ZZ plants are some of the most durable specimens in the plant world. They can withstand dry environments, various lighting conditions, and different soil types. That’s why it can be confusing when their leaves start to fall.
You start asking questions: Am I doing something wrong? Why is my ZZ plant dropping leaves? Well, today I’ve made it my job to answer that question.
Fallen leaves imply you’re not providing a proper environment for your plant to grow strong and healthy. Let’s see how that can affect your plant’s growth.
The first thing plant parents re-examine when their plants show signs of sick leaves is the watering routine, as it’s the most complicated aspect of growing ZZ plants. While it’s a valid step, I recommend starting with the soil. After all, it’s where your plant sits all day.
ZZ plants don’t require a specific type of soil. However, you should note that they’re natural habitats of Eastern and South Africa. So they prefer dry environments. Planting them in soil that retains too much water would be like throwing a domestic cat into the wild.
It won’t survive for long, as it’ll absorb too much water, and its roots will rot. Rotten roots won’t absorb nutrients or transfer them to the leaves. So the plant will start dropping leaves to compensate for the lack of nutrition.
If you’re sure your soil has good drainage properties, your next step is to re-evaluate your watering regime. Over/under-watering is the most common cause of dropping leaves. You see, ZZ plants don’t have a specific watering schedule.
As a rule of thumb, you want to water them when the top few inches of soil are dry. However, it can be hard for new plant parents to identify when the soil is properly dry. So they end up watering it too much or too little. Unfortunately, both are just as bad.
Watering ZZ plants too often suffocates the roots, reducing their ability to absorb and transfer water to the leaves. As a result, the leaves won’t grow properly and start falling.
Under-watering ZZ plants has a similar effect, as the roots don’t get enough water and die from dehydration and malnutrition. So they don’t transfer nutrients to the leaves, causing them to fall.
Plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, a process where they feed themselves by converting sunlight into glucose. While they can tolerate various lighting conditions, exposing ZZ plants to direct sunlight is a recipe for disaster.
The leaves will burn and fall over. With ZZ plants, you want to keep them somewhere with bright, indirect light.
Keeping your ZZ plant in well-draining soil, exposing it to indirect sunlight, and following a proper watering routine isn’t enough. You have to grow it in specific heat and humidity levels. As you know by now, ZZ plants prefer warm environments.
Their temperature requirements are nothing out of the ordinary. The average 65-85°F of most homes is good enough. However, if it falls below that range, your plant won’t do well. ZZ plants can’t survive in temperatures below 45°F.
Their leaves will start drooping, and eventually drop. The same thing goes for humidity. They need average humidity of 40-50%. If it gets too high, the roots will rot, causing the leaves to fall over.
Yes, plants receive nutrients from water and sunlight. They also don’t need as much fertilization as other plants. That doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. Fertilizers provide the necessary nutrients and minerals for your plant to grow healthy.
If you don’t fertilize ZZ plants enough, they won’t receive these nutrients, and the leaves will fall. That’s not to say you should over-fertilize it, as it’s just as bad.
The fertilizer will increase the salt levels in the soil, absorbing all the moisture from the roots, causing the leaves to fall and the plant to die. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: You can fertilize your plant, and the leaves can still fall.
That usually indicates you’re using the wrong type of fertilizers. Avoid fertilizer spikes, as they’re too strong and can potentially burn the roots, causing the leaves to fall over.
ZZ plants rarely experience pest trouble. They’re not pest-resistant, though. These cheeky buggers can reside in different parts of your plant and cause all sorts of damage.
The most common pests that target ZZ plants are scale insects. They usually sit on the lower side of the leaves and absorb the sap. Over time, you’ll notice the leaves will start to wilt and fall over. Blights are another common threat in the plant world.
They’re usually drawn to the moisture ZZ plants store in their leaves. Like scale insects, they target the lower side of the leaves, changing their colors to yellow and brown. Blight won’t do considerable damage right away.
However, over time, they can cause the roots and rhizomes to rot, resulting in fallen leaves.
ZZ plants don’t need frequent repotting. Changing the pot every 2-3 years is enough to keep it healthy. If you don’t repot your plant, though, it becomes root-bound. That means the housing pot is too small to contain it.
The roots become trapped and lose their ability to absorb water and nutrients to grow healthy. As a result, the leaves start falling over from malnutrition.
The next time you see your ZZ plant dropping leaves, know you’re not providing the ideal growing environment. Whether it’s the soil, watering schedule, or temperature, make sure every aspect of the housing environment caters to its needs.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.