A Short Lived Family Member: How To Kill a ZZ Plant

A few months ago I went through a “I am killing all my plants” phase. My plants were not doing as well as I wanted and I felt very overwhelmed. I am an over thinker and suffer from anxiety so in hindsight it wasn’t really that bad but at the time I felt completely lost and hopeless. Luckily I only lost one plant, my new Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, but I was devastated. This post might sound a bit like a rant, but honestly this situation was a big learning opportunity. While being caught up in it all I failed to see the situation for what it was. It was only after a few weeks that really realized what went wrong.

Let me start at the beginning because this plant was doomed from the start. It was a Wednesday and I had a really bad day at work. Over lunch I decided to stop by Deep Route Gardening in Cork as they are close to my office. Buying plants normally make me feel better so I bought a ZZ and a Neon Pothos. I was super excited about both as they were on my list for a while. I was especially excited about the ZZ as I heard a lot of good things about this plant. 

I took them home and repotted the ZZ that Saturday. I had to repot him because his original pot was ridiculously small and the soil did not look healthy. Now this was not Deep Route Gardening’s fault as I saw other ZZs with the same packaging and condition as mine at other gardening centers after mine died. I had to cut her plastic pot in order to get her out. When I repotted one or two of the stalks “broke off” but at the time I didn’t think to check the roots or the tubers for rot. It is a new plant. Why would there be anything wrong with it?  

Beginner’s Guide: 10 Things I’ve Learned As A New Plant Parent

On Sunday I took photos of all my plants for my new Instagram account. I noticed my ZZ looked a bit lopsided and slouchy but I figured it was just because I didn’t pack the soil tight enough and that her roots just needed to adjust to the new soil and pot she was in. Looking back at the photos now you can clearly see signs of fungal infection in the leaves. A week later on the Saturday morning I checked on all my plants as I normally do. I got to my plant corner and noticed one of my ZZ’s stalks was lying on the floor. Uh-oh that’s not good! I thought maybe it broke off but on closer inspection I found more on the floor and the rest were tilting. What was going on?! 

Initially I thought maybe he was traumatized from being repotted, but I have since learnt that is not really something that affects ZZ plants. I posted about the situation on Instagram hoping to get some advice as to what happened and most of the responses were that he was over watered or that I watered too quickly after repotting. On closer inspection I found most of the tubers were rotten. I managed to save one or two and repotted them into dry soil. I chopped off all the healthy looking stalks and leaves and let them callous in order to propagate them. 

If you look at the picture above you will see the yellowed leaves the day after repotting. It was only later that I remembered two stalks rotted off before I repotted and looking back at the pictures I figured the damage was done before I got him. Unfortunately over the next couple of weeks all the tubers rotted as well as the leaves I was propagating. They all turned yellow and brown. Some of the stalks also rotted away in the water so I changed the water weekly and kept cutting away the rot and starting over. I still haven’t given up and am adamant to propagate at least one leaf or stem. 

Everyone keeps saying it is impossible to kill a ZZ and ZZ’s are the easiest plants to care for and I feel so betrayed. At that time I felt like I was starting to get the hang of caring for plants as most of my plants were doing really well. And then this happened on top of my Rubber Tree dropping leaves like crazy and I felt like I was killing all of them. This was obviously an  overreaction as my Rubber Tree made a full recovery. 

For a while after she died I vowed never to purchase a ZZ again. I might give in if I ever come across a Raven ZZ or who knows maybe one of the leaves or stalks will root. At least I know some good came out of it, because I learned from my mistakes and it made me a better plant parent. You won’t learn if you never make any mistakes.

What was the biggest mistake you made as a new plant parent?  I would love to hear from you. Leave a reply by commenting below!

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