What Kind of Soil Does a ZZ Plant Need?
Zamioculcas zamiifolia, aka the ZZ plant, isn’t a particularly fussy houseplant.
There have been hints that this particular plant has evolved more than 42 million years ago according to the National Library of Medicine.
It, therefore, has a history of millions of years of withstanding pathogens.
The ZZ plant can go long periods without being watered and they’re content to live in a dark corner instead of bright sunlight as you’d expect.
But each plant has a preferred soil. It’s where the nutrients come from and it’s important that every plant is potted in the correct soil, otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster.
In this article, I’ll explain the type of soil a ZZ plant should be potted in and why it needs this type of soil.
This gives your ZZ plant, and you, the best chance of success at keeping this hardy houseplant alive.
What Kind of Soil Does a ZZ Plant Need?
A ZZ plant needs a well-draining soil mix to minimize the risk of root rot. Ideally, a mix of cactus soil or perlite and regular houseplant soil will be perfect for the ZZ plant. This mixture drains quickly and won’t stay soggy in between waterings.
Why Soil is Important for ZZ Plant
Choosing the correct soil is vital for any plant to thrive. Thriving is hugely different from surviving, and this is where a lot of new plant parents go wrong.
The soil is where the plant gets the majority of its nutrients from. It’s also where the roots live and these have to be kept in the best condition, otherwise, the plant above the soil will suffer.
With a ZZ plant, the rhizomes also have to be considered. These are fleshy structures, with a similar appearance to plant bulbs, that live under the soil.
They collect any excess water and they are the reason a ZZ plant can last a few weeks without a shower.
But they hate soggy soil. This causes the ZZ plant’s rhizomes to rot and without rhizomes, a ZZ plant will stop growing and it’ll eventually die.
What Well-Draining in Soil Means
Surely all soil drains right? Well, you’d be wrong to assume that because there are soil mixes out there that hold onto water like a sponge.
This is the type ZZ plants hate.
Even though the rhizomes suck up water, there’s only so much they can hold. The perfect soil will wick away any excess that is left behind, making sure the rhizomes don’t rot.
The Best Soil for ZZ Plants
I’ve mentioned a well-draining soil several times now but how do you know if the soil gets rid of excess water without testing it?
If you’re going down the store-bought route, look for a mix that mentions perlite. It’s a natural material that is very good at improving the drainage of standard potting mix.
A cactus or orchid mix will also work if you already have some of this at home.
You can also create your own ZZ plant potting soil at home.
This can take trial and error to find the perfect mix but once you have that secret formula, write it down and use it every time you repot your ZZ plant.
As a base guide though, try mixing three parts potting soil with one part cactus mix.
Cactus soil contains perlite and sand, both of which are excellent at improving aeration in the soil and therefore improving the drainage.
Another option is to add either perlite or even orchid bark to regular potting soil.
Signs of Using the Wrong Soil for your ZZ Plant
It will take a while for a ZZ plant to show you that something is wrong.
But keep an eye out for the classic signs that a houseplant isn’t healthy:
- Yellow leaves
- Drooping stems
- Browning or curling leaves
- Root rot happening under the soil
- Soft or mushy stems
Remember, that these signs aren’t unique to the incorrect soil type. These are general signs that most houseplants will display if something isn’t right in their environment.
If you’ve ruled out other possible causes, try changing the soil it’s in and see if that improves the plant’s condition.
How Often to Water ZZ Plants
Even if you choose the correct soil type for your plant, a correct watering schedule is crucial for making sure the ZZ plant thrives.
Overwatering is the most common reason that people kill their houseplants.
ZZ plants don’t like to sit in soggy soil. This will cause all kinds of problems below the soil and it could be too late to save it by the time you realize your mistake.
If you think your plant needs a drink, check first the soil’s top 2 inches. If they’re dry, it’s time to give it a drink.
Water from the edge to the middle, this is a great technique to ensure all the roots are evenly watered.
You should have your plant in a pot with drainage holes (plenty is better). Water until you see it running from the holes and wait until this has stopped before placing the plant back into a decorative pot or saucer.
This will also help with soggy soil.
While well-draining soil is crucial to a healthy ZZ plant, you have to make sure that you’re watering it correctly in order for it to grow and thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Kind of Soil Best for ZZ Plant
Does a ZZ plant need special soil?
I’m sure that if you looked around, there will probably be a specific ZZ plant mixture but this is likely to be a marketing ploy. So long as you’re using a well-draining soil, your ZZ plant will be fine.
Will the type of container make a considerable difference?
There are pots made out of materials that are better at wicking away moisture, such as clay or terracotta. However, when it comes to ZZ plants, they’re not fussy with the pot they live in. It won’t harm them to choose a plastic pot but there are options out there if you want to be cautious.
What is the ideal pH balance for a ZZ plant?
If we’re getting scientific, different soil and potting mixes have different pH levels and plants have a preference. ZZ plants will grow better in a soil that’s either neutral or more acidic. In numbers, you want to look for a level that’s between 6.0 and 7.0.
Choosing the correct type of soil is one of the best things we can do for our plants. ZZ plants are pretty hardcore though and they won’t die while the right type of soil is found for them.
Just make sure it drains well and I’m sure it’ll be fine.