6 Reasons Why ZZ Plants Are So Expensive

Depending on where you live (and the time of year), a ZZ plant can cost between $10 and $300. So while ZZ plants aren’t always expensive, some are incredibly pricey, especially compared to other popular indoor plants like snake plants and ficuses.

The primary reasons why ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are so expensive are supply and demand. These plants grow slowly but are popular, resulting in a demand that constantly outpaces supply. Consequently, prices for ZZ plants, especially larger plants, tend to remain comparatively high.

This article will explore the reasons why ZZ plants are expensive, helping you better understand why the prices of these popular houseplants vary so wildly. If you’ve wondered why ZZ plants in your area are so pricey, read on!

1. These Plants Grow Very Slowly

Unlike fast-growing indoor plants like aloe vera and snake plants, ZZ plants (also called Zanzibar Gems) are slow growers. When kept indoors in partial-sunlight environments, these plants can take several years to reach their full height of up to 4 ft (1.2 m). 

Many people purchase these plants because they’re hardy, drought-resistant, and capable of tolerating low-light conditions. Consequently, the average buyer might place their new ZZ plant in a partially lit corner of the room, as it doesn’t need full sunlight to thrive.

So, although ZZ plants can grow several inches each month, especially when kept in sunny spots or warm outdoor gardens, the average specimen grows far more slowly. 

This relatively slow growth can make ZZ plants expensive, as growers have to invest more energy and time cultivating them. In this way, the opportunity cost incurred from growing ZZ plants is comparatively high.

Think about it like this: you could cultivate hardy, fast-growing flowers like Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and turn a profit in just a few months. And because these flowers can tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions, you don’t need to spend much time maintaining them.

But horticulturalists who cultivate Zanzibar Gem plants often have to wait years before seeing a profit from their labor. Additionally, these plants are far less cold-tolerant than other houseplants, so a sudden frost can decimate a grower’s yield. 

These qualities make ZZ plants a higher-risk choice for growers and one that requires more time and energy to cultivate. For many horticulturalists and plant nurseries, the only way to enjoy a profit from growing and selling these plants is to charge above-average prices.

Smaller ZZ Plants Are Typically More Affordable

The most affordable ZZ plants are those measuring 6 in (about 15 cm), while larger plants (12 in / 30.5 cm or taller) are costlier. Those hoping to spend less when purchasing ZZ plants might want to gravitate toward smaller specimens. 

However, smaller options aren’t as visually impressive as larger ones, which is something to consider if buying these plants for decorative purposes.

Generally, tall ZZ plants are more desirable than short, juvenile ones. The demand for larger ZZ plants (coupled with their comparatively low supply) also contributes to higher plant prices.

2. ZZ Plants Are Extremely Popular

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), the ZZ plant is a popular houseplant that has earned the “Plant of the Year” title multiple times. This plant’s hardiness and adaptability make it a great choice for those who’ve struggled with keeping indoor plants in the past.

But this popularity often makes ZZ plants pricier than other types of houseplants. After all, these plants grow slowly, and because larger specimens tend to be more desirable than smaller ones, the supply of “ideal” ZZ plants is always lagging behind the demand. 

Still, why are bigger ZZ plants preferable to smaller ones?

There are several answers to this question, but the two most significant reasons are related to these plants’ perceived benefits. The two most notable of these benefits include:

  • Air-purifying qualities
  • Decorative usefulness

Even though Zanzibar Gems often take years to reach heights of 12 in (30.5 cm) or taller, the benefits associated with taller ZZ plants make them in-demand houseplants. Because this demand exceeds supply, prices for these plants can quickly climb, often faster than the plant itself!

ZZ Plants Have Air-Purifying Qualities

One of the major reasons to add houseplants to your household is to enjoy better indoor air quality (IAQ). Several indoor plants can remove airborne toxins, reducing household allergies and potentially decreasing the risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

ZZ plants are consistently in-demand houseplants because of their air-purifying qualities. The shiny green leaves of these plants are known to absorb and remove several types of toxins from the air.

The larger the plant, the larger the leaves. And the larger the leaves, the greater the surface area available to absorb toxins. Thus, taller ZZ plants can purify the air more effectively than smaller ones, making them more desirable.

Larger ZZ plants are also more visible than smaller ones, making them preferable for those hoping to add Zanzibar Gem plants to their indoor areas for aesthetic purposes.

ZZ Plants Are Prized for Their Decorative Aesthetic

The broad, lustrous leaves of ZZ plants make them aesthetically pleasing houseplants that look great almost everywhere. 

There are dozens of ways to decorate your home with Zanzibar Gem plants, and you can find multiple online tutorials offering decor ideas. For examples of ways people use ZZ plants to improve their home’s decor, check out this related video: 

But because ZZ plants have such a wealth of decorative applications, they remain exceptionally popular, especially among social media influencers. This popularity only increases demand further, which in turn, makes these plants even pricier.

3. Buying a ZZ Plant Is Considered a Long-Term Investment 

Another aspect to consider is the estimated lifespan of a ZZ plant. 

While many indoor plants have a limited lifespan of only a few years (approximately two to five years), ZZ plants can enjoy a lifespan of ten years, potentially even longer if properly maintained and cared for.

Because these houseplants can live twice as long as many others, they’re often considered long-term investments. Growers may charge higher-than-average prices because buyers are unlikely to return every year to invest in replacement ZZ plants.

Essentially, ZZ plants don’t adhere to the concept of planned obsolescence, a manufacturing strategy that guarantees consistent long-term profits. They don’t “go bad” after a short period (unless kept in dark or cold environments). 

Their low-maintenance qualities and longer-than-average lifespan make them low-profit plants for nurseries and growers. To ensure a profit, these producers might decide to charge higher prices.

4. Pre-Potted ZZ Plants Cost More Than Bare-Root Ones

A container (or lack thereof) can also impact a ZZ plant’s price. Many plant nurseries and online retailers also charge more for ZZ plants shipped in containers than bare-root plants shipped in envelopes and sleeves.

Ordering a potted ZZ plant is almost always pricier than ordering a bare-root one—and for good reason.

Firstly, when you purchase a potted ZZ plant, you’re not only paying for the plant. You’re also paying for the container and the soil. These items add to the total item’s price and can be quite hefty.

Heftier items generate higher shipping costs, requiring more fuel and physical labor to haul. These transportation costs are transferred to customers via higher product prices. 

If you’re looking to save some money when ordering ZZ plants, it’s best to opt for a bare-root plant that’s shipped with minimal (or no) soil. 

Of course, you’ll still need to invest in a container and potting soil for your plant. But purchasing these items separately is often the more budget-friendly choice.

5. These Plants Can’t Tolerate Low Temperatures

The Zanzibar Gem plant originates in Africa, typically growing in arid and tropical environments along the East African savannahs and steppes. In short, the ZZ plant’s native habitats tend to be warm and relatively dry.

When these plants are exposed to temperatures of 50 °F (10 °C) or below, they can stop growing, wilt, or simply rot away. Consequently, horticulturalists looking to grow and sell ZZ plants must ensure that these indoor plants avoid low temperatures.

But maintaining warm temperatures to keep ZZ plants in tip-top condition can be challenging, especially for horticulturalists living in areas that experience low winter temperatures.

For example, a sudden frost or unexpected power outage (one that shuts down heat lamps) can destroy vast quantities of ZZ plants growing in garden nurseries, resulting in a lower-than-average supply. When this happens, the supply of ZZ plants drops, resulting in local price increases.

It’s also worth noting that horticulturalists living in colder climes have to spend more time and money cultivating ZZ plants than those living in warm regions. When growers have to invest more funds into producing plants, production costs are passed onto buyers via higher plant prices.

Costs of Cultivating ZZ Plants in Cold Areas

Because ZZ plants cannot survive cold outdoor environments, growers living in cooler areas must cultivate them in indoor spaces equipped with temperature control devices (like heating lamps).

The cost of powering these devices varies depending on how many are in operation. The size of the space they’re used in also plays a role in electricity costs, as larger spaces can require more devices to reach a stable temperature. 

For example, a small-scale horticulturalist might only operate half a dozen heating lamps in a 500 sq ft (about 46 sq m) grow space. But a large-scale grower might operate hundreds of lights and heat lamps in a warehouse-sized space.

As such, the electricity costs associated with cultivating ZZ plants indoors vary significantly, with monthly costs ranging from as little as $40 to as high as several hundred dollars. 

It’s also crucial to note that a grower’s location impacts electricity costs, as the average cents-per-kilowatt-hour charge for electricity varies significantly depending on location. 

While a horticulturalist growing ZZ plants indoors in Nebraska might only spend less than 11 cents per kilowatt, one in New Hampshire can easily spend three times that amount for the same electricity.

When ZZ plants grown in these indoor spaces reach store shelves or plant nurseries, their base price reflects the money growers have spent cultivating them. Additionally, some horticulturalists living in cold regions simply avoid attempting to grow these plants due to their low cold tolerance.

Others struggle to produce tall, desirable ZZ plants due to low temperatures. 

Low Temperatures Equal Slow Growth

Because tall ZZ plants enjoy a higher demand than short ones, the time it takes for these plants to reach retail-friendly heights can significantly impact their prices.

Growers producing ZZ plants in colder regions might have to spend years cultivating these plants before selling them. So, not only are Zanzibar Gem plants considered a long-term investment for buyers, but they can also be long-term investments for growers.

If you live in a temperate or cool area, ZZ plants might cost you more simply because plant nurseries and growers spend more time cultivating them. Remember, the more labor required to produce a houseplant, the higher the price buyers are expected to pay.

But cultivation struggles related to cold weather aren’t the only factors influencing ZZ plant prices. Transportation costs can also result in pricier plants.

6. Transportation Costs Significantly Impact ZZ Plant Prices

If you live in a naturally warm area that experiences mild winters, you’ll likely find that ZZ plants in your area are quite affordable. 

For example, ZZ plants sold in Florida often cost less than $20 per plant, regardless of whether it’s pre-potted or not. That’s because plant nurseries in warm areas likely encounter few cultivation challenges due to the year-round warm weather. 

But if you live somewhere that sees heavy winter snowfall or generally low annual temperatures, prices for ZZ plants can be much higher. After all, the costs of cultivating these houseplants can be punitive for growers, especially those with small-scale operations.

Moreover, having a ZZ plant shipped to your location can quickly get pricey. This is especially true if you live in a cold region and there aren’t local nurseries in your area selling the plant, requiring you to order yours from a warmer region.

Transportation Costs: Factors Impacting ZZ Plant Prices

The cost of transporting goods has increased over the last few years, with the pandemic, war, and fuel shortages playing a significant role in rising shipping costs. While rates have decreased slightly since 2020, transportation costs remain comparatively high.

The reasons behind this are complex, but there are some consistent factors that contribute to higher-than-average transportation costs. These factors include:

  • Rising prices for gasoline.
  • Supply chain disruptions.

Consumer demand also plays a role in rising shipping costs. The more people order deliverable goods, the more stress transportation companies experience. 

There might be less space available for transportable goods, resulting in a demand that exceeds supply (the supply being space in this instance). As the law of supply and demand states, this relationship generates higher overall prices.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore how distance impacts shipping costs.

Shipping ZZ Plants Across Long Distances Is Costly

Let’s say that you live in the Hawaiian Islands and want to order a ZZ plant from a plant nursery in the continental United States. In that case, you can expect to pay far more than someone who lives down the road from that plant nursery.

That’s because the ZZ plant you order has to travel a vast distance to reach your location. Not only do nursery staff need to prepare it for such a long journey, but they also have to pay more for shipping due to the long-haul nature of the delivery.

But areas outside the contiguous United States are also expensive to ship to because of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also called the Jones Act). 

This act essentially grants U.S. cargo ships a monopoly on U.S. ports. It restricts (if not eliminates) the number of international cargo ships allowed to reach ports in Alaska and Hawaii. Consequently, shipping to these states costs businesses and their patrons more.

Still, even those living within the continental United States can expect to spend more on ZZ plants if those plants come from faraway states. Rising fuel costs and limited transportation services are often to blame for these higher shipping costs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions regarding ZZ plants, their abnormally high price tags, and why they’re so popular.

How Expensive Is a ZZ Plant?

ZZ plants can cost as little as $10 or more than $300. The price of a ZZ plant varies depending on its size, whether it’s pre-potted, and your location. Large ZZ plants sold in ornate containers tend to be the priciest.

What Is So Special About a ZZ Plant?

ZZ plants have several unique qualities that make them popular houseplants. They can purify indoor air, live longer than many common houseplants, and are low-maintenance. They’re also aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for decorative purposes.

Do ZZ Plants Live Forever?

ZZ plants don’t live forever. But when properly cared for, they can live for up to ten years. That’s about twice the lifespan of the average indoor plant. This long lifespan also contributes to their high price tag since you don’t have to purchase a new ZZ plant anytime soon.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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