The Raven ZZ plant is gaining popularity with houseplant collectors and it’s easy to see why. They have beautiful black leaves and stems except for the new growth which comes in a bright chartreuse color. They contrast nicely with other plant foliage which is great if you are a plant collector or they look beautiful by themselves as a statement plant.
If you are new to the Raven ZZ, this article should give you some guidance in caring for them. We will discuss; watering, light, best location in the house, temperature, fertilizer, humidity, flowers, insects, diseases, pruning, propagation and toxicity.
The scientific name of the Raven ZZ plant is Zamioculas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’. It is most commonly called the Raven ZZ or ZZ ‘Raven’ by plant collectors.
ZZ plants are endemic to East and South Africa which tells us how to care for them. ZZ plants store water in their stems and in large rhizomes that look similar to small potatoes. Their ability to store so much water in their stems and roots lets us know that they are accustomed to droughts in nature. Our care should mimic the ZZ’s natural habitat if we want it to thrive in our homes.
Watering – Water deeply but only once the soil has dried out in the pot. I make sure that the potting mix has dried out down several inches before I even consider watering my ZZ plants. You can check the moistness of soil with your finger or with a moisture meter. Once I know my plant is dried out, I take it to the sink and use the sprayer nozzle to moisten the soil until water drains out the bottom of the pot. (Drainage holes in the planter are a must for the ZZ plant.) Make sure to provide it a fast-draining potting mix and let all excess water drain out of the pot after watering.
Light requirements – Medium to bright light is what I recommend for ZZ plants even though that is not what any other website or blog will tell you. Unfortunately, ZZ plants have been marketed for years as only requiring low light. It is certainly true that they can live in low light. But if you want a plant that grows and thrives, you will have to offer more than low light levels. If your plant is stalled in its growth, it needs a brighter location in the house.
Best Location in the House – If you are able to give your Raven ZZ a spot in an East facing window, it will thrive. I have also grown them in a North facing window, fairly successfully, but they really do want more light if possible. I haven’t grown one in a West facing window personally, but I’d imagine that a ZZ would do very well in a West window.
Temperature requirements – Like most houseplants, the Raven ZZ will live happily in the same temperatures that we humans like to live in.
Fertilizer – Dilute fertilizer by half. I believe that if my plants are actively growing, they need to be given fertilizer. Even if that happens to be during the winter. If you don’t believe in fertilizer in the winter, try offering fertilizer from the beginning of March through the fall and then give the plant a break from fertilizer during the winter.
Humidity – Normal household humidity levels are completely appropriate.
Flowers – ZZ plants do produce flowers, but not very commonly. Their flowers are reminiscent of a Peace Lily’s bloom.
Insects – I brought home some spider mites on three Raven ZZ plants at the beginning of 2020. (Which is why I always preach that we should examine our plants carefully before bringing them into our home. Why didn’t I follow my own advice, you may wonder? We may never know…) I had to isolate the plants and treat them but after a few weeks the mites were gone.
It seems that ZZ plants are not too likely to have pest issues. Of course, insects are always a possibility on our indoor plants. Some of the pests you may experience on your ZZ plants are mealy bugs, aphids, scale, white flies, fungus gnats or spider mites. And most likely, the “plague” will have spread from a nearby infested plant.
Pruning – Pruning ZZ plants is almost completely unnecessary. Simply remove any dead or damaged leaves by hand to keep your plant clean and it should be happy.
Propagation – The Raven ZZ propagates just like regular ZZ plants by leaves, stem cuttings and by pups (small plantlets growing from the “mother” plant). However, the Raven ZZ is a patented plant and cannot legally be propagated by anyone other than Costa Farms.
Toxicity – All parts of the Raven ZZ plant are considered to be toxic to dogs, cats and humans. Like most (all?) Aroids, ZZ plants have small crystalized minerals that can cause swelling in the throat, tongue and lips, difficulty swallowing and vomiting.
If you have children or pets that may be interested in your ZZ plant, my advice is to keep this plant out of their reach.
Link to my Etsy shop, Matilda and Clementine where I sell many different collector houseplants.
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Products I use and (therefore) recommend:
Planty friends – Feel free to use these links to the products that I use for my houseplants. I receive a small percentage of any sales through these links, so feel free not to use them if that bothers you.
Horticultural 1/4” pumice – https://amzn.to/2KfcNPT
Horticultural perlite – https://amzn.to/3f9wwvE
Coco coir – https://amzn.to/2UBBiZF
Orchid Bark – Extra small chips – https://amzn.to/38OXWWJ
Orchid Bark – Small chips – https://amzn.to/3kA8HOU
Earthworm castings – https://amzn.to/38TRkGw
Coco Loco potting mix – https://amzn.to/2UHV3OY
GE Balanced Spectrum grow light bulb – https://amzn.to/3fdeAAu
Monios L LED grow lights – 2 ft. – https://amzn.to/391NmeS
Heat Mat (for propagating) – https://amzn.to/2MSezbk
Heat Mat w/ Thermostat – https://amzn.to/2PIjCwc
Bonsai scissors – https://amzn.to/33a6F29
Hygrometer (humidity monitor) – https://amzn.to/32WtiqO
Moisture meter sticks – https://amzn.to/35FR7Vk
Horticultural charcoal – https://amzn.to/2UKOv25
Organic houseplant fertilizer liquid – https://amzn.to/3pIb7ij
Insecticide/Miticide – (many bug sprays don’t kill spider mites, this one does) – https://amzn.to/3pHKREw
Systemic houseplant insecticide – https://amzn.to/36MuoX8
Espoma Rose Tone (fertilizer for roses and flowering perennials) – https://amzn.to/3m8OGkU
Full disclosure – the last four product links will be much cheaper if you can find them in your local garden center. I’ve put them here so that you can see what they are called and what they look like, but I’d advise that you buy from these links only as a last resort.
References for this article:
Patrick, Lee. (2016, Feb. 23). ZZ Plant: A Narrative Guide. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/zz_plant_a_narrative_guide
(2022). Raven ZZ Plant. Costa Farms. https://www.costafarms.com/plants/raven-zz-plant