The Zanzibar Gem (or ZZ plant) is an extremely popular houseplant. Its bright, shiny dark green leaves make it a perfect addition to so many design schemes, and this article is all about the plant variety.

We’ll start with the basics, and then explain how to properly care for these popular plants. You’ll understand why these plants are such a popular pick for any home or office.

What is a Zanzibar Gem (ZZ Plant)?

The Zanzibar Gem, commonly known as the ZZ plant, is a flowering plant in the family Araceae. It is within the category of tropical perennial plants. The ZZ plant is native to Eastern Africa (including, of course, the island of Zanzibar).

The plant was discovered as early as the 1800s, but it didn’t become popular as a household plant until the 1990s. Nurseries in South Africa began growing the plant for commercial use, and it was quite successful.

Zanzibar Gem 

What Does the ZZ Plant Look Like?

A ZZ plant is characterized by long stems which grow from the soil, and wide, dark green leaves which grow from the stems. The leaves have a dark green color and a shiny finish. The dark green color of the leaves helps the ZZ to absorb plenty of light, so they can excel in almost any lighting conditions.

The ZZ plant is technically a flowering plant, but it likely won’t produce flowers in a home or office setting. A ZZ plant might be quite small when you buy it, but it can grow to three or four feet when fully mature.

ZZs are also known for their unique root system, which is composed of bulb-like formations known as rhizomes. The rhizomes can hold a lot of water, which are the main reason that this plant can withstand drought-like conditions across Africa.

Growing ZZ Plants

If you’re interested in the ZZ plant, you probably have a few other questions related to its use. Specifically, you want to know how to properly care for this houseplant.

Gardening can be an intimidating venture, but it’s precisely this intimidation to which the ZZ plant owes its popularity. The ZZ plant is a remarkably easy plant to care for. Extremely low maintenance, and thrives in a wide variety of conditions. Let’s look at the most important factors you need to control.


The ZZ plants are very flexible when it comes to light. Technically, their ideal lighting is bright indirect sunlight, but they can handle a wide variety of conditions. You mainly want to be sure that you don’t give them too much light. Full sun could end up damaging the leaves of the ZZ plant.

The ZZ plants owes a lot of this flexibility to their dark green leaves. They are able to absorb and retain light extremely efficiently and can survive quite well in dark conditions.


As with light, ZZ plants don’t require a lot of water to survive. This is because of their rhizome roots, which are fantastic at absorbing and retaining water. The roots almost resemble a “potato” shape.

Because of this, your main concern will be not overwatering your ZZ plant (which can cause the stems to rot). You should only water the ZZ plant when the soil dries out completely. This depends on light and the size of your pot, but about once every week or two.

If you’re unsure, it’s probably best to wait a couple days. After all, these plants are built to withstand droughts in Africa, so keep on the side of less water.


ZZs are also quite flexible when it comes to the soil in which they can thrive. Basically, any commercial potting mix will be just fine. What’s more important is the pot it’s housed in.


As mentioned above, ZZs don’t require a lot of water. Because of this, you also need to ensure that their pot contains sufficient drainage. The soil needs to drain properly so that the ZZ plants don’t become overwatered.


The ZZ plants don’t tolerate cold temperatures well, but an average household temperature is just fine. They grow best between 65-79F (18-26C). As long as the temperature doesn’t drop too low, you’ll be fine. Keep the plant indoors if you can, and don’t keep it near any windows or drafty areas in the winter.

Zanzibar Gem Plant

Are ZZ Plants Toxic?

The ZZ plants have gained an unfortunate reputation of being highly toxic to both humans and pets. We’re happy to report that this rumor is largely unfounded.

However, most rumors do contain a shred of truth and it is true that the ZZ plant contains certain substances that can be hazardous to humans or pets upon consumption.

The plants can contain a toxic substance known as Calcium Oxalate.  You definitely should not ingest this plant, but symptoms are most often relatively mild (upset stomach and irritation).


Thanks for reading our guide to the ZZ plant. These are a great plant to consider, not only for their low maintenance, but also for their appearance and aesthetic. They’re a subtle, luscious lively plant that will fit right into any modern or traditional design scheme. We hope we’ve helped to convince you of the benefits of a ZZ for your home or office.

Kitson J

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