Did you buy a ZZ plant and want to know how to water it? Don’t worry, I’m here to help you with everything you need to know to keep them happily hydrated. These popular household plants are a great way to liven up any living space – but you’ll need to keep them alive first.
Watering ZZ plants (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) isn’t overly difficult, much like the popular fiddle-leaf fig, but it does require some prior knowledge. All plants are different and will therefore need to be treated (and watered) differently. So, what about the ZZ plant?
These plants are originally found in Eastern Africa, where you will find plenty of rainfall at times and not so much at other times. This has led to a lot of confusion about how to treat them as houseplants.
I’m break down all the myths and important information you need so that you can become a ZZ plant care expert.
How Often Should I Water My ZZ Plant?
The first thing to consider is how often you should be watering your ZZ plants. This is generally regarded as the make or break for any plant. Water them too often and you will be overwatering them, water them too little and they will start drying out.
To find the perfect balance, you need to know what a ZZ plant is and where they come from. These succulent plants are found in Eastern Africa and live in somewhat extreme growing conditions. Many people think because they are classified as ‘succulents’ that they don’t need a lot of water – but that’s not entirely true.
Although these plants can survive periods of drought, which they often experience during the dry season of their homeland, they will also live through periods of heavy rain. ZZs are often found in tropical areas that are quite humid and wet all-year-round.
These plants are found in desert environments, but should not be treated like a cactus, which some sources might state. This common difference in opinion is one of the leading reasons why people struggle to grow a ZZ houseplant.
If you leave your plant to dry out too much, you will notice the leaves start falling off and the plant looks like it starts dying, but we’ll discuss this more later.
You will need to water the plant routinely, usually after about 4 – 7 days (depending on temperature, humidity, and grow medium). You shouldn’t water if the top layer of soil is still wet, so make sure you are getting good wet-and-dry cycles between watering to prevent overwatering. I test the soil of my zz plant with a moisture meter before I water it.
As long as you keep up with this watering routine, your plant will continue to grow as well as any other plant in your house or garden.
Best Time of Year to Water ZZ Plants
You shouldn’t treat your ZZ plant as if they can survive months without water. Regardless of what time of year (summer or winter), you will need to maintain your watering habits. There are, however, a few things to consider.
ZZ Plants, like most plants, take up more or less water based on the surrounding temperature. If it gets very hot, you will find you need to water more regularly. This is often the case in summer, where transpiration and evaporation are much higher than in the colder winter months.
During winter, when the temperature is cold, you need to decrease your watering. This is especially true when learning how to care for a ZZ plant.
As previously mentioned, these plants are found in Eastern Africa, where the average temperature stays quite warm throughout the year. They will struggle a bit in colder winters and will use less water as a result.
By watering less frequently and in smaller amounts, you will prevent the plant from being overwatered, ensuring that it will survive the cold spell a bit better. Luckily, most of us like keeping our households a bit warmer during winter, so your plant should be able to survive without any problems.
Factors Affecting ZZ Plant Watering
If you want to know how to care for ZZ plants, you will need to find a proper balance when watering. A Zamioculcas plant can be watered too much – and will drown – or too little – and will dry out. To prevent this, you need to consider the humidity, grow medium, temperature, and type of water used.
The humidity of your grow environment affects how often you need to water your plants. Humidity is the moisture that is found in the air. This water might be unpleasant for us, but it is often exactly what plants want. To test your humidity, you can buy a thermo-hygrometer which will tell you both the relative humidity and ambient temperature.
ZZ plants grow mainly in tropical and subtropical areas where there are often quite high levels of humidity throughout the year. By providing a similar environment, you will be able to reduce the amount of water your plant needs to get through the soil. Higher humidity means less water is needed.
If you live in a relatively dry climate (<50% relative humidity), then you can either introduce a humidifier, mist your plant daily, or you will just need to water a little bit more frequently than in humid environments. But don’t overdo it and think you need to flood the plant – because this will still lead to overwatering, no matter how dry the environment is.
The temperature of the environment is one of the major things to consider when learning how to properly water ZZ plants. As previously mentioned, this plant is used to living in a warm environment, so you need to try to replicate this as best as you can.
Anything under 15 degrees Celsius is usually a bit too cold for a ZZ plant and it will drink less – requiring less frequent watering. These plants can handle hot conditions of 30 degrees Celsius but will then require more frequent watering.
The grow medium you use for your plant is another major factor when determining how much water to give them. Different mediums are available but most people are either using garden soil, succulent soil (mixed with sand), or a coco-based medium.
Garden soil retains water very well and will need to be watered less frequently than succulent or coco-based mediums.
Not all soil and coco-based grow mediums are the same. You will ideally find one that can drain decently well, so that your plant is not sitting in a puddle of mud for a day after watering it. This will not only improve the oxygen to your plant’s roots but also prevent root rot.
Type of Water
There are two types of water spoken about – hard and soft water. The hardness of water is based on the presence of dissolved calcium or magnesium minerals. Most household tap water is fine for your ZZ plants, but you will want to avoid water that has been softened or that is too hard.
Softened water usually contains high levels of sodium, while hard water has high mineral content. This means you could end up over-accumulating salts in your grow medium over time – which could damage your precious ZZ plant.
Chlorinated or filtered tap water is also okay to use. If you are unsure about the quality of your water and need something immediately, you let your tap water sit for 24 hours and only use top half of the water or the catch some rain water in a bowl.
How Long Can ZZ Plants Go Without Water?
As mentioned in the previous section, there are a few factors affecting ZZ plant watering. Aside from the type of water, the humidity, temperature, and grow medium will all change how long your ZZ plant can last without water.
Being succulents, ZZ plants are quite resistant to drought and they should be able to survive without water for quite a few weeks. If it is exceptionally hot, dry, or you are using a high-drainage grow medium (like coco coir mixed with perlite), this timeframe will decrease and you will need to water sooner.
When to Water a ZZ Plant
Knowing when a plant is underwatered or overwatered can be quite difficult since its symptoms are rather similar. But there are a few things you should consider.
When a plant is underwatered the leaves can start to yellow, droop, or fall off entirely. However, all of these symbols can occur when there is too much water, so how do you know if your plant is thirsty?
The best place to start is with the soil. If your plant isn’t looking great, then it’s time to inspect the soil. If you know you haven’t been watering the ZZ plant too often (overwatering) and the soil is bone dry, then it’s a good bet that your plant is struggling from underwatering.
You can either stick your finger into the soil or you can just lift up the pot to feel the weight. It is good practice to test the weight of your pot throughout its life. This will help you get a better idea of what it feels like just after watering and when you need to water it again – but this can take some trial-and-error.
But what if your plant is looking unhealthy and the soil is still very wet and/or heavy? Well then, you could be dealing with overwatering.
Sign and Symptoms of Overwatering a ZZ Plant
If your plant has been overwatered for too long, it will start to suffer and it may even die. By checking the soil, you should be able to determine whether it was overwatered or underwatered. But if you aren’t sure, you can use the following symptoms to help you make a diagnosis.
● Yellow leaves
● Droopy leaves
● Leaves falling off
A ZZ plant with yellow leaves is usually the start, but the leaves may also start to fall off in very severe cases of overwatering. That is why when you see leaves falling off, your first guess should be underwatering instead. But, it is always important to keep track of your waterings and how wet the soil is.
If you’ve worked through both the overwatering and underwatering symptoms and are still not satisfied, you could be dealing with a lack of nutrition. ZZ plant fertilizer will occasionally (every 3 – 6 months) need to be added. But be careful not to overdo this either, as your plant can start to get nutrient toxicity.
How to Deal with Overwatering?
If you have noticed one of the above symptoms along with a very wet growing medium, then there’s a good chance you have been drowning your little ZZ friend. At this point there are a few things you can do, depending on how bad your plant is looking.
The first thing you should try is just to stop watering. If your plant isn’t too damaged, then it will most likely come right on its own. Less is more when it comes to succulents, so rather leave a few extra days between waterings or until you can see that the growing medium has dried out before watering again.
If your ZZ plant is looking a little worse for wear then you might need a special remedy – transplanting. By transplanting your plant into a new pot, you can introduce a drier grow medium and hopefully one that doesn’t retain water as much as the previous one.
Introducing sand or perlite into this new medium is a great way to reduce its water retention properties. But be careful, transplanting can be quite stressful for the plant so make sure not to damage the roots unnecessarily.
When doing this, you should also be able to take a look at the roots. If they are looking overly wet and dark in colour, you know you made the right choice to transplant them.
Ultimate ZZ Plant Watering Guide
Many people think indoor houseplants require no effort, but that’s not always the case. ZZ plants can be very easy to grow and will give your home a lovely natural feel, but you should focus on proper watering.
I have covered everything you need to know to get this right, including the different conditions that will affect watering as well as what symptoms you can experience if you over/underwater your plants.
Now you’re ready to go out and create your own tropical garden at home. We hope your plants thrive and that you won’t need to worry about any of the problems we have covered. Happy growing!