The ZZ plant (or Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is one of the trendiest low-maintenance houseplants you can find these days.
But since they’re so popular, prices can be high or they can be hard to find. The solution? Grow your own!
There are 3 different ways you can propagate a zz plant, but I think growing stem cuttings in water is the easiest method that allows for a higher chance of success.
It comes with a caveat though – you’ll need a lot of patience (I’m talking months worth of patience).
But just like a mature plant, stem cuttings are very low maintenance and require little work.
Since these plants are one of the best air purifiers and can thrive in lower light conditions, it’s a great idea to have a few around your home.
ZZ plant propagation in water can be successfully done in only a few easy steps.
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Overview of Different Methods to Propagate ZZ Plant
There are 3 main ways in which you can propagate a zz plant: division, stem cuttings and leaf cuttings.
The fastest way to propagate your zz plant is by dividing up the tubers and separating the main plant into several small ones.
Each stem has a rhizome (look similar to small potatoes) under the soil, so you can pull these apart from each other and plant them in new pots.
You can also snip off the leaves and place them in soil and wait for roots to develop.
This method is usually pretty successful, but zz plants grown from leaves will be very small and will take a long time to grow into a full-looking plant.
Stem Cuttings in Water
Taking a stem cutting and placing it in water is one of the easiest ways you can propagate your zz plant. While it takes a long time, it’s the most simple method.
And compared to division, you don’t disturb the mother plant nearly as much.
It’s my favorite method because minimal work is required beyond a little time and patience and when you’re ready to plant your stems, you’ve basically got a full grown plant immediately.
Also, zz plants are one of the prettiest-looking plants when suspended in water.
And since it takes such as long time, you can use them as a piece of decor while you wait for roots to develop.
Place them in adorable vases (I love these ones) and place them all over your house.
The best part about zz plants is that they will do just fine in low light conditions so you’re not limited to where you can place them.
How to Cut a ZZ Plant Stem for Propagation
To make cuttings on the mother plant, choose stems that are mature and healthy looking – these are usually the darkest green ones.
Newly sprouted stems are light green and you don’t want to cut these.
I recommend cutting stems that are 6 to 12 inches tall.
Clean a sharp pair of precision shears with isopropyl alcohol and make a smooth, clean cut at the bottom of the stem, as close to the soil as you can.
Lay the cutting on a piece of paper towel to dry out a little bit, for an hour up to a day.
This helps protect the wound from potential rot.
I recommend taking at least 2 to 3 cuttings (or more) at a time when propagating.
Since there’s always a chance a stem won’t ever develop roots, it’s a good idea to have at least a few at a time to help guarantee success.
Broken ZZ Plant Stem?
If you find yourself with a broken stem that snapped off the plant by accident, don’t throw it out!
You can easily propagate these.
Just make a clean slice at the bottom of the stem to clean it up and you’re set.
What happens to the stem that you cut? Will the zz plant grow back after cutting?
These nubs will dry out and harden over, and this eventually triggers new growth in that same area of an entirely new stem.
Trimming your plant is actually good for it, as it usually stimulates new growth.
To cause the least amount of damage to the mother plant, it’s best to propagate your zz plant in the spring or fall and not in the middle of growing season.
How to Take Care of Your ZZ Plant Cutting in Water
After your stems have had a chance to slightly dry out, place them in a clear vase or jar with a couple inches of water and no more.
Keeping the water level low is very important. Since the stems are somewhat spongey, they are a more susceptible to root rot compared to other plants that are easy to propagate, such as pothos.
It’s important to change out the water on a regular basis, not only to prevent bad bacteria from developing but also to introduce fresh oxygen to the roots.
Changing the water once per week is optimal, but you can get by with changing it less frequently.
Consistently fresh water will help speed up the process and encourage strong, healthy roots.
If you can prop your stem up in the jar so that it’s not pressed against the bottom, you will have a much better chance of avoiding root rot.
You can wedge a small piece of Styrofoam between the stem and the glass to keep it suspended.
Keep the leaves clean and free of dust throughout the propagation period.
Once a month, wipe the dust off the leaves to ensure it can soak up as much sunlight as it can in the most efficient way possible.
This is also a good time to monitor for signs of rot.
If you notice the tip has turned brown and mushy and has not developed roots, don’t panic.
Try to gently wipe off the mush with a damp paper towel.
If it’s closer to black and very soft, you’ve encountered rot.
All you need to do is slice off the rot and start over.
Clean your jar with soap and water and try placing your cutting in a different spot to see if it takes any differently.
How Long Does it Take for a ZZ Plant to Root in Water?
It’s actually very easy to root a zz plant cutting in water, you just need a lot of patience!
You can expect it to take at least 8 months (if not longer) for a zz plant stem to develop roots and rhizomes that are mature enough to plant in soil.
Essentially, don’t expect to see any action on your cutting for the first 3 to 4 months. It took 4.5 months for me to see roots that were about a half inch long.
You can make your ZZ Plant cutting root faster by giving it optimal living conditions.
First, make sure it’s placed in a warm and sunny spot, without it being in harsh, direct sunlight. Try and avoid window sills which will be too drafty.
The worst thing you can do for any plant being propagated in water is not providing it with enough warmth. In the early stages, staying warm is actually more important than getting enough sun.
You can keep your cutting warm enough by adding warm water every few days.
But if you’re concerned that you might not be able to keep up with this, you can always use a heat mat to help.
But as long as you keep it away from cold and drafty spots in your house, you should be fine.
You’ll still have to change the water frequently and add in a small amount of liquid fertilizer.
Planting You Rooted Cutting in Soil
Your propagated stem cutting is ready to plant in soil when it’s got several thick roots that are at least 4 to 6 inches long, and ideally with small rhizomes forming.
ZZ plants also prefer being root bound, so choose a pot a lot smaller than you might think.
Avoid too big of a pot because the amount of soil it holds will retain too much water.
ZZ plants thrive off neglect and will do much better with too little water than too much.
Tip – for an even easier propagation method, you can place your zz cutting in LECA pebbles (here’s the full guide).
As far as how deep to plant a rooted stem, I recommend a few inches below the top of the soil line, taking care to not disturb the roots or rhizome too much.
At this stage, try to be as gentle as you can.
Give the soil a good watering but make sure excess water can drain out the bottom.
For the first couple weeks you don’t want to let the soil dry out as the roots have been accustomed to living in water for several months.
This should help minimize shock.
Is it Better to Propagate ZZ Plants in Water or Soil?
The reason I prefer and recommend propagating your zz plant in water is because it’s much easier to monitor its progress.
While a little more maintenance is required, there’s no guessing involved compared to soil propagation.
Many people struggle with stem rot when propagating in water, and while this may be true, by following the key tips in my post, all issues should be eliminated.
When you propagate in soil, you’re essentially guessing and hoping that you’ve given it the correct amount of water and living conditions.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!
If you’re new to propagation, I recommended reading my guide to indoor plant care for beginners which covers my best 15 fail-proof tips for success.