How To Propagate ZZ Plant | Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, known by the much-easier-to-pronounce name “ZZ plant,” is perfect for beginning growers. It thrives on neglect, isn’t fussy about light, and has a unique, architectural shape.

What’s better than one ZZ plant? Lots of them. For those of us not rolling in the dough (raises hand), propagating is an affordable way to create additional plants. Thanks to the tough nature of ZZ plants, they’re easy to propagate, even for first-timers.

I’ll give you all the tips I’ve learned over the years, so you can make as many plants as your heart desires. Ready?

Methods of Propagating ZZ Plant

Some plants are a challenge to propagate, but ZZ plants, also called Zanzibar gems, aren’t one of them. There are multiple ways to propagate them, including stem cuttings rooted in soil or water, division, and leaf propagation.

The division is the quickest route to propagating a full-sized plant and it’s pretty foolproof. The underground succulent rhizomes store plenty of water and nutrients so that when you separate them from the mother plant, they don’t suffer from shock.

1. Propagating a Stem Cutting In Soil

Stem cuttings are the most common way of propagating ZZ plants at home, in part because it doesn’t cause as much of a disturbance to the mother plant as division does, but it takes longer.

Taking a cutting involves slicing away a stem from the parent plant and placing it in soil. Cuttings, whether done in soil or water, take about a year to fully root and several years to mature.

2. Propagation of a Stem Cutting in Water

Rooting a stem cutting in water is similar to rooting in the soil.

Be aware that the roots that develop in water are different from those that develop in soil. Water roots are suited to drawing in nutrients from the water and not soil, so they are smaller and less robust since they encounter less resistance.

When you transfer the cutting to the soil, keep the soil moist as the cutting works on developing soil roots.

On the plus side, it’s easy to tell when roots have developed because you can see them in the water.

Be extremely mindful of sanitation with this method. Use clean tools and change the water daily.

3. Dividing the Rhizomes

ZZ plant rhizomes are capable of storing a lot of water, which is why ZZ plants do so well even if you neglect them.

The downside to division is that it can take the rhizomes a year or so to ramp growth back up after being divided.

4. Propagating by Leaf Cuttings

Leaf propagation takes less room and doesn’t require cutting an entire stem off the plant. The most important part of propagating by leaf is to ensure that you include as much of the petiole as possible.

Then, you plant the leaf in potting soil or sphagnum moss until it develops roots.

Best Time For Propagating

Spring is the best time to launch your propagation project. If you wait until fall or winter, the plant will be in a dormant state.

Spring and summer are also warmer in the northern hemisphere, providing temperatures that are closer to the ideal for ZZ plants. These plants are native to parts of Africa and they do best when temperatures are between 65-85°F.

Wait until the plants are at least two years old to start propagating them, regardless of which method you use.

How To Propagate ZZ Plant – Step by Step

Dividing a ZZ plant is quick in that you can go from a newly-divided plant to a mature one much more rapidly than if you took a leaf or stem cutting. It also has a lower failure rate, as those thick rhizomes act as storage containers for nutrients and water.

Equipment Required

  • Clean container
  • Prepared potting medium
  • Clean knife or scissors
  • A small hand trowel
  • Wear protective gloves as ZZ plants are toxic

1. Stop Watering

A week or so before you plan to divide the rhizomes, stop watering. The soil should be dry because this makes it easier to expose the rhizomes and locate the perfect spot to separate them.

2. Remove and Dig Up The Plant

Don some gloves and gently tease the entire plant out of the existing pot. You probably want to do this over some newspaper or outside if the weather is nice because it’s a messy job.

Propagate ZZ Plant
Remove the plant from its pot and clear away the soil

3. Expose The Roots

Using your hands, gently brush and knock away as much of the soil from around the rhizomes as you can. If you’re having a hard time, it’s fine to use a gentle stream of water to flush the soil away.

Expose The Roots

4. Separate The Rhizomes

Now that you can see what you’re doing, gently tease the rhizomes apart. You might need to use a knife or scissors to cleanly separate them. Each rhizome can be made into a separate plant.

Let the divided rhizomes sit for a few hours to develop a callus.

Separate The Rhizomes
Identify the best plant to split or dut off the division

5. Replant

Each rhizome should be replanted in a clean container filled with a potting medium that is loose and well-draining. A standard commercial potting mix is fine, but a cactus potting medium is better.

Don’t place a layer of rocks or pebbles in the base of the pot to improve drainage. This is a gardening myth and actually does the opposite of what you want, which is to improve drainage.

When you replant, take care to place the rhizome just below the surface of the soil. You don’t want it buried too deep.

Replant
Repotting the divided ZZ plant

ZZ Plant Care After Propagation

Once you have taken the time and effort required to propagate, you’ll need to start looking after your new plants. Thankfully, newly propagated ZZ plants demand little in the way of special attention. Here’s what you need to know.

Light Requirements

The divisions can be placed in the same light exposure that mature plants need, which is bright, indirect light. Depending on your location, they can also tolerate some direct sunlight in the morning.

Watering

Water your divisions only when the soil feels dry to the touch all the way to your third knuckle. Then, you can add water so that the soil feels like a well-wrung-out sponge, but no wetter. If the leaves begin to yellow at the tips it’s an early sign of underwatering.

Temperature & Humidity

No need to provide extra humidity, but ensure that your plant never experiences temperatures below 60°F. At that point, the plant can be damaged by the chill and will go dormant. Much lower than that and it could die. Plants grown at 78°F to 82°F develop the most rapidly.

Soil Type

This plant has succulent roots that prefer well-draining, somewhat dry soil. A cactus potting medium or a mix of one part orchid bark, one part perlite, vermiculite, or rice hulls, and one part potting soil is a perfect combination to keep your Zanzibar gem happy.

If you decide to add anything else, just be sure that it doesn’t deviate too much from a pH of around 6.0-7.0, though these plants are pretty adaptable.

Fertilizing

Fertilizer isn’t necessary, but you should replenish the soil every few years.

Problems After Propagation

ZZ plants are virtually untroubled by pests or disease, provided that you don’t overwater. However, you might run into less-than-ideal growth if their conditions aren’t right.

Leggy or Slow Growth

Slow growth can happen if the plant experiences cool temperatures or too little light. While your Zanzibar gem can certainly survive in a dark corner, it will grow better in brighter light.

Frequently Asked Questions

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.