What is Zamioculcas?

O. Parker

Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a tropical herbaceous perennial plant native to Tanzania, Zanzibar. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is able to tolerate low light levels, long periods without water and little additional nutrients; these qualities coupled with a strong resistance to insects and diseases make this an ideal low maintenance, ornamental houseplant. Common names include the ZZ plant, the zanzibar gem and the aroid palm. Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a species in the plant family Araceae.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia can tolerate drought.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia can tolerate drought.

The leaves of Zamioculcas zamiifolia are naturally shiny and grow directly from rhizomes beneath the soil. Each leaf grows 2 to 3 feet (about 60 to 90 cm) tall and produces six to eight glossy leaflets. The individual leaflets are oval shaped and grow up to 6 inches (about 15 cm) long. The leaflets are waxy and retain water, making the plant tolerant of drought and dry conditions. Tiny white or cream colored flowers appear periodically on a spike-shaped spadix.

The Zamioculcas zamiifolia is grown indoors in areas outside the tropics. Houseplants can be placed outside during warm weather but should be brought inside before temperatures drop below 60°F (about 15°C). A position in an area that gets filtered sunlight is ideal for optimum health and growth, but Zamioculcas zamiifolia can survive in areas that get little or no sunlight as long as there is an electric light source in the room.

This drought tolerant plant prefers to be on the dry side rather than wet and should only be watered when the top 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) of soil is dry to the touch. When the soil around the rhizomes is too wet, they are likely to rot. Though sensitive to excessive water, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is tolerant of drought conditions and can survive three to four months in a pot without water. When preparing a new pot, it is important to use a well-draining potting soil mix. Soil mixes formulated for cacti and succulents are ideal.

Propagating Zamioculcas zamiifolia is done by rooting sections of a leaf or stem, or by dividing the rhizomes. This slow-growing plant is also slow to propagate and can take up to a year for a new plant to grow from a stem or leaf cutting. Once established, it can take two to three years for the plant to reach mature heights. Division of the rhizome is done by removing the plant from its pot and carefully separating the small new rhizomes that are produced by the larger rhizome.

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