There’s an exciting newcomer on the indoor plant scene – a very hardy and attractive- looking plant called Zanzibar Gem.
Zanzibar Gem’s scientific name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, gives a hint of its resemblance to the palm-like cycads called zamias. Because of this distinctive botanic name the Europeans have christened it ZZ plant. In Asia it’s known as the Money Tree. Sometimes, too, it’s called ‘arum fern’ because it belongs to the same plant family as arum lilies and has a slightly fern-like appearance. Another common name, Eternity Plant, acknowledges its indestructibility.
Zanzibar Gem, which grows in dry, shaded sites in its native African habitat, tolerates an amazing amount of neglect. Cold and over- watering are the greatest threats to its well- being. Keep Zanzibar Gem warm and not too wet and the plant will grace your house or garden for years.
While Zanzibar Gem can be grown outdoors, it’s most often seen as an almost un-killable indoor plant. It’s been described as the ultimate indoor plant because of its tolerance to low light and lack of water. In the wild it survives drought periods by disappearing almost completely and then re-sprouting from its underground, potato-like tubers when the rains eventually come. So, in the unlikely event that your Zanzibar Gem appears to have died, a good drink just might encourage it to start developing new shoots.
Zanzibar Gem’s shiny, waxy leaves are divided into a number of smaller leaflets. New leaves emerge as upright spikes from which the leaflets gradually unfold.
Here are tips for caring for Zanzibar Gem:
- Choose a brightly lit indoor spot with no direct sunlight.
- Or, in frost-free gardens, grow Zanzibar Gem outdoors in semi shade.
- Water occasionally, but allow the plant to dry out well between waterings. Water less frequently in winter and when the plant is growing in low light.
- Feed during the growing season with a gentle fertiliser like Dynamic Lifter Fish Emulsion or half strength Thrive Concentrate Houseplant Food.
- Keep the leaves clean by wiping with a damp cloth. Adding a few drops of PestOil will deter pests such as scale insects (although these plants are said to be almost pest free).
When a plant becomes crowded in the pot it can be split and divided into two. Re-pot into good quality potting mix (such as Thrive Premium) and water well to settle the roots into place. You’ll then have a spare plant to move to another position or give to a friend. Zanzibar Gem makes a perfect gift for a beginner – as long as it’s understood that it thrives on neglect (no over-watering)! The sap of Zanzibar Gem is toxic and, if ingested, could make you unwell so, after dividing the plant, make sure you wash hands well with soap and water.
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