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How To Save A Dying ZZ Plant? (+Common Problems & Solutions)

ZZ plants are sturdy plants that can survive through the worst living conditions. There have been times when I left for vacation, and My ZZ plant was just fine even after a month.

But not all plant owners can keep their ZZ plant thriving. And if you are one of them who is struggling to keep your ZZ plant alive, then hold on tight. Today I am going to tell all of my secrets to you all.

To save a dying ZZ plant, start by understanding the problems in your plant. Like droopy leaves or sunburn could be a sign of improper lighting, and yellow leaves or brown tips can be due to inadequate watering. Once the problem is identified, fix it by providing adequate living conditions to your plant.

As you might have already realized, there can be various reasons that could be impacting your plant’s health.

Reviving a wilting plant and keeping them healthy can be easy if you can determine the actual reason for the plant’s ill health.

In this article, we will discuss all about determining the exact cause of pain in your ZZ plant and reviving your ZZ plant back to life.


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How do you know when a ZZ plant is dying?

A dying ZZ plant will be giving you many clues to show they are suffering. You can see the plant’s leaves getting affected and showing signs of stress. Following are the signs which you might have noticed but didn’t pay any attention to:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Root rot
  • Foul smell from the soil
  • Brown blemishes on foliage
  • Slow growth
  • Leaves shedding

How to revive a dying ZZ plant?

ZZ plants are sturdy plants that cannot be killed quickly. However, it takes time to revive the plant back when it is dying or on the verge of dying.

You need to first look for the primary cause of the suffering, and then you can find out appropriate solutions.

It gets easier to solve the problem when you know the exact reason for why your plant is suffering rather than trying every solution and stressing your plant even more.

Over-watered ZZ plant

ZZ plants have an efficient rhizomatous root system that holds water, due to which they can stay without water for long periods. They have lustrous fleshy leaves, which also store water. These plants do not appreciate overwatering.

They can go months without water and still be alive and happy, but these plants may start wilting with few extra watering sessions.

Possible problems:

  • Root rot
  • Brown leaves
  • Yellowing foliage
  • Leaves shedding
  • Stunted growth

Solutions:

  • Let it dry completely throughout the pot.
  • Give enough light to facilitate the drying of the soil. You can use grow lights to improve lighting.
  • Consider aerating the soil from the top to allow airflow and fast absorption of moisture.
  • Check the drainage holes.
  • Remove pale and brown leaves.

Prevention:

  • Access the watering needs of your plant before moving it in.
  • Water your ZZ plant thoroughly.
  • Check the drainage system of the pot. It should allow excess water to pass within 1-2 minutes of watering.
  • Let the plant dry out totally beneath the soil.
  • Use a finger/skewer to check the soil condition. 
  • Dig your finger/skewer/stick up to 3-4 inches into the soil from the top. Now, after a few seconds, take it out. If there is soil stick to it, it indicates that the soil is still moist within.
  • If still in doubt, let it dry more rather than opting to water them.
  • Do not blindly believe any routine people tell you. It varies in every place.
  • It may differ in one place and different in another, depending upon the living conditions.

Also read: How much water do ZZ plant need?



Under watered ZZ plant

ZZ plants may be suffering due to drought situations within them, but you will hardly notice any outside changes. 

As we know, ZZ plants can thrive even when you forget to water them for months. Some plant owners know this well, so they sometimes let the plant sit there without watering for weeks.

The ZZ plant will suffer if they are left underwatered for long. The lack of water will affect other plants’ functions, i.e., nutrients and airflow. The problems they will go through are what we will discuss below. Also, we will discuss the solutions concerning the matter.

Possible problems:

  • Droop and curled leaves
  • Pale leaves
  • Soil pulling away
  • Leaves falling over
  • Slow growth
  • Brown edges

Solutions:

  • Start with trimming any damaged foliage.
  • The next step is re-hydrating your ZZ plant with water thoroughly, which means the excess water should drain out completely.
  • If you are not satisfied with this watering method, use the bottom watering method.
  • Put a tray and pour some water into it. 
  • Now keep the plant over the tray (roots should not touch the water).
  • Let it be for an hour. The roots and soil will take water through capillary action.
  • Remove the tray and let the plant dry.

Prevention:

  • Check the drainage system of the pot.
  • Ensure that the soil mix is aerated and light.
  • Give your ZZ plant a drink when it is thoroughly dry.
  • Allow air circulation around the plant.
  • You can use the moisture meter to determine the soil’s moisture level now and then. This way, you will never miss watering.

Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering

Lighting issues

ZZ plants are likely to grow faster in good light arrangements. They flourish in good light exposure, but too much of the same can potentially generate free radicals that can even destroy the plant.

Too little sun is also not the best option for your ZZ plant though you will not see your plant dying but may see some other signs which do not include good health for sure.

Possible problems:

Too much light:

  • Sunburn
  • Brown blotches
  • Poor vigor

Too little light:

  • Droopy leaves
  • Browning leaves
  • Poor growth

Solutions:

  • If your ZZ plant got a sunburn or other issues related to too much light, then your plants either need a shed or another spot.
  • If your plant is kept outdoors, install a shade over it or move it inside.
  • If your plant is kept near a window, either move it a few feet away or use a sheer curtain to filter the light intensity.
  • If your ZZ plant is not getting enough sun, then situate it in a spot to receive full-day indirect sun.
  • You can place it in the east or north ideally.
  • Use artificial light such as grow lights if your home does not receive enough light.
  • You can also place your plant under a lamp to provide them with plenty of light.

Prevention:

  • Your ZZ plant loves light, but the intensity should be moderate.
  • If you find the leaves are wilting only during the most scorching hours of the day, then too much light is the cause.
  • Keep your plant in any spot you like making sure it gets 6-8 hours of indirect light.
  • A few hours of direct light won’t harm.
  • Keep an eye on your plant when moved to the new spot.
  • Please don’t move the plant at one go. Gradually move the plant to make it comfortable with the environment and shift.

Also read: How much light do ZZ plant need?

Root rot

Root rot is like a red signal for any plant parent to stop with whatever they are doing. This situation occurs when the root system is almost destroyed due to rot or fungal growth.

Overwatering is considered the prime reason for this situation, but we cannot ignore other factors that work as icing on the cake (here in a bad way).

Possible problems:

  • Slow growth
  • Yellowing foliage
  • Smaller leaves
  • Wilted leaves
  • Thinner canopy
  • Pale leaves
  • Decaying branches
  • Weak plant

Solutions:

  • To ensure it is root rot check the soil condition by touching it. Press the finger inside the soil. If it feels moist, then the problem might be root rot.
  • Take the plant out of the pot to have a closer look at the roots’ condition.
  • Healthy roots are white firm and if they are brown, mushy, and come out very easily just by touching, then your plant is suffering from root rot.
  • Use sterilized scissors to cut out the rot and damaged roots to encourage new growth.
  • Soak the healthy roots in fungicide to eliminate bacteria and fungus.
  • Also, wash the used scissors to prevent contamination or further spread of the fungi to other plants.
  • Now, pot the plant in a porous pot (preferably) and fresh well-draining soil mix to avoid reoccurrence of the same situation.
  • Ensure a proper drainage system in the pot and water only when the soil is dry completely.

Prevention:

  • You need to take care of the watering regime you follow for your plant.
  • Taking care of watering will take a lot of care of roots and soil from decaying.
  • Give your plant enough light, whether natural or artificial, so that the soil dries faster.
  • Check the drainage system of your plant’s pot.
  • Never keep the soil soggy.

Also read: Is my ZZ plant root bound?

Pest infestations

Pests are very irritating and stubborn as they might hide under the leaves that you might overlook and stay unnoticed for a long time. They make the plants weak, vulnerable by sucking the sap out of them.

The plant will look ill suddenly. They almost stop functioning, not being able to generate energy to grow and supply the nutrients all over the plant, causing the plant’s death.

Possible problems:

  • Lifeless leaves
  • Browning and yellowing of foliage
  • Speckled leaves
  • Decaying leaves and stems
  • Slow growth

Solutions:

  • Separate the infected plant and examine its condition for a minute. If a lot of leaves are damaged, the infestation would be severe.
  • As such, the plant may not survive. You can take any cuttings from the plant if there is any healthy stem or leaf available and propagate the same.                
  • If the condition is not severe, start by trimming the severely damaged leaves.
  • Washing the plant with a strong stream of water will help eliminate a lot of pests.
  • You can use neem oil spray all over your plant every few days till all the pests are killed.
  • You can use horticultural oil spray all over the plant till the infestation is there.  
  • You can also use cotton dipped in alcohol and clean the leaves and underside to remove stubborn pests.           

Prevention:

  • Always keep a check on your plant to know how your plant is.
  • You can use horticultural oil spray or neem oil spray as a preventive measure for pest infestation.
  • Never overwater your ZZ plant and also fertilize once a month.
  • Provide good air circulation around the plant.
  • Do not propagate contaminated soil and cuttings.

Inappropriate temperature

ZZ plants need the right temperature level around them to thrive and stay healthy. During winter, the plant may suffer as too much cold ceases the activity of the plant. The inappropriate temperature around the plant for longer periods can even result in your plant’s death.

Possible problems:

  • Discolored/Disfigured leaves
  • Puckering of young leaves
  • Brown blotches in mature leaves
  • Wrinkled leaves
  • Distressed plant

Solutions:

  • Move the plant to a spot where the temperature level is higher or where they are least subject to cold.
  • You can light the furnace and keep the plant a few feet away from it to monitor cold temperature levels.
  • Prune any damaged leaves.

Prevention:

  • Keep your plant in the least exposed place to the cold breeze.
  • Well ventilated, shelter lit spot would be suitable for your ZZ plants during cold weather.
  • Don’t keep the plant too close to furnaces, radiators, or any heating systems.
  • Don’t keep the plant near the window. The leaves should not touch the window as the cold breeze will directly affect the leaves’ health.

Humidity issues

ZZ plants tolerate different humidity ranges with no strain at all. Still, extreme low or high humidity levels can make a perfect environment for pests and other problems to take over.

There are signs given by plants showing that the humidity level is not appropriate and need to monitor it. 

We also need to take care of the environmental changes by moving the plant in a favorable environment or creating such conditions for the plant’s health.

Possible problems:

  • Fungal diseases
  • Pests infestation
  • Brown tips
  • Dried leaves

Solutions:

  • For increasing the humidity around your ZZ plant, you can use a pebble tray.
  • Take a tray about 1 inch deep and fill it with small stones.
  • Fill the tray with water and set the plant on the tray. The water will gradually evaporate and add moisture around the plant.
  • Another way is by grouping a few plants. It is the most inexpensive way.
  • Through transpiration, the plants will release moisture. As a result, the humidity around the plant goes up.
  • Buy a hygrometer to measure the humidity and temperature level in the room to make sure your plant stays happy.

Prevention:

  • You can buy a hygrometer that will show the humidity level, and you can move the plant to an appropriate humid room.
  • ZZ plants prefer humidity levels around 40%-50% but can tolerate some variation.
  • You can use a humidifier to regulate the appropriate humidity level around your ZZ plant.
  • Do not mist or splash water on the plant.
  • Avoid extreme high humidity around the plant for a long time.

Also read: Does ZZ plant need misting? (+Ideal humidity)


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!


Last Words

  1. ZZ plants are sturdy, but you cannot go by some thumb rule while growing them.
  2. They need indirect bright light the whole day long, i.e., neither too intense sun nor too low light. 
  3.  Watering should be very much in control, always water less or don’t water when in doubt. The plant should be allowed to dry between watering.
  4. Keep the temperature in moderation and humidity around 40-50% around the plant, but you can experiment because different rooms have different humidity. 
  5. You can keep an eye on and identify what humidity and temperature level they are thriving in by raising and lowering humidity levels.
  6. Do not follow any care routine, always examine what your plant looks like and what environment they are most happy in.

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