ZZ plants, or “Zanzibar Gem”, are easy-to-care for houseplants with a unique appearance, making them a popular choice for those looking to increase the size of their plant collection but not the amount of attention needed.
This species can forgive infrequent and irregular watering but should be provided with the proper soil to help them thrive in those less-than-ideal conditions.
The best soil for planting ZZ plants is a custom blend of various soils and amendments that provide light, well-draining soil conditions for your plant. This might include organic potting soil, orchid bark, perlite, and/or horticultural charcoal, among other additions.
Read on to learn more about where to buy ZZ soil, what ingredients high-quality soil should contain, how to make your own custom blend for your plants!
Also check: Best Soil For Monstera
What type of soil does a ZZ plant need?
ZZ plants require light-weight, well-draining soil to be happy. Soil that is too dense, heavy, or prone to compaction may retain too much water.
This leads to the risk of root rot and other diseases, starving the roots of oxygen and preventing them from taking nutrients up to the plant.
Ideally, this soil will contain a variety of things to help provide perfect conditions for your plant. This might include organic potting soil or even regular, all-purpose potting soil as a base.
Additions like compost can be good for providing nutrients to your plant, but shouldn’t be too large of a component. Compost is dense and heavy, and runs the risk of retaining too much water.
Instead, the bulk of your additions should be aimed at increasing the bulk structure of your soil. These components break up compaction and improve drainage, preventing your plant from being overwatered.
Some of these ingredients are listed below:
- Orchid bark, wood chips, or other bark mulches – in addition to adding structure to your soil, bark will make the soil more acidic, which is preferable for house plants.
- Perlite – perlite is a form of volcanic glass, which is used for a variety of purposes ranging from house plant care to industrial uses. Expanded perlite takes the form of white, roundish chunks that break up the soil and improve filtration.
- Vermiculite – vermiculite is very similar to perlite and is often interchangeable. However, for ZZ plants vermiculite should only be added in low ratios if used. This is because it retains more water than perlite, and may cause root rot in your plant if too much is used in the soil.
- Pumice – another common substitute for perlite. Pumice is also a volcanic rock, but is heavier than perlite and so will stay mixed into your soil and won’t float to the top during watering. Pumice will not break down or decompose, and will remain in your soil mix, unlike organic additives.
- Biochar – is a natural ingredient that would be found in low amounts in soil due to forest and other vegetation burning in the wild. Adding this to your soil can improve nutrient retention, aeration, and water drainage.
- Horticultural charcoal – horticultural charcoal is similar to biochar. Created from burning organic material like wood, charcoal will improve the airflow of soil and drain excess moisture from the plant. Look for a rough, chunky variety and avoid anything too fine or processed.
- Sand – horticultural sand is a gritty material specifically designed for use in plant care, including house plants. Sand can loosen heavy soil, such as one dense in clay, and improve drainage. Sand is often a key ingredient in cactus and succulent potting mixes, so if you are unable to find just sand you might be able to substitute one of these instead.
Mixing Your Own Soil Mix for Your ZZ Plant
There are many pre-made, well-draining soils available to buy that would be suitable for a ZZ plant. If you can’t find something specific for ZZ plants, a blend of soils customized for Monstera plants would also be suitable as they have similar requirements.
However, making your own soil mix has its benefits. You can control the ratios of each soil amendment, source cheaper ingredients, and customize the soil to your home’s light, moisture, and temperature conditions.
If you decide to mix your own soil for your ZZ plant, you can do so easily in your home. It might be best to make your mix in a garage, basement, or outside in your yard or on a balcony if possible, to avoid making too much of a mess!
- Small hand spade
- Measuring cup and/or bowls and kitchen scales
- Spray bottle
- Organic potting mix or general potting soil
- Horticultural sand and,
- A combination of the various soil amendments listed above (bark, perlite, pumice, charcoal, etc.)
- a cactus or succulent soil mix that contains these amendments in addition to sand
Actually mixing your soil is fairly easy. Use a bucket or a large bin with a lid, depending on how much soil you need, so you can store leftovers easily for use in the fututre.
Measure (using weight) the ratios of your ingredients, add them all to the bin and mix well using either your hands or a small hand spade.
Spraying very lightly with water can help materials stick together slightly, increasing the mixing process. Re-pot your plants with your new soil mix, and store the rest in a dark, cool area until you need it again.
For a simple and straightforward custom soil, mix one part of either cactus/succulent soil with three parts of potting soil.
For example, if you need 4 lbs of soil, add 1 lb of cactus/succulent soil mix to 3 lbs of organic or high-quality potting soil.
If you want your mix to be even more customized, you can add additional materials. Try two parts potting soil, one part sand, and one part pumice or perlite.
Add in bark and horticultural charcoal or biochar in small amounts to increase the drainage even more.
Feel free to play around with the ratios and materials you use, experimenting with different amounts might result in you finding the perfect soil mix for your plant!
Be careful about adding dense materials, like organic compost, coconut coir, and peat moss, into your soil mixture. These materials can hold onto moisture for longer periods of time, and are often used for species that prefer moist environments.
They can also be used to adjust your soil to allow for less-frequent waterings for sensitive species. As a more hearty species adapted to survive drought conditions, these amendments can actually harm your ZZ plant but retaining too much moisture.
Unless you are very careful about how often you water your plant, you risk creating a moist environment for fungus and disease to thrive in.
The Best Pots for ZZ Plants
As an easy-to-care-for species, ZZ plants are not overly picky about the pots they are grown in. The three main things to take into consideration are size, material, and drainage.
Your pot should be large enough to prevent your plant becoming quickly root bound. This refers to when roots have no way to grow down further, so instead they wrap around the bottom of the pot, and themselves, as they grow.
This can risk damage to roots and is likely to make your plant unhappy.
Your pot should also not be overly large. A large pot holds much more soil when roots are not big enough yet. This means the soil can retain water, become compacted, and potentially cause rotting in your plants roots.
If your plant is already potted, increase the size of the pot no more than a few inches in diameter every time you re-pot it.
There are a variety of pot materials available, from decorative ceramics to more basic plastic pots. In general, there isn’t much difference between these materials when it comes to house plants.
A key thing to monitor is moisture levels. It is possible that plastic pots will retain more moisture than other materials, so you may have to adjust a watering schedule accordingly.
Conversely, ceramic pots like terra cotta that contain pores and can absorb water, may result in a plant needing to be watered more frequently.
As always, pay close attention to how your plant is reacting and the current watering schedule, and you should be able to provide exactly what it needs!
Finally, the one essential thing most houseplants need is proper drainage! No drainage holes in the bottom of your planter is risky, as it is hard to judge exactly how much water will be absorbed by the soil and how much is left sitting in the bottom of the pot.
This can lead to issues like root rot and other fungus and diseases that harm your plant. Instead, use a pot that has sufficient holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain off after watering.
This mimics the way water will drain through soil in the ground when plants are outside.
If there is a decorative pot with no drainage that you must add to your collection, get a slightly smaller, light-weight plastic pot that fits inside and has drainage holes.
Plant your ZZ in this plastic pot and you can easily lift it out and transfer it to the sink for watering!
Where to get soil for ZZ Plants
If you decide to purchase soil for your ZZ plant, you have lots of options available to you either online or at a local plant supply store.
When shopping for soil, especially online, it is important to review a list of the ingredients included in the soil mix. Ideally, you will also be able to see the ratios of each ingredient, but this information is not always available.
Look for additives like barks, pumice, perlite, and biochar, which do not retain excessive water but increase the pore space in the soil, which improves drainage.
Some soils will be advertised as light, airy, or porus and suitable for ZZ plants. If they contain the right ingredients, then they will likely be sufficient for your plant.
If you are unable to find a soil specifically targeted for ZZ plants, one labeled as suitable for Monstera plants will likely contain many of the same ingredients.
This is because Monstera plants prefer the same soil conditions as ZZ plants, despite growing in humid, tropical forests compared to the dry, arid areas ZZ plants are from.
If all else fails, invest in a high-quality potting mix that includes ingredients like pumice or perlite for enhanced drainage. If your ZZ plant isn’t too fussy and you follow a regular watering schedule, paying attention to when the soil is sufficiently dry, it will probably tolerate this just fine.
Do ZZ plants need succulent soil?
Succulent soil is designed to mimic the conditions of the desert, where succulents grow in the wild. Succulent are able to store water in their leaves, meaning they do not need to be watered often and are easy to kill from excessive watering.
Succulent soils are often dry and well-draining, containing high levels of mineral components like sand and perlite or pumice.
Succulent soil does contain many of the ingredients needed to keep a ZZ plant happy, but it may be too heavy in sand than ZZ plants prefer.
Instead of planting your ZZ in succulent soil alone, include it as a component of your custom ZZ soil mix. A simple mix of organic or all-purpose potting soil combined with succulent soil will create a decent, well-draining soil for your plant that is easier to make than will all the ingredients separately.
Does ZZ plant like dry soil?
Like any plant, ZZ plants need water to survive! Their soil shouldn’t be dry, necessarily, but they can tolerate short periods of dryer conditions.
This is largely because ZZ plants originate from the dry grasslands of East Africa. Unlike more tropical houseplant species that prefer consistent moisture, ZZ plants are well adapted to survive periods of drought.
Unpredictable, heavy rainfalls are the norm for this species, which makes it such an easy plant to take care of. If you forget to water on a consistent schedule, it will probably survive!
Keeping this in mind, don’t water your plant too frequently. Some plants prefer to be consistently wet, but ZZ plants should be allowed to dry out between waterings.
Watering requirements can depend on the size, type of pot, type of soil, temperature and sun exposure, among other things. Typically, you should aim to water your plant about every 2-3 weeks for best results.
Does ZZ plant like acid soil?
The pH, or “potential of hydrogen”, refers to how acidic or basic a substance (in this case, soil) is. The pH is measured by how many Hydrogen ions are present.
This measurement can vary from 0 (acidic) to 14.0 (alkaline/basic) with 7.0 being approximately “neutral”. The pH of soil can impact how “available” various nutrients are to your plant, and improper pH can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
ZZ plants prefer soil that is slightly acidic or neutral, around 6-7 pH. If you suspect your soil is not acidic enough for your plant, try adding compost, manure, peat moss, or other organic material.
Only add a little at a time as these can retain water and harm the roots of your plant by keeping them too wet!
On the other hand, if your soil is too acidic for your plant (less than 5.5 pH), you can try adding baking soda dissolved in water, limestone, or wood ashes.
Be careful about adjusting the pH of your soil too much or too quickly, as it can lead to a variety of issues in your plant.
Very acidic soils (pH lower than 5.5) can lead to not enough Phosphorus or too much Manganese, Aluminum, Magnesium, and Calcium, leading to a variety of issues in your plant.
If pH is over 7.0, however, Sodium toxicity may occur as well as blocking the uptake of Copper, Zinc, Manganese, and Boron by your plant. All of these are essential nutrients that every plant needs in the proper amounts in order to survive.
Can I use all-purpose soil for a ZZ plant?
If you are unable to find a custom soil mix for your ZZ plant or don’t have the budget to afford a costly mix, a higher-quality all-purpose soil will likely do the trick.
Many all-purpose soils also contain a variety of amendments to improve the drainage of the soil, although in lower ratios than if you were to get a custom mix or make your own blend.
Making a custom blend of soil doesn’t have to be difficult though. Even adding a single additive listed above to an all-purpose soil will improve drainage, like mixing in a little additional perlite.
Again, the key is to pay attention to how much you water your plant. An all-purpose soil mix might retain water more than a custom mix, so you may find you don’t need to water your plant as often.