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How To Fix A Leggy ZZ Plant? (Causes+What To Do)

ZZ plants (Zamiifolia zamioculcas) are among the popular low-maintenance houseplants that can survive even in harsh conditions. But your ZZ plant may start to get leggy, and there can be several reasons for that. Let’s look at why you have a leggy ZZ plant and the steps you can take to fix the issues and get it to look good again!

Low light, overwatering or underwatering, inappropriate fertilizers, and stress to the plant can lead to a leggy ZZ plant. Providing enough indirect light, watering the ZZ plant as per its need, and using appropriate fertilizer can fix a leggy ZZ plant.

Apart from these, other factors can cause leggy and droopy ZZ plants. We will find out all the possible causes and figure out what we need to do to keep the ZZ plant healthy, full, and upright. So, let’s get right into it.

ZZ plant leggy growth

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Why is my ZZ plant leggy?

If your ZZ plant looks full and glossy green leaves, you know that it is in perfect health. However, if you notice uneven growth, droopy stems, and long stems, you know you have a leggy ZZ plant.

ZZ plants are loved for their tidy and even growth. If you notice that your ZZ plant’s growth is leggy, you should understand that it is not getting enough light.

ZZ plants can thrive under indirect light or any artificial source of light, for example, the LED light of your house. But if you keep it in a shaded area, then your plant will start to suffer.

You will notice that the stems are growing more than any other part of the plant. And if just a few leaves accompany the long stems, you can be sure that you have a leggy ZZ plant.

Insufficient light will not let the plant photosynthesize. And if you keep putting your ZZ plant in an area with very little light, the growth will be abrupt, and the plant will not look aesthetically pleasing any more.

In the case of leggy ZZ plants, you will find long and thin stems in some areas. Eventually, the plant will lose balance if not taken care of, and you might find that it has fallen over.

The ZZ plants tend to lean after becoming leggy as they lose strength and become weak. 

Overwatering

ZZ plants are indoor plants that don’t need to be watered frequently. ZZ plants might be able to survive without water for as much as 3-4 weeks. ZZ plant is almost similar to succulents and can retain water for a long period.

However, most people don’t understand this and water the ZZ plant a bit too much, which leads to various problems, including leggy plants

If you are a beginner, it might take some time to differentiate between plants that need more water vs. plants that need less. It is crucial to do your research well before deciding to keep a ZZ plant in your house.

ZZ plant doesn’t require daily watering like many other plants. If you end up overwatering your plant, it will cause root rot. The soil will get clogged with water, and the plant will not receive oxygen or nutrients.

Overwatering will make the roots mushy and brown. They will lose their usual white and crisp texture. If you don’t take action as soon as possible, the plant could die.

Once root rot takes place, the roots lose strength and are unable to hold the plant up. Due to which the plant becomes leggy and droopy.

Under-watering

ZZ plants can survive without water for a long time, but if you ignore it entirely and do not provide sufficient water, they will eventually become weak.

You need to keep in mind that though it can retain water like the succulents, it is not one, so you can not treat it like a succulent! 

If you have not watered your ZZ plant for a few weeks, it will dry out. The leaves will show signs by turning brown, curling, or falling off, and the stems will become weak and start leaning, and the plant will get leggy. If not looked after, the plant will fall over.

Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering

Inappropriate fertilization

Ensure your fertilizer has the right ratio of nutrients that the ZZ plants need, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. If the ratio is not equal or even, the plant will have adverse effects and will become leggy.

Other than the fertilizer’s quality, understanding when your plant needs fertilizer and maintaining a proper schedule gets very important. Bad fertilizing habits will give you a leggy and droopy ZZ plant.

Your ZZ plant might not need fertilizers every month, so you might be giving it extra if you are giving it fertilizer every month.

You can skip giving fertilizer to your plant in the winter season, as it is the dormant period for the ZZ plant.

During the rest of the year, make sure to provide enough fertilizer so that the plant doesn’t lack nutrients.

If the fertilizer has too much nitrogen in it, then it can also lead to a leggy plant as it promotes rapid growth in the plant.



Stress

ZZ plants are one of the plants that are prone to stress if their transplantation goes wrong or if they get some damage.

You can’t go without repotting your ZZ plant, as it outgrows the pot when it grows bigger, and that process can be stressful for your plant, so you need to be careful throughout the whole process.

If you have physically damaged the foliage or roots of your ZZ plant during repotting, then it might lead to stress in the plant.

A stressed plant will likely become leggy and grow inappropriately.

Shock

We are not talking about transplantation here, but if your plant has received any external damage, for example, if the plant is moved from indoors to outdoors, it might be in shock.

If the intensity of the shock is high, the plant may start to droop and become leggy.

The best way to prevent the shock is to never move your plant from one extreme to another. Or if you have to do so, then do it gradually.

For example, if you want to move your ZZ plant from your living room to your desk, there is not enough lighting to support it. 

In such a case, you have to move the plant gradually. Move it from a bright light spot to a medium-light spot. Then gradually move the plant from medium-light to low-light spot.

If you notice any dead foliage, then make sure you clip that off so that the plant can focus on new growth.

Also read: How to save a dying ZZ plant?

How to fix a leggy ZZ plant?

To fix your leggy ZZ plant, you need to stop making the mistakes that you were making in the first place. 

You need to keep an eye on your ZZ plant and take care of it, so it becomes healthy and full again.

You should give your ZZ plant enough light, maintain a proper schedule for giving it fertilizers and not overwater or underwater it. 

If your ZZ plant is already leggy, you can keep a check on the following things to fix the problem:

  • Fix the lighting
  • Pruning
  • Fertilize
  • Watering
  • Use the right pot

Fix the lighting

Lighting requirement

One of the most common reasons for the leggy ZZ plant is insufficient light.

If your plant is not getting enough light, it will try to find an area where the light is coming from and stretch towards that light source. 

That will result in long and thin stems that will stretch towards one side and will have no growth on the other side.

The only way to fix this problem is to keep your plant near a window sill with indirect light so that the plant will not have to stretch and become leggy in search of light. Any medium-light area will work for your ZZ plant.

Keep a note that you would need to rotate the plant every time you water it to get light on each side so that your ZZ plant can have equal growth on all sides.

Also read: How much light do ZZ plant need?

Pruning

Pruning is necessary if you want your plant to look good after all the legginess. 

Even after the plan has recovered from being leggy to healthy, you should consider giving it a good trim.

Take a pair of sterilized scissors or pruning shears and cut off the tallest shoots located above the leaves. Do it as close to the nodes as you can get.

Pruning the ZZ plant like this will enhance further growth of the plant. And the plant will grow upright instead of bending to any side. It will also help the plant to achieve a fuller appearance.

Fertilize

ZZ plants need fertilizers for better growth. Fertilizers provide them with the macro and micronutrients needed by the ZZ plant for healthy growth.

If you have not repotted your ZZ plant in a while, it may be possible that your ZZ plant is lacking nutrients, and that results in leggy stems.

Make sure you use the right fertilizer that will give your plant all the nutrients it needs. Apply fertilizers as per the instructions mentioned in the bottle.

PS: Jack’s Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer is by far the most versatile and useful fertilizer I have ever used. For all of you folks out there, a completely organic solution is Espoma Organic Indoor Liquid Organic Plant Food.

Make sure not to overdose your plant with excess fertilizer. Too much will be harmful to the ZZ plant as it doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer.

Keep a check on your ZZ plant, understand the needs and apply fertilizer as needed. 

Ideally, start fertilizing your ZZ plant during spring with half the regular dosage every alternate month and continue the same till summer. Reduce the fertilization to zero once the fall season begins.

Watering

We have already discussed the effects of overwatering and underwatering of ZZ plants.

A beginner hobbyist can make the mistake of overwatering the plant without understanding the plant’s primary type and needs. 

Whereas underwatering usually happen due to a lack of care or negligence of your ZZ plant.

Both these cases are bad for the plant. So all you need to do is, follow a schedule.

You can water your ZZ plant once or twice a week. However, it will depend on the season, temperature, and humidity of the environment. 

When you water your plant, make sure to check that the water is getting soaked in the soil and the excess water is getting drained through the drainage holes of the pot.

Do not water the ZZ plant when the soil is moist. Let the soil dry, and then you can water the plant again.

Also read: How often should you water your ZZ plant?

Use appropriate pot

Using a pot that is not suitable for your ZZ plant will eventually make it leggy.

If the pot doesn’t have enough drainage holes, the soil will retain water and cause root rot. Root rot will cause various problems, one of which will lead to your ZZ plant becoming leggy.

If you are using a pot that is too small for the ZZ plant, the plant will feel constrained and will not have healthy growth. The plant will start leaning and might fall over.

Use a pot that can hold the plant and allow it some space to grow happily.

Also read: Do ZZ plant like to be root bound?


If you are looking to buy a lot of houseplants to brighten up your space and that too on a budget, try out Cellardoorplants. They offer a wide variety of plants, delivered right to your doorstep, and that too for every budget. If you haven't checked them yet, Try them now!


How do you prune a ZZ plant?

Pruning is an easy way to fix any leggy plant, and you can also do it with ZZ plants.

  • First of all, remove yellow leaves throughout the ZZ plant. You can just pull those leaves out of the plant.
  • Use sharp and sterilized scissors to cut off the stems that are too long. 
  • Leggy stems will not be of any help, and you would not want the plant to focus its energy on those areas, so you should cut off the leggy stems.
  • Getting rid of leggy stems will make the plant look good as well.
  • Next, you need to prune out the stems that are already dead and those about to die. 
  • You can cut the stems at the soil as they cannot be brought back to life, making the leaves turn yellow. 
  • Make sure to water the plant properly so that you don’t have dying stems in the future. Don’t overwater or keep the plant without water for months as that can cause both leggy and dead stems.

If you want a healthy ZZ plant that does not turn leggy, keep in mind the points discussed here. Take care of the issues that can cause the ZZ plant to become leggy. 

Keep the ZZ plant clean by dusting it, water it as per the plant’s requirement, don’t give too much fertilizer to it, and ensure that it is not infected by pests or fungi and bacteria. Following these steps should keep your ZZ plant healthy and beautiful.

Also read: Why is your houseplant dying? (13 common reason)


Sources: ZZ plant study, College of agricultural studiesUniversity of VermontNational science foundation.