plant.
Zenzi ZZ Plant
Zamioculcas Zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’ or Dwarf ZZ Plant is the dwarf variety, meaning it will only get to 2’ in height at its max. This is nice if space is a consideration. This variety has the same easy care as it’s regular cousin, just sweet and compact
Plants are like fashion, some things are hot, and others are not. Well variegation is hot hot hot right now in the plant world. That is no exception for the ZZ plant, and of course, there is a variegated variety.
Zamioculcas Zamiifolia 'Variegata’ will take some searching, check a specialty house plant nursery to find this one. It features the regular glossy dark green leaves of the regular Zanzibar plant, but with splashes of a light lemony yellow, and even some almost pure lemon yellow leaves on the plant.
Because of the lighter colored foliage, this one does require more sunlight than the darker leaved varieties.
How to Grow Zanzibar Gem
Zanzibar plant is widely available for purchase at plant stores in various sizes for a reasonable price. Purchasing this plant is definitely the easiest way to obtain one, they can also be propagated by cutting, but because of their slow growing nature and rhizomes in the roots it is a long slow process.
Propagating ZZ Plant
In order to start a cutting, take a sharp pair of clean clippers and cut a piece of the ZZ plant that includes at least 2 leaves. It is essential to have a reliable pair on secateurs so be sure to check our review on the best secateurs for 2022.
Place cutting into water and then wait, wait, and wait. This can take a couple months for roots to form, make sure to be changing the water at least weekly.
Once roots start to form, place in nice evenly moist potting soil. Keep the plant away from bright light during this time so as to not shock it. This is not like starting a pothos cutting, where it happens in a week or two, it can take a month or two and even then it might not establish roots.
Unless starting plants is a hobby or special interest, buying a plant is definitely the way to go for a Zanzibar plant (they’re a very easy plant to find in store).
A better way to propagate a ZZ Plant would be to take a piece of the plant directly. When repotting an eternity plant simply split off a chunk of it from the main plant.
This can be easily done with a spade, or hori hori garden knife. Repot the main plant and then the new chunk in potting soil. Don’t do this method too often or as it is hard on the mother plant.
Repotting a ZZ plant only needs to be done every few years (or less), so it's best to wait until it needs to be done to split it.
The beauty of ZZ plants is that they require low light. Most tropical indoor houseplants require bright indirect sunlight, which really limits the places in the home where plants can grow.
ZZ plants do like bright indirect sunlight, but they will also grow in an area of the home with low light. The only exception to this would be the variegated version of this plant, which does require more bright indirect sunlight.
ZZ Plant does fine in our homes without any extra humidity. If there is already a humidifier running in the home for other plants, that’s fine too (did I mention ZZ Plant is an easy plant to take care of!)
There really aren't any real special soil requirements for a ZZ plant, light fluffy well draining potting soil is best. Choose a pot that has drainage holes (standing water is death for ZZ).
Eternity plant will rarely need repotting, since they are slow growing, when the roots are starting to pop out of the bottom holes in the container.
Choose a pot just a few inches in diameter larger than the current one and repot with potting soil. The best time to do this is in the early Spring right when it starts entering its growing season.
Another reason to repot is in case of over watering, if the soil is soggy and the ZZ plant is yellowing and suffering, get it out of those soil conditions and repot it into dry, well draining potting soil.
If this is the case, snip off all the rotten mushy roots and squishy tubers.
ZZ Plant Care Tips
Watering ZZ plants
So this plant is completely indestructible right? Well, not quite. But not in the way one might think. Zanzibar plant will most likely not perish from under watering, it can go weeks without a drink.
What will kill an eternity plant, rather quickly, will be over watering. If the leaves on a Zanzibar plant are yellowing and soft, it’s most likely due to too much water. Wait until the soil is completely dry between watering.
It can go a good 2-3 weeks between waterings and will need less in the winter, and a bit more in the summer. But when thinking “to water, or not to water?” don’t water is usually the best bet.
Don’t get too hung up on fertilizer when it comes to a Zanzibar Gem. Fertilize with an all purpose houseplant fertilizer in its active growing season (ie spring and summer), every second water, so that could be once every 6 weeks or so.
But don’t worry, it’s not a big deal, ZZ plants thrive in poor soil condition, even if it is only fertilized twice a year, it will be fine. Do not fertilize when the plant is dormant, in the winter.
Zanzibar Gem Toxicity
Zanzibar Gem is toxic to people and pets when ingested, keep this in mind when choosing it.
ZZ Plant Design
The dark and glossy leaves of a ZZ Plant look great in a variety of pots. Just make sure to keep the pot size in scale with the plant, for both the health of the plant, and for the aesthetic appeal of the scale of the pot and the plant.
A taller, more narrow pot, or a grouping of them makes a good room break or screen (this is how eternity plant is often presented in malls).
Play with the color of foliage when using one of the varieties such as ‘Raven’, or ‘Variegata’. Zanzibar ‘Raven’ looks great in a light coloured (chartreuse, white, light blue etc) pot to really show off the contrast of the dark leaves.
Zanzibar ‘Variegata’ looks best kept in a plain solid colored pot to really show off the intricate pattern of flecks of light green against the regular dark green foliage.
Eternity plant can be used in an outdoor display as well, in the center of a mixed flower container, or on it’s own. Make sure to bring it in before the first frost or treat it as an annual and enjoy it over the summer.
Keep it in a shady and protected location, like a north facing porch or deck.
Zanzibar Plant Pests and Diseases
If yellowing leaves are the main problem on a ZZ Plant, the first thing to consider is over watering. Make sure the soil completely dries out between watering.
Another non pest/disease related problem could be scorched leaves, check to see if the ZZ plant is in too much direct sunlight which can cause scorched brown edges. Move the plant away from the direct rays of the sun to correct this problem.
ZZ Plant is relatively pest and disease free, making it a great plant for beginners. But, like with all plants, it can be infested and infected. The most common pests on a Zanzibar plantare spider mites and aphids.
Aphids can be seen as clumps as small, greenish yellowish (almost transparent) bugs all along the stem. If one is so inclined they can just be wiped off the plant by hand.
Another option is to apply an insecticidal soap, this should be done weekly until the aphid life cycle is broken and they disappear (aphids are born pregnant, so it takes at least a few applications to be rid of them).
When dealing with aphids, move the ZZ plant away from any other plants to not spread them. Get to know more on how to control and prevent Aphids organically here.
Spider mites appear as light webbing and tiny little bugs moving like a crazy network through the webbing. It can also make the leaves appear dull and mottled.
A good spray with the hose or under the shower or a spray faucet while wiping down the leaves is an effective treatment. Another option is to spray with an insecticidal soap, this will need to be done a few times to eradicate them completely.
Again, keep a spider mite infested plant away from other plants until the infestation is dealt with. It’s a good idea to quarantine plants that are first brought into the home for a week or so to make sure they are pest free before placing them near other houseplants.
Thrips, scale, and mealybugs can also infest a ZZ Plant (rarely), use the same methods as with aphids and spider mites, physically remove the pest and then spray with insecticidal soap.
ZZ Plants are very resistant to disease, especially if they are growing in their ideal light and water conditions. Sometimes people jump straight to the conclusion that their plant has the most rare blight that they read about on the internet.
When the problem is most likely a watering issue (yellow leaves) or a sun light issue (too much, burned leaves, too little, long stringy stalks). The one disease worth mentioning would be root/tuber rot. This is caused by prolonged over watering.
The leaves will be yellowing and the stalks will rot away at the soil line. The Zanzibar plant will have to be repotted, take it out of it’s pot and remove any brown, slimy and rotten roots, and mushy tubers (normal ones will feel firm), then repot into fresh potting soil.
Zanzibar Gem FAQs
How often should I water my Zanzibar gem?
Less is more with an eternity plant, it’s hard to give an exact amount, it depends on how much light it gets, how big the pot is, how warm the house is etc.
But make sure the soil dries out in between watering, and less water in the winter months. Watering every 2-4 weeks is a good estimate to start with.
Can I grow a Zanizibar gem outside?
Yes, Zanzibar gem can be grown in a pot on it’s own, or in a group with other annuals in a pot outside. It cannot take any frost, so bring it in before the first frost, or treat it like an annual and dispose of it after the frost kills it.
It needs a nice shaded and protected area to be grown outdoors, perhaps a north or east facing deck.
Is the ZZ plant poisonous?
Yes, all parts of the plant are toxic if ingested.
Where should I place my ZZ plant in the home?
ZZ plant will tolerate a variety of conditions making it one of the more versatile houseplants. Bright indirect sunlight is ideal and the plant will grow faster in this light, however it does just fine in areas with lower light, such as a north or east facing exposure.
Is a ZZ plant good for the bedroom
Yes, I always find the plant in my bedroom gets forgotten about, sometimes I even forget to open the curtains. Luckily, the ZZ plant does just fine with low light conditions and irregular less frequent watering patterns. Plus its dark green glossy leaves look great as part of your decor.
Should I mist my ZZ Plant?
You can, I tend not to as it leaves water marks on the glossy leaves. To increase humidity try a tray of pebbles and water underneath the pot. But I find no extra humidity is necessary for a ZZ Plant.
Have Fun Growing the Zanzibar Gem Plant
Zanzibar gem, or simply ZZ plant is a very attractive plant with its vase shaped stems rising out of the pot filled with dark and glossy foliage. But what is even more special is the ease of caring for it.
It can be neglected and will still look great, in fact it does better when somewhat neglected. ZZ plant is the perfect plant for beginners and busy people who don’t have the time, or desire, to fiddle over houseplants, but still want to add a touch of green into their home.
There you have it, everything you need to know to grow the Zanzibar gem in your home.