Three Easy Ways to Propagate ZZ Plants
Are you thinking of propagating your zz plant to create more for around your home? There are three common methods zz plant propagation is done via stem cuttings, leaf cuttings or through division. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through each method, step-by-step.
If you label yourself a ‘black thumb’ and can’t seem to keep a houseplant alive no matter how hard you try, the humble ZZ Plant is the answer. Scientifically known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia, these plants are native to the fields of East Africa. They are wonderfully structural, adding contrast to more rounded foliage plants in your home.
But where the ZZ Plant truly shines is in its ease of care. Almost impossible to kill, these houseplants generally prefer to be left alone rather than fussed over. They don’t need water often, coming from drought-stricken areas where months without water are frequent. They are also happy to grow in low light conditions (albeit with a bit of stretching between the leaves).
On top of these amazing benefits, it’s also incredibly easy to grow more of them to fill your home with ZZ Plants. There are three ways to propagate ZZ Plants, each with varying levels of success, but all are potential avenues to grow as many of them as you can manage. Try propagating from wayward stems, single leaves, or dividing to grow brand-new plants at no cost.
Check out the following video for a step by step walkthrough demonstration for ZZ plant propagation. Our houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through the three different methods you can use to propagate these popular indoor plants, with the steps you should take for each method.
Which Propagation Method is Best?
ZZ Plants can be slightly tricker to root than other houseplants. They have a slightly different growth habit, developing from rhizomes residing underneath the soil. Cuttings or leaves may take a while to develop roots and aren’t always successful. But with an abundance of leaves and stems on your plant, you can always take multiple cuttings to increase your chances of one taking.
Single leaves are harder to root than stems as they need to be removed carefully and take a long time to develop. Entire stems will usually root more reliably, but produce stronger roots in soil than they do in water. The ultimate choice is up to you, but if you’re looking for guaranteed results, single leaves are not the most popular option.
The only reliable way to see success when propagating is by dividing. Although some see this as cheating (as it’s not really growing a brand-new plant), you will still get two plants out of it at the end of the day.
Ultimately, the best method of propagating is all of them. If your plant is large enough you can divide it, take a stem cutting or two and remove several leaves to propagate with no issues. Your plant may face some shock shortly after due to all the trauma, but thanks to its hardy and reliable nature, it will bounce back in time.
No matter which method you choose, you won’t need to gather very much to begin. However, preparation is still important. Get all your tools before you start to make the process effortless.
Sharp Shears or Knife
To propagate from stem cuttings, start with a sharp pair of pruning shears. ZZ Plant stems are usually quite thick so regular scissors are not suitable for these plants. If you have one on hand, you can also use a sharp craft knife, allowing you to make a more precise cut.
It is very important to clean your pruning shears or knives before use. Garden tools, especially those used to prune diseased plants, can harbor harmful bacteria that will spread to your new cuttings and the parent plant. Clean them with soap and water or disinfect them with a gentle bleach solution after use on any diseased plants.
Next, prepare your soil mix. Although you can root in water using a glass propagating station, it’s best to go straight into the soil for higher chances of rooting and by extension, propagating success.
You can use specialized ZZ Plant potting soil designed to drain well and prevent rhizome rotting. Alternatively, make your own propagating mix by combining equal parts coconut coir or peat moss and perlite.
If you choose to make your own soil mix, add all the ingredients together before you make any cuts. It’s far easier to work with enough soil prepared on hand than it is to frantically mix more soil while you’re in the middle of propagating.
Pots or Containers
Finally, you’ll need a new pot. This initial pot can be relatively small to hold one or two cuttings, or larger to hold more. These will not be the final homes once the cuttings have rooted, so size is not of much importance.
Cleaning your pots is recommended but not entirely necessary. Unless you’re recycling pots that recently housed a diseased plant, simply rinsing off the soil before you start is enough.
To propagate from single leaves or to divide, the same tools are required with one small change. Opt for the craft knife rather than the pruning shears. This gives you far more control when removing individual leaves or cutting into rhizomes to divide.
You can also use seedling trays to plant single leaves rather than a pot. Simplify things by using whatever you already have on hand.
The Three Propagation Methods
There are three different ways to propagate ZZ plants: leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, or through division. The most successful is dividing, but taking cuttings has also proven to be effective. Learn more about each method before choosing one to test out on your own ZZ plant.
When you remove leaves correctly, new growth will develop at the base of the leaf. Eventually, this will develop into a full plant. Keep in mind, this process is incredibly slow. But, if you’re willing to watch the process unfold over months with plenty of patience, it does make a great gardening experiment that you will only get with a few different houseplants.
Start by identifying a healthy, disease-free stem with plenty of lush and healthy leaves. The performance of the stem will give some indication of the potential performance of the cutting. Pick a couple of full leaves to remove that won’t mess with the overall balance of the stem too much.
Next is the tricky part – removal. You’ll need to remove some of the stem (technically the petiole) for roots to develop.
Without this, your individual leaf will simply die off. You can try to peel back the leaf at just the right angle for this to work, or you can simply use a sharp knife to cut away the leaf at the right spot.
Fill your pot or seedling tray with propagating mix. Water the soil before planting to avoid disturbing the roots and wetting the leaves later on. Then, all there is left to do is press the end of the leaf into the soil until it is anchored. Cover as little of the leaf as possible to limit your chances of rotting.
Move the pot or tray to a warm area and keep the soil moist. This will provide the best conditions for potential root growth. If you want to increase humidity and heat, consider placing a plastic bag over the pot to create a mini greenhouse environment.
Propagating From Stem Cuttings
For a slightly higher chance of success, consider propagating the ZZ Plant from stem cuttings. This does rely on you having a fairly large ZZ Plant to start with, as you’ll be removing an entire stem at once. If you have a smaller plant with only a few precious stems, start with single leaves first.
The reason you need to remove a whole stem is that the plant will not grow back from that point. When removing only the end of a stem, you’ll be left with a small stem that will likely turn black at the ends.
Choose a stem close to the edge of the pot, or one that won’t make the plant look unbalanced when removed. It should also be healthy with plenty of leaves on the top half. Remove the stem from the plant with your pruning shears or knife, cutting as close to the soil line as possible.
Once removed, peel off the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. You don’t need to throw them away though – you can always root them right next to the stem cutting.
You can remove these leaves to make space for the part of the stem that will be anchored into the soil. Any buried leaves will simply rot, potentially attracting disease below the soil.
Fill a pot with a houseplant potting mix or propagating mix for the least resistance to root growth. Make a hole in the middle of the pot and plant the cutting, making sure all leaves are above the soil. Water after planting to moisten the soil.
Keep the pot in a warm and humid area for the next few weeks, topping up with water as needed. Rooting will take a while, evident when there is resistance to removal from the soil when pulled.
Propagating Through Division
Mature ZZ Plants around two years old or older should be ready for division. Make sure the plant is big and healthy before beginning as the process can take a while to recover from.
Wait until your plant needs repotting to divide to complete two tasks at one time.
Start by removing the plant from its current container. If the plant appears to be stuck, you can simply squeeze the sides of the pot to release it or use a knife along the edge. Tilt the pot to gently lift it out rather than pulling it upwards from the stems.
Remove some of the soil around the base of the plant to get a closer look at the rhizome. Check for areas where you can split the plant evenly so each section has enough roots and stems to survive on its own. If the plant is overgrown, you may need to pull it out and wash the soil off to get a better look.
Ready your sharp knife and cut into the rhizome as cleanly as possible to limit damage and make recovery quicker. Sharp is vital here – blunt knives will do a lot of irreparable damage. Also, try to disturb the roots as little as possible to prevent shock.
Fill two containers (or more if your plant is big enough) with houseplant potting mix. Matching the soil texture to the previous soil mix will also go a long way to preventing shock and will make sure your plants are happy in their new home. Plant as you would when repotting, watering afterward to settle the roots.
Then, simply move your plants back to their previous homes. There is no need to wait for root growth or transplanting – you can treat these divisions as you did the parent plant.
ZZ plants are one of the most popular houseplants you can own. It’s also one of the easiest houseplants to propagate, allowing you to create many new indoor plants for your own garden, or to give away to others. Whether you opt for single leaves or entire stems, you can be sure you’ll have fun in the process!