The ZZ plant is one of my favorite houseplants as they are not only easy to grow, but you can easily divide them to make more ZZ plants. The plant’s unique root system makes creating more plants a cinch in a few easy steps that even a newbie plant-owner will have the confidence to take on.
Dividing your ZZ plant means you can give the extra plant away as a stylish and sustainable gift or simply make more of this beautiful plant for yourself. Remember, there’s no such thing as having too many plants!
What you need to know before dividing your ZZ plant
Despite being slow growers, ZZ plants can eventually outgrow their pots. If you don’t take care of this, your plant will become stressed, and it won’t be able to effectively access the water and nutrients it needs to thrive. Therefore, splitting your ZZ plant is sometimes necessary to keep it happy and healthy.
If you are unsure when you should split your ZZ plant, or when it is safe for the plant to do so, a good rule of thumb is to divide it once there are at least 6 stems. Or alternatively, if the plant is filling out the pot and you can see the sides of the pot bulging or the rhizomes start sticking out.
There are a lot of variables that will affect the speed at which your plant grows, but generally, repotting or splitting your ZZ-plant every 2-3 years is a reasonable time frame to keep in mind.
If this is your first time doing it, you might understandably be nervous, but you’ll see it’s easy to do in just a few simple steps. Understanding the plant’s root structure will make this process less daunting.
When you remove your ZZ plant from the pot, you’ll see the root structure is slightly different from what you may be used to. The ZZ plant doesn’t have any roots or bulbs, but it has rhizomes. These rhizomes resemble potatoes, and they act as storage units for water and nutrition for the plant. We wrote a more in-depth article about these rhizomes that you can read here.
It’s these rhizomes that make splitting your ZZ plant so easy. That’s because you can pull it apart and replant a whole rhizome, or even just a part of one, and it will still flourish.
If possible, you want to stop watering your ZZ plant for 2-3 weeks before taking it out of the pot. This will ensure the soil is completely dry, making it easier to wiggle the plant out and clearly see the root structure and rhizomes.
The hardest part of dividing a ZZ plant is having some patience as the roots can get a bit tangled. Just remember to be gentle with the plant! You don’t want to get frustrated and damage it in the process.
Ok, now you know what to expect, its time to split your ZZ plant!
How to divide your ZZ plant, step by step
Step 1: Set up your workspace
Before you start, it’s a good idea to gather the necessary equipment and set up a workplace in an area you don’t mind getting a bit messy.
You’ll need the following:
- A clean, sharp blade
- Well-draining soil
- Appropriate pot/container(s)
You may also need:
- A trowel
- Activated charcoal (carbon) or cinnamom
If you can’t find gloves, you aren’t putting yourself in any serious danger, but it’s recommended to prevent a possible rash. Touching your plant isn’t poisonous, but if the stem or leaves are broken, it releases a substance that might cause a burning or itching sensation.
Ensure the pots you choose have a drainage hole, and are wide and deep enough to give the plant room to grow. Also be sure to choose a well-draining soil such as a succulent/cacti potting mix, or mix a regular potting mix with perlite.
Step 2: Remove the mother plant
Once you’ve assembled everything you need, gently tip the plant on its side. If you have a huge and heavy plant, ask a friend to help you with this step.
Squeeze gently all around the pot to help release the plant, and then push it from the bottom if the pot allows. You want to avoid damaging any roots or stems in this step.
If this doesn’t work and you’re struggling to wiggle it out, you can cut open the pot. The ones you usually buy your plant in are relatively soft and can be disposed of.
If you use a hard pot such as terracotta, you can use a trowel to separate the soil around the edges of the pot before tipping it upside down. This will make it easier to remove the plant.
Step 3: Split the rhizomes
Once you have the plant out, dust off any excess dirt. You could also rinse the roots with water to wash off any soil that’s really stuck. This will help you gauge the density of the roots and choose a good spot to start dividing your ZZ plant.
Find the section where the rhizomes have separated and gently pull them apart. It’s best to grab the rhizome and pull from there, because the stems are more fragile and pulling on them directly can snap the plant.
Always try to divide the plant into sections where every section has a root and stem growing from it. You can safely pull on the rhizomes that have already separated apart without damaging the plant.
If you are struggling, you might need to use a clean blade to slice the rhizomes apart. This option does, of course, mean more wounds that will need to heal first, so letting the plant out to dry first in the open air is essential so it doesn’t rot (more on that in step 4).
Step 4: Trim off any dead or damaged roots
Once your plant is out, and you’ve split the rhizomes, it’s a good opportunity to gently trim off any of the dead and damaged roots. If you still have a young plant, there will probably be fewer dead roots than on a mature plant.
Also, remove any mushy rhizomes or rhizomes that have turned brown. By removing these dead or unhealthy bits, you are helping your plant to flourish.
Finally, always use sanitized tools, and make quick and clean cuts to minimize the risk of any diseases or harming the plant.
Step 5: Take care of any damaged rhizomes
If some of the rhizomes or roots have become damaged, you can apply activated charcoal on the cuttings to prevent them from rotting.
Break up a few tablets of activated charcoal (carbon) using a pestle and mortar (or a bowl and the back of a spoon if you don’t have a pestle and mortar) until it becomes a powder. Then, apply the powder to the damaged roots. I like to use a clean brush to do this.
Let the plants rest for approximately 2-3 hours to ensure the cuttings dry up completely.
If you don’t have activated charcoal lying around, cinnamon also works wonders to help your plant heal and protect it from disease and fungus.
Step 6: Prepare your new pot
ZZ plants are actually a succulent, so its really important you use the correct type of soil. Its crucial the soil is well-draining. ZZ plants don’t like to sit in too much moisture as it can cause root rot, so avoid regular garden soil when potting them.
Instead, either use a store-bought succulent/cactus mix, or prepare your own by mixing a combination of regular potting mix and perlite.
Slowly add soil to the bottom of the pot. You want to add soil up until the point it will reach the bottom of the new plant’s roots. As a guide, aim to plant the rhizomes about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) below the soil’s surface in the new pot.
Step 7: Place your divided ZZ plant inside
Place your plant inside the pot once the roots have dried out. Straighten up the roots so it’s evenly spread out and centered in the middle of the pot. Ensure that the roots will be able to grow comfortably in all directions and the rhizomes are covered but not buried too deep.
You have some flexibility in terms of the depth of planting the stem. You can bury it from the top of the rhizomes up to the first leaves.
As you place the soil around the plant, leave a bit of space at the top so when you water the plant, the water doesn’t overflow. Don’t water the plant immediately as you might have disturbed some of the roots, and the water could damage these open wounds.
Leave your plant for about a week and then water as usual. Remember, it is a drought-resistant plant, so you won’t be causing it any harm. You’ll soon see your new plant begin to thrive!
A ZZ plant can be divided, which is basically a way of multiplying the plant. While the process is quite simple, it’s important to remember to be gentle with your plant, choose the right type of soil, and don’t water it too soon after repotting. If you do that, you should have healthy divided ZZ plants in no time!