How to Care for Yellow Leaves on a ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

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Zamioculcas zamiifolia also known as ZZ Plant thrives well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b through 11, and won’t tolerate so much as a hint of frost. The ZZ Plant is an ancient one whose prehistoric appearance may remind you of a cycad, though they aren’t related. Tough, drought resistant and low-light tolerant, this undemanding beauty may be the perfect plant for the forgetful or neglectful gardener. Gardeners who don’t water often are the ones this plant loves best.

1. Remove the ZZ Plant with yellowing leaves from its pot to rescue it. The discoloration is typically caused from too much water, which causes the water and food storing rhizomes to rot from fungal development. This so-called “eternal plant” will die from overwatering.
2. Shake as much soil from the root ball as you can. Discard it, don’t reuse it or add it to the compost heap as it’s probably infected with fungus. Set the plant on several layers of newspaper and examine the roots. You will probably find some soft, mushy roots and possibly rotting tubers as well. Using sharp, clean pruning shears, clip any diseased tissue that you see and discard it.

3. Pick any yellowing leaves off the ZZ Plant. If the stem is yellow, clip it off where it grows from the tuber. Check the tuber closely for signs of rot. Prune it out if it appears diseased.

4. Drench the roots and tubers with a fungicidal solution such as thiophanate-methyl. Follow the packaging instructions carefully.

5. Scrub the pot with hot, soapy water. Soak it in a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach for 30 minutes. Rinse it thoroughly.

6. Combine equal parts cactus potting mix and perlite for an excellent ZZ Plant growing medium. Repot the plant, move it to a warm room with low lighting and withhold water for about a week to allow it to recover. ZZ Plants bounce back quickly from adversity and new shoots will soon emerge.

7. Return the ZZ Plant to its normal spot after a week of rest. This plant will do best with as much bright, indirect light as you can provide. While it will do well even in low light, more is better. Keep the temperature between 76 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 32 degrees Celsius), with a range of between 80 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit (27 and 30 degrees Celsius) being optimum. Temperatures below 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) will inhibit the plant’s growth.

8. Water your ZZ Plant thoroughly to evenly moisten the soil surface throughout the growing season. Allow the plant to dry out slightly between waterings. Water again when the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry. Water no more than once weekly during the winter. Do not allow it to stand in water.

9. Feed this plant a balanced water-soluble houseplant fertilizer at half strength every two months while it is actively growing.

10. Set the ZZ Plant outdoors in a shady spot in the summer. It will appreciate the bright natural light and fresh air.
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