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Gardeners' Dirt: Container plant easy to grow, maintain

By BY JEAN WOFFORD - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENEREDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON
June 16, 2010 at 1:16 a.m.

It is easy to see why the ZZ plant is grown mostly for its glossy green foliage. It has pinnate leaves arranged like a feather equally on each side of the stem in 6 to 8 pairs of smooth, shiny, dark green leaves.

WHY ZZ PLANTS ARE SO EASY

The plants are easy to care for because they:

Thrive on neglect.

Perform well in low-light conditions.

Perform equally well in indirect and bright-light conditions.

Thrive in most any room in the house with proper care.

Do not require frequent watering.

Require very light and infrequent feeding.

Have no known pests.

REGISTER FOR JUNIOR MASTER GARDENER DAY CAMP

WHEN: July 12-23, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

WHERE: Victoria County Master Gardener VEG Pavilion, 283 Bachelor Drive, near the Victoria Regional Airport Tower.

COST: $50, which includes handbook and drink container. Limited to the first 15 children ages 8-12.

REQUIREMENTS: Pre-register and pay by July 7. Bring a brown bag lunch and drink.

CONTACT: Pat at pab@wblanchard.com or Vikki at the Victoria County Extension Service Office, 361-575-4581.

I love the looks of container plants in the house, on porches, patios or hanging from trees. I do not like the amount of maintenance required to keep them beautiful.

The thought crosses my mind to use artificial plants, but because I am a Master Gardener, I didn't dare do that.

The best solution is to find something easy to care for.

'EASY' INDOOR PLANT

While I visited my sisters in Louisiana, we took our usual trip to a local nursery, which rivals our nurseries in beauty and unusual plants. I saw a plant on the counter that didn't look like a living plant because it was so perfect. It had perfectly placed leaves on a stalk that seemed too green and uniform in shape.

As a gardener, I had to touch it. To my amazement, it was real and I asked about the plant.

A woman told me it was a ZZ plant. Now, I thought she said "easy plant" so I asked her to repeat it. Naturally, I had to buy three, one for both my sisters and one to bring home.

After I got home with my ZZ plant, my research started - and I learned so much. One thing stands out regarding the care for this plant: Only water it once a month. Use a very light feeding about once or twice a year. Now, I knew I could do this.

OTHER NAMES FOR THE ZZ PLANT

ZZ plants are also known by the names of fat boy plant, Aroid palm, Arum fern and eternity plant. I learned the plant has more names, but I could not find them.

What is for certain is its botanical name, Zamiculas zamifolia. Now, don't you agree "ZZ plant" is easier to say and remember?

A BIT OF HISTORY

ZZ plants are native to Zanzibar and Tanzania in East Africa. It is found growing in dry grasslands and lowland forests in shady areas. The ZZ plant is a member of the Aroid family, of which several of the more commonly known house plants - such as philodendrons and spathiphylium - are members.

ZZ plants were introduced into the United States in Florida in 1999. It was the houseplant of the year in 2002 after three short years.

CARING FOR THE ZZ PLANT

The reason I just love the ZZ plant is because it is easy to care for. As I said before, I really do like container plants, but don't like the care they normally require.

These plants usually come in a small six-inch container and can grow up to 2 feet in height. The ZZ plant is normally considered evergreen with pinnate leaves arranged like a feather equally on each side of the stem. There are six to eight pairs of smooth, shiny, dark green leaves. It is grown as an ornamental plant, mostly for its glossy green foliage.

It is the easiest plant I have ever grown. I have several ZZ plants that are years old. In fact, the only way to kill it is to care for it too carefully.

Bright, indirect light is best for Zamiculas, although it will tolerate very low light. It appears to have no particular light needs and grows very well indoors with proper care. Over-watering may destroy this plant; erring on the side of dryness is preferable to risking tuber rot in your container. There is no need for leaf shiners with this luscious, glossy plant.

I water, very lightly, about once a month. I feed them, using about one-quarter of the regular strength, about twice a year. In my research, it says to feed lightly four to five times a year, but I don't do this. Two times a year works well for me.

PROBLEMS?

I have found no problems or pests. They are wonderful and very hardy if you are looking for an ideal, indoor container plant. I did read, however, that all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested. Be cautious with children and pets.

HOW ARE THEY PROPAGATED?

I haven't tried to propagate them, yet. According to my research, you just remove a leaf, put it into some good potting mix and keep damp. The top of the leaf will die, but the work is going on below the soil where it is said to form a root system resembling a tuber. You can also get a pot of the plants (there are always several in the pot) and separate the tubers. This way you can start several different pots from one.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND ZZ PLANTs?

Almost any plant nursery will have these wonderful plants. I bought mine at Devereux Garden's nursery on campus, but have seen them at local nurseries as well. I think the ZZ plant is the best container indoor plant I have seen in many years.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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