The tropical ZZ is the perfect go-to plant for those people that need something a little more rigorous and easier to maintain to better accommodate their lifestyle. The stout and sturdy ZZ is a flowering plant in the Araceae family and has a few different common names such as "Zanzibar Gem" and "eternity plant." Its Latin name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, can be a bit of a tongue twister.
The leaves are naturally shiny and smooth, and though many ask if we polish them every day, the plants prefer to be left alone to do their own thing. They will produce flowers but they are quite inconspicuous: small, bright yellow to brown that you can sometimes see at the base of the plant mid-summer to early autumn.
Native to eastern Africa, the ZZ is used to some extreme growing conditions from dry periods to heavy rain. Normally the ZZ is evergreen but will become deciduous during drought. It is able to survive great conditions because of its underground succulent rhizomes that hold water during these drought periods. Give your Zami a dry out period in-between watering cycles so that you don't rot out the tubers. If it starts dropping leaflets you may have let it dry out a little too much and it is starting to go in to a dormancy period.
The ZZ makes for a great houseplant and enjoys warm temperatures -- just make sure not to have it in temperatures below 60 degrees. It prefers a bright filtered light, avoiding the direct sun of mid-day. They are actually quite tolerant of lower filtered light scenarios but will thin out slightly in response. They can tolerate a little bit of direct sun and low intensity periods (early morning or late day). When replanting a ZZ use a well draining mixture so that its roots will not starve for oxygen. You can feed your plant with a diluted organic fertilizer during the warmer spring and summer months. The Zami can be propagated by leaf cuttings and even though the leaf may decay, if done properly, there should be the bulb-like structures should form in the soil which can then be potted.
I recommend the ZZ because they are easy to maintain and are tight, upright and solid plants that can visually stand on their own. They can reach a mature height of two and a half feet and as they age the weight of the limb might make create a bent to the architecture of the ZZ. If this happens you can prune the elongated limb off and allow for new growth to pop up. Since they grow upright they are also great space savers where floor space can be a prized commodity. This go-to guy can be trusted to provide that missing link you have been searching for.
For more great ideas, be sure to look through Tara Heibel's Plant Of The Week slideshow below.
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