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Gardeners' Dirt: ZZ plant easy to maintain

By By Jean Wofford - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Jan. 31, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 30, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

So perfectly shaped and green, it is hard to believe the ZZ plant prefers to be neglected rather than carefully managed.  Water once a month and feed twice a year for a healthy, indoor container plant.

ZZ Plants Are Easy Indoor Plants

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 almost any room in the house with proper care

•  Do not require frequent watering

•  Require very light and infrequent feeding

•  Have no known pests

Repotting

• Repot your ZZ plant into very fertile soil.

• Be careful not to harm the roots.

• Water in but insure there's good drainage.

• Protect plant from excessive heat or cold outside.

• Don't be afraid to push the bar on this plant.

My previous article about the fabulous ZZ plant was published in June 2010. Go to vcmga.org and click on "Easy as 1, 2, 3 - ZZ plant easy to grow, maintain," for reference. Since that time, my research resulted in several more names for it. One is Chinese New Year plant; others are gold coin plant, money tree and Zanzibar gem. The source for these names was a bit more challenging, so I leave the reason for these names to your imagination as you learn more about it.

I have really played with and challenged everything I had read and thought about this plant. Let me share my findings with you.



Network of roots

A couple of years ago, I emptied one of the pots of my ZZ plants. After dampening the soil, I started working the roots apart to see what was there. I discovered a tight network of thick roots and most of them were attached to a single root. The single root was sort of like a bulb, but not really. It wasn't layered like some bulbs. It was more of a single structure root that resembled a bulb, if that makes sense.

I kept working with the roots and finally finished with about four different plants that had a nice root system and had to decide what to do with them.



Repot with enrichments

I filled some pots with a very fertile mixture of good soil, a great plant food that was rich in bat guano, some slow-release plant food and some composted material. I mixed it thoroughly, watered it and made sure the water was draining out.

There were a lot of roots, some very thick and some that were very thin. I carefully root pruned each plant then placed my treasured ZZ plant in the mixture. I watered it in, being careful not to disturb it.



Outdoor success

While I know the ZZ plant does well inside, I put the pot on the patio in a protected area. I made sure neither wind nor hot sun could reach the new plants. With that completed, I waited to see just what they would do. Would they perform like I wanted them to, or would I lose my plants? Either way, I thought I would learn something.

Within a couple of weeks, there was a sprout coming up from the soil. Within three weeks, there were several new plants coming up. Soon the pot was full and they started to leaf out and were off and running. Before long, my plants outgrew the pot and had to be repotted in a larger size. I was really on my way to having much larger ZZ plants than I expected.



Indoors still successful

I brought one of my plants into my study since it has a lot of light and left the others on the patio to see what would happen. Not knowing just what to expect, I was pleased to see that my ZZ plant performed the same indoors with a lot of light as it did in a protected area on my patio.

My wonderful plants that are in my study need to be repotted again. I will put them into an 18-inch container and see what happens.



Repot in new containers

The ones on the patio will also need to be repotted soon, and I am thinking about what to put them in. They would look neat in an oval galvanized container, but I still have to think about the best way to do this. I would have to drill holes for the water to drain, but I don't want them to drain on my patio. I will continue thinking about the best way to solve this. I can always continue with larger pots but think something different would be interesting.



Seasonal care

As the seasons have changed, I had to make a decision about my ZZ plants - whether to bring them all in or leave them outside. I have decided to move them close to the wall and cover them if the nights are going to be too cool; I hesitate to say cold. After all, we are in South Texas. I loosely covered them with some old sheets with the onset of recent cold nights we have had - and they have been fine.

In the heat of last summer, I made sure my plants were protected from direct sunlight, and they continued to flourish.



Relatively no problems

The only problem I have found with my ZZ plants is in the outdoor location. They get a little mold on the leaves. I just wash them off with a light fungicide solution, and they are fine. Remember, whether indoors or out, they prefer indirect light and scarce watering, sometimes only monthly indoors.

I am convinced the ZZ plant is as easy as ever, and if you obtain one and care for it properly, I am certain you will agree.

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.

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