ZZ Plant Too Much Light

Are the leaves of your ZZ plant curling and yellowing? Are the leaf stems bending away from the light source instead of towards it? It could be your plant is getting too much light! In the case of the ZZ plant, there can be too much of a good thing.

Intense, direct light will burn the ZZ plant and cause the leaves to go brown, die and drop off. ZZ plants need low to moderate indirect light. If your plant’s stems start bending away from a light source, this is an indication that it wants less light, and you should move it to a shadier location.

Although ZZ plants are native to eastern Africa’s sunny, drought-prone regions, including South Africa, they can’t stand much direct, bright light. They belong to the Araceae family, which includes the famous Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum), and these plants don’t live in the wild in direct sun.

Also Check: Dwarf ZZ Plant

The Native Environment Of The ZZ Plant

To understand the light requirements of the ZZ plant, it helps to consider its natural habitat.

The ZZ plant is an herbaceous, slow-growing plant that thrives in low to moderate light conditions. Its leaves sprout from a thick swollen underground rhizome that resembles a tuber. The plant lives in rocky, lightly shaded areas where temperatures seldom drop below fifteen degrees Celsius in its natural, lowland forest or grassland environment.

Therefore, only indirect light gets through to the plants. Its glossy, waxy foliage reflects quite a bit of light which means the plant does not absorb all the light that reaches it. The leaves can be scorched by direct sunlight.

It is adapted to live in low to moderate indirect light that filters through trees and other plants. The ZZ plant is very unusual as it is the only species in the genus Zamioculcas. It doesn’t necessarily behave the same way as other indoor plants, which generally tend to grow towards a light source.

If your ZZ plant is getting too much light, you may see the stems actually bending away from the light. This is the time to take remedial action.

What To Do If Your ZZ Plant Is Getting Too Much Light

ZZ Plant places in a dark room near a window

If you see your ZZ plant’s leaves curling and turning yellow or brown, and you know that you are not over watering or overfeeding it, the chances are it is getting too much light. The first thing to do is relocate it to a shadier spot.

If it hasn’t been exposed for long enough to cause significant leaf damage, it will recover on its own. It may drop a few of the more damaged leaves, but this is not a significant problem. If it has sustained more severe damage and many of the stems and leaves have gone brown and dried up, you cannot do much about it.

As long as enough of the living plant is left to sustain new growth, the scorched areas may fade with time. Remember that ZZ plants grow very slowly, so you will need to give it a while to grow back. They produce new leaves a bit faster at the warmer end of their ideal temperature range, and occasional misting may help a little.

ZZ plants grow best at temperatures between sixty and seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. They need moderate humidity, so if the air is dehydrated, you could place the pot on top of pebbles in a shallow tray filled with water. The base of the pot must not stand in the water, or the roots will rot.

Don’t think you will help it recover by frequently dousing it with water. ZZ plants will die in waterlogged soil. Also, don’t overfeed it because too much fertilizer could cause chemical burns to the stems and rhizome. All it needs is time and patience.

It may never recover if it is too far gone, but if you are a caring plant owner, you should become aware of the problem before it reaches this stage. You need to be conscious of your new ZZ plant’s reaction to its location and if you see the stems bending away from the light, move it away before they burn.

Remember that changes in the season may also mean alterations in the sunlight coming in through a particular window. For instance, while your ZZ plant may not be getting direct sunlight through a window in the winter months, this could change in the spring or summer.

Read more: Does ZZ Plant Like To be Rootbound

The Best Locations For A ZZ Plant

You may think your ZZ plant looks very attractive sitting on a windowsill, but if the sun shines through the window directly onto it, it won’t look pretty for long. If you want to place it near a window, make sure it is out of the sun’s reach. A windowsill is not a good idea.

If you have other plants close to a window, you could place your ZZ plant behind them in a position where their foliage provides a filter for the rays of sunlight streaming in. Direct afternoon sun can be particularly severe for a ZZ plant, but extended periods of direct morning sun can be just as bad. The light should always be dappled or indirect.

If you live in a warm climate where the night-time temperatures don’t drop below fifteen degrees Celsius, you can keep your ZZ plant outside in the shade. However, if it has been propagated by a nursery in greenhouse conditions, you will need to get it accustomed to the outdoors by hardening it off.

This requires that you gradually introduce it to the outdoors by placing the plant outside for just a couple of hours before bringing it back inside. Over a week or two, you slowly increase the length of time it spends outside until it can stay out all day. Never put it where it gets direct sunlight, though.

It can distress the plant if you leave it outside all day without hardening it off. Since you can control temperatures, air currents, and moisture levels more easily indoors than outdoors, you will have to monitor the weather when keeping your ZZ plant outside. Unseasonal and severe weather can damage your plant, and it doesn’t like the cold.

If the weather forecast says a cold front is incoming, bring your ZZ plant indoors as soon as possible.

Also, the soil will dry out quicker outdoors than indoors, so more frequent watering will be necessary. The ZZ plant does not like wet, waterlogged soil, so don’t put it in an area where the rain can get to it.

ZZ Plant

A covered patio or porch with an overhang or awning is best. The plant does like a fair amount of indirect light, so make sure that it is not hidden in a dark corner. 

In colder or hotter climates or areas where the temperatures fluctuate widely, the ZZ plant is best kept indoors. You will probably enjoy it more anyway because you can regularly admire its beautiful form and deep green leaves. Keeping plants in your immediate physical environment has been shown to improve both mental and physical health.

If you want to take your ZZ plant into an office that has no windows, you can safely do so if there is bright fluorescent light for at least twelve hours a day. You can also use an LED grow lamp set on a timer, so you don’t have to be there to turn the light on or off. Similarly, if your home is pretty dark inside, as many older houses can be, you can use a grow light for your ZZ plant.

Don’t put the plant too close to the grow lamp because this is where the light is most intense, and it could end up scorching the leaves, just like sunlight. Keep it at least forty-five centimeters or eighteen inches away. The good news is that ZZ plants do well in artificial lighting and will thrive under the fluorescent lights commonly used in commercial buildings and offices.


ZZ plants do well in low to moderate indirect light and will burn in intense, direct light. However, they are not hard to satisfy and will thrive under fluorescent or LED lighting, provided they are not too close to the light source. When you bring it home for the first time, keep an eye on it for a while to see if the leaves start bending away from the light. If they do, relocate it to a shadier spot.