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How Much & How Often to Water ZZ Plants: Seasons, Factors, & FAQ

ZZ Plant

Successfully growing a houseplant is a very satisfying and fulfilling hobby for most gardeners. If you take pride in growing a variety of indoor plants, you should definitely consider the ZZ Plant. ZZ plants, also known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia or Zanzibar Gem, are a popular choice for indoor gardens with a host of beneficial properties.

These attractive plants not only tolerate low light conditions and require minimum maintenance services, but they can also effectively filter volatile pollutants from your indoor atmosphere. When it comes to watering, there is a lot of misinformation regarding how often one should water them and the amount they need to thrive.

The Zanzibar gem is especially sensitive to overwatering and underwatering. In this article, we will discuss how much and how often to water ZZ plants. We will also highlight factors affecting water requirements in ZZ plants.

garden flower divider

When to Water a ZZ Plant

Native to East Africa, the ZZ plants are known for their tough and drought-resistant nature. They can thrive in arid conditions because of a highly developed rhizome root system that processes water efficiently. However, that doesn’t mean you completely abandon the plant to fend for itself. When this plant experiences an extended drought period (drought includes you neglecting your watering duties), they wither and die.

ZZ plants typically require watering once a month during the winter season when there is low light exposure. You should also water the plants twice a month during summer and spring. Since the plants are semi-succulent and prosper in well-draining soils, they prefer to dry out completely between watering schedules. Thus, always check the plant’s moisture level using a humidity checker or simply insert your finger into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water your ZZ plant.

Also, consider using water at room temperature to soak the soil until it is sufficiently saturated. If you are growing your ZZ plant in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom, water the plant as frequently as possible. The ZZ plant is especially prone to root rot if under-watered.

The watering frequency may vary depending on your home’s temperature, the amount of sunlight your plants receive, the time of the year, and the type of soil.

  • Watering During Summer: The watering frequency changes drastically in summer. During this season, all-day exposure to the indirect sun will cause the soil to dry up more quickly. Ideally, your ZZ plant will need water at least once a week. However, the best frequency is twice a month.
  • Watering in Winter: The light and heat from the sun are usually minimal during winter. This causes the soil to need more time to completely dry out. So, the plant usually goes into hibernation, requiring little to no attention during this period. Since ZZ plants prefer the soil to be dried out before watering, you should check the moisture content. In winter, they need water at least once a month because when it is too cold, ZZ plants can go without a drop of water for about a month or two.
ZZ Plant
Image By: Elena Shashkina, Shutterstock

How Much Water Does a ZZ Plant Need?

It is quite difficult to provide an estimate of the total amount of water the Zanzibar gem needs at any point in time. The amount depends on the type of pot mix, the season, and the size of the plant and pot as we shall discuss in the next section of this article. But one thing is for sure, the plant should not remain soggy after watering.

ZZ plants like to be on the drier side, so you should not overwater them and the pot should have a proper drainage system to ensure that the water doesn’t remain stagnant in the soil. Generally speaking, most ZZ plants need about 1 inch of water per week. However, experienced gardeners recommend using 1 cup of water for small and medium flower pots, and about 2 cups for the larger plants.

If unsure about the cup size, you can always water the plant and let the excess water drain out completely. The water should be enough to wash out the excess mineral salts in the potting mix instead of building up. Also, ensure that you don’t water through the leaves because it may cover up the pores, leading to internal and external plant issues.

The 4 Factors Affecting Water Requirements in ZZ Plants

By now, you should know the appropriate watering schedule for ZZ plants, and the amount of water the plants need to thrive. Now, let us look at some of the factors that influence the water requirements of ZZ plants.

Even though these indoor plants are not easily affected by external factors, their water requirement will vary depending on environmental changes and other factors as seen below:

1. Soil

woman hands putting soil in the pot
Image By: rolkadd, Shutterstock

The soil mix used in your ZZ pot plays an important role in determining the plant water needs. The most vital soil element is its ability to lose or retain water. If the soil mix is heavy or has poor drainage, the water will stagnate, and your ZZ plant will start to rot from the roots.

Most newb gardeners tend to check the saturation level at the topsoil and forget the bottom of the pot may be completely soaked even if the top soil remains dry. This is a common occurrence when one uses a heavy pot mixing that doesn’t drain well.

This needs to be remedied with immediate effect. You could change or combine the soil mix with a cactus mix or perlite to improve the drainage.

2. Pot Type

As you may have gathered, ZZ plants don’t do well in water-logged soils. So, they do better when planted in pots that allow free airflow in the soil. The best flower pots should have sizable drainage holes located at the bottom of the pot to drain out excess water and minerals from the soil. Large drainage holes reduce the risk of root rot and improve root penetration in the pot.

Unglazed clay pots are ideal for the Zanzibar gem because they reduce the risk of oversaturation. Terracotta pots are also porous enough to allow free air and water transfer throughout the container walls. They also keep the soil dry.

You could also opt for plastic or glazed ceramic jars, but ensure you have sufficient drainage. However, they can hold water until it is all used up by the plant or evaporated. If you place your pot on a suction plate or tray, remember to drain out the water every 15 minutes after watering the plant.

3. Temperature

checking soil temperature
Image By: MVolodymyr, Shutterstock

ZZ plants can prosper in different temperature levels. However, if the temperature changes, the amount of water that the plant needs also varies and changes to accommodate the temperature levels. Ideally, ZZ plants will remain strong and healthy in an environment whose temperature ranges between 65°F–90°F.

If the temperatures are high, the plant will need water more frequently because the soil dries up faster. When underwatered in high-temperature conditions, the leaves may start to wither and droop. If the temperature goes lower, the watering frequency reduces because the soil takes more time to dry out.

4. Light

Lighting conditions are also critical factors in determining the amount and when ZZ plants need water. Light is vital for the photosynthesis process, which helps in the growth and development of a plant. So, when your ZZ plant is exposed to more sunlight, the more water the plant will need because photosynthesis uses up a lot of water in the process.

However, ZZ lights shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight for more than 1–2 hours a day. When they spend a considerable amount of time exposed to direct rays from the sun, ZZ plant leaves will lose moisture and turn brown. It’s best to take the plant outside in the mornings and evenings. During summer, when the light is particularly bright, ensure that you meet your plant’s watering needs so that they don’t get bone dry due.

5. Humidity

ZZ Plant
Image Credit: Puipatch Lokakalin, Shutterstock

ZZ plants may be tropical plants, but they do not like humid environments. Humidity is essential to a plant’s growth and some extent affects the watering needs of ZZ plants. If humidity gets too high, you may need to reduce the amount of water because the soil takes longer to dry up.

ZZ plants typically do well in humidity of about 40%–50%. If it gets lower, the plants will take a shorter time to dry out. Humidity may not be one of the most crucial factors affecting the watering needs of ZZ plants, but it can make a little difference in the amount of water consumed.

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ZZ plants are a great addition to indoor plant collection. They filter out indoor air and they practically care for themselves. However, being low maintenance doesn’t mean you ignore them. Knowing how and when to water your ZZ plant will go a long way toward keeping your plants fresh and healthy.

Much like cacti, ZZ plants require less water and are overly sensitive to overwatering. So, you should only water the plant after it has completely dried out. When watering ensure that the pot type and soil mix are porous enough to let the excess water drain out. Excess water will rot the plant’s underground drainage.

You also need to pay close attention to environmental conditions such as humidity, light, and temperature because they influence the watering needs. If the conditions change, you should change the watering schedule too. Just ensure that the plants are provided with the appropriate amount of water every time.

Featured Image Credit: Plant_kyozstorage, Shutterstock


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