ZZ Plant Not Growing Straight? How To Fix It

ZZ plants can grow under tough conditions and require minimal care. If your ZZ plant initially thrived but started getting leggy and falling to the sides, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are ways to fix this.

Your ZZ plant isn’t growing straight due to overwatering, underwatering, or the lack of nutrients. It’ll also bend if it doesn’t get sufficient sunlight or has transplant shock. You can fix this by moving the plant to a sunny spot, fertilizing the soil, and watering it properly.

In this article, I’ll discuss the possible reasons why your ZZ plant isn’t growing straight and how you can fix these issues.

11 Reasons Why Your ZZ Plant Isn’t Growing Straight

The ZZ plant has a firm, strong stem that holds the plant straight. For the most part, the ZZ plant will grow straight. But if it doesn’t, it’s a sign that something has gone wrong, and you need to fix it.

Before seeking a solution, you must know why your ZZ plant is falling over. 

1. Overwatering Makes the Bulbs and Stems Mushy

The stalks of the ZZ plant grow from the bulbs, and when you give your ZZ plant too much water, you weaken the bulb. A healthy bulb is firm, and it can only absorb a limited amount of water and remain firm.

If you overwater your ZZ plant, it’ll become soft and mushy, resulting in the following problems:

  • The stalks will no longer have a firm bulb supporting them. 
  • The soft bulb will result in weak ZZ plant stems, which won’t grow straight. 

Frequently overwatering your ZZ plant will soften the entire bulb due to rot. If all the bulbs are soft, the plant won’t be able to absorb essential nutrients and moisture, you’ll notice that all the stems are weak, and the plant may eventually die.

2. Underwatering Dehydrates the Stems

Underwatering your ZZ plant will have a similar effect as overwatering it—it will fail to grow properly. This plant can go for weeks without water, but the watering needs vary, depending on where the plant is and the size of the pot. 

ZZ plants in a sunny spot will utilize water faster and need to be watered more often than a ZZ plant getting indirect sunshine. The bulbs will shrink when the ZZ plant goes too long without water. Like an overwatered bulb, it’ll lose its firmness. 

Unless you act quickly to remedy the problem, the bulb will no longer support the stems, causing them to flop. The ZZ plant will give other signs of dehydration, including yellow or brown leaves that’ll eventually fall off. When the stalks don’t have enough water, they’ll become weak and won’t grow straight.

3. Insufficient Soil Nutrients Weaken the Stems

Because the ZZ plant is a slow grower, it utilizes soil nutrients slowly. Therefore, you don’t need to fertilize it often. However, it’ll show signs of nutrient deficiency when the soil no longer has nutrients, especially if the plant has been in the same pot for too long.

The old stems will fall over, and new shoots (if any) won’t be firm. 

You can expect the ZZ plant to grow actively (albeit slowly) from the spring to fall season. This is a period when the plant utilizes most of the soil nutrients. If the plant starts getting new shoots when the soil doesn’t have nutrients, the new stems won’t be upright. 

This helpful YouTube video gives tips on how to get your plant to produce new shoots:

4. Too Much Fertilizer Burns the Roots

Overfertilization can create problems that will weaken the ZZ plant. Too much fertilizer will scorch the leaves, causing them to turn yellow or have brown spots. However, the greatest damage will be to the root system. 

Weak roots won’t absorb nutrients or take water to other parts of the plant. So, even if you water the plant as you should, the plant’s roots won’t perform their functions optimally, and this will affect the overall health of the plant and cause it to flop. 

5. Insufficient Light Causes the Plant to Lean to One Side

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to tell if your ZZ plant isn’t growing straight due to insufficient sunlight. The weakened stalks will bend towards a window or away from the wall. 

Having the proper sunlight for your ZZ plant is ideal, as putting your plant in a dark area away from sunlight will only cause the stalks to start stretching toward a source of light—leading to not-so-straight growth.

6. Transplant Shock Can Temporarily Weaken the Plant

The ZZ plant will stop growing straight when it suffers transplant shock. This is especially common if the new potting soil doesn’t have enough water and if you do the transplant at the peak of summer. High temperatures are the common cause of transplant shock in ZZ plants.

Fortunately, you only need to give the plant some time to recover. If you never watered the potting mix before planting, you should do it to ensure it has sufficient moisture to support its growth. 

To learn more about watering a newly transplanted ZZ plant, read my article on the topic: Should You Water Your ZZ Plant After Repotting?

7. Direct Sunlight Causes Dehydration

Too much sunlight can cause your ZZ plant to lean on the sides instead of growing straight. The bright, direct sunshine will dehydrate the ZZ plant quickly, resulting in weak stems. The plant will also lean away from the window to escape the heat, causing it to no longer grow straight.

8. Too Much Space Causes the Plant to Grow Sideways

ZZ plants often grow straight because they love to be snug in the pot, and the stems provide adequate support for one another. As the plant gets more rhizomes, more stems emerge, offering adequate support to grow straight.

If the ZZ plant is in a big pot, it’s more likely to lean towards one side because it doesn’t have enough stems to lean on. This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t move your ZZ plant to a pot that’s too big.

Instead, it would be best if you used a pot that’s only 2 inches (5 cm) bigger than the last pot. 

9. The Plant Has Grown Too Big and Heavy

The ZZ plant sometimes stops growing straight when it gets too big and heavy. As the plant fills the pot, it not only gets more rhizomes, but the stalks grow taller, and the leaves get heavier. 

In this case, the plant will fall over and keep growing with the stalks bending, unless the ZZ plant is leaning on the wall or has poles supporting the stalks’ weight.

When this happens, you will need to move the plant to a bigger pot and possibly divide it to reduce its weight. 

10. The Bulbs Are Exposed

The ZZ plant bulbs are meant to be at least 2 inches (5 cm) under the soil’s surface. However, sometimes, the bulbs get exposed above the soil due to soil erosion from regular watering or overcrowding. Either way, this will affect the plant, as the bulbs store important water and nutrients for the plant. 

The bulb is the reason the ZZ plant is drought-resistant. It provides the plant with sufficient water for weeks, and a healthy bud supports the growth of new stems. Unfortunately, exposed bulbs lose moisture faster, and this weakens the stems. 

The result will be bent stems. New shoots will also fail to grow straight because the bulb will be soft and wrinkled.

11. There’s Unbalanced Stem Growth

It’s common for a ZZ plant to have one or two stems that are longer than the rest. This causes the plant to have a lopsided growth. It’s easier to assume your plant isn’t growing straight because of one or two stems. 

Unfortunately, the taller stems will lean onto the short stems causing them to fall to the sides in response to the extra weight.

It would help if you considered pruning the tall stems to give your ZZ plant a uniform appearance. It’ll also protect the shorter stems from the taller ZZ stems. 

How to Fix a Droopy ZZ Plant

A ZZ plant is attractive when it’s growing straight. A droopy ZZ plant looks sad and won’t let you be until you fix the problem. Early intervention is critical because some of the reasons behind the ZZ plant not growing straight may have irreversible effects.

You can fix a droopy ZZ plant by using any of the methods below:

  • Deeply water the plant if it’s lacking water.
  • Move the plant away from a sunny spot if there’s too much direct light.
  • Check the roots for signs of rot in case of overwatering and avoid watering until the soil dries out.
  • Dilute fertilizer before using it and flush over-fertilized soil using running water.

It may take some time for the ZZ plant to perk back up, but once the condition is ideal, it’ll recover and gain strong stems. If the roots are rotting, cut off the affected roots to keep the problem from spreading to healthier roots.

You’ll also need to repot your plant to help it recover from root rot. I’ve written a comprehensive article on how to care for a ZZ plant after repotting: How to Know When a ZZ Plant Needs Repotting

Even when you correct the problems facing your ZZ plant, it’ll take time for the stems of the plant to get strong enough. If you find the ZZ plant unsightly and you aren’t patient enough to wait for it to recover, you can prop the stems up until they straighten.

Here are a couple of easy ways to prop up ZZ plants:

Use Twist Ties

Using twist ties on newly transplanted ZZ plants works wonderfully to hold the stems up. This way, you can avoid the “transplant stress look,” where the stems fall over until the plant recovers. You can do the same for weak ZZ stems that won’t stand up, even as you fix the cause of the weakened stems.

Tie the plant at the base, but ensure the twist ties aren’t tight. If you tie them too tightly, they’ll damage the stems, causing the plant to focus on healing the wound instead of recovering its strength. 

The plant will grow stronger and straighter as it absorbs water and nutrients. 

Remove the ties after three weeks to see how the plant is doing. If it’s straighter, you don’t need to tie the stems again. However, you can tie them for a few more weeks if they’re still weak. 

You can also use cloth or plant ties instead of twist ties. A ZZ plant grows slowly but you have to keep an eye on its growth and adjust the ties accordingly in case the stems need support for longer.

Use Splints

You can also hold up ZZ plant stems with splints, such as: 

  • Bamboo straws
  • Chopsticks
  • Skewers
  • Popsicle sticks 

These splints will temporarily provide support to weak stems. However, you’ll still need twist ties to hold the plant onto the splints.

The splints are especially helpful for newly transplanted ZZ plants, as the stems are likely too weak to hold up with only twist ties. 

How to Keep Your Plant Straighter and Fuller

ZZ plants can grow straight when they have access to adequate light, nutrients, and water. If your ZZ plant stops growing straight, you must adjust the growing conditions to ensure it grows optimally.

Here are some tips to consider:

Water More Often When New Stems Grow

Water your ZZ plant more often when it starts growing new stems. Stems store a lot of water to help them grow thick and firm.

You can get away with neglecting the ZZ plant when it doesn’t have new growth. However, new stems need more water to have a good foundation and to ensure it grows thick, just ensure you don’t overwater the plant.

Avoid Overwatering

It’s better to underwater the ZZ plant than to overwater it. A ZZ plant will recover faster from the effects of underwatering. However, it may suffer irreversible effects from overwatering. 

Montor Stems for Wrinkling

A wrinkled stem is a sign of overwatering or underwatering. If the soil remains too wet for too long, you may need to remove the plant from the soil. Allow it to dry before replanting the ZZ plant in fresh and well-draining soil.

If it’s been a while since you watered your plant, you should water it as soon as you remember, but do so gradually to allow the roots and bulbs to absorb the moisture before it’s lost through the drainage holes.

Provide Sufficient Light

Move it to a room with sufficient sunlight if you want it to be fuller and see new growth faster. The ZZ plant will do well in low light, but it’ll take longer to grow new shoots.

Move the plant to a spot with better sunlight when it grows a new stem. This can be a temporary move to ensure the new stem doesn’t get leggy in its search for more light.

The leaves will also spread out if they don’t get sufficient light from the onset. When the stem is fully grown, you can move the plant to low light, especially if you feel its current spot isn’t ideal.

Rotate the Pot 90 Degrees With Each Watering

Rotate your plant 90 degrees every time you water it. This will ensure all aboveground parts of the plant have equal access to sunlight, and all the stems will grow straight because none are likely to lean on one side due to inadequate access to sunlight. 

Watch for Signs of Sunburn

Observe the plant for signs of black spots or browning stems. These are signs of sunburn, so you should immediately move the plant to a different spot. If you wait too long, the stems will wilt and fall over.

Use Succulent or Cacti soil Mix

Succulent and cacti soil mixes tend to drain easily, and the risks of root rot are low. 

Prune Old, Weak Stems

Old and weak stems still utilize nutrients and weigh the rest of the plant down. Additionally, as it loses its strength, it will lean away from healthy stems. 

Keep Away From Vents

Avoid placing the ZZ plant close to the vents of the air conditioner. Exposure to extreme temperatures (below 55 °F or 13 °C and above 85 °F or 29 °C) will stress the plant’s roots. This will result in the plant’s failure to absorb water and nutrients. 

Fertilize Before the Growing Season

Fertilize your ZZ plant before the growing season. The ZZ plant is a slow grower, but you can speed up growth by lightly fertilizing the soil twice a year, in spring and fall. However, ensure you only do it after six months.

Avoid fertilizing the ZZ plant in winter because it goes into dormancy. 


The ZZ plant isn’t demanding, but it thrives under specific conditions. ZZ plants will grow straight if the conditions are ideal, but if they lack anything, they’ll start to fall over. When your ZZ plant stops growing straight, you’ll need to find out why and how to fix it. Fortunately, the ZZ plant will recover, and the stems will get firmer and straighter.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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