ZZ Plant Humidity

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant for the less botanically inclined, is an extremely hardy little indoor plant that has seen a significant rise in popularity. It has been available as a house plant for over twenty years but seems to have only caught the general public’s eye in a big way relatively recently. It’s easy to care for, and its bright green glossy leaves make it an attractive, unusual addition to your indoor plant collection.

The ZZ plant is not particularly fussy about humidity as it is drought resistant and stores water in its fleshy leaves and potato-like rhizome. It needs only infrequent watering. The substrate should be left to dry out before watering. Soil should be well-aerated and drained as it dislikes wet feet.

The foliage of the ZZ plant is unique and holds the key to its humidity requirements. You have to know your plant, including something about its natural origins, to get the humidity levels right. That said, the ZZ plant is not particularly fussy or complicated in its humidity requirements, unlike many other delicate tropical plants, which require a narrow range of conditions in which to thrive.

Modern Humidifier in Living Room

The Natural Origins Of the ZZ Plant

The ZZ plant comes from several countries along East Africa, ranging from southern Kenya in the northeast of Africa to north-eastern South Africa at the bottom of the continent. Along the way, it also occurs naturally in Tanzania, particularly Zanzibar, which explains one of its other common names, ‘Zanzibar gem’.

It is a perennial and usually evergreen, but it can shed its leaves during a drought. In these conditions, only the swollen petiole base is left so that the plant can hold out until the next rains.

The East African climate is primarily tropical except for a few places such as Somalia and Ethiopia, with deserts. The ZZ plant does not grow in deserts, but it has been found growing in the wild on rocky ground in partially shaded areas in lowland forests and submontane habitats. Submontane habitats pass under or through mountains and are situated in the lower slopes and foothills of mountain ranges.

Since the plant is a tropical plant, it is accustomed to the hot and humid conditions in its natural habitat. However, it doesn’t rain all year round in East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania. There are two rainy seasons, one longer, from March to May, and a shorter one from October to December. This is why the ZZ plant is adapted to store water.

It is thus capable of surviving dry conditions for quite some time due to the water storage capacity of its thick rhizome and fleshy leaves. It can reputedly go for four months without water in low-light conditions, but this doesn’t mean you should try it if you want your plant to thrive!

It likes a well-aerated substrate that does not become waterlogged because although tropical environments are pretty humid, they do not have a lot of standing water on land. The water from the torrential tropical rains runs off the soil and into rivers and streams reasonably quickly.

Read more: Best Soil For ZZ Plant

Humidity Requirements Of The ZZ Plant

Temperature and humidity are interlinked, so when considering the humidity levels for your ZZ plant, you should take account of both. If temperatures are consistently too low, i.e., below fifteen degrees Celsius, your plant won’t do well, no matter how high the humidity. Humidity is a relative term that is directly affected by temperature.

A plant growing in higher temperatures may need a higher relative humidity due to increased natural atmospheric evaporation into the surrounding air. A plant growing in cooler conditions may require less humidity. ZZ plants don’t like direct sunlight.

Relative humidity in a shaded area should be between fifty and one hundred percent. Ideal air temperatures for ZZ plant growth are between eighteen and thirty-two degrees Celsius. Since ZZ plants retain a lot of water, they do not need a constantly wet substrate. The soil around your plant should be moist, not soggy.

Wait until the top few inches of the substrate feel dry before watering. If indoor temperatures regularly drop below ten degrees Celsius, the plant may incur chilling injury and stop growing. The ZZ plant grows slowly, and if you forget to water it now and then, it won’t quickly curl up and die.

While it does require some attention, it is pretty forgiving and will survive a certain amount of neglect. This makes it an ideal plant for greenhorns with brown thumbs. However, people usually buy plants they are prepared to care for because everyone wants their plant to thrive, right?

ZZ plants tolerate a wide range of conditions, require very little light, and require infrequent watering. Overwatering can cause root rot and is the most common reason for the death of a ZZ plant since they are pretty resistant to pests. They look a little like cycads, making them stand out among other house plants.

If it is kept indoors in low to moderate light conditions, a ZZ plant will do just fine with a humidity of forty percent. If you live in climates that are drier than this, you may have to invest in a humidifier to keep the plant happy.

Related: Zz Plant Root Bulb

How To Know If Humidity Levels Are Sufficient?

Most people have a general awareness of the humidity levels in their neck of the woods. How often it rains and whether you have winter or summer rainfall can give you some idea. Areas with regular summer rainfall are likely to be sufficiently humid for ZZ plants.

Coastal areas are often more humid than inland areas unless you live in a tropical jungle or a desert. If you aren’t sure, there are inexpensive devices available from many plant nurseries that will measure your indoor humidity for you.

You will have hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters in a Mediterranean climate. If the summer is very dry, the humidity levels may not be sufficient for a ZZ plant, but it is a relatively simple matter to maintain indoor humidity with a misting fan or humidifier. Just don’t let the fan blow directly onto your ZZ plant as it likes still conditions.

misting fan for plants

Since ZZ plants are very tolerant of high humidity conditions, you don’t have to worry about these. However, if you live in a freezing climate, the ZZ plant may not be for you unless you have indoor heating and temperature control. Just remember that indoor heating generally dries out the air, so you may have to leave a shallow open basin of water in the room or use a humidifier.

Don’t stand the plant near a radiator or other heat source or in a draught because this causes increased moisture evaporation. You can also stand the plant on a few stones or rocks in a shallow basin of water. Make sure that the bottom of the pot is raised above the water level because your ZZ plant will die if its roots get too wet.

You can also try putting it in a bathroom where the air is regularly moistened by people showering or bathing.

Another method is to mist the leaves of the plant with water – ideally rainwater. ZZ plants are highly tolerant of dry conditions, so they do not require misting if the ambient air has forty percent humidity or more. Only if the indoor air is very dry should you try increasing the humidity using one of these methods.

The ZZ plant does not absorb much moisture through its leaves, as this is the primary function of its roots.

Most ZZ plant owners would simply need to water every two to three weeks, and that’s it. ZZ plants can be fed occasionally, especially in the growing season but don’t need a lot of fertilizer or regular repotting.

Conclusion

ZZ plants are drought tolerant, hardy, and attractive indoor plants that require a minimum of care and attention. They will be happy in humidity levels of forty percent or higher but can tolerate lower humidity levels for short periods. The main thing is not to overwater because they store a lot of moisture in their leaves and thick rhizome.

References:

https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/13/3/article-p458.xml

https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/zz_plant_a_narrative_guide

https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/how-to-raise-humidity-for-house-plants/

https://www.guide-to-houseplants.com/zz-plant.html