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Archive for Thursday, January 10, 2013

Garden Calendar: Try ZZ plant for easy-to-grow option

January 10, 2013

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Zamioculcas zamiifolia — also known as ZZ or zee-zee plant, Zanzibar gem, aroid palm, fat boy and eternity plant — is an indoor plant most of the year that can be coaxed to the warm outside in the summer.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia — also known as ZZ or zee-zee plant, Zanzibar gem, aroid palm, fat boy and eternity plant — is an indoor plant most of the year that can be coaxed to the warm outside in the summer.

As I admire the glossy green leaves of a Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant, I wonder how I have overlooked this plant previously.

The plant’s owner, Master Gardener Kathy Reed, says it survives the extremely low light conditions of her office and is the best inside plant she has ever owned.

ZZ plant is also called Zanzibar gem, aroid palm, fat boy and eternity plant. Sometimes the letters are spelled out as zee-zee plant. Reed says she purchased a ZZ plant last summer with a tag that just said “Plants of Steel.”

Whatever you call it, ZZ plant appears to be a real gem of a plant for the home or office. It can also be grown outside in the summer but is only hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 9. (Lawrence is in Zone 6.)

Besides being able to tolerate low light conditions, ZZ plant requires little water and fertilizer. The plant also grows slowly, reducing the need for frequent re-potting. Reed’s ZZ plant lives in an office with only overhead fluorescent lighting and dark weekends, and she waters only when the soil dries out.

If you are lucky enough to have more light available, ZZ plant can handle bright light from a window. You could even set it outside in the shade in the summer as mentioned. The most common problem indoor gardeners have with ZZ plant is overwatering — its roots prefer to dry out a little between waterings, so take care to water infrequently.

Reed’s ZZ plant is nearing maturity at 2 feet to 3 feet tall, although it may spread out a little more. In nature, the ZZ plant grows to about 3 feet across after it reaches its mature height.

The plant does produce flowers, but they are considered insignificant and are borne close to the base of the plant. The leaves, which are almost waxy, are what make this plant beautiful.

The University of Connecticut also notes that NASA recognizes ZZ plant for its effectiveness at air purification.

ZZ plant is fairly new to the tropical plant industry but is gaining in popularity. Getting your own ZZ plant may take a little searching but should be more available as garden center professionals learn more about the plant. The holdup is the plant’s slow growth habit, which makes it take a long time to produce a saleable plant. Reed found one of her ZZ plants at a local garden center last summer, and the one she purchased two years ago is from a garden center in a nearby community.

If you want to fertilize, limit it to once a month with a general houseplant fertilizer, and follow the rate listed on the label.

Propagation is fairly easy: leaflets that fall to the ground will root and form bulblets. Leaf cuttings can also be rooted in soil.

One downside to the ZZ plant is that all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans if ingested.

— Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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