Want to learn how to propagate ZZ plants? You’re in luck – there are four ways to propagate these lovable greens. Each has its advantages and, frankly, a few disadvantages. These plants really are worth the effort, and most new owners of a ZZ quickly become fans.
These lush green plants are genuinely fantastic to cultivate and easy to propagate. Renowned for being adaptable undemanding plants, they are super additions to busy households when people don’t have time for fussy greens. They are great for children to care for and are amongst the most tolerant plants you can own, too.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia, commonly known as ZZ plants, are evergreen and can produce small flowers. These are spadix-type growths on fleshy stems with tiny white petals. They rarely flower when grown indoors, but it does happen – so keep your eyes peeled!
ZZ plant propagation is actually a lot of fun – so keep reading for the full lowdown.
When to propagate a ZZ plant
It’s unwise to attempt any kind of propagation during the dormant period for plants – and ZZs are no different.
You stand a better chance of success when plants are waking up, not slowing down at the end of a season – it’s better to work with the plant’s seasons where possible, meaning spring or even early summer are best.
Although, if you come across a fallen ZZ leaf outside that time, you can give it a chance to survive.
ZZ plants may clearly indicate it’s time to propagate when they begin to become overcrowded in their pot. They can display stress in several ways:
- Overcrowding rhizomes can push against the sides of plastic pots, causing warping. Unlike tubers, which grow vertically, rhizomes grow horizontally. ZZ rhizomes are shaped like potatoes, and as plants develop, rhizomes do too. Sooner or later, your ZZ will require a larger pot and possibly the separation of rhizomes.
- Overcrowded stems, too, can indicate it’s time to propagate. As new shoots become mature, competition increases for light and space. Overcrowded branches can harbor pests and make those unwanted intruders harder to spot. Stems need to have sufficient air around them for their own structural integrity – and they also need space to facilitate healthy leaf growth.
- Falling leaves is another tell-tale sign. Over-crowded stems may droop, change color, and leaves can fall. Leaves deprived of light, too much or too little water, can drop and attract pests as they decay. They may dry up when humidity is too low, too.
ZZ plants are pretty laid back as plants go. They do their best to keep going regardless of most environmental conditions! Even dropped leaves grasp at survival and put out roots. It’s why so many people are enthusiastic about growing them!
They will not let you down unless you completely neglect them for an extended period – meaning that, with a little love, they will be glorious to look at.
So, without further ado, let’s get on with propagating some!
ZZ plant propagation – tools you’ll need
Whichever way you choose to propagate, it’s a good idea to gather your tools and materials where you intend to work.
Before this, you may wonder – can I propagate a ZZ plant in water? Or, will I need to stick to propagating a ZZ plant in soil?
The answer is, you can try both – but if you really want to watch the magic happen, using water is ideal.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to help you propagate your ZZ plant.
- A workbench or table covered in old newspaper or a plastic sheet
- A watering can of dechlorinated water* or rainwater
- For water propagation, you will need clean glasses or jars filled with room temperature water
- A clean, sharp knife
- Fresh soil or unused compost
- Clean pots with plenty of drainage holes and a drip tray to stand them on
- Some clean gravel or a selection of small stones to place at the bottom of pots to facilitate drainage
- For stem propagation, you’ll also need sticky tape, or drinking straws and twine
*A simple way to dechlorinate water is by filling a container with tap water and leaving it uncovered for a few hours or overnight.
Four fantastic ways to propagate your ZZ plants at home
Each of the following ZZ plant propagation strategies has strengths and weaknesses – so take a careful read through, and choose a method that suits you best.
Propagating ZZ plants by root separation
This technique is similar to, and can include, rhizome separation. Root separation tends to focus on younger tender plants, which may be in the early stages of development, just too close together. You will likely have removed a whole plant or group of stems from a container.
- Once your plant is out of the pot, you can closely inspect what’s going on below the surface of the potting medium. You may be able to tease apart a rooted stem with your fingers.
- Then, pop each separated segment in water until you have completed the separation of other stems, etc. Before planting them up, make sure damaged or diseased roots are removed.
- It is likely that without rhizomes, small rooted plants will only require a small pot unless you decide to plant a group in a bigger pot. Be sure to have cleaned and prepared pots with clean gravel or stones at their bottoms. Add a couple of inches of potting soil or compost at the bottom of the pots, too.
- Then, support the stem with one hand as you lower the cutting onto the top of that first layer of compost. With your other hand (or a tool), gently sprinkle enough potting medium around the stem to properly support it and carefully pack it in. Roots are fragile, so be gentle.
- Next, water the surface of the growth medium. Finally, position the pot on a well-lit windowsill, but not in direct sunlight.
- Remember we suggested you have straws or sticky tape to hand? If you are planting several cuttings in the same container, now’s the time to use them! After putting in that first couple of inches of compost, criss-cross rows of sellotape across the top of the pot, and leave open square-shaped gaps of at least one inch wide.
- You can position multiple stems without them wobbling around as you sprinkle in the finishing compost and water them. Once you have watered your new plantings, you can remove the sticky tape, gently padding down the moist growing medium.
- Alternatively, poke straws into your compost layer’s first couple of inches, then place cuttings alongside them. You can attach them with small lengths of garden twine or pre-cut lengths of wool.
- Once all the stems are each propped up against a straw, gently load in the remaining compost. Once you have topped up the container, gently slide out the straws as you use your scissors to snip off the threads attaching them to cuttings. Finally, water the cuttings.
Propagating ZZ plants by separating rhizomes
Overcrowded rhizomes can either be separated and develop entirely new stems, or be transplanted with attached stems and roots. This operation requires more time and usually larger pots to accommodate what can be sizable potato-shaped rhizomes.
The following method is rather similar to root separation, so follow a similar route with the below in mind, too.
- Take your time to examine rhizomes, and if you have accidentally grazed or cut any part of them, set them to one side in the shade to dry off and seal the wound. Allowing the damage to dry helps to avoid mold or disease entering the rhizome.
- Remember, rhizomes capture and hold moisture, so there’s no risk to the baby plant by leaving it in the fresh air for a few hours. The growing tissue of the plant will not be deprived of a source of water. The rhizome will quickly replenish any moisture loss once you’ve replanted and watered it.
- Layer compost as with the above method for roots, and lower the rhizome and roots into position, respecting that rhizomes grow horizontally. Take care to support any developing stems. This method can also work well with no stems present.
Propagating ZZ plants via the stems
It’s simple to lift stems from parent plants and either plant them directly into compost if there is root material visible, or by placing bare stems in containers of water to root.
Using stems is easy to control, and you can propagate several simultaneously. A great trick is to house even unrooted stems in individual glasses of water – for two reasons.
Reason one, it’ll provide ease of identifying which new roots belong to which stem. What’s more, it’ll help ensure they don’t get damaged by being pulled apart as you set them in a container.
It can take several weeks for roots to develop – so, be patient and change the dechlorinated water at least every two weeks, more frequently for larger specimens.
Propagating ZZ plants via leaves
Learning how to propagate a ZZ plant from a leaf is fairly experimental, but fascinating to behold. ZZ plants really are determined survivors! Owners often witness an odd fallen leaf to self-root occasionally.
You can remove leaves to root in water or even just by poking the base of the leaf into the surface of some fresh potting soil and giving them a drop of water. You may not score a 100% success rate with this method, but it’s always worth trying!
After approximately seven or eight weeks, you can transfer the rooted leaves to their new home. ZZ plant leaf propagation requires a little less prep than some of the other methods above.
Learning about propagation
You may have chosen one of the four ways to propagate your amazingly adaptable ZZ plant, but why not try them all? Undoubtedly you will find it better or easier to use one method in preference to others. But, how will you know unless you experiment?
One of the significant advantages of experimenting with ZZ plants is the rare opportunity to tinker with all four propagation methods with one single plant!
With a bit of planning, you can even conduct all four options simultaneously – meaning you can monitor the success of each method and determine which option/s you may favor in the future.
By recycling jars, pots and using rainwater, propagation can be virtually cost-free, too – a brilliant, sustainable way to welcome more plants into your home.
What’s more, there may be only a little organic waste as you trim off stems, dysfunctional roots, rhizome material or remove pests. You can put spent compost on a heap to recycle and reuse.
One thing is for sure, it’s doubtful you will be disappointed propagating your ZZ plants. These robust evergreens are reliable air purifiers and truly stunning architectural additions to any indoor garden.
Plus, when our propagating attempts succeed, it’s immensely satisfying to watch our plants thrive. Somehow ZZs actively demonstrate their thanks for our attention and forgiveness for our forgetfulness! They reward us with reliable, lush green growth – and occasionally some flowers!