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Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plants, are hardy, low maintenance plants for most of the year. They do, however, need a bit of special care during winter.
Because ZZ plants are a tropical species from East Africa, they are adapted to warm weather. They struggle during the cooler months of the year.
To over winter keep the ZZ plant it in a warm, brightly lit spot. The temperature and humidity should remain as stable as possible – it shouldn’t drop below 40°F. ZZ plants go dormant during winter. Their growth slows, so they do not need to be watered as often, and they do not need fertilizer.
Developing an understanding of how ZZ plants’ needs change throughout the year is key to keeping them healthy.
In this article, we discuss common problems with ZZ plants over winter and how to overcome them. Let’s look at overwintering ZZ plants in some more detail!
Problems With ZZ Plants In Winter
ZZ plants are adapted to growing in East Africa. They are naturally found from southern Kenya, all the way to northeastern South Africa. This region is hot and dry with seasonal rainfall.
ZZ plants are a hardy, drought-tolerant species that can survive in low light levels. These characteristics are what make them such excellent houseplants. They are super easy to care for and forgiving of a little neglect.
Winters are not very cold where ZZ plants come from, so they are not well adapted to winters in more temperate regions. ZZ plants face a number of problems during the cooler months of the year:
One of the most common mistakes that people make with ZZ plants is to overwater them during winter. ZZ plants enter a state of dormancy over winter. They store water in their large, potato-like roots and in their thick leaves.
ZZ plants can survive without being watered during winter. Even if the soil dries out completely, the plant will keep living off the water in its roots and leaves.
When you water a ZZ plant during winter, the roots will not absorb much of the water, and the soil will stay moist for longer. Together with the lower light levels during winter, this can lead to fungal infections in the soil, like root rot.
Because ZZ plants become inactive during winter, they do not take up nutrients from the soil as readily as during the growing season. Overfertilizing a ZZ plant during winter is a common mistake that people make.
When you feed ZZ plants during winter, the excess nutrients build up in the soil as mineral salts. These salts draw water out of ZZ plants’ roots, drying it out.
This is called fertilizer burn, and it can be fatal to ZZ plants during winter when they rely on their underground water stores.
Lack Of Light
During winter, the angle of the sun changes, the sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening. Overall, there is less sunlight during the day.
Houseplants often struggle with low light levels during the winter. Even if a spot in your home is ideal for a ZZ plant during spring and summer, it may be too dark during winter.
When ZZ plants do not get enough light, their growth starts to look stretched out. This is because the plant is literally reaching out to try and get more light.
A leggy ZZ plant does not have the same appeal as a lush, bushy specimen. Therefore, it is important to move your ZZ plant to a brighter spot in the house during winter.
The cold temperatures during winter cause ZZ plants’ metabolism to slow way down. Even though ZZ plants grow relatively slowly during the growing season, their growth rate slows down even more during winter.
Leaves Dropping Due To Cold Weather
ZZ plants are happiest when the ambient temperature stays between 65 and 75°F. When the mercury drops below 40°F, ZZ plants start to suffer.
Cold temperatures cause ZZ plants’ leaves to droop and, in some cases, drop off the plant.
How To Take Care Of ZZ Plants In Winter
There are simple ways to deal with each of the challenges ZZ plants face over winter. A few small adjustments to your regular plant care routine will make all the difference to your ZZ plant during winter.
Follow this easy guide to overwintering a ZZ plant:
It is important to get your ZZ plant’s watering routine right during winter. Because ZZ plants are so drought hardy, underwatering is not often a problem. Overwatering is far more of a risk during winter.
ZZ plants are inactive during winter, so they require far less water. You need to adapt your watering schedule during winter to account for this.
If the air in your home is humid, you will not need to water your ZZ plant much during winter. However, if the air is dry, you will need to water your ZZ plant.
Start cutting back on how often you water your ZZ plant late in the fall. Only water your ZZ plant when the soil has completely dried out.
Every two weeks, check your ZZ plant’s soil for moisture. Don’t just look to see if the soil surface is dry. Stick your finger a few inches deep and feel how moist the soil is.
A more reliable way to test soil moisture is to use a moisture meter. These gadgets are inexpensive, available online, and they make a huge difference to plant care.
Another way to test if the soil has dried out is to pick the pot up. If the pot feels relatively light, compared to when you have just watered the plant, it may be time for watering.
ZZ plants do not grow much, if at all, during winter. Therefore, you should not fertilize ZZ plants at this time of the year.
Avoid fertilizing your ZZ plant during winter, even with organic products. All that the fertilizer will do is dry your ZZ plant’s soil out.
During winter it is crucial to make sure that your ZZ plant gets enough sunlight. These plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight. ZZ plants need around 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Move your ZZ plant to a brighter spot as winter approaches. Keeping it near a window is ideal. Just make sure you protect the plant from intense direct sun.
Wipe down your ZZ plant leaves with a clean, damp cloth on a regular basis. Keeping dust build-up off the leaves will help your plant take in the maximum amount of sunlight for photosynthesis.
Remember to clean your windows during winter, too, so that your ZZ plant can absorb more light.
If nowhere in your home gets enough natural light for your ZZ plant during winter, you can use artificial lighting. Fluorescent lightbulbs can provide ZZ plants with sufficient light levels, and they are energy-efficient, so you do not have to feel bad leaving them on all day.
Place a lamp near your ZZ plant and turn it on during the day. Keep the bulb about 10 inches away from the plant.
Ensuring that your ZZ plant gets enough light during winter will keep it from growing leggy.
Move your ZZ plant to a warm room in the house for winter. Try to keep the temperature within ZZ plants’ ideal range (65 to 75°F).
Do not expose your ZZ plant to temperatures below 40°F. Keep them away from cold drafts.
ZZ plants growing on windowsills should be moved far away from the window at night. They are at risk of frost damage through the glass.
ZZ plants dislike extreme heat just as much as the cold. Keep ZZ plants far away from fireplaces, furnaces, and heaters.
Keeping your ZZ plant at the right temperature will ensure that the leaves do not droop or fall off.
Cold air cannot hold the same amount of moisture as warm air, which is why humidity levels are lower during winter. While ZZ plants are tolerant of low humidity during the rest of the year, in winter, the air can get a bit too dry for them.
When ZZ plants are stressed from low humidity, their leaves droop, and the leaf tips turn brown. Ideally, ZZ plants like the humidity to stay above 50%.
There are a few different methods to boost the humidity around your ZZ plant during winter:
- If your bathroom has enough light, keep your ZZ plant inside the bathroom. Each time you have a hot shower, the steam will provide your ZZ plant with the humidity it needs.
- Mist the leaves of your ZZ plant a couple of times per week. This will keep the leaves from drying out completely.
- Place a shallow container filled with pebbles and water underneath your ZZ plant’s pot. This will increase the humidity around the plant’s root zone.
- Place a humidifier near your ZZ plant. Humidifiers work really well to increase the moisture in the air inside your home.
It is normal for ZZ plants’ lower leaves to turn yellow when they get old. To keep your ZZ plant looking good, you should prune off these leaves as well as any old stems.
ZZ plants tend to handle pruning quite well, and bounce back quickly, so you can prune them during winter, unlike many other plants. Pruning off long, stretched out stems will keep your ZZ plant in shape.
It is important to always use sharp, sterilized pruning shears. Using a dirty, blunt pair to prune your ZZ plant can lead to infected cuts.
ZZ plants contain the toxin calcium oxalate, and they are poisonous if ingested. Therefore, it is important to wash your hands well after you prune your ZZ plant.
At the best of times, ZZ plants do not handle repotting very well. You should not repot your ZZ plant during winter. It is better to repot ZZ plants during summer or spring.
Repotting stresses the plant because the roots are disturbed, and the plant can dry out. When the plant is actively growing, it is better able to deal with the shock of being repotted than when it is dormant.
If you repot your ZZ plant during winter, the plant will suffer stress and shock that it might not be able to bounce back from.
FAQs About ZZ Plant Winter Care
Here, we answer all your questions about ZZ plant care during winter.
Can ZZ Plants Survive Winter?
Even though ZZ plants are a tropical species adapted to a warm, dry climate, they can survive through winter if given the right care.
The biggest threats to ZZ plants during winter are overwatering, overfertilizing, not getting enough light, low humidity levels, and temperatures below 40°F.
If you give your ZZ plant the right care during winter, it will happily make it through the season.
Can ZZ Plants Survive Outside In Winter?
ZZ plants can only be grown as perennials outside in USDA zones 10, 11 and 12. In regions with cold winters, it is wiser to grow your ZZ plant in a container. That way, you can bring it indoors during winter.
Can ZZ Plants Get Too Cold?
ZZ plants can definitely get too cold. They are not tolerant of frost, and their leaves will begin drooping in temperatures below 40°F. It is important to keep ZZ plants in a temperature range of 65 to 75°F all year round.
How Often To Water ZZ Plants In The Winter?
It’s difficult to make a hard-and-fast rule for how often ZZ plants need to be watered during winter because it depends on environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, light).
Instead of watering your ZZ plant on a set schedule, once every 3 or 4 weeks, you should only water it when the plant really needs it.
The key to not overwatering a ZZ plant in winter is to always check the soil moisture before watering. Only water a ZZ plant once the soil has dried out almost completely.
Where Is The Best Place To Grow A ZZ Plant During Winter?
The ideal place for a ZZ plant during the winter is somewhere in your house where it is warm, humid, and brightly lit. Aim to keep the temperature between 65 and 75°F. You should never let it drop below 40°F.
A well-lit bathroom is great for a ZZ plant during winter. You can also put your ZZ plant near a window during winter so that it gets bright, indirect sunlight (just make sure your ZZ plant does not get intense, direct sunlight).
Keep your ZZ plant away from heat sources, like fireplaces, furnaces, and heaters, and also protect it from cold drafts.
Can You Repot A ZZ Plant In Winter?
It is not a good idea to move your ZZ plant into a new pot during winter. The plant is more likely to die from the shock of repotting during winter. This is because ZZ plants are dormant during winter and, therefore, not able to heal.
The optimal time to repot a ZZ plant is during spring or summer, when the plant is growing more actively and is able to recover from the stress of repotting.
Can You Propagate ZZ Plants During Winter?
Propagating a ZZ plant from stem and leaf cuttings works best when the temperature is warm. ZZ plant cuttings root the fastest if they are kept at around 80°F. Winter is, therefore, not the best time to propagate ZZ plants.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For ZZ Plants?
ZZ plants are dormant in winter, so it is important not to feed them at this time of year. To boost your ZZ plant’s growth during spring and summer, you can feed it some organic liquid fertilizer once a month.
Organic fertilizers are far better than chemical fertilizers because they are less likely to burn ZZ plants’ roots. Look for a houseplant fertilizer that is well balanced (20-20-20 is ideal).
What Is The Ideal Soil For ZZ Plants?
Like most houseplants, ZZ plants prefer growing in soil that drains well. Apart from this, these plants are not too fussy about soil parameters.
The best soil for ZZ plants is a 50-50 combination of potting soil and perlite. Perlite aerates the soil, allowing water to drain through it quickly. ZZ plants also grow well in soilless growing mediums, like LECA balls.
Caring For ZZ Plants in Winter Conclusion
With a little extra attention, you can easily get your ZZ plant through the cold winter months. Just remember to always check that the soil has dried out before you water. Do not fertilize or repot your ZZ plant during winter.
Keep your ZZ plant in a brightly lit area so that it gets enough sunlight during winter. Make sure the temperature in the room your ZZ plant is growing in is kept between 65 and 75°F. Look for ways to increase the humidity around your ZZ plant.