The zamioculcas is a tropical plant much appreciated for its ease of cultivation and for its resistance to pests and diseases. The plant is resistant even under difficult conditions, such as low light or limited water availability. To grow and complete its development, however, the zamioculcas can take a long time. This plant, in fact, can take up to thirty-five years to develop. That’s why scientists and researchers are studying solutions and cultivars that grow faster.
We will explore all aspects of zamioculcas cultivation in more detail in the following paragraphs.
A succulent evergreen plant native to Tanzania, it is made up of heads of large fleshy stems, erect, along which grow leaves similar to scales, leathery, with a shiny and waxy appearance. It grows quite slowly and tends to produce numerous basal suckers; throughout the year it produces callae-like inflorescences, yellow-brown in colour, only if the plant is optimally cultivated. It is widely used as an indoor plant because it can withstand any growing condition.
The zamioculcas reaches 2-3 metres in height and 3 metres in width. In reality, the plant, especially if grown in apartment and for ornamental purposes, never reaches these heights. Its growth, in fact, as already said, is very slow, and in normal conditions we cannot have specimens taller than sixty or seventy centimeters. The botanical name of the plant is Zamioculcas zamiifolia, the only species belonging to the homonymous genus Zamioculcas and to the family of the Araceae.
Commonly, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, the plant is also called “ZZ plant”, a name derived from the two initials of the botanical name. The specific epithet “zamiifolia” refers, on the contrary, to the appearance of the foliage, very similar to the plants of the genus Zamia, plants in turn similar to the zamioculcas, but not belonging to the genus of this plant.
The zamioculcas is a perennial evergreen plant of tropical origin and counted in the genus of the succulent plants, that is, fat. Judging by its very refined and delicate appearance, it seems strange that the plant belongs to the succulent, often much more rustic and with a less flashy foliage. Due to the beauty and brightness of its leaves, the zamioculcas is also called the “gem of Tanzania”.
Name and address
Half shadow, evergreen
two meters in the wild, sixty centimeters in the apartment
Pennate, composed, in turn, of small lance-shaped, fleshy, glossy and dark green leaves
from mid-summer to early autumn
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Exposure: prefers very bright positions, but preferably away from direct sunlight. In the spring, it can be kept outdoors, in a semi-shady place; when autumn arrives, it is to be taken away from the house, in order to protect it from the cold. In winter, place it near a window or in a bright place. This plant, however, adapts very well to all lighting conditions, not presenting particular problems.
Watering: water regularly every 7-10 days, without exceeding to avoid damaging water stagnation. From March to October provide a fertilizer for succulent plants every 15-20 days, dissolved in water of watering.
Soil: adapts easily to any problem, preferring very soft and well drained soils; it can be grown in a good soil for succulent plants.
Multiplication: it can happen by seed, even if they are difficult to find; usually the legs propagate by leaf cutting: the leaves are to be taken in autumn and buried in an upright position in a compound formed by peat and sand in equal parts; usually the aerial part dries completely, while in the soil develops a fleshy root which will give life to the new plant the following spring.
Parasites and diseases: it fears radical rottenness and cochineal.
Leaves and flowers Zamia
The zamioculcas is an ornamental plant for interiors characterized by typical pinnate leaves composed, in turn, of small lance-shaped leaves, fleshy, shiny and dark green in color. The base of the plant is characterized by showy rhizomes (radical propagations) which ripen under the ground and give life to cuttings from which new plants can be propagated. The flowers develop at the base and are similar to yellow-brown spadias without any ornamental value.
The flowers of the plant are in fact inconspicuous and appear from mid-summer to early autumn.
The zamioculcas grows in almost any type of soil. However, the ideal soil would be a light one with an acidity or pH of 6. To make sure you’re not mistaken, you can choose specific soils for succulent plants. These soils can be found in any garden shop. The plant also grows in soils made up of a mixture of peat, soil and sand, which would then be just the ideal mixture for succulent plants.
Exposure and temperature
The plant likes to be exposed to light, but not to direct sunlight. Inside it is therefore necessary to place it in a well-lit space, but without direct contact with the sun’s rays. The latter, in fact, end up burning the foliage of the plant. The zamioculcas resists, in any case, also to a low luminous exposition, without incurring damages or diseases. The light, however, allows to improve and to speed up the possibilities of growth of the plant.
The zamioculcas, furthermore, can be kept in open air until the temperature drops below the 15 °C . To speed up the growth of the plant, the ideal temperature should be between 18 ° C and 26 ° C. Even higher temperatures result in increased foliar production.
To develop healthily, zamioculcas needs the soil to be kept constantly moist, but not soaked. Watering must therefore be sufficient to maintain constant soil moisture. Water should never be given in excess, because stagnation causes rhizomes to break and be damaged. On the contrary, too dry soil risks causing the leaves to fall and transforming the plant into a deciduous species.
Therefore, during the cold seasons, if the plant is outside, it is better not to irrigate, in summer, instead, it is better to irrigate until the soil appears humid. Inside, the plant should be irrigated only when the soil appears completely dry.
The zamioculcas benefits enormously from monthly fertilization during spring and summer. For this operation a balanced liquid fertilizer rich in macro and microelements should be used. Mix the solution according to the instructions on the label and distribute with the irrigation water.
The distribution of the liquid fertilizer must be done only in correspondence of the soil, to moisten it and to prevent that the fertilizer damages the roots or that, coming into contact with the leaves, it ends up burning them.
Planting and repotting
The zamioculcas is mainly cultivated in pots, the only container which allows to move it easily from the outside to the inside. Planting takes place at the beginning of spring by planting the cut leaves from which the new plants can then develop. The plant is usually to be repotted every two or three years.
The zamioculcas propagates by division or by cutting. The first operation consists in removing the rhizomes from already adult mother plants and burying them in another pot. This operation, however, seen the slow growth of the plant, has proved to be increasingly impracticable, so much so that it has been definitively replaced by propagation by cutting.
The propagation by cutting consists in detaching from the plant a couple of healthy leaves and in planting them, from the lower extremity, in a small pot containing a mixture of peat and sand. The mould must be kept moist at all times, whilst the container must be placed in a luminous place. The pot with mould and cuttings can also be enclosed in a polyethylene bag in order to avoid the loss of humidity. Propagation by cutting also takes a long time to be successful.
When the new bulbs appear from the ground, this means that new seedlings will be generated in the following spring.
Pruning is not necessary in zamioculcas. The plant, on the contrary, is one of those that does not need any intervention in this sense. The only interventions to be made on this species are the simple removal of dry and damaged parts. However, these parts should be removed only when strictly necessary.
Pests and diseases
The zamioculcas is one of the most resistant plants to pests and diseases, so it is grown anywhere in the world. The plant structure of the plant resists, in fact, to any adverse condition of humidity and temperature without showing almost never the attacks of insects or any other phytopathology. Some adversities are caused only by crop errors. Excessive humidity, for example, can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall, or root rot.
Excessive solar radiation can cause the leaves to burn, the same symptom can occur due to over-fertilisation. Falling leaves also occur as a result of drought or water shortage. The only insects that can affect the plant are the Scudetto ladybirds. These parasites manifest themselves in dark spots on the branches. Scudetto cochineals are, in fact, characterized by a brown or brown shield on the back. They behave like aphids, i.e. they suck the plant’s vegetable sap.
To combat them, specific insecticides must be used and the quantity of water must be regulated during watering.
There are no specific varieties of zamioculcas, which is why it is impossible to make a precise botanical list of them. It is probable that, in short time, in the nurseries, appear some hybrid varieties and some cultivars realized for speeding up the growth of the plant. Some solutions in this sense are already being experimented. The zamioculcas, even if belonging to the homonymous genus, is similar to the plants of the genus Zamia.
The best known varieties of Zamia are the zamy pumila, native to the Caribbean and with leaves similar to those of ferns; the zamia furfuracea, native to Mexico, with finned leaves and oval leaves which, when ripe, assume a reddish colour, and the zamia variegata, with large green leaves streaked with yellow. We remind, however, that the zamioculcas is part of the family of the Araceae, whilst the plants of the genus Zamia belong to the family of the Zamiaceae.
Zamia – Zamioculcas zamiifolia – zamioculcas: Curiosities
All parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested. However, some argue that the poisoniness or toxicity of the plant is an unfounded myth. This is not the case because the leaves and other vegetative structures of zamioculcas contain calcium oxalate. This substance, if it accumulates in excess in the human body, causes crystals in the urine and gallstones. On contact with the skin, mucous membranes and conjunctiva, calcium oxalate can cause severe irritation or inflammation.
Zamioculcas has often been confused with zamia furfurea, a plant commonly known as Cicas. In fact, the name zamiifolia of the plant means “zamiac leaves”. In fact, the leaf structures of the two plants are very similar, but the species they belong to are completely different.
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