ZZ Plant Leggy & Leaning: Why & How to Fix It

Why is my ZZ plant getting leggy and crouched down? Do ZZ plants thrive in extreme low lights? What could be the reason that is making my ZZ plant leggy and leaning? The ZZ plant can survive a lot of challenging circumstances, but does that mean it is thriving? What would you do, for instance, if your plant appeared a little brittle or weak?

I know these questions are in your mind and are constantly bothering you. Trust me, you are in the right place. I’ve dealt with these problems before, and I’m eager to share my personal experience with ZZ plants over the years. In this article, I will state the issues that cause your ZZ plant to Legg and lean. I will also provide tips on how to save your ZZ plant from such issues. So, keep reading till the end!

Why is my ZZ plant legginess a bad thing and what is it?


Plant legginess is the first topic I want to focus on because it is important to discuss, especially if you are a beginner indoor gardener. Some gardeners make the false assumption it is good for their plants to appear leggy which indicates a growing sign. But this is all wrong. Plant legginess is a problem that must be solved right now.

The term “leggy” describes a certain pattern of growth that mostly affects the stems or petioles. The petioles are what connect the plant’s stems and leaves. The petioles and stems develop into long, slender structures that are frequently much taller than the rest of the plant. Your beloved ZZ plant may appear a little floppy or asymmetrical due to the weak structural stability of the stems and petioles.

Before you realize it, the ZZ plant will be developed in such a way that it leans more to one side than the other before eventually falling over. The more accurate description is “tipping over.”

Now we know why legginess is undesirable in houseplants, and so, it’s time to figure out what’s wrong with your ZZ plant. I’ll also give you advice on how to address these problems but first, we will find out what are the reasons behind the ZZ plant’s legginess!

What are the reasons behind the ZZ plant’s legginess?

What do you think will happen if only a portion of your ZZ plant or any other houseplant turns spindly?

Of course, you will end up with a single, terribly uneven plant.

It will first lean. Don’t be shocked if one day you stroll into your living room or office and your poor ZZ plant has completely overturned.

So yes, both the legginess itself and repeated exposure to low light levels can lead the ZZ plant to lean. Those are the most likely causes, but ZZ plants might lean for other reasons as well. Let’s find out!

1. Overwatering the ZZ plant

Overwatering is the biggest common mistake that most indoor gardeners make when taking care of their houseplants. When you discover that some plant species, like many cacti, only require watering once a month or less depending on the season, things become much more perplexing. Given below are some reasons why overwatering the ZZ plant can be a problem!

  • One species of indoor plant that surely doesn’t require routine watering is the ZZ Plant. The ZZ plant behaves like a succulent even though it isn’t one when it comes to holding onto water. 
  • The ZZ plant can perhaps last up to 3 or 4 weeks without watering, which is one of the reasons it appears on so many lists of the “Hardest Indoor Plants to Kill.” 
  • The roots of any house plant species, including the ZZ plant, are harmed by over-watering. Your plant’s roots need both oxygen and water, the former of which is provided by aerated soil and the latter of which you are responsible for providing. 
  • The roots, which were originally white and firm, will become brown and mushy if they are overwatered. The roots are currently withering, and if proper mitigation is not taken moving ahead, your plant could also perish. 
  • When the roots become mushy, they lose their ability to support the plant, which causes your ZZ plant to start tilting and eventually tip over or collapse on itself in the absence of a cure

2. Underwatering the ZZ plant

You might wonder how it’s possible to under-water your ZZ plant. I’m telling you, you can do it. Although the ZZ plant may go for extended periods without water, it should be kept in mind that it is not a succulent like a cactus or even an aloe vera. It lacks thick stems that can store water for weeks at a time. Given below are some reasons why underwatering the ZZ plant can be a problem!

  • It simply doesn’t require water very frequently. The ZZ plant will be dried if you forget to water it for a long time.
  • Something very similar happens to houseplants, much like what happens to a person when they are very dehydrated and their skin dries up. The leaves occasionally shed and can curl. Your ZZ plant will topple over as a result of the stems starting to sag and possibly even droop. 
  • Always insert your finger at least an inch deep into the soil when watering the ZZ plant. Hold off watering your plant for at least a few more days if the soil is still a little moist. It’s time to clean off your watering can and water your ZZ plant once the soil, which is about an inch beneath the surface, feels dry to the touch.

3. If the ZZ plant is stressed out

Just like you or me, houseplants are highly sensitive to stress. Plants naturally don’t worry about things like debts or bad bosses. Instead, being transferred from one pot to another is blamed for their discomfort. Given below are some reasons why stressing the ZZ plant can be a problem!

  • Moving too much of your ZZ plant from one place to another or repotting your ZZ plant frequently from one pot to another can stress the plant a lot.
  • Additionally, exposing your ZZ plant to cold weather can cause stress. The ideal temperature range for this plant type is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Given that the ZZ plant is native to Africa, it can benefit from a little bit more humidity.  However, this does not imply that you must turn your living room into a sauna; some humidity is preferable for this plant.
  • Put a tiny dish of water near to maintain the happiness of humidity-loving houseplants like the ZZ plant. 
  • Overall, try to avoid doing anything that can put your ZZ plant under too much stress but if you do, it might grow weak and lean or topple over.

4. Improper use of fertilizers

You don’t need much fertilizer for your ZZ plant even if it is leaning. Poor fertilizing practices can only give your ZZ plant a posture similar to that of the fabled Leaning Tower of Pisa. Given below are some reasons why improper use of fertilizers can be a problem for the ZZ plants!

  • You are overdosing on your ZZ plants if you fertilize more frequently than every six months. In the winter, when the ZZ plant becomes dormant, you can wait a little longer before applying fertilizer, but aside from that, avoid waiting too long.
  • Your ZZ plant may become skinny if you under-fertilize it because it won’t have the nutrients it needs to be strong. Your fertilizer should spread the nutrients phosphate, nitrogen, and potassium in a 20-20-20 ratio. Nitrogen-rich formulas harm the ZZ plant, causing it to droop.

Now you know the reasons behind this legginess issue of your ZZ plants. Let us now discuss how you can fix this problem!

How can a leggy ZZ plant be fixed?

You need to cease making the errors that you were doing in the first place if you want to fix your leggy ZZ plant. Your ZZ plant has to be watched over and cared for so that it can recover its health and fullness.

You should give your ZZ plant enough light, follow a regular fertilizer schedule, and avoid overwatering or underwatering it. Adjust the lighting, pruning, watering, fertilizing, and choosing the proper pot if you want a healthy life for your ZZ plant. Let me explain these points briefly so that you can make your ZZ plant healthy!

1. Always adjust the lighting around ZZ plants


Lack of light is one of the most frequent causes of the leggy ZZ plant. If your plant is not receiving enough light, it will search for and stretch toward the source of light by looking in that direction. As a result, the stems will become long and thin, stretch to one side, and have no growth on the other.

Maintaining your plant close to a window sill with indirect light is the only method to solve this issue so it won’t have to stretch and grow leggy in the quest for light in a particular direction. For your ZZ plant, any area with moderate lighting will do. Also, keep in mind that for your ZZ plant to grow equally on all sides, you will need to rotate the plant every time you water it to ensure that each side receives the proper amount of light.

2. Pruning the ZZ plants

If you want your plant to appear decent after all the legginess, pruning is required. Even after it has become lean and healthy, you should think about giving it a nice trim.

Cut off the highest branches that are above the leaves using a pair of disinfected pruning shears or scissors. Work as closely as you can with the nodes. This kind of pruning will promote the plant’s future growth. Additionally, the plant will grow straight rather than leaning to one side and it will also look fuller as a result of it.

3. Fertilizing the ZZ plants


For improved growth, ZZ plants require fertilizers. They receive the macro- and micronutrients from fertilizers for complete development. It’s likely that your ZZ plant is deficient in nutrients and has lanky stems if you haven’t repotted them for a long time.
Use the proper fertilizer to ensure that your plant receives all the nutrients it needs. Follow the fertilizer application instructions on the bottle before using it. Try to use organic fertilizer if possible.

Be careful not to use too much fertilizer on your plant. Since the ZZ plant doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer, too much of it will be hazardous. Monitor your ZZ plant, and its requirements, and provide fertilizer as much as it needs. Aim to fertilize your ZZ plant every other month beginning in the spring and continuing through the summer. Once the fall season arrives, reduce fertilization to zero.

4. Watering the ZZ plants


I have already discussed the consequences of overwatering and underwatering in ZZ plants. These are both unfavorable situations for the plant. Therefore, all you have to do is stick to a timetable.

Watering your ZZ plant once or twice a week is acceptable. However, it will depend on the time of year, the ambient temperature, and the humidity. When you water your plant, be sure to verify that the excess water is draining through the drainage holes in the pot and that the water is getting soaked into the soil. When the soil is damp, do not water the ZZ plant. After allowing the soil to dry, you can water the plant once more.

5. Use the proper pot for your ZZ plant


If you put your ZZ plant in a pot that is not right for it, it will eventually become lanky. The soil will retain water in a pot with insufficient drainage holes, leading to root rot. Root rot will result in several issues, one of which will make your ZZ plant lanky. The ZZ plant will feel restricted and will not grow healthy if you are using a pot that is too small for it. The plant will begin to slant and could go down.

Use a pot that can accommodate the plant and give it room to flourish.


Q1. Will my leggy plant blossom? 

Ans. Compared to houseplants produced in better conditions, leggy plants tend to be thinner. If your plant is a flower-producing species, blossoming may also be impaired. Compared to a conventional plant of the same species, you’ll get fewer flowers.

Q2. What other problems a ZZ plant may cause after legginess and learning?

Ans. There are other problems too like scorched Leaves, leaf browning and leaf fading, etc can happen to ZZ plants if not cared for properly. 

Q3. What type of light does the ZZ plant require? 

Ans. There is a difference between direct light and indirect light, which is simply being exposed to sunshine directly, or providing bright indirect indoor light. Indirect bright light, particularly fluorescents found in grow lamps, is ideal for the ZZ plant. The plant may spend some time in low light or dim lighting, but don’t leave it there all the time. 

Make sure you don’t go too far in the opposite direction when attempting to fix the lighting issue. The ZZ plant’s formerly droopy leaves risk being burned by direct light, which is even worse! 

Q4. How to identify when my ZZ plant’s leaves are in danger? 

Ans. The leaves of your ZZ plant will appear yellow if you overwater them before the roots are killed. The ZZ plant may become stressed if it is suddenly watered for extended periods, which may also cause a change in the color of its leaves. If the leaves of your ZZ plant are yellow, you might have a pest infection. Spider mites that thirstily consume sap will decrease the moisture in your ZZ plant until it is completely dried out.

Final words

ZZ plants may get leggy if they receive insufficient sunshine, nutrients, or water. By giving the plant regular watering, fertilizing every six months, and repotting it every two to three years to give it fresh soil and more room to grow, you can strengthen and straighten the stems. To avoid legginess, put the plant in a spot that receives filtered and proper amounts of light.

I hope my article sheds some light on this leggy issue of your ZZ plants, if you have any doubts in your mind, feel free to comment down below, and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family!

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  • Vinni Balyan

    11 years ago when we left NY and started living in the suburbs, I developed the passion for gardening. I'm a mom of two, and a big time gardener here helping you pick you right battle in gardening. 🙂 Stay tuned.

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