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University of Illinois

ZZ Plant: The easiest tropical plant to grow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 25, 2013

Most homes have insufficient light, inconsistent temperatures and tap water containing fluoride – all of which make it nearly impossible have lush foliage during the winter months. However, most tropical houseplants can be sustained and even thrive in these conditions. Houseplants such as devil's ivy, dieffenbachia and peace lily do very well with low light and temperatures that are not the ideal 75 to 80 degrees.

On the other hand these plants cannot handle the fluoride in our drinking water and will start to show browning on the leaf tips. It's inevitable: if there is a peace lily growing in your home, you will have unsightly brown tips. This can be remedied by buying and watering your houseplants with distilled water instead of the water that comes out of your tap.

Most horticulturists would not suggest adapting your home to the needs of these tropical houseplants, but instead choosing plants that will do the best in your home. One such tropical houseplant that is sure to thrive in any home is called the ZZ plant.

The plant's leaflets are smooth, shiny and dark green and shoot out in an arch. These houseplants have large leaves with a fleshy base. They often are mistaken as fake because they show no plant damage and can be grown in the least amenable conditions.

ZZ plants seem to thrive on neglect. When asked recently to choose plants for an office, I chose ZZ plants. The office had very little light and the staff was typically too busy to water. After several months of neglect, the ZZ plants are thriving with beautiful arching branches and dark green foliage that stand out against the stark walls.

ZZ plants prefer to be on the dry side and grown in bright, indirect light, but will tolerate extremely low light conditions. Just a little supplemental light from a fluorescent bulb or south facing window can make a big difference for the ZZ plant.

ZZ plants are actually fairly easy to propagate, but it takes a year or more to start a new plant from a leaf or stem cutting, and several more years to have a plant of significant size. A faster method is to separate masses of roots from a single pot. Much of the time, ZZ plants for sale actually contain several clusters of roots, which may be carefully separated and potted separately.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for an easy-to-care-for plant that can bring some lush green to your home, consider ZZ plants.

Source: Kelly Allsup, Extension Educator, Horticulture, kallsup@illinois.edu

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