Despite the silly nickname, ZZ plants would make a great addition to your house. Not only are they easy to care for, but they also purify air toxins. Don’t get me started on the aesthetic value of that vibrant green. It adds life and energy to your house.
That’s why it’s frustrating when they start yellowing, even though you’re doing your best to provide a hospitable environment. You get confused and start asking: Why is my ZZ plant dying?
Well, that’s the question I aim to answer today. I explore all the possible factors that affect these plants’ lives to determine potential sources of threats.
Let’s see all the possible factors that shorten the lifespan of ZZ plants.
ZZ plants aren’t picky with their soil. However, it’s still the housing environment that they sit on for a long time. If it doesn’t cater to their needs, it’ll do more harm than good. Remember, ZZ plants are native habitats of eastern and South Africa. That means they prefer dry environments.
If your soil retains too much moisture, it won’t be long before your plant experiences root rot. The root would stop absorbing and transferring nutrients to the leaves, and your plant won’t grow properly and die.
That’s the most common cause of death among ZZ plants. You see, watering these plants can be a bit tricky. Unlike most plants, they don’t need frequent watering.
They even thrive in dry environments. When you water them too often, you suffocate the root, causing root rot.
Unfortunately, some might prolong watering their ZZ plants to an extreme measure, which is just as bad. The roots would start shrinking and eventually die from dehydration. As a result, they stop transferring water to the leaves, killing the plant in the process.
It’s no surprise plants need sunlight to bloom. However, different plants require specific lighting conditions. Not providing these conditions is a recipe for trouble.
With ZZ plants, you want to keep them somewhere where they can receive bright, indirect sunlight. If you’re growing them in front of a sun-facing window, you might want to move them. Direct sunlight can be a killer, as it burns their leaves and changes their color.
Luckily, ZZ plants thrive in temperatures between 65-85℉, which is the average indoor temperature of most homes. However, you should start worrying when the temperature steps outside that range.
Extreme weather isn’t good for ZZ plants. They can’t survive below 45℉. The same thing goes for extremely high temperatures.
ZZ plants’ humidity requirements are similar to their temperature requirements. They thrive in moderate humidity levels between 40-50%. Remember, these plants prefer dry conditions. Not only does high humidity invite pests, but it can also cause root rot or mold.
If you’re new to the plant game, you might think offering your child as many nutrients as possible helps it grow strong and healthy. That’s a common misconception. Over-fertilizing your plant is more harmful than beneficial, especially for ZZ plants.
Excessive fertilization increases salt concentration on the surface of the soil, causing a fertilizer burn. These salts absorb all the moisture from the soil and roots, eventually killing the plant.
You don’t have to worry about pests with ZZ plants, as they’re somewhat pest-resistant. They’re not invincible, though. As infrequent as they are, your plant might face a pest issue, causing severe damage.
The most dangerous pest ZZ plants have to deal with is blight. At first, blights won’t cause serious damage. You might notice the lower part of the leaves get a bit mushy. However, over time, it’ll start affecting the root, causing root rot and killing the plant.
So your plant has already taken damage. Is it too late? No, there’s always something you can do. However, your countermeasures should depend on the type of damage.
Luckily, most pre-mixed potting soils have the necessary draining attributes to grow your ZZ plant. Cactus potting mix would do the trick, as its organic materials have good draining properties.
However, we recommend mixing your own soil. Not only is it easy to prepare, but it also gives you the freedom to cater to the needs of your plants. You can mix regular organic potting mix with pumice and perlite, as they regulate and improve your plant’s draining properties.
Unfortunately, ZZ plants don’t have a specific watering schedule. That’s why many plant parents over-water this specimen. That said, you can determine when it’s time to water it by touching the first few inches of the soil. If it’s dry, then it’s time to water it.
If not, let it dry a bit more. That’s not to say you should let your plant dry out. On average, you can water it every 2-3 weeks. What if your ZZ plant’s root has already rotten? In that case, take it out of the pot, cut the affected roots, and place it in a new, clean one with fresh soil.
If you’re underwatering your plant, just keep pouring water into the soil until it absorbs a good amount.
For indoor growth, place it somewhere with bright sun exposure and a bit of shade. Putting it in front of a window with curtains would do the trick. The same rule applies to outdoor growth.
A good first step to treat overfertilization is to take excess salt out of the soil. Then, give your plant a good wash to get rid of the remaining traces of salt.
Once your plant has healed, fertilize it infrequently. On average, ZZ plants need fertilization twice during the growing season.
The most effective method against pests is using a pesticide or an insecticidal soap. Mix the soap with one gallon of water and one teaspoon of neem oil.
So when you notice your plant getting weaker and ask yourself: Why is my ZZ plant dying? You know what to look for. The first thing you should start with is the soil, as it’s the host of the plant.
That said, over-watering is the most common cause of death among ZZ plants. Don’t worry, though. Whether it’s repotting your plant or changing the surrounding environment, there’s always a treatment for the cause of damage.
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.