Even without a green thumb, you do not have to do without this imposing houseplant. The eternity plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), also known as ZZ plant, aroid palm, or emerald palm, tolerates almost any location.
And it won’t complain about too little care. Growing up to 3 ft (1 m) tall, this green plant is virtually indestructible, as long as you don’t drown it.
After all, the thick-leaved plant, which originated in East Africa, needs very little water.
Flowers and Flowering Time for the Eternity Plant
An eternity plant kept in indoor culture produces a flower only very rarely.
However, the flower is unspectacular anyway. As is typical for arum plants, the flower consists of a thick, whitish cob only a few inches high.
Only if the plant feels comfortable in its location all around and optimal conditions are present, you may enjoy a flower.
However, for this to happen you should follow these rules:
- Keep a permanent ambient temperature of around 77 °F (25 °C).
- The humidity is neither too high nor too dry, as in heated rooms in winter.
- Choose a bright, but not full sun location.
- Regular fertilizing and watering.
- Use a sufficiently large pot.
- The plant is not too moist.
- Use a high-quality substrate based on compost.
Like the leaf shoots, the flowering shoot grows directly from the rhizome but reaches a maximum height of 12 inches (30 cm).
Initially, the flower is covered by a sheathing leaf, but this folds off after budding and exposes the white cob. This in turn lasts for a few weeks before it dries up and turns brown.
In theory, you could use the eventually formed seeds to propagate the Zamioculcas. But this is a difficult and for the layman hardly successful undertaking.
Origin and Distribution
Only since the beginning of the 2000s, the Zamioculcas has experienced a revival as an uncomplicated houseplant.
Before that, it was simply not cultivated for this purpose, even though the species was already discovered and described in the 19th century.
The home of the plant, which belongs to the Araceae family, is Central and East Africa. There the species is widespread, especially in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar.
There the plant grows mainly in the forested foothills of the highlands and in lowlands where rocky substrates predominate.
By nature, the Zamioculcas is used to extreme drought and can go weeks to months without water. Typical for the native region is the alternation between dry phases and heavy rain, during which the plant can quickly become saturated with moisture – and then again survive drought.
It is only possible to keep the eternity plant as a houseplant or in winter gardens. It is a warmth-loving, typical African plant that you should not expose to temperatures below 60 °F (16 °C).
The plant feels most comfortable at temperatures of 68 °F (20 °C) and above. But due to its resistance to drought, it also tolerates summer heat and heated winter air without any problems.
During the warm summer months, you can also place the plant in a semi-shaded or sunny spot on the balcony or terrace. Of course, provided that the temperatures do not drop below 68 °F (20 °C) even at night.
In addition, the location should be rather dry. The eternity plant, which is very sensitive to excess moisture, should not be exposed to continuous rain.
Appearance and Growth
Botanically, the Zamioculcas is a herbaceous plant, but this does not correspond to its actual appearance.
The evergreen eternity plant develops thick, fleshy rhizomes underground, from which thickened leaf stalks sprout and can grow up to 3 ft (1 m) high.
These leaf stalks are the actual leaves of Zamioculcas. They are thickened in a club shape and covered with numerous stiff, stout leaflets.
All above-ground plant parts are glossy dark green in color and are a good indicator of site brightness. The leaves turn an intense dark green in darker locations.
Overall, the plant appears vigorous and gets quite a dense shoot growth as it ages. So dividing the rootstock occasionally is a good idea.
Not only does this give you a second plant, but it also prevents the plant pot from being blown apart by root pressure at some point.
Basically, the eternity plant grows rather slowly, but it can live for several decades and thus become very large.
Is the Eternity Plant Poisonous
Like any arum plant, the eternity plant is poisonous to both humans and pets.
The evergreen plant contains skin-irritating substances such as oxalic acid as well as calcium oxalate. These can cause swelling and redness of mucous membranes and skin externally.
However, poisoning is very rare, as the effect in the form of a burning sensation in the mouth, etc., starts instantly and the body is therefore forewarned.
You want to make sure that no plant sap gets into your eyes, as this would be very unpleasant. So you will want to be careful, e.g. when cutting back.
In case some plant sap gets into your eyes, rinse your eyes thoroughly with clean, warm water. A visit to the doctor, on the other hand, is usually not necessary.
Planting the Eternity Plant Properly
If you have purchased a new eternity plant, it is best to replant it in fresh substrate right away.
You can tell if the plant needs a new pot by the rooting of the container. If the soil has hardly any space left there, it’s time for a larger pot.
This new pot should be as wide as possible because the roots mainly extend into the width. It is also essential to have a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot so that excess water can drain off quickly.
To prevent excess water from silting up, cover the bottom with a layer of clay shards. Adding expanded clay or perlite will improve the permeability of the substrate.
Which Location is Suitable for the Eternity Plant?
With regard to its location, the eternity plant is pleasingly frugal. Basically, the plant can cope with any location, as long as it is not on a south-facing window.
The easy-to-care-for houseplant does not tolerate full sun but still feels most comfortable in a bright spot. If such a place is not available, simply place it in the shade.
It copes well even with little light, but then grows much slower and develops strikingly dark foliage.
In any case, warmth is more important than light intensity. The eternity plant should not be placed cooler than 60 °F (16 °C).
Optimal for its thriving are temperatures between 68 and 77 °F (20 and 25 °C). During warm summer months, the plant will also enjoy a nice location on the balcony.
What Soil Does the Eternity Plant Need?
Commercially available standard soil, which can be pre-fertilized, is sufficient as a substrate. Green plant, houseplant, or palm soil is also suitable for the eternity plant.
The houseplant feels most comfortable in soil with a high compost content. For better permeability, mix clay granules or perlite into the substrate.
But always be careful not to keep the plant too moist. If the substrate molds, the eternity plant is too wet. It needs a new pot and fresh substrate as soon as possible.
If you prefer hydroponics instead of soil culture, the already low maintenance needs are reduced even more.
Fertilizing the Eternity Plant
Like any potted plant, Zamioculcas depends on a regular supply of nutrients.
Fertilize it about every four weeks with a low-dose, liquid green plant fertilizer. Simply administer it together with the watering water.
Alternatively, you can provide the plant with a slow-release fertilizer in the form of a stick or cone in the spring. This way, you will not forget to fertilize during the summer months. During the winter, you can suspend fertilization completely.
Fertilize freshly repotted plants in pre-fertilized soil no earlier than after eight weeks.
The same goes for pest-infested or diseased specimens. Provide them with nutrients again only after they recover.
In this respect, plants are like people. You probably eat less when you are in bed with a feverish cold.
Watering the Eternity Plant
The eternity plant stores moisture in its fleshy, thick leaf stalks. This way, it survives dry periods in its East African homeland.
This makes it a succulent plant that requires little watering. But still, it must not be allowed to dry out constantly.
Always water the eternity plant when the substrate has dried out well. You can determine this with clay pots, for example, by the “knock test”.
Gently tap the pot with your knuckles. If the resulting sound is hollow, it’s time to water.
Use well stagnant, room-warm tap water or collected rainwater for this purpose. Excess watering should be removed promptly.
From time to time, place the Zamioculcas under the shower and rinse it with a gentle, hand-warm shower spray.
The shower kills several birds with one stone. On the one hand, you remove accumulated dust from the leaves. And on the other hand, you increase the humidity.
Pests such as spider mites, which occur more frequently during dry periods, do not stand a chance then.
Regarding the amount of watering, no specific information can be given. Basically, the eternity plant needs more and more frequent water during the summer months than in the winter.
How much and how often you water depends on the brightness of the location, the ambient temperature, and the size of the plant.
Dividing and Repotting the Eternity Plant
You rarely need to repot the eternity plant. Unlike many other potted plants, it likes to stand in cramped pots.
It only needs a new one when its roots threaten to grow out of the planter. Usually, this happens about every three years.
You can also take this opportunity to divide large plants into two or more individual plants and plant them separately.
This is the fastest and easiest way to propagate the attractive plant. The best time for this measure is spring. You should also water the plants more intensively for a few weeks after repotting.
Pruning the Eternity Plant
Even though the eternity plant grows slowly, it can become quite tall and especially extensive over the years.
Nevertheless, do not cut the plant back, otherwise unsightly bare spots will remain. Zamioculcas does not resprout from the cut stump, which often remains for several years. Instead, simply divide plants that have grown too large.
Sometimes, however, you will still need to reach for a knife or scissors, because diseased or dead shoots should be removed as soon as possible.
Cut off dried or rotting leaf stalks directly at the base and dispose of the cuttings in the household waste.
Propagating the Eternity Plant
You can propagate the eternity plant by leaf cuttings, which you simply put in a pot with growing soil. Keep the substrate always slightly moist and place the container in a warm and bright place. The temperature should be at about 77 °F (25 °C).
It is best to cultivate the cutting in an indoor greenhouse, as roots form more easily when the air is tense.
However, until the leaf has actually rooted and a new shoot develops, you need a lot of patience. This process can take up to a year.
Even after that, the new plantlet grows quite slowly. In addition to individual leaflets, leaf stalks up to 8 inches (20 cm) long with several leaflets are also suitable for propagation.
Diseases and Pests
The eternity plant is a hardy houseplant that very rarely becomes diseased or infested with pests.
Basically, only spider mites are problematic, which are common in dry and warm locations. You can keep this pest at bay by occasionally showering the plant.
The Eternity Plant Gets Brown Leaves
If the eternity plant suddenly gets brown leaves, there are usually care errors behind it. Find out whether you
- water it too much or too little
- fertilize it too much or too little
- have an ambient temperature that is too high or too low
- have humidity that is too high or too low.
Once you determined the cause, you should initiate appropriate countermeasures.
The Eternity Plant Gets Yellow Leaves
Yellow leaves on the eternity plant, on the other hand, are a clear indication that the location is too humid.
In this case, repot the plant immediately into a fresh, dry substrate. Cut off rotten roots or leaf shoots if necessary. In the future, water the Zamioculcas less often or less.
Species and Varieties
There is basically only one variety of Zamioculcas available commercially.
Whether the occasionally offered Black Zamioculcas ‘Raven’ is really an independent variety may be doubted. The very dark petioles and leaflets of this variety are actually developed by any eternity plant as well. At least, as long as it stands dark enough.
A dark location and thus little light automatically lead to dark-colored leaves in this species.