Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zamioculcas starts with the letter Z

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I pride myself on being able to pronounce some pretty difficult words.  I speak a few different languages and I'm fairly confident with most of what's floating around out there, language-wise.  I live with a science PhD too, of all things, so I have a hearty exposure to all that book-y nonsense too.

But this one: Zamioculcas - well it trips me up damned near every time.  Lucky for me, kids, there's another name for it.

THE ZZ plant.  That's right - "zee zee"
Inn't that better?

And here's the best part!  It's dead easy to grow!  So let's learn a little more about this unpronounceable ZZ plant and all the joy to be found therein.

This handsome little devil is a blessing to all the black-thumbed plant killers out there.  It's sturdy and thrives on neglect.  Got a low-light room or office?  ZZ will fit right in.  Hate the smells and dust associated with flowers?  No problem, this bad boy will almost never bloom, and when it does, you'll be hard pressed to notice.  Got a dust allergy?  This thing is easy as could be with those swiffery clothy things and it darn near needs to be shut in a doorway before it bruises.  All the green and lush of a succulent without the spines of a cactus or the moodiness of a jade tree.

Shiny and glossy leaves are the proud hallmark if this gem and they grow on lovely, thick and fleshy stalks.  It's a slow grower that's best when you start with a small one and then every, oh, six years...  you should probably think about repotting it.  When they're big they get bigger.  And each new stalk is taller than the last.  And so long as you continue to deprive it of attention and cuddles and so long as you remember to water it maybe once in a while every couple of weeks or so...  this bad boy will be yours forever.  Isn't he just so handsome?

To be fair, they do like strong light too.  They'll do best with bi-annual feeding and a sunny window, but ours did just fine in a dusky back room.  I've even rooted up a few cuttings too, and have a wee little pot with two new ZZ stalks quietly minding their own business while the big bad grand-daddy just happily stares out the window.

We started with a wee little pot, maybe two stalks in it.  A foot tall tops.  Now we have a big heavy monster pot, Audrey II style, that lives in our dining room and stands about four feet tall.  It's lush and thick and (I'm told) likes nothing better than to clean the air around it and be completely ignored for whole weeks at a time. Sold on it yet?  Here's some more fancy details about our new friend the ZZ plant...

It's a simple thing.  If you look closely at the leaves and compare it to something more... modern...  you'll notice that the veins are all pretty straightforward.  Nothing complicated.  This is a simple dinosaur plant with more in common with moss than a proper woody tree.  It's really like growing a dinosaur!  

This is an African native, and will do just fine outdoors in the zone 9's...  or in the chillier climates you can just container it up and have a lovely porch plant that gets a cozy winter vacation in your guest bedroom or something.  Don't eat this, okay?  There's nothing about it that's particularly tasty looking, but I just thought I'd mention...  you know...  just don't eat it.  Gech.

Finally, don't be fooled.  This is not a bonzai plant.  It grows slowly, sure, but you can't keep it small.  No sir.  This one wants to grow.  And sometimes they'll charge you up the wazoo for them, too.  But if you're careful, you might notice them at your dentist's office and you might be able to score a cutting for the cost of your annual checkup and some kind words to the receptionist.  They have 'em in malls and banks and things too - so while I encourage you to never ever steal or deface someone else's plant, it is worth knowing that being connected to someone who has a plant already can make for a great friendship and a brand new pass-along plant in your own home.

Otherwise the legit greenhouses and nurseries in your area will almost always have them in stock... so just wait until you get a coupon or until they're on sale.  The big ones will cost you, but a small one that you can care for and love will be a much better showpiece once you've raised it to the large size on your own.  We even drove with our big guy in the back of our car while we moved from Colorado to Virginia a few years ago and ol' ZZ didn't bat an eyelash at the same abuse that made other stemmy plants wither and sulk.

So if you're in the market for a lush, tropical looking oddity that will be eager to reward you for years and years...  keep your eyes peeled for the ZZ plant.


Jan Newman said...

I'd find a way to kill it, I'm sure, but this sounds like a nice companion -- the strong, silent type.

Kristen Dyrr said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge! This sounds like the perfect plant for me. My mom has the green thumb. I do not -- at all. But I'm trying. :)

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com