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Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, also known by the name ZZ plant, is known for easily becoming leggy. The most common cause of a ZZ plant becoming leggy is a lack of sunlight that causes the plant to focus on reaching the sun instead of being healthy. The easiest way to counteract this is to move it to a brighter place with indirect sunlight.
After moving to a new apartment, my ZZ plant became leggy, and I could not figure out what was going on for the life of me.
Luckily, I have friends who have been taking care of plants for much longer than I have that helped me solve the problem. If it weren’t for my friends and the kindness of some experts, I never would have known what to do.
What Is a Leggy Plant?
A plant being “leggy” refers to when a plant spends more time and energy developing and elongating its stems to try and reach light or other resources they need to survive.
You can differentiate leggy plants by several long branches or stems that all lack foliage or have fewer leaves than usual since energy is not focused on creating more leaves.
It is also possible that a leggy plant starts to lean or bend over to one side as the stems focus on growing longer instead of growing stronger. The added weight of new stem growth will often cause the plant to lean or bend because there is little strength to keep it up.
Why is my ZZ plant leggy?
As stated above, the most common reason for a ZZ plant to become leggy is due to a lack of light.
Since plants need light to photosynthesize, grow, and stay healthy, a lack of sunlight may cause your plant to grow towards the nearest detected source of light, causing it to lean.
Leggy plants are generally plants with long stems that are leaner and have fewer leaves. When ZZ plants become leggy, it is similar to stretching or reaching for that which the plant needs.
Your plant can also become leggy due to stress, improper fertilizer use, and watering problems.
Why the ZZ Plant Grows Leggy
In general, ZZ plants can grow leggy due to stress, lack of light, the fertilizer being added incorrectly, or problems with watering your plant.
If your ZZ plant is an indoor plant, the most common reason to grow leggy is that it requires more sunlight. Your plant will reach for the closest possible light source, which causes it to grow long stems with less foliage.
It is also possible that your ZZ plant is growing leggy due to other stress factors. These stress factors include too much or the wrong fertilizer or even changing the area it is standing in.
If you have moved recently, your plant may be growing leggy due to a change in light or humidity, which causes it to stress.
What causes a leggy ZZ Plant?
As seen mentioned above, there are a few reasons why your ZZ plant could become leggy. Below is a list of the most likely causes for your plant becoming leggy.
In the list below, I try to explain each reason why your plant becomes leggy to help you understand and avoid this problem in the future.
Overwatering your ZZ plant can also cause it to become leggy due to the harmful effects too much water can have on your plant.
If your ZZ plant does not have sufficiently draining soil or is in a container that does not have drainage holes, giving it too much water is a serious concern because of root rot.
Root rot takes effect when your plant receives too much water, and decay starts to take hold of the roots of your ZZ plant.
Root rot can cause your ZZ plant to develop drooping and soft stems compared to a healthy, strong plant. If the roots are struggling to support the branches of your ZZ plant, the stems might become even leggier as they search for sunlight.
If your ZZ plant is starting to look leggy and you notice that there are a lot of leaves falling off your plant, you might be giving your ZZ plant too little water.
Though your plant might not be stretching or becoming leggy, your stems will look bare and lean if there are fewer leaves.
Since bare and lean stems are a sign of a leggy ZZ plant, it is possible to mistake the two. The most significant difference between a leggy plant and an underwatered plant is growth and the number of fallen leaves.
If your ZZ plant has been growing fast but with fewer leaves, it is more likely that your plant is leggy than underwatered, as underwatered ZZ plants don’t grow well and shed their leaves rather than allowing a stem to grow with fewer leaves on it.
If your plant is getting too little fertilizer during the growing season, it might cause your ZZ plant’s leaves to droop or become yellow.
Not giving your plant fertilizer can also cause thin foliage that might be mistaken for your ZZ plant becoming leggy.
Another effect that too little fertilizer may have on your ZZ plant is a lack of growth. If your ZZ plant is not growing as it should and is not healthy enough, it could again be confused for your plant growing leggy and can even cause it to become leggy if not treated.
There is also a danger to giving your ZZ plant too much fertilizer as it might cause problems with the roots that cause the stems to weaken, causing your plants to become leggy as they struggle to stay up and find sunlight.
To avoid too much or too little fertilizer, I recommend that you fertilize your ZZ plant twice during the growing season.
Certain fertilizers might also negatively affect your ZZ plant, and I recommend using a compost mixture or a healthy liquid fertilizer to keep your ZZ plant happy and healthy.
Transplant shock can happen to any plant when a plant is being split or repotted. If roots get damaged while repotting or dividing, transplant shock is more likely to occur.
One of the most commonly occurring signs of transplant shock is when plants become droopy or start leaning, which is also one of the ways to determine a leggy plant.
If you have recently transplanted or repotted your ZZ plant and the stems and leaves become droopy, this might be due to transplant shock.
Though transplant shock has similar symptoms to a leggy plant, the two are not the same. However, if your ZZ plant is experiencing transplant shock and gets moved away from its usual light, it might become leggy.
Temperature stress can cause a lot of problems with your ZZ plant. If your ZZ plant does not receive enough heat, it might try to search for more heat from the closest light source, and this can cause it to become leggy.
The ideal temperature for ZZ plants is between 55 and 85˚F. This temperature allows your plant to be healthy and happy and ensures steady growth.
If your ZZ plant is too hot, it might develop yellowing or drooping leaves, and if it is too cold, it could become leggy to find enough heat. There is also a chance that temperature shock could cause your plant permanent damage.
How to fix a leggy ZZ plant?
For the most part, a leggy ZZ plant does not mean that your plant is unable to be rescued. There are numerous ways to help your ZZ plant recover and grow normally.
Below are some of the ways to help your ZZ plant become less leggy and allow it to be happier and healthier.
The easiest and most likely way you can help or fix a leggy ZZ plant is to allow it more light. To give your plant more light, you can either purchase a growing lamp if your house does not get enough sun or move your ZZ plant closer to a window if possible.
Since the most common reason for ZZ plants to become leggy is due to a lack of light, if you can supply your plant with more light, it should naturally become healthier, and stems should grow more robust and with more leaves.
If your plant has been growing leggy for an extended period, you might have to make some other changes and allow it more light to avoid the same problem happening again.
I should also note the possibility of ZZ plants reacting poorly to exposure to more light, so be sure to introduce your plant to light slowly.
If you expose your ZZ plant to light too quickly or if the light is too intense, you might cause other damage like burnt leaves or temperature shock to a relative extent.
Another way to help your ZZ plant after growing leggy is to prune, shape, or even split your plant. Many people claim that you can use leggy stems of a ZZ plant to propagate new and smaller ZZ plants.
To prune your ZZ plant correctly, you should try to remove as many of the stems with little foliage on them as possible.
Since branches that have been growing leggy for an extended period have very little chance of healing and growing more foliage, I recommend you cut off stems like these to allow your plant to focus on growing new strong stems.
Ensuring that you do not give your ZZ plant too much or too little water is a definite way of helping the process of fixing your leggy ZZ plant.
As explained above, too much water can cause weak roots that will let the plant’s stems droop, which might cause them to become leggy.
I recommend researching the best type of soil for your ZZ plant to ensure that it drains well enough to avoid root rot.
Another way to help prevent root rot and a leggy ZZ plant is to use a pot with adequate drainage holes. If your pot can drain water efficiently enough, the probability of overwatering your plant becomes much less.
To keep your ZZ plant happy and healthy, I suggest watering your plant every 2 and 3 weeks if the plant gets a lot of indirect light. If the plant receives less indirect light, I recommend giving it water every 3 and 4 weeks.
It is essential to check the soil that your ZZ plant is in to know if watering is necessary.
If you poke a chopstick into the soil, it should be almost completely dry before watering again. You can also use a finder to feel how wet the soil is.
When using your finger to determine the moisture level, the soil should be more dry than wet.
Ensuring that your ZZ plant has enough fertilizer is a brilliant way of ensuring that it does not become leggy.
If your plant does not get enough nutrients, it might cause the stems to droop, resulting in your plant becoming leggy.
I recommend giving your ZZ plant a natural or healthy fertilizer twice during the growing season and not during the rest of the year.
You should add the first round of fertilizer at the start of the growing season, and you should add the second roundabout two months after or in the middle of the growing season to encourage new and strong growth in your ZZ plant.
I also suggest that you do not overfertilize your plant and keep to lower doses or diluted fertilizer if you are unsure. The best way to fertilize your ZZ plant is with a natural compost fertilizer mix to ensure good growth without damaging your plant.
Correct Pot Size
If you want your ZZ plant to recover from leggy growth, you might want to consider changing the pot or even splitting your plant if your plant is too big.
Keeping your ZZ plant in an appropriately sized pot will allow your plant to develop strong and supportive roots that should help keep your ZZ plant’s original shape.
You need to expand the pot size that your ZZ plant is kept in at least once every two years for the best result.
I would recommend that you repot your plant during the spring or early summertime to avoid shock, and this is also a good time to split your plant if it is getting too big.
If your ZZ plant is small, you should increase the size of your pot by between 1 and 2 inches to allow it to grow correctly. If you have a bigger ZZ plant, I suggest enlarging your pot by between 2 and 4 inches for the best result.
If your ZZ plant does not have enough room to grow more or stronger roots, your plant might not grow and may become unhealthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Though I have discussed a lot of tips for leggy ZZ plants above, there are always more questions to be asked. Below are a couple of the questions asked most often regarding leggy ZZ plants.
Why is my ZZ plant falling over?
If your ZZ plant has not had enough light and has grown excessively leggy, the stems of your plant might begin to bend towards the nearest light source.
In extreme cases, branches might grow so far that the support given is insufficient in a standard pot, or the roots might not be strong enough to keep your plant upright.
There are also other reasons why the stems of your ZZ plant might be drooping or falling over. Most of the reasons for this happening have been discussed in more detail above, including overwatering, not enough water, misuse of fertilizer, or stress.
How to keep ZZ plant upright
There are ways to ensure that your ZZ plant stays upright, and some of these have also been discussed above to help with a leggy ZZ plant.
Since the most common cause of leggy ZZ plants is a lack of light, the first step is always to give your plant some more light by slowly moving it closer to a window or light source.
I should note that moving your plant closer to light will probably not do the trick by itself, and you might have to prune off leggy or leaning stems to help your ZZ plant grow more upright.
Some people have suggested that you can use a string or a piece of bamboo to keep your plant’s stems up straight as well.
Along with these steps, you should also check if there are any other reasons why your ZZ plant might be leaning or drooping.
Making sure that your plant is receiving not too much or too little water will ensure the roots can keep it up straight, and giving your ZZ plant some fertilizer might help the stems grow stronger would also keep them from leaning.
How to stake a ZZ plant
If you are looking to stake a plant with multiple stems like a ZZ plant, using just one stake will not be enough to support the whole plant.
There are a couple of options for staking such a plant that includes placing stakes around the pot and connecting them with twine or using a wire mesh to make a kind of cage to keep your plant upright.
The better option of the two, and the idea to support bigger plants is to use the mesh wire cage.
You will still need some stakes to support the wire itself to do this. After cutting a piece of wire or chicken mesh long enough to encircle your potted plant, you will need to weave a stake between the mesh at specific points to support the cage.
Once the stakes are in place, you can put the wire in the pot and use the stakes to keep the cage in place. This way, you can still see your plant’s growth while supporting it and keeping it upright.