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Variegated ZZ Plant Care – Tips That Actually Work

Variegated ZZ Plant Care – Tips That Actually Work

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If you are a fan of variegated plants, this article is for you. Today we are covering the Variegated Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (pronunciation Zam-ee-oh-KUL-Kass  Zam-ee-FOH-lee-uh), also famous as the Variegated ZZ plant.

This variegated version of the ZZ plant is an aroid and is named after the plant genus Zamia.

The Variegated ZZ plant is not suited for direct sunlight, but it can easily survive low to medium sunlight. It would be best if you water it only when the soil dries to prevent rotting. Fertilizer application in spring and summer will help your plant have a prolific growth.

The Variegated ZZ plant is from the Araceae plant family. This plant is suitable for xeriscaping, which the practice of designing landscapes to reduce the need for watering.

All ZZ plant varieties are native to Southern and Eastern Africa, so they are also referred to as Zanzibar Gem.

According to the University of Vermont, the ZZ Plant is a perfect houseplant, recognized for its adaptive abilities and relatively easy-going, low maintenance plant care.

But there’s more to it; this houseplant, just like Philodendrons, can purify the indoor air. It filters the air and stocks toxin ( benzene, xylene, toluene, ethylbenzene) in its stems, leaves, and roots.

This annual plant is an eye-catching variety for container gardening. It is a non-complaining plant that often grows happily in low light with little fresh air.



Basic Plant Care for the Variegated ZZ Plant



This plant requires well-draining and fertile soil. You can easily prepare your own potting mixture that retains moisture but at the same time, drains well. Add sand if the soil is heavy or compacted.

This tuberous plant is grown from potato-like rhizomes. These rhizomes store the necessary water and nutrients for the plant.

Succulent petioles will grow from the tubers, each having 6 to 8 pairs of leaves. Outdoors rhizomes can be planted in USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11.

Maintain the soil pH of 5.6 to 7.5, acidic to neutral.



This semi-succulent prefers arid conditions with a humid jungle-like environment. It can tolerate neglect, but to keep your plant thriving, water it regularly whenever the soil is dry.

For potted houseplants, the best way to find out if your plant needs water is by touching the surface to examine dryness.

This plant will do better with less water as compared to other aroids. Overwatering can kill your Variegated ZZ plant. Yellow leaves mean your plant is being overwatered, and the rhizomes are rotting.

I water my ZZ plants every 3-4 weeks. But in extremely hot climates, you may have to water it every 7-10 days. Water the soil thoroughly, wholly soaking the root ball for the ZZ plant.

The Variegated ZZ plant likes to dry out completely in between watering. This semi-succulent has an excellent moisture retention system that allows it to store water for dry periods.

If your plant is exposed to high levels of sunlight, the watering frequency will increase. But in winter or low light, watering it once a month is enough since the plant is in a dormant period.

Whenever my ZZ plant has been neglected in terms of watering, the only massive change was that it became leafless. But when I applied water again, my plant started growing.

So, in my opinion, this plant is drought-tolerant; it can survive with minimum watering or no watering for several months.



This plant will do fine in low levels of sunlight, but variegated versions appreciate higher levels of sunlight for maximum growth.

This species can withstand bright, moderate sun to partial shade. The only requirement is that the sunlight should not directly hit the plant; for this reason, you will have to use sheer curtains or blinds to reduce the intensity of sunlight.

Give the Variegated ZZ plant a few hours of direct sun each day, but do not place it in full sun during the hot summer months.

If you notice any scalding on the leaves, your plant is exposed to high levels of direct sunlight. Curling or yellowing leaves are also some additional indications of too much sunlight.

On the other hand, less light will cause the leaves to lose their variegation and turn green. You should immediately move your plant to a brighter spot close to the light source.

Inside, you can place this plant in a bathroom or window-less office under fluorescent light. Do not place it directly in the window; instead, place it near a window in a well –lit spot. Direct sun rays can burn and fade the leaves. For outdoors, place your plant in full or partial shade.

If you are unsure about light levels for your houseplants, you can go through our detailed article about light levels for plants.



This plant needs a warm environment. It can easily be grown in average indoor temperatures of 65 to 85 °F (18  and 30 degrees Celsius).

The Variegated ZZ is not cold tolerant at all. Your plant will die if it’s exposed to temperatures below 60 °F (15  degrees Celsius).

The ZZ plant can only be grown outdoors in areas with mild winter climates. I would suggest bringing your outdoor ZZ plant inside as soon as the temperature starts dropping below 60 °F (15  degrees Celsius).



The Variegated ZZ plant is not fussy about humidity, but being native to the tropical region, it does love the extra moisture in the air.

It will be happy with the average humidity levels recommended for tropical plants. This plant needs a minimum humidity of 40%.

A simple method to ensure proper humidity is to mist your Variegated ZZ plant with distilled or soft water.

Avoid placing the plant near heat sources like radiators or sunny windows, as this will dry out the air around the plant.



This plant is not a heavy feeder; it may even survive without any fertilization. However, fertilizing it will encourage growth on your plant.

Feed it once a month in summer and spring using a regular houseplant fertilizer at ⅛ to ¼ ratio of the recommended rate.

If you want to use organic fertilizer, apply it once a month in growing season according to the instructions on the package. You can go for a slow-release fertilizer, apply once and forget it for the next six months.

The leaves can turn yellow due to lack of nutrients, so fertilization helps to supply necessary nutrients to the Variegated ZZ plant.

But feeding too much plant food causes fertilizer burns leading to yellow leaves. Don’t fertilize in winter because the plant is dormant, and fertilizing may lead to salt buildups.



The Variegated ZZ plant should be repotted when it outgrows its container. Sometimes the leaves start curling to indicate the plant has become root-bound with insufficient growth space for the roots.

You should repot it every 1 to 2 years by transferring it to a 1 or 2 inches bigger container. Moving to a huge pot can drown the roots.

Summer and spring are the most appropriate times to repot a Variegated ZZ plant since it’s the strongest.

Always ensure proper drainage for the Variegated ZZ plant because it will die if the roots are continuously sitting in water. Plant in a new pot with at least one drainage hole.

You can use any good quality potting mix for repotting that is rich in nutrients but add ¼ compost and ¼ sand to improve the drainage.



Trim the dying or yellowing foliage to help the plant use its energy on new growth. You can also prune the old stems and stalks to enhance the overall appearance of the plant.



Propagation is a cheap and exciting method to expand your collection of variegated plants; since these are quite expensive compared to the regular versions. There are several options for propagating the Variegated ZZ plant.


Stem Cuttings:

  • Stem cuttings with at least 2 leaves and a few inches long stem are the most efficient method for propagating the Variegated ZZ plant.
  • Make a cut at the base of your plant using a sanitized knife. Allow the cutting to dry for few hours so that callus can form over the cut.
  • You should plant the cutting in well-draining soil; else, the new rhizomes will mold and fall away. Soilless mediums are the best options for the Variegated ZZ plant. A mixture of half peat and perlite also works well.
  • New rhizomes will start growing in about four weeks, provided the stem cutting is kept in temperatures of 80 o The cutting pot should be located in a warm area with bright, filtered sunlight. A spot near a window is great.
  • You need to water the cutting every two weeks to maintain the necessary soil moisture.
  • Once the cutting has tiny rootlets and rhizome buds, you can transfer it to a large container. You should take more than one cutting because some of them might not root at all.
  • This species can take more than one month for root development; therefore, I would recommend using a good quality rooting hormone. This will help the cutting root and grow faster.


Leaflet Cuttings:

The interesting fact is that the Variegated ZZ plant is the only aroid that can be successfully propagated by leaflet cuttings. Even the petioles of the ZZ plant are propagatable and can grow a new plant if they are cut and planted.

You can use leaves with no stems for propagation but rooting, and growth will be very slow. The propagation steps are similar to those mentioned in the previous section.

Propagating by root division is done rarely because new rhizomes grow very slowly. And removing them or disturbing the root system can severely damage the plant.



In addition to the variegated foliage, this plant will reward you with blooms in mid-summer, late summer, and early fall.

The blooms on this variegated plant are in a range of colors, including yellow, brown, and bronze.

The small inflorescences have greenish-brown spathe from which the cream-colored spadix or flower spike will grow. These inflorescences have little contribution to this plant’s popularity.



This slow-growing but beautiful plant can get 2 -3 ft (60-90 cm) in height and spread. Growth for this plant highly depends on light and water provided, but it will take years to reach its maximum size.

It has clusters of pinnate leaves that arch outwards, giving this plant a unique look. The leaves are green and creamy yellow in color.



Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an


My Variegated ZZ plant wanted to wish you all a great Day! I can’t help but admire the variegation on this plant, who I almost lost due to root rot. . . . I ordered this zz plant online. As we all know, there’s always some risk with purchasing plants online, and unfortunately it happened to me. This one arrived with tuber and root rot. Fearing it would eventually rot completely and die, I decided to cut a few leaves in the hopes of propagating them to save part of it(didn’t cut out all leaves being hopeful that it would survive). I decided to cut out all the rotted parts and tried different ways of saving this plant. Thankfully, after not giving up… I can finally say that the plant started growing new roots and is now doing amazingly well. The 2 leaves I cut out to propagate(which I posted a few videos of them) also made it. Both leaves are growing new roots and both are growing a tuber. Can’t wait to hopefully get new growth out of them. . . . . I hope everyone has a wonderful Tuesday ??! . . . . . . . . . . . . . #ZZplant #variegatedzzplant #plantstagram #plantoftheday #houseplantjournal #plantsmakepeoplehappy #indoorjungle #plantlover #plantobsessed #livingwithplants #crazyplantpeople #plantsplantsolants #plantstyling #houseplantsofinstagram #house_plant_community #plantobsessed #urbanjungleblogger #discovertheolantcommunity #urbanjunglebloggers #houseplantclub #plantsofinsta #plantgan #houseplantgang #iloveplants #plantcollection #plantgoals #plantlife #plantasdecasa #plantenabler #urbanjungle

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Tony (@la_plantguy) am


Common Problems for Variegated ZZ


Brown Leaves

If the leaves of your ZZ plant are turning brown with crispy edges, it needs to be watered more. If your plant has mushy stalks with yellow leaves, it requires less water.

Reduce watering and let the Variegated ZZ plant dry out completely for one month. Brown edges also indicate a lack of proper humidity.


Droopy Leaves

The primary reason for a droopy Variegated ZZ plant is insufficient light. Rotate your plant and position it in such a way that it receives plenty of indirect sunlight from above.

You can even add vertical support like a bamboo stick to help your plant grow straight. Another possibility is the pot size; consider repotting in a slightly bigger pot.


Wrinkled Stems

The wrinkled stem indicates a dying old stem; this is natural. Another possible reason is that you are letting the plant dry out completely.

I would recommend watering the plant thoroughly and repeat whenever the top two inches feel dry. The soil should be fully saturated in water.


Curling Leaves

Tip curl or leaf curling indicates high levels of light. The plant curls the leaves in an attempt to move away from the light source.

You should relocate your plant to a shadier spot. If moving the plant is not feasible, you can use blinds or sheer curtains.


Rhizome Rot

The very first symptom of rhizome rot is yellowing leaves. You should remove the plant immediately to rescue it.

Rhizome rot is the top reason for the death of ZZ plants. Do not leave your ZZ plant sitting in water for extended periods.

Overwatering and insufficient drainage are the leading culprits for most houseplants suffering from rhizome rot. Always throw away the excess water collected in the saucer or tray.

Overwatering causes the rhizome to rot due to fungal development. This hinders the rhizome’s water and food storage capabilities. If left untreated, the Variegated ZZ will definitely die.

Remove and discard the yellow leaves and drench the roots in a fungicidal solution. You should also clean the pot by soaking it in a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach for about half an hour.



Remove the insects with a soapy, soft cloth and repeatedly spray your plant with isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to kill the remaining mealybugs.

Rubbing alcohol with neem oil has proved to be the most effective for houseplant pest control.

If the pests return after some time, spray your plant with horticulture or neem oil weekly.


Tips for Growing the Variegated ZZ Plant

  • You should rotate your plant frequently to help it achieve even growth.
  • Dust the plant leaves every few days because the accumulated dust particles can reduce photosynthesis.
  • Use soft water or rainwater for your Variegated ZZ plant because the mineral and crystals in tap water can clog the pores.


Other varieties of the ZZ Plant

Lucky Classic – the leaves for this variety are less pointy and more rounded.

Zamicro Dwarf ZZ – as the name suggests, this one is smaller in size than the regular ZZ plant. However, the leaf pattern, color, and size are the same.

ZZ Zenzi – this is a rare one with curly leaves. The leaves are clustered at the top of the stem giving an elegant look.

Raven ZZ – it has crow- black leaves that add a distinctive, ornamental look to the plant. The new leaves are light green.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Variegated ZZ Plant


Is this plant poisonous?

All parts of the Variegated ZZ plant are poisonous if swallowed by humans or pets. This plant can also cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.  So wear gloves when repotting, pruning, or propagating ZZ plant.


Can this plant withstand low light levels?

The Variegated ZZ plant will tolerate low light; however, the plant will have very slow growth and will rarely produce new leaves. Less light also increases the risk of overwatering because the rate of evaporation reduces. I would suggest growing your plant in medium indirect sunlight.



To conclude, growing and caring for the Variegated ZZ houseplants is easy for the forgetful gardeners or frequent travelers.

This classic houseplant is an excellent addition to your indoor and outdoor gardens. This plant can withstand a wide variety of indoor conditions and even thrive in low light for several months. It is almost impossible to kill.

This plant is considered the hardiest plant in nature, and you can propagate it from a single leaf.

The only drawback is the slow-growing nature of this plant; you have to be very patient and wait for several months before seeing any new growth on the plant.