The Zanzibar Gem, or Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, is a lovely tropical houseplant native to Africa. Commonly called the ZZ plant, the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia is also sometimes referred to as a ZuZu plant, an emerald palm, and an eternity plant, speaking to its hardiness and longevity. ZZ plants are not high-maintenance, but with the proper care, propagating this plant will help ensure elegant, glossy leaves that can reach 2 to 3 feet and thrive for many years. Its distinctive leaves grow into an elegant, elongated shape with a pointed end. In the United States and Canada, the ZZ plant’s growing season is between the spring and fall months, but in tropical climates like its native Africa, the ZZ plant can thrive year-round.
ZZ Plant Propagation Hints and Tips
Rhizomes and Roots
ZZ plants are simple to propagate because they are not delicate, can thrive without direct sunlight, and have hardy root systems. The Zanzibar Gem has bulbous rhizomes just below the soil’s surface that store the plant’s water. The quickest (and most common) way to propagate these plants is to remove them from the container and pull apart each stalk and bulb. If some of the bulbous rhizomes have grown together under the surface, they can be cut apart with a clean knife.
Once the stems and rhizomes have been separated, they can be planted in small containers of well-drained soil. Give them a good drink of water once they are planted, but after an initial watering, they will not require much water since their rhizomes store most of its needed moisture.
Another straightforward way to propagate these plants is in water. Simply remove some of the long, glossy leaves from the stem. To prevent breakage, use your thumb and forefinger to firmly grasp the base of the leaf’s stem and then twist.
You can also use small, sharp pruning scissors to ensure a clean cut. These premium houseplant scissors and pruning shears are our favorite! Be sure the shears are clean and make the cut in the right spot, leaving as much of the stem attached to the leaf as possible, without cutting into the main stalk.
Once you have collected several, group them together in a bunch and place them facing upright in a glass of water. For the best results, replace the water each week. The plant will start to develop roots while suspended in the water. The process will take around 8 to 9 months before the Zanzibar has enough roots to plant in soil. While this propagation process is not the quickest, it is the easiest. While propagating in water, the plant doesn’t require much light, and if the water is not moldy and is replaced periodically, it will continue to grow with no interference.
Also, these marvels floating in glasses of water can serve as their own interesting piece of décor throughout the house since they don’t require placement directly in front of a window.
ZZ Plant Propagation: Getting Started
Gather Your Tools
It’s important to have the right tools ready to go so that both the plant and you are protected. It’s helpful to have a good set of shears that have been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol and are ready to use. Of course, you can also use your hands, but this can be messy if you’re separating stalks by the roots. Even if you use your hands, you still may need good scissors or a knife to separate any conjoined rhizomes.
Another useful product to have on hand is a propagation promoter. This can be helpful to ensure that the leaf cuttings have the necessary hormones and nutrients to propagate well, and helps eliminate dangerous bacteria that can invade the leaves.
Soil for Leaf Cutting
Once the leaves have developed their own thick rhizome bulbs that are 4 to 6 inches long, it’s time to plant the roots in well-draining potting soil. Remember, rhizomes hold the plant’s water, so well-draining soil is important. If the soil includes perlite or orchid bark, those elements can also help the roots thrive.
Unlike many other plants, the ZZ plant doesn’t need much room in a container for root expansion. These plants tend to do better with their roots bound in a smaller pot. One of the reasons ZZ plants are hardy and drought-resistant is because their rhizomes hold moisture. If there’s too much soil, too much water can be retained—and too much water can hinder the ZZ plant rather than help it!
In the first week after transitioning the ZZ plant to soil from water, it can tolerate a few good soakings, so water it a little more often in the beginning. It’s used to living in water, so the extra moisture will help it transition to the soil and build a reserve of water in the rhizomes. After the first couple weeks, this plant won’t be so needy!
Propagation by Leaf Cutting
As we mentioned earlier, propagation by leaf cutting is the easiest way to propagate ZZ plants, but it takes several months before the plant develops enough roots to transfer into soil. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch these beautiful glossy leaves suspended in water slowly develop into their own plant.
However, there is another way to propagate ZZ plants from a leaf cutting without a glass of water. To propagate the plant from leaf cutting using soil instead of water, simply cut the leaves off the stalk using shears and then plant them in a container filled with well-draining potting soil. Soil with perlite or vermiculite helps ensure the soil properly drains.
Space the leaves one to two inches apart and be sure that half the leaf is buried in the soil with the top half pointing upright. Water the leaves well and set the container in an area that won’t drop below 60 degrees and will receive plenty of indirect light. For best results, keep the leaves in front of a windowsill or somewhere in the house where it will get some form of natural light; fluorescent lights can suffice if there are no windows to let in natural light.
The emerging plants won’t require much extra watering, but it’s important to give them a drink at least every couple of weeks. While propagating leaf cuttings in soil doesn’t usually take as much time as propagating them in water, this process will still take several months depending on the soil’s temperature. In temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees, leaves can grow roots and rhizomes in just four weeks. However, with indoor temperatures typically varying between 60 to 70 degrees, it can take much longer.
Some plant enthusiasts prefer to keep the plant’s temperature higher with a heating pad or covering it in plastic for a greenhouse effect, but if you decide to use a plastic dome, be sure to uncover it periodically—at least once a week—to allow proper oxygen flow. (Your plant baby needs to breathe!)
After several weeks, check to see if the plant is developing rhizomes by gently pulling on the leaves to see if there are any emerging bulbs anchoring it in the soil. But be extremely cautious when tugging on the leaves, as they’re very delicate in the initial stages of development. Another indication that roots are developing is when the leaves start to develop stems and grow taller.
A quicker (albeit dirtier) way to propagate the ZZ plant is through root division. Simply remove the plant from the container, pull apart each stalk and bulb without separating the stalk from its corresponding bulb. Plant each individual stalk and rhizome in a container about 6 to 8 inches in diameter with well-draining soil. Give it a good initial watering, and then just let the ZZ plant do what it does best: thrive with little maintenance!
Care After Propagation
Once the ZZ plant is established in soil, it only needs water every two to three weeks. If the plant is receiving plenty of sunshine or in a warmer environment, it may need water more often. Too much moisture can cause root rot and yellowing leaves.
While the ZZ plant can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, they do best in temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees. If the room’s temperature is going to fall below 60 degrees, consider using a plastic cover or a heating pad under the container to keep the soil warm.
Use well-draining potting soil and let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Soil with perlite can be a great option for retaining moisture. ZZ plants don’t need an excessive amount of soil; the rhizomes do well in cramped spaces.
ZZ Plant Propagation FAQs
Are ZZ plants poisonous?
ZZ plants can cause irritation if they come in direct contact with the eyes or skin. If you’re sensitive to the plant, use gloves when propagating.
Never ingest the plant, as it can cause severe symptoms. Also, keep pets away from the ZZ plant because it can cause severe sickness in animals as well.
Why is my ZZ plant turning yellow?
Yellowing leaves on a ZZ plant may indicate root rot due to excess water. Try placing the plant in a clean container with clean, dry soil, and place it in an area where it can receive more sunlight and dry out the soil more thoroughly. We also love this root supplement that can protect the plant’s immune system and promote its overall health.
Do I need to fertilize my ZZ plant?
Because ZZ plants are so tough, they do not usually require any fertilizer. However, if you choose to fertilize the plant, use a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Apply the fertilizer once a month only during the growing seasons of spring through fall.
ZZ Plant Propagation Final Thoughts
ZZ plants are one of the easiest houseplants to grow and propagate. Keep them in well-draining soil, water them every few weeks, and make sure they’re not in an environment that drops below 50 degrees on a regular basis. Be sure they have some source of light, but remember that an abundance of natural light is not necessary. ZZ plants can even do well in office spaces with fluorescent lighting.
Watch for root rot by monitoring the soil and making sure it dries completely between waterings. If your plant’s signature emerald leaves start to turn yellow, cut back on the water and allow the soil time to dry out. If the problem persists, try replacing the soil altogether and using a smaller container.
Most importantly, enjoy the element of style and distinction that ZZ plants bring to your space and share its beauty with friends!
Speaking of friends, check out our community of other plant lovers in our Facebook group.
For more houseplant care resources:
Houseplants for Millennials Book
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