Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ZZ Plant

If you aren’t immersed in plants twenty-four hours a day like I am, you may not yet have heard about the ZZ Plant. If you haven’t, then you should definitely read on and consider purchasing a ZZ Plant, arguably the easiest to care for and most attractive foliage houseplant out there.

ZZ is short for the plant’s Latin name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It is the only known species in the genus Zamioculcas. ZZ Plant is a tropical perennial plant native to Eastern Africa and is in the Arum plant family. Other Arums include Calla Lilies, Caladiums, Elephant Ears, Arrowhead Plant, Peace Lilies, and Philodendrons. Arums are distinctive in that their flowers consist of a spadix and spathe.

There is a multitude of reasons why the ZZ Plant is a favorite of mine. First off, the ZZ Plant always looks like you just polished it with a leaf shiner. The leaves are a brilliant waxy green and appear to be plastic. I have seen this plant in malls and stores and had to actually touch it to see whether it was real or not.

ZZ Plant needs almost no water, and that makes it a nice pick for a forgetful waterer. I give my ZZ a slight soil moistening every other week and it rewards me with a new shoot every couple of months. Good drainage is extremely important with ZZ Plants. It can’t be stressed enough: over-watering is probably the only way to kill this plant. Make sure the pot has several decent sized holes and that the potting mix has plenty of perlite. It is a good idea to keep your ZZ in the smallest pot that will hold it. This will help the potting mix to dry out quickly. I keep mine in a plastic pot so that I can leave the plant in it until the sides of the pot split.

Fertilizer is optional with ZZ Plant. I provide mine with approximately 125 ppm N with a standard multipurpose fertilizer at every watering, and it’s doing great. I have seen diluted dosing of fertilizer recommended, but I have used full strength without any adverse effects. If you would like to play it safe, adjust to quarter- or half-strength.

Insect pests seem to take no interest in ZZ Plant, probably due to the thick, waxy cuticle on the plant. A friend of mine told me that she actually PUT different kinds of insects on a ZZ Plant to see whether they would damage the plant, and the bugs left without doing any damage. Apparently Zamioculcas isn’t on the menu.

Propagation of ZZ Plant is typically done by sticking leaflets. Using a sharp, sterile blade, cut a leaflet from the mother plant. The leaflet may then be stuck into moist perlite or sand. It may take a VERY long time for any visible growth to occur, as the leaflet must first develop a bulb. High temperatures and humidity help speed the process along, but be prepared to wait many months, maybe even a year!

Of all the green plants I own, my ZZ is by far my favorite. It’s always beautiful and demands no attention. I keep it out of direct sunlight and provide only filtered light or bright shade. If you can provide the right light, then a ZZ Plant should definitely be in your home.

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