ZZ plants make fantastic indoor plants because they are easy to maintain, relatively hardy, and attractive. One of the essential requirements of growing a ZZ plant is to repot it regularly. If you’re new to caring for this popular plant, how do you know when it’s time for repotting?
You should report your ZZ plant every 1 to 2 years (or every 3 to 4 years if it’s mature). Early spring is the best time to repot a ZZ plant. You may consider repotting it if it looks unhealthy or the soil is drying out faster than usual.
In this article, I’ll provide an in-depth explanation of when you should repot your ZZ plant. I’ll also discuss some useful ZZ plant care tips and explain if these plants like to be rootbound. Let’s dive right in!
When to Repot Your ZZ Plant
You should repot a young ZZ plant every 1 to 2 years or when it becomes too big for its current pot.
Early spring is the ideal time to repot a ZZ plant, as this is when it’s experiencing the most growth and would benefit most from a new pot.
I’ll discuss these points in more detail below:
Repot When It Becomes Rootbound
ZZ plants aren’t fast-growing plants and typically outgrow their pots every 1 to 2 years. However, if you have a mature ZZ plant, you can get away with repotting it every 3 or 4 years.
Of course, it’s best to repot your ZZ plant before it experiences stress. If your ZZ plant appears healthy, and you’ve repotted it in the past year, there’s normally no need for repotting.
Signs of a healthy ZZ plant include:
- Plenty of bright green and glossy leaves
- Firm white roots
- Frequent new leaf growth
In contrast, you’ll know that your plant needs to be repotted if you notice the following signs:
- Stunted growth
- Roots poking out of the drainage holes or out of the soil surface
- Water quickly draining out without saturating the root zone
Repot Your Plants in Early Spring
Repotting any houseplant can stress the plant and root systems, and it’s important to repot the plant at the right time to minimize stress.
Repotting your ZZ plant in early spring is ideal because this is when it experiences most of its growth. It will also be able to recover from transplant shock more quickly during this stage.
Repotting the plant in new soil introduces fresh nutrients to help it thrive. The additional space also allows the plant to establish stronger roots as it begins its spring growth cycle.
Repotting your ZZ plant in the fall or winter will be more stressful since your plant will be forced to grow rather than conserve energy in dormancy. This contributes to a higher risk of plant failure or death.
Your Plant Is Looking Unhealthy
If your ZZ plant looks unhealthy, it may benefit from a larger pot and new soil.
Here are some common signs of an unhealthy ZZ plant:
- Dry, falling, brown, and brittle leaves
- Abnormally slow growth
- Spots on the leaves
- Falling leaves
These symptoms could signify problems with basic growth requirements, such as light, water, temperature, and soil. They can also be caused by pests and diseases.
Usually, the plant will recover once you recognize and address the underlying issue. But if the problem is with the size of the pot or the diminished quality of the soil that causes poor drainage or nutrient deficiency, repotting is the only option to ensure your plant survives.
After removing the dead leaves and repotting the ZZ plant, it may rejuvenate itself, as long as it’s in the correct soil and light conditions and you water it properly.
Repotting Your ZZ Plant: Step-by-Step
There are a few essential things to remember when repotting your ZZ plant:
1. Use a Suitably Sized Pot
Choosing the right size pot for repotting your ZZ plant is vital for new and healthy plant growth. The range of planter pot options on the market today is astounding, and you can pick one that matches your home decor.
That said, appearance is the least important element when selecting a pot for your ZZ plant. ZZ Plants don’t like being rootbound but prefer a snug living space.
When selecting a new pot for your plant, choose one that’s only one size larger than your plant’s current pot. You only want to increase the pot by a single measure. However, if you’re dividing the plant, you must go for smaller pots.
When considering pot size, look at the diameter and height of the roots in relation to the new pot. Be mindful not to select an oversized pot because your ZZ plant won’t thrive in a pot filled with too much potting medium.
Here are the ideal dimensions for the new pot:
- Measure the size of the root ball and find a pot that’s 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wider.
- The pot should be about 4 inches (10 cm) deeper than the root ball.
- There should be about 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of soil below the root ball so that the roots won’t sit in the constantly wet bottom layer.
- The soil surface should also be 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the mouth of the pot to prevent spilling every time you water your plant.
2. Choose a Suitable Pot Type
When choosing a pot type for your ZZ plant, consider its native habitat and preferred growing conditions. ZZ plants like a dry climate with infrequent watering where the soil dries out completely before the next watering. Buy a new pot that will replicate these ideal conditions.
A breathable or unglazed pot with drainage holes that drain into a water tray is the best pot choice for a ZZ plant. This allows the water to pass through the root system without the roots sitting in water for days, which can lead to root rot and plant diseases.
It’s also best to go for a pot that has a wider mouth than the base. This will make it easier to slide the plant out the next time you need to repot it.
Avoid using a self-watering pot for your ZZ plant. These pots will keep the soil and roots too damp to be sustainable long-term.
A solid-bottomed, non-draining pot can be attractive but unsuitable for a ZZ plant. It won’t drain the water fast enough from the top and bottom and can drown and suffocate the plant’s roots.
3. Use the Correct Soil
ZZ plants love thorough waterings with fast drying around the root system, and standard potting soil is not your best choice.
Instead, consider a low-moisture potting medium. Some swear by a cactus mix, while others only use an African violet mix. Either is an excellent choice as a premixed potting medium for a ZZ plant because they allow for quick drainage.
Alternatively, consider amending standard potting soil with additives to allow for faster drainage and quick drying at the root system. You can incorporate 25% perlite or pumice evenly into the potting soil to improve aeration and drainage.
4. Gather Your Tools and Get to Work
Water your ZZ plant for the last time in its old pot about three days before repotting. Gather the new pot, soil medium, and a pair of gardening gloves.
It’s best to repot your ZZ plant on a large, flat surface that allows you plenty of space to work. I often repot my houseplants in my kitchen because it’s a large area with a comfortable working height.
To do this safely in a food preparation area, I bought a large cutting board for plant care, plant propagation, and repotting. Be sure to get one that is easy to clean and sanitize, and you can run it through the dishwasher.
Here’s how to repot your plant:
- To remove the ZZ plant from its current container, loosen the soil around the edges of the pot with a hand trowel.
- Tip the plant upside down, using your hand to support the plant at the soil surface. The entire plant should easily slide from the planter with a little effort. Take care not to pull the plant from the pot, as this could damage the roots or the plant’s stalks.
- Gently pull the roots apart, ensuring you don’t damage or break them in the process. This makes space for the roots to continue to grow and expand in their new pot.
- Set the plant aside as you add a 2-3 inch (5-7.6 cm) layer of potting medium to the bottom of the new pot.
- If you remove the plant from the pot and it is seriously rootbound, you may want to gently separate it into two equal-sized plants and place one in the new pot and one in the old pot.
- Place the ZZ plant in the new pot, adding a bit of potting medium as you go.
- Once the plant is placed, continue to add potting medium until the roots and bulbs are covered, and you’re nearing the top of the new pot.
- Water your newly repotted plant deeply. If you’re repotting your ZZ plant due to root rot, you may want to avoid watering it right away.
Propagating ZZ Plants With Cuttings
You can propagate a ZZ plant, and the process is easy. You can do this with a stem or leaf cutting.
Unlike repotting, propagating a ZZ plant can be done any time of year, although the cuttings will root faster during the growing season.
I’ll share detailed instructions on propagating a ZZ plant below:
Steps for Propagation With Stem Cuttings
Propagating a ZZ plant by stem cutting is simple:
- Using a sterile blade, cut the stem straight across, parallel to the dirt, and not far above dirt level.
- Place the stem into fresh and clean water near a light source. Ensure that no bottom leaves are touching the water.
- Keep the cutting out of direct light. You can place the setup about 4-8 feet (1.2-2.4 m) from a bright window.
- Monitor the cutting and change out the water with fresh water every 5-7 days. In about a month or so, you will see new roots form at the base of the cutting.
- Once the roots are at least a half inch (1.27 cm) long, you can plant the cutting in soil.
- Keep the soil around the cutting moist for the first month. Remember that the cutting has been in the water for weeks, if not months. Putting it in too dry an environment could cause shock and cutting failure.
Propagating With Leaf Cuttings
Propagating ZZ plants with leaf cuttings is also a simple task.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove some healthy leaves from the stem by gently pulling them off close to the stem. Ensure that the petioles are intact.
- Place the leaves into shallow water to allow just the bottom 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) of the leaf to sit in the water.
- Monitor the water to ensure it’s clean and replace it with fresh water every 5-7 days. As roots develop underwater and near the base of the leaf, the leaf itself may shrivel and die. Don’t be alarmed if this happens. It’s perfectly normal and doesn’t mean the leaf-cutting has failed. Don’t throw the cutting away, but keep monitoring it for root development.
- You can plant the cutting in soil when the roots are approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Be sure to keep the cutting and the soil around the cutting moist for at least a month.
I will often try to start stem and leaf cuttings simultaneously by removing a stem and cutting it into sections to start in the water. I’ll then remove the leaves from the stem, placing them into the water together.
I can often successfully propagate several new ZZ plants from a single stem simultaneously. It’s interesting to watch them develop roots and different speeds and progress to varying developmental stages.
Gardeners and greenhouses often recommend a ZZ plant to people who want to add plants to their homes but have difficulty keeping them alive. ZZ plants are beautiful, low-maintenance plants with a bright green color.
ZZ plants require little light, infrequent watering, occasional feedings, and minimal care and maintenance beyond those basics.
That said, they can develop other issues that require quick action to save the plant. Pests, overwatering, and failure to repot the plant can all lead to damage that is difficult to reverse the longer it goes on.
Here’s what to consider when caring for your ZZ plant:
ZZ plants don’t need a lot of direct sunlight or water. This species is native to Eastern and Southern Africa and is found in dry, shaded places, so replicating these conditions will allow it to thrive.
Find a corner in a room that receives light for part of the day but avoids too much direct sunlight. This will ensure that your plant maintains its luscious green color and won’t dry out.
If you want your ZZ plant to grow as much as possible, move it closer to the light source for a few hours each day, ensuring that it has 2 to 3 hours of bright and indirect sunlight daily. This will encourage it to grow new leaves and develop a bushier appearance.
ZZ plants are slow growers, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t notice new leaf growth as quickly or as often as you had hoped.
The Ideal Watering Regimen
One of the biggest mistakes many plant owners make is overwatering their houseplants. Most people often assume they aren’t watering their plants enough, and as soon as a plant shows signs of stress, a common assumption is that it’s underwatered.
Since they thrive in dry conditions, ZZ plants have become adapted to surviving in arid environments. Their physical characteristics speak to this adaptation and survival mechanism.
The bulbs at a ZZ plant’s base are an initial indicator that it has adapted to store water long-term. Its robust stems and glossy leaves indicate that ZZ plants can retain water for an extended period.
You should water your ZZ plant every 10-14 days or allow the upper 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of soil to dry out completely between waterings. You can check if the soil has dried out by touching it. If it’s still damp, give the plant a few more days to dry out.
Like other houseplants, the ZZ plant likes to rest during winter. Spacing out the watering will allow it to enter and stay in the dormancy period when the days are shorter. As the days grow longer, implement your ZZ plant’s regular watering schedule.
Occasional Fertilizer Feeding
ZZ Plants thrive with the occasional feeding, and they prefer a liquid fertilizer once or twice a year.
My favorite liquid fertilizer is Bonide Liquid Plant Food from Amazon. It’s the ideal mix of nutrients and is cost-effective. You can easily measure it out and add it to the ZZ plant when you water it.
Regular Pest Inspection
To keep your ZZ plant in top condition, wipe the leaves gently with a damp paper towel or cloth once a month. This removes dust or debris, which can prevent photosynthesis. It also allows the plant to breathe more effectively.
Wiping your plant is an excellent way to remove mites or pests and take further action if the infestation appears serious.
Do ZZ Plants Like to Be Rootbound?
Some house plant species thrive in close quarters. This preference of any plant species to be rootbound is often tied to its native environment, conditions, and watering regimen. The same is true for ZZ plants.
ZZ plants don’t like to be rootbound because this will prevent them from growing healthily. However, they enjoy a snug fit in the pot.
You can tell if a ZZ plant is rootbound if it stops producing new shoots or leaves. The plant may also have roots coming up through the topsoil or from the bottom drain holes in the pot.
ZZ plants should be repotted every 1 to 2 years and every 3 to 4 years in the case of mature plants. When repotting your ZZ plant, choose a pot that’s slightly larger than the current one, as these plants are slow growers.
With very little time, money, and effort, you can keep ZZ plants happy, healthy, and thriving in your home for years to come.