The Zanzibar Gem plant or Zamioculcas zamiifolia comes from Africa. It seems to thrive in rough growing conditions as those found in Tanzania and Zanzibar. Although it’s been around for a very long time, it wasn’t until around 1996 when it was made available to the entire world by Dutch nurseries.
Its botanical name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia was given by Adolf Engler. This name is believed to have been derived from the cycad genus Zamia.
The Zanzibar plant has several common name:
- ZZ plant
- Zuzu plant
- Zizi plant
- Zee Zee Plant
- Aroid palm
- Eternity plant
- Emerald palm
It’s a tropical perennial plant of the Araceae family. With relatives like the Philodendron, Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane), Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen) and the Caladium.
Even though its name was given because of some similarities between the ZZ’s foliage and some plants in the genus Zamia, the Zamioculcas zamiifolia genus has a single species with no biological relationship with the genus Zamia.
This makes the plant common and popular but also unique and therefore an interesting addition to any household.
Growing The Zanzibar Gem Plant
Although the leaves are only a few inches in length, they’re fleshy, shiny, vibrant and pleasing to look at. The ZZ plant grows up to 30” inches tall when fully matured. It resembles tree-like plants and palms because of its similar growth habit.
When properly maintained, the Zee Zee plant has rich green foliage with multiple stems and leaves growing up and down the stem. ZZ’s do lack color other than dark green. The leaves grow up to 5” long. They have over 90% water content.
It is believed the high amount of water in the leaves, the petioles, and the fat rhizome is what allows the plant to thrive in a drought-like and low light environment of today’s homes and offices..
The ZZ plant is not known as a spectacular bloomer. Especially when grown in low light conditions inside the house. However, when planted outside, flowering occurs just above ground level.  This happens during spring and lasts until the middle of summer.
The Zanzibar gem is known for its tolerance to low light conditions and considered one of the “easiest indoor plants”.
However, it doesn’t share the same level of tolerance when it comes to temperature. Zamioculcus prefers a rather warm, tropical climate with temperatures ranging between 65° and 90° degrees Fahrenheit. This is what makes it a good house or office plant.
The “zplant” doesn’t have a tremendous need for fertilizer. That’s because with or without it the plant grows very slowly.
The ZZ is tough enough to deal with poor soil conditions such as salty soil but it still requires a good draining from time to time.
The ZZ plant doesn’t need pruning or special grooming in order to stay healthy. You can just cut the leaves that turn yellow near the base and be done with it.
How To Propagate ZZ Plants
Propagation can be handled in two ways.  You can divide the rhizomes and plant them in different pots or use leaf cuttings.
If you go the leaf route, know that it may take up to one year for the cuttings to start developing roots, even when kept under ideal climate.
Although not entirely necessary, planting leaf cuttings in composted soil or soil with a good amount of light fertilizer will speed up root development.
Extra light is not required since light seems to stimulate the growth of leaves and improve their glossy exterior.
Caring For Zamioculcus Zamiifolia Plants
Caring for a ZZ plant is not an issue even for the brownest thumbs.
The plant needs three things:
- Well-drained soil
- Occasional watering
- Temperatures above 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
Otherwise, the ‘eternity plant” is quite forgiving of its owners.
Pests, Diseases, Or Problems The ZZ Encounters
The ZZ plant doesn’t naturally attract pests nor is it susceptible to diseases.
However, under poor soil conditions, roots may begin to rot. This can happen if the soil is not well-drained or too compacted with flooding of the roots.
Other than overwatering there’s not much to worry about.
Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions About The Plant
When using leaf cuttings to grow more ZZ plants, exercise patience. You need to cover the pot that’s holding the cutting with a plastic cover until the roots start emerging.
If you don’t mind the extra work, consider repotting young ZZ plants every spring. Do this for the first two or three years to ensure that the plant develops very strong roots.
Although not needed, fertilizer may show some results if added during the primary growing season – mid-spring until the end of summer.
The Zanzibar gem is easy to care for and makes a great addition to any home, aesthetically speaking.
However, the plant is quite toxic for animals and children. Remember the ZZ is related to the “dumbcane” (Dieffenbachia).
Though not as toxic as other plants in the Araceae family, it’s still a good idea to keep it out of reach of anybody that might be interested in nibbling the leaves.
Best Ways To Use Zanzibar Gem In Design – Indoors Or Outdoors
Because the ZZ plant doesn’t grow visible flowers, it can make its way into any type of arrangement.
It’s mainly used as a 2-ft. green plant (when matured) which can look great on the ground, on tables, or even in the garden in between colorful arrangements.
It grows too tall and heavy to be placed in hanging baskets or holders. But, given its glossy leaves, it’s sure to get everyone’s attention, even if it’s just one of many plants in your living room.
ZZ Buying Tips
Since it’s such a popular houseplant, the ZZ plant is not hard to find. You can buy it from most nurseries, home improvement stores, and a variety of online stores.
If you’re looking for a good starter houseplant, the Zanzibar Gem is one of the best options available.
It’s easy to tend to, you don’t have to leave a key with your neighbors to water it when you leave on vacation, and it’s not bothered by pests and insects.
The leaves are naturally glossy which makes them really eye-catching.
And, if you plan ahead, you can easily propagate the plant with leaf cuttings so that you can further improve the air quality inside your house.