Common Mistakes Everyone Makes When Propagating ZZ Plants

The Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also known as the ZZ plant, is an attractive and popular houseplant, with a contemporary silhouette that adds interest to any room. It comes in the more common green leaf variety and the "Raven", which has leaves that develop into a dark green-black. They are one of the easiest, low-maintenance houseplants to care for, and they tolerate neglect very well due to their ability to store water in their thick stems and leaves. However, there are many common mistakes that people can make when caring for or propagating ZZ plants. Perhaps the most common mistake of all is assuming that this hardy plant is indestructible — it's not.

There are a few reasons you might want to propagate your ZZ plant. If your plant has had an accident and one of the stalks has snapped off, you could see it as an opportunity to propagate and grow new plants. Alternatively, plants that have become too big for their pots can be divided and successfully made into several new plants, so long as you don't fall prey to any of the common mistakes many people make during the propagating process.

Common mistakes to avoid when propagating ZZ plants

Some of the common mistakes people make when propagating ZZ plants are true for every houseplant. For example, propagating from an unhealthy cutting, using dirty or blunt tools, and forgetting to replace water can all lead to disease, fungus, stunted growth, and unsuccessful propagation.

If you're propagating from a stem cutting, remember that it needs sufficient light. People often make the mistake of putting cuttings in an inferior spot compared to their other houseplants, but you should treat cuttings like they are plants, because they are. So place them in an area where they can receive partial sunlight. The water also has to be kept fresh, so be sure to replace it regularly. Any discoloration, browning, or unusual growths and bad smells mean the cutting is probably infected. If the stem is turning mushy, it means it's rotting. An unhealthy cutting will usually lead to stem rot regardless of how often you change the water.

Sometimes, the decision to propagate a ZZ plant in water is a mistake in itself,  as the plants might not thrive and could develop root rot. If you're worried about this, you can try rooting your cuttings in soil instead for much stronger roots. Just let the stem wound callus first and then make sure the soil is well-draining and moist.

How to propagate a ZZ plant

If you choose to make a new ZZ plant via water propagation, look for a stem with a good amount of leaf growth. Place it in a vase with a few inches of water, and replace the water once every week or so. Eventually, you will see a rhizome start to form at the base of the stem, and from here, roots will grow. You can make even more plants by cutting the stem into sections with at least a pair of leaves each. Or you can do leaf propagation. Just pinch a single leaf off, as close to the stem as possible, and root the end in water. If you find it difficult to pinch the leaf off, a little twist and pull should do the trick, or you can use sharp clean scissors. Just make sure the leaf has a little bit of stalk intact for a tiny rhizome to develop from. You can also root in moist soil but water allows you to observe root growth.

Another method is propagation via division — take the plant out of the pot and separate it where the rhizome is. Do this after refraining from watering the plant for a couple of weeks.