ZZ Plant Won’t Stand Up? Here’s How To Fix It

The ZZ plant is very popular because of its low-maintenance nature and aesthetic appeal. I travel a lot, so I was glad to have a plant that could go for weeks without water. It worked well for months, only for me to return from one of my travels and find the stems falling over. 

The ZZ plant won’t stand up when the bulbs are exposed and the stems get too heavy. It may also be because of root rot due to overwatering, transplant stress, cold stress, underwatering, or poor lighting. Fixes include changing the position of the plant, repotting, and watering infrequently.

ZZ plants failing to stand up is one of the common problems you will encounter. I’ll discuss the causes and how you can remedy the problem.

Why ZZ Plants Won’t Stand Up and Fixes

The ZZ plant is tough as nails. It is low maintenance, and nothing seems to faze it. Its beauty lies in the thick, long stems and the rows of glossy leaves. When they start to droop, it is a sign that something is wrong. You should find out the cause and find solutions to the problem. 

1. The ZZ Plant Has Rotting Bulbs

The ZZ plant relies on the bulb for nourishment and support. The stems emerge from the bulbs, so if the bulb is rotting, the stems will start to droop and fall over. The bulbs rot because of overwatering. They are designed to absorb and store water, but their storage capacity is limited. 

When you overwater the bulbs, or if they are buried too deep into the soil (more than 2 inches or 5 cm into the soil), where they sit in soaked soil for too long, they will turn mushy. This means the base of the plant’s stems will start getting soft.

Eventually, the stems will start drooping and the leaves will become yellow.

How To Fix It

If you suspect your ZZ plant is not standing because of overwatering and rotting bulbs, you should act quickly to save the plant. Follow the steps below:

  1. Move the soil to expose the ZZ bulbs. This is a fast way to assess the bulbs before you take more drastic measures. Check the state of the bulbs. Are they soft and wrinkled? If they are, you need to check the extent of the damage. 
  2. Remove the plant from the pot. You must be careful because if the stem is soft, it can easily detach from the bulb. Place the pot on its side, and use a blunt blade to loosen the soil from the pot. Gently pull out the plant by holding onto the least vulnerable stems.
  3. Closely inspect the bulbs and roots. Remove the soil within the roots to assess the extent of the rot. You should also confirm if the plant can be salvaged. 
  4. Use sterile pruning shears to cut off mushy roots. You should also cut off mushy parts of the bulb to contain the rot and save the rest of the bulb. 
  5. Cut off the stem if the base is also affected. You can propagate the stem and get a new ZZ plant. 
  6. Replace the soil with a fresh and sterile mix. Chances are the old soil still contains pathogens that caused the root rot. It would help if you also improved the drainage of the soil. Add vermiculite, pumice, or perlite to the soil. 
  7. Get a new and clean pot. Choose an appropriately sized one. If the pot is too big, it may retain too much water, so you should change it. You should also ensure it has drainage holes.
  8. Repot your plant in a moist potting mix. Wait until the potting mix is dry before watering again. 

2. The ZZ Plant Receives Inadequate Sunlight

ZZ plants can thrive with different levels of lighting. However, it performs best in moderate or bright, indirect light. Your plant may initially appear content with low lighting, but its need for brighter light may arise later. 

The ZZ plant may lean in different directions in response to the lighting it receives. You should learn to interpret the plant’s reaction to determine if it needs more or less light.

Here’s how to diagnose your plant’s response to the amount of light:

  • The stems will lean away from the light source if the light is excessive. For example, the stems will lean away from the window if with bright, direct light. The leaves may also curl or turn yellow. If you don’t fix the issue, the leaves may also fall. 
  • Low light may force the stems to lean towards a brighter light. New shoots may also become leggy and stretch toward the light. The ZZ plant will also have slower growth than normal. 

How To Fix It

If the plant needs less light, you should relocate to an area with moderate, indirect light. You can also use blinders to reduce the sunshine and light if you want to avoid moving the plant or have no alternative spot.

Move the ZZ plant to a brighter spot if the stems lean toward the light. You can also provide supplemental lighting using grow lights. Remember that ZZ plants need at least six hours of natural light per day. When using artificial light, 12 hours should be enough.

3. The ZZ Plant is Underwatered 

Insufficient water can also prevent your ZZ plant from standing upright. Although the plant can go for weeks without water, it will be excessively dry if you neglect it for too long. The bulbs will also shrivel. 

The plant’s stems are a reflection of the health of the bulb. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons why plants start drooping.

Check the soil to confirm if it is too dry. You can use your fingers or a moisture tester to confirm the soil’s condition.

How To Fix It

  1. Water your ZZ plant deeply until you see water trickling out of the drainage holes and into the tray. You can also place the plant in a sink filled with water. Wait until the soil is saturated enough but not soggy. It depends on the size of the pot and the volume and quality of the soil. After some time, the stems will straighten, and the plant will return to its old self.
  2. Check the soil weekly to confirm the state of the soil. You only need to water your plant once every three weeks. However, the watering frequency is also determined by the position of the plant. You may need to water a plant in a spot receiving bright, indirect sunshine compared to one that receives very little light. 
  3. Use the weight test to see if the plant is running low on water. This works if you don’t have a moisture meter. A planter that was recently watered tends to be heavier, while one running low on water is lighter. 

4. The Soil Has Lost Essential Nutrients

The ZZ plant is not very demanding. It usually doesn’t need fertilizer. However, if the potting mix loses fertility, the plant can only survive for so long without the necessary nutrients. Indoor plants easily deplete the nutrients in the potting mix, and you’ll need to replenish the lost nutrients.

If left to continue growing in soil that has run out of nutrients, the ZZ plant may become dormant, and after some time, the stems will start falling over. 

How To Fix It

Fertilize the ZZ plant every three to six months. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer because the ZZ plant has a sensitive root system. It also has a lot of leaves. The ideal ratio is 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Add the fertilizer when watering the ZZ plant. 

Dilute the fertilizer to reduce its strength because if it is too strong, it can damage the leaves and root system.

5. The ZZ Plant is Overfertilized

Adding too much fertilizer or using it too often will cause your ZZ plant to fall over. The roots will either burn or become dehydrated when there are too many fertilizer salts in the soil. The roots will become too weak to support the heavy ZZ stalks, causing them to fall over. You may also notice signs of fertilizer burn, such as browning and drying leaves. 

How To Fix It

If you have overfertilized your ZZ plant, you should flush the soil. You should do it immediately after you realize you may have used too much fertilizer. Otherwise, your ZZ plant will suffer greater damage if you leave it for too long. 

Place your plant in a sink and run the water. The water draining from the planter will remove the excess fertilizer. Let the pot sit in the sink to drain the excess moisture before putting it back on the saucer. Allow the soil to dry before you water the plant again.

6. The ZZ Plant Suffers from Cold Stress

ZZ plants grow best at indoor temperatures between 65 and 75 °F (18.3 and 23.9 °C). If the temperature falls below 60 °F (15.5 °C), the plant will likely suffer from cold stress. Some of the signs of cold stress in ZZ plants include:

  • Stunted growth.
  • Wilting leaves that eventually fall off.
  • Stalks falling over.
  • Brown and brittle stalks.

How To Fix It

  1. Move the ZZ plant indoors if you have it out on the patio. The temperature outside may be what is harming your plant.
  2. Use a space heater to maintain stable room temperatures, especially during winter. However, you need to keep the heater far from the plants. Otherwise, the heat cause result in dehydration and your plants will start to droop. 
  3. Move the ZZ plant away from windows and doors.
  4. Use grow lights for warmth.

7. The ZZ Plant Suffers from Transplant Stress

ZZ plants may also fail to stand a few days after transplanting. This is especially common when you interfere with the roots, such as cutting parts of the bulbs, as is the case when dividing clusters of ZZ bulbs. The stalks slump over due to transplant shock

One reason why ZZ plants are expensive is that they don’t do well when transplanted. They also require special care after the process to improve their chances of survival.

How To Fix It

You have no control over a plant’s reaction after you transplant it. Transplant stress is expected, and only time will heal the plant. However, there are some steps you can take to encourage your plant to recover:

  • Ensure you place the plant in a spot where it receives sufficient light. Use grow lights if the weather conditions in your area are unpredictable with varying degrees of light intensity every day.
  • Maintain sufficient moisture in the soil. Plants often slump after transplanting due to insufficient water. So, you should also ensure the soil has sufficient moisture to help it bounce back. 
  • Keep the plant in a room with suitable and stable temperatures. You can also avoid transplant shock by repotting your ZZ plant in other seasons except for summer. The roots dry out faster when temperatures are high, causing your ZZ plant to fall over. 

Schedule a plant transplant at the best time unless you notice exposed bulbs and your plant is already showing signs of distress. 

This video guides you on how best to repot a ZZ plant and minimize transplant stress:

8. The ZZ Plant Sustained Physical Trauma

ZZ plants will stop standing when it has physical damage. It may have been knocked over by pets or children, or the damage may have occurred when you were dividing and repotting it. If the stems are broken, they will undoubtedly fall over.

How To Fix It

Trauma to the roots may affect the stalks for a short while. Under the right conditions, the roots will eventually recover and your plant’s stalks will perk up. 

On the other hand, broken stalks cannot be mended. You will need to cut them off with sterile shears. If you leave them as they are, they will eventually dry and fall off. Pruning damaged stalks will speed up the healing and recovery of your ZZ plant. 

9. The Plant Has Grown Too Big for the Pot

The stalks of ZZ plants will also stop standing up when they get too big for the pot. Indoor ZZ plants can grow to 2 – 3 feet (0.6 – 0.9 m). The ideal pot for ZZ plants should be ⅓ wider than the plant’s root system. 

When the pot gets too small, the bulbs will squeeze out of the soil and be exposed. The top-heavy stems and foliage will start to tilt and fall over. 

How To Fix It

  1. Repot the ZZ plant to a bigger pot. Get a pot that is a size or two bigger than the current one. Ensure the bulbs have sufficient soil support. However, don’t plant them too deeply because this can result in bulb rot. 
  2. Divide and transplant the ZZ plant. If you are concerned about the plant being too heavy for the pot, you can divide your current ZZ plant into more plants. This way, you have more plants and need not worry about the plants being too big or heavy. 


Falling ZZ plant stalks are not uncommon. You will likely experience it at some point, and knowing how to identify the cause will ensure you find the right solution. The ZZ plant is not a fussy indoor plant, but you need to know how to maintain optimal conditions for it to thrive. If there is a shortfall, the plant will alert you, and you need to act quickly to save your plant.

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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