The most indestructible plant in the world
Lisa and I are very busy business owners who, because of our passion for travel and love of our out-of-state grandchildren, often seem to spend more time absent from rather than in our home. As plant lovers, this creates challenges for keeping our leafy loved ones thriving while we are away. Those of you who love houseplants plus cruise ship travel and/or long road trips are familiar with these issues.
Landscape plants are easy to care for with computer-aided irrigation, but indoor plants are a different matter. Having really tough indoor plants that thrive on abuse and neglect is our secret, and we have a favorite: the ZZ plant.
ZZ Plant is short for “Zamioculcas zamiifolia,” also referred to as the Zanzibar Gem. It really deserves its reputation as an indestructible houseplant. It’s the main reason so many commercial settings, offices and malls use this green beauty as a foundation for indoor décor. It is undemanding and survives the neglect that quickly would kill a lesser plant.
ZZ’s may be tough, but they definitely have their preferences. Here’s what to expect from them and how to ensure that they thrive:
Size — You can expect a small plant to reach a height of 2 to 3 feet, but only with years of maturity. This is a slow grower, so a small tabletop size stays that way for years. If large floor plants are needed, it pays to buy a big size rather than waiting for a small plant to s-l-o-w-l-y grow to its full stature.
Light — Semi-shade to bright light is best for a ZZ, but not exposure to direct sun in a south-facing window.
Water — These super hardy houseplants store water in their thick tuberous rhizomes, their thick, fleshy stems and their waxy leaves. You mustn’t water this plant too frequently. We water our larger plants every two to three weeks, but during winter we’ve not watered them for up to a month. They are ideal animate additions to that infrequently occupied guest room.
Temperature — They thrive anywhere in your home except at a drafty front door or right beside the fireplace. Ideal temperature needs range from 55 to 80 F.
Soil — They prefer a well-drained potting mix. When plants need re-potting in three to four years, use an excellent planting medium, and transplant only to the next largest-sized pot.
Fertilizer — In spring and summer, feed a ZZ once a month. Fall through winter feed monthly with Root & Grow for optimal health. This applies to all plants grown indoors, but especially for a robust, infrequently watered ZZ Plant.
Pruning — The main reasons for pruning are for propagation or to prune off the occasional lower yellow leaf or awkwardly arching stem.
Propagation — Spring and summer are the seasons for propagation, whether from a division or by rooting a stem in water. To start a new plant, use pieces of the root that include at least two leaves. Plant directly into potting soil and keep moist and warm until new shoots begin to emerge. Until the first shoots appear, add Root & Grow to your water at three tablespoons per gallon; this ensures fast root development. Although new plants are slow to grow, your new plant will reward your patience with vibrant new growth.
ZZs are highly dependable, attractive and tolerant plants. The vast majority of mistakes with ZZ plants are caused by either dark living spaces or too much water. They dislike waterlogged soil because it causes their leaves to turn yellow, brown, and die. Older plants can often be rejuvenated; I’ve even had one that looked dead come back to vibrant life!
Our ZZ plants almost always get the comment, “what is that plant?” A question often heard when the glossy new green leaves erupt with growth in spring.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners pick perfect indestructible plants here at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.