How to Care for a Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)


The Zanzibar Gem is also a christened “eternity plant” because of its ability to survive neglect and the harshest conditions. This native of the Eastern African region, with its succulent leaves and vibrant foliage, will transform any environment. It will grow up to 30” long and can be classified alongside palms and such tree-like plants.

To grow a Zanzibar Gem, keep in mind the following:

  • It requires watering once in a week or two. Avoid overwatering.
  • It prefers temperatures between 65ºF and 90ºF (18º-32.2ºC).
  • It likes porous sandy soil with sufficient nutrients.
  • Place it at a well-lit position but away from direct sun.
  • Keep it in a humid environment.

As said above, this plant is regarded as one of the most beautiful houseplants that can survive neglect. However, its brilliance and beauty can only be seen when you take proper care of the plant.

Here is a comprehensive guide on how to take care of Zanzibar Gem to aid it to bloom into the magnificent house plant it is designed to become.

Basic Care Tips for Zanzibar Gem (Zamiocalcus Zamiifolia)

Watering

Zanzibar is at the coast, an area that receives heavy rain. However, the soil is sandy, plus the plant has learned to survive on the little that is available between sand pebbles. Your ZZ plant will, therefore, require adequate watering at least once a week but not less.

Watering the ZZ plant can be a mystery because it would still survive without water. However, it is more dangerous to over-water the plant than fail to water. The challenges of stem and root rot would herald total death compared to a few days of drought, yet your plant can still recover. It can store enough water to last months in its leaves and stems, giving you leeway to skip watering for some time.

While the ZZ plant can survive without watering if several functions aren’t affected: It slowly grows when left without water for a reasonable duration because many growth processes are frozen. Without adequate water, the ZZ plant will not produce flowers. When it cannot get water over a long period, your Zanzibar Gem leaves begin to turn yellow. It wilts and eventually dies.

The water sprinkled on the Zanzibar Gem should be free of chemicals like fluoride and chlorine. It explains why experts recommend distilled, aged, rain, or filtered water. The buildup of such among other chemicals in the soil affects pH and the soil’s ability to support the ZZ plant’s growth.

Though Zanzibar Gem requires moderate watering, flushing is recommended once in a while. It involves flooding the pot until water begins to drip from the drainage holes. The exercise should be carried out once every three months and especially after the heavy feeding season of summer. It helps to eliminate all chemicals that may have built up into the soil due to granule-based fertilizer use.

Humidity

The coastal strip around Zanzibar in the tropical East African coast where the plant is native enjoys high humidity. As such, your Zanzibar Gem will require a lot of humidity to thrive. Remember, humidity levels should not go below 50%.

Not everyone lives next to the ocean or in an area that receives rainfall almost daily. Therefore, humidity will be a challenge for many houseplant owners because of the demanding nature of the ZZ plant. However, there are several ways you can still provide the humidity required to keep the Zanzibar Gem brilliant and beautiful throughout the year. They include:

Embrace daily misting to provide adequate moisture to the leaves. An ordinary hand-held water pump will do the trick. Use aged, distilled, rain, or filtered water with no chemicals to mist your ZZ plant. Water with chemicals like fluoride or chlorine will damage the leaves, causing them to turn yellow, wilt, and eventually kill your plant.

Place a pebble tray at the bottom of the plant so that natural evaporation can provide the humidity your plant requires. Depending on the tray’s size, it will take several days before the tray requires any refill. This method of providing humidity guarantees works best for houseplant owners who do not have the time or commitment to conduct daily misting. It will also work for weekends when no one is around the office or holidays when the entire family leaves for days.

Zanzibar plants can benefit from plant grouping to enhance humidity. It involves placing it alongside other plants that enjoy similar weather conditions, especially humidity. Such plants include palms and some varieties of Calathea.

Zanzibar Gem will appreciate a humidifier by the plant to spray some moisture once in a while. Since humidifiers are automated, it will save you the trouble of misting and all the attention that this activity requires. You only have to prepare to pay the utility bills that come with keeping the humidifier running throughout. It is the best option for humidity loving plants because it guarantees the right air moisture at all times without demanding a lot of your attention.

Zanzibar Gem survives even in hot and dry areas. However, it will lack the brilliance associated with this gem that shares a name with some of the world’s best holiday destinations. Take all necessary steps possible to guarantee the right humidity levels.

Soil

The soil around Zanzibar is mostly sandy and drains effectively. Your pot should replicate the same conditions when choosing potting soil for the ZZ plant. The best soil is a mix of succulent and cactus mix with a handful of compost and worm compost.

The primary consideration when potting the ZZ plant is drainage. Keep away from any soil that holds water. Keeping the plant in water is more dangerous than depriving it of water. The soil must, therefore, drain most of the water in the shortest time possible. It should leave the sand particles moist. Compost in the soil will also hold enough water and nutrients to last days.

Coco coir is an excellent mix add-on to use when potting your ZZ plant. It protects the roots and stems from rot beyond ensuring that the plant is well fed. You may also add a portion of perlite to improve nutrient/moisture balance.

Once you pot the Zanzibar Gem, you must take care of the soil to maintain its quality. Part of caring for your potting soil includes regular flashing to eliminate chemicals like fluoride and chlorine built-up in the soil during watering. It also eliminates chemicals residue from the use of granule fertilizer. 

Whenever you use chemicals like pesticides or fertilizer, consider the long term damage they may have on your soil. Once the soil is damaged, the growth of your plant is curtailed, and the situation can only be reversed by repotting.

Light

Zanzibar Gem prefers bright light in places with high Humidity. ZZ plant can adjust to the level of brightness if it is introduced at a young age. It can survive in the basement with florescent light only.

Place your plant by the window to enjoy the sun, especially in the morning and late evening. When growing outdoors, provide shade against the hot midday sun. Your house plant is better with little light than too much direct sunlight.

Indoor conditions of the positioning of the office sometimes make it impossible to find bright light. A fluorescent bulb is a viable option, explaining why it is a favorite for many homes and offices. It counts among the few plants that can survive in a room without windows.

Too much sunlight scorches the leaves leading to the eventual death of the plant. 

If you see such signs, it is time to move your plant to a shaded area. Still, failure to provide enough light will result in stunted growth and a leggy plant. Rotate the plant after a few days so that all leaves can enjoy a share of sunshine and avoid a houseplant growing on one side.

Temperature

The tropical coast region of Zanzibar is hot. Your ZZ plant will demand and thrive in such high to moderate temperature conditions. The temperatures should be anything between 65ºF(18ºC) and 90ºF(32.2ºC).

Zanzibar Gem can tolerate temperatures as low as 50ºF(10ºC), especially at night and in winter. However, the drop should not be drastic or for a prolonged period. In case temperatures fall to such low levels, you should reduce watering and humidity.

Your ZZ plant will experience stunted growth in low temperatures. It also loses its brilliance and might turn out to be an indoor eyesore. There are higher chances of fungal and bacterial infections in low temperatures unless you can mitigate the danger with increased air circulation.

The ZZ plant also survives in higher temperatures up to 95ºF(35ºC). To maintain its brilliance, you will have to increase humidity and watering. The leaves respond to too high temperatures by turning yellow and eventually killing the plant.

Advanced Caring Guidelines

The Zanzibar Gem is a magnificent houseplant when it receives the right care. It will help you to create a spectacular garden at home or in the office.

Below are caring points you can touch to enable your ZZ plant to produce a magical bloom.

Let’s continue.

Fertilization

ZZ plant is a moderate feeder that requires a single fertilization session in three months. It is best done in spring or summer when the plant is at an active phase of growth. Use a balanced yet diluted fertilizer to promote the development of the bloom.

The best fertilizer for Zanzibar Gem is compost. It holds water in porous soil and will slowly release nutrients such that fertilization does not damage your soil. Compost also plays an additional role in improving aeration.

Pruning

This plant requires minimal pruning but the frequency and target branches depend on your intentions. Target the yellow leaves and branches that could be infected by bacterial or insects. You may also prune by removing new or old shoots to control its growth pattern. The best season to prune the ZZ plant is winter, when the wounds can heal fast to allow your plant to regain its brilliance.

Repotting

The ZZ plant requires repotting only when it has outgrown its current home. This could be two to three years after initial planting. Repotting is necessary because it boosts the quality of the soil and accommodates the large crown that grows from your plant over time. 

Because it grows up to 30” long, you will need a bigger pot that accommodates the large size of your plant.

Remove the plant from the old pot and dip it in water to shed off the old soil. Place it on a larger container and add the new potting mix. 

Add water and keep the pot in a warm yet shaded space. It will take a week or so to recover and begin growing into a brilliant plant. It is best done in spring or summer when the weather is favorable.

Propagation

ZZ plant can be propagated in water, by division, or directly into the soil. When using a cutting, select a mature cut and place it in a glass of water with rooting hormone for up to three weeks. Once new roots begin to emerge, transfer it to your potting soil.

When propagating in soil, the same cutting is placed in moist and warm soil. You may add the rooting hormone because the plant grows slowly during infancy. It produces new buds and young leaves in three weeks.

Pest Prevention

Aphids are a big headache for ZZ plants. They eat on the leaves and stem, causing the plant to turn yellow and eventually wither. Wipe the leaves occasionally with mild soap and maintain the right heat as well as humidity.

Related Questions

Why is my Zanzibar Gem turning yellow?

You have denied the plant water, or the soil is already soaked, and the roots can’t breathe. You may also want to check under the leaves or on the stem for aphids.

How do you keep a Zanzibar plant upright?

Rotate the plant after a few days so that your leaves and stem can enjoy sunlight from all directions. You may also use a trainer when the plant is still young until the stem is strong enough to hold.

How long do ZZ plants live?

Zanzibar Gem is a perennial plant. Its lifespan depends on the care provided. Monitor your watering, fertilization, and the possible presence of pests or diseases. They can kill the ZZ plant faster than neglect.

Does the ZZ plant cause cancer?

The ZZ plant may be toxic, especially sap produced during pruning, but it does not cause cancer. It only irritates when you come into contact with sap from the plant, especially during pruning.

Is the ZZ plant suitable for the bedroom?

The upright growth habit for the ZZ plant makes it ideal for the bedroom. It also purifies the air indoor and will eliminate xylene generated indoors to give you healthy air.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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