Gardening: ZZ Plant easy to care for, tolerates low light

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

If you’re looking for easy-care plants that tolerate low light, check out the ZZ Plant. No one I know calls it by its Latin name, Zamioculcas  zamiifolia, because it’s a bit of a tongue twister and ZZ is so much easier.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia

The ZZ plant is relatively new on the indoor plant scene. I searched all my older indoor garden books dating back as far as the '70s and it was nowhere to be found.

It’s not even listed in the American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, my go-to reference for obscure flora.  According to a web search it first became commercially available in 2000. Ironically it has been growing in the wilds of Africa since the beginning of time.

I planted the ZZ in a corner where it gets no direct light and it has done well with overhead lighting for more than two years. However, in low light it’s a very slow grower, which many may find a great benefit – no need to prune or repot.   

ZZ plants sport handsome dark shiny ovate leathery leaves in an upright position on            straight stems and resembles the look of an outdoor shrub – a nice contrast to the stiff stark blade-like leaves of tall Sansevieria.  It maxes out at about 3 feet in bright light.

Another easy care character that tolerates low light is the ‘Silver Queen’ Aglaonema, better known as the Chinese evergreen plant. It sports lime green leaves with dark green mottled stripes and grows to about 18 inches in height.

Hybridizers are having a heyday with this plant and newer varieties have leaves with orange, red, and pink markings. Though also easy to grow these newer lovelies need medium light to thrive and can be a bit pricey. Also, the new kids on the block like higher humidity so place them on pebble trays filled with water to keep them happy. 

If you like the look of trailing plants and hanging baskets Philodendrons would be an excellent choice. They have been around forever and while they thrive in medium light they can exist in low light conditions.

When growing plants in rooms with little or no light, one suggestion is to give them a week or two vacation in a brighter location every so often. It’s cheaper then leaving the light on for 12 hours a day.

Most plants that grow in low light require less water than those that grow in bright light conditions. Allowing the soil to dry down a bit before watering is usually recommended.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at