ZZ Plant, aka the Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is known for being one of the hardiest houseplants around. They are native to eastern and southern Africa and were introduced to the plant trade in 1996 according to Birmingham Young University.
They can handle a fair amount of neglect before they finally start to wither and eventually die.
Because of this, it’s a hard plant to figure out. Most plants start to droop when they need watering but it takes a long time for the ZZ plant to droop through thirst.
So what indicators will tell that your ZZ plant is thirsty?
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How to Water a ZZ Plant
To water a ZZ Plant, stick your index finger into the top soil and water once the top 2-inches are completely dry (5cm). A ZZ Plant needs to be watered about once every 4-weeks as a general rule of thumb. The best methods to water a ZZ Plant are the butt-chug method and the perimeter to middle method.
How to Water a ZZ Plant
Watering Requirements of a ZZ Plant
ZZ plants are semi-succulent which means they don’t require a lot of water. They actually store water in rhizomes which are fleshy structures underneath the soil.
They look like a cross between a bulb and a potato, they’re really strange.
These bulbs hold onto any water and release it as and when the plant needs a drink so even though you haven’t watered your plant for a couple of weeks, chances are that the rhizomes have been watering it for you.
The Best Watering Technique for ZZ Plants
1. The “Butt Chug” Method
One of the most popular ways to water any plant is a method called “butt chugging.” This is why it’s important to choose a pot with good drainage holes at the bottom.
With this method, you place your plant in its plastic pot into a container of water. This container could be a jug, baking dish, or even a sink or bath.
The plant will suck up the required amount of water through the bottom of the pot and it minimizes the risk of overwatering.
It’s really cool to watch because you can see the water level drop as the plant sucks it up.
Try setting up a time-lapse camera to watch it back on and this will give you an idea of how thirsty the plant got.
2. The “Perimeter to Middle” Method
Another way of watering a ZZ plant is to water around the edge of the pot first and then head to the middle.
This is to ensure that all of the roots get a decent drink and can support every stem on the plant.
With this method, make sure you keep watering until the water exits the pot’s bottom.
Wait until there’s no water coming through before you place the plant back onto its saucer or decorative pot.
When to Water your ZZ Plant
Now that you know the best way to water your ZZ plant, it’s probably best that you know when to water it.
ZZ plants are unlike other houseplants and don’t need to be watered on schedule. It’s crucial to get to know your individual plant and only water when needed.
How do you know it needs watering?
Here are 4 methods you can practice to see if your ZZ Plant needs watering.
- Stick your finger deep into the plant’s soil (about 2 inches in depth (5cm)). If it feels wet at all, your plant doesn’t need water. But if it’s dry, it probably needs a drink.
- If your plant is in a pot with drainage holes, try and feel the soil through these holes. This is a good indication of how dry the soil is, especially if you use the “butt chug” method of watering.
- Invest in a moisture meter. They’re inexpensive and are widely available in your local garden centers or online. If you want a more conclusive soil moisture measurement, this is a good way to obtain that.
- But for a similar result, carefully poke a chopstick or something similar into the pot and push until you feel resistance. If it comes out wet or with soil stuck to it, your plant doesn’t need watering.
Should You only Water your ZZ Plant a Little at a Time?
Even though ZZ plants thrive on neglect and hate to be overwatered, don’t be stingy on the water when it comes to watering.
Keep watering until you see the water flowing through the container’s holes for drainage. You want to saturate the potting soil your plant is growing in.
This is because the rhizomes will suck up that water and store it for future use. Making sure the plant is well watered is crucial to ensuring you get the best out of your ZZ Plant.
External Factors and Their Effects on a ZZ Plant’s Need to be Watered
Just like other plants, there are several external factors that can make a difference in the frequency of watering a ZZ plant.
The climate is the main one. If you live in a humid area, your plant will need to be watered more than someone who lives in a cooler climate.
Similarly, as the seasons change, your watering schedule will need to be adapted as the temperature fluctuates throughout the year.
The potting medium you use, specifically its type, also has an effect. Ideally, you want to have a potting mix with good drainage.
This will ensure that each time you water your plant, the water won’t hold in the soil and cause root rot.
The water will be sucked up by the roots and rhizomes and any excess will flow out into the pot or saucer below.
Make sure you don’t have your ZZ plant in direct sunlight.
Not only will your plant hate this (these plants famously prefer dark corners) but any water you give your plant will evaporate quicker than if it’s in indirect light.
You could then run the risk of overwatering your plant which could kill it.
Overwatering ZZ Plants — Possible or Not?
ZZ plants can be overwatered and this is the main reason for plant deaths, no matter which plant it is.
Even though it doesn’t need to be watered often, there’s a thin line between watering it correctly and saturating it.
Signs of an Overwatered ZZ Plant
The main sign is yellowing leaves.
This occurs because the roots are too wet and they can’t absorb the correct amount of nutrients from the soil.
Other signs are leaf drop, mushy stems, and rhizome rot.
Steps to Take When Your ZZ Plant has been Overwatered
Leave the plant to dry out completely. This could take several weeks, even a couple of months.
Keep an eye on your plant for an improvement in the leaves and stems, this will give you a good indication of whether it’s working.
Conclusion About How to Water a ZZ Plant
Knowing how and when to water it is an invaluable skill when you’re nurturing this particular houseplant.
Making sure it’s watered correctly is the key to a happy and healthy ZZ Plant.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.