ZZ Plant Causes Cancer – Is It True?

One of the more lucrative plants to bring to your home because a touch of green is always appreciated at your residence. One such way of going about the said situation is by bringing home a ZZ plant.

The plants are famous for being very durable and adding zing to your home or workspace in the best and most unique manner. Everyone has been curious about a question that pops up every now and then: Are ZZ Plants Cancerous?

This is exactly what we’ll talk about in this article!

What do we know about ZZ Plant?


A member of the Zamioculcas genus, the Zanzibar gem is a flowering plant in the family Araceae, containing the single species Zamioculcas zamiifolia. ZZ is known to be a tropical perennial plant native to eastern Africa, from southern Kenya to northeastern South Africa.

In the past, the ZZ plant would only be found in planters in malls and large office buildings and due to their great integrity would frequently be mistaken for fake plants, partially because they needed so little care and always looked extremely healthy.

As the years went by, they have found their way onto the shelves of both big box and hardware stores where you can get them to be members of your home.

ZZ plants are known to have stems that grow in a graceful, wand-like shape that begins with a thick and bulbous base and then happens to taper to a point. Along the stem grow fleshy, oval-shaped leaves that successfully make the plant look like stylized feathers.

The entire plant possesses a waxy, shiny coating that manages to make it appear to resemble those made of plastic. Between the sculptural qualities of the plant and its waxy coating, it makes a lot of sense that people mistook it for artificial plants in malls and office buildings.

ZZ plants are slow-growing plants that prefer bright, indirect sunlight. One of the benefits of the ZZ plant is that it can thrive in many lighting conditions. If you ever plant or repot a ZZ, you should go ahead with it in the spring or summer when it’s in an active growth phase.

Plants are known to be poisonous to humans and animals if ingested. Here are some things, in addition to the information already available, how does one care for a ZZ plant?

How to care for the ZZ plant?


ZZ plants are famous for being low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for houseplants that even gardeners with the blackest thumbs (someone unable to grow plants) can keep alive with minimum care. All they need to do with regard to care is adequate light and a good watering every couple of weeks.

However, you don’t have to worry too much if you forget to water your ZZ plant—these plants grow from rhizomes, which happens to help them to store water under the soil, making them drought-tolerant plants.

  • Light – ZZ plants are known to be tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, which makes them well-suited to be indoor plants. The plants can grow well, even in low-light conditions. But be careful because the plants can quickly become leggy when not given enough light.
  • Soil – ZZ plants, as their durable nature suggests, are not overtly picky about their potting medium as long as it is a well-draining one. The plant is known to do just fine when potted in standard potting mixes available in most nurseries in your town. If additional drainage is required, mixing in perlite or sand will help.
  • Water – These plants are, as has been mentioned before, highly drought-tolerant and can handle infrequent watering thanks to their thick rhizomes. You should, as a habit, water ZZ plants once the soil dries out completely—usually once every two weeks, depending on their growing conditions.
  • Temperature and Humidity – Average household temperatures and humidity are usually acceptable for Zanzibar gems. ZZ plants are a little sensitive to the cold and do not tolerate cold temperatures well (no lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit), so avoid placing your plant in a place close to drafts or particularly cold areas of your home.

Do ZZ Plants Cause Cancer?

The question that has been asked is one that was given rise to in the 2010s. Anyone who knows ZZ plants knows that these happen to be extremely poisonous, especially to your furry friends. But even though this has been circulated widely and is known by a lot of people, this, 100% is a Rumour. But you don’t have to be ashamed of searching for this online.

A lot of trained gardeners and experienced gardening enthusiasts have been living with this misconception. In fact, in the said period, there were false rumors that ZZ was so toxic that the plant caused cancer, and was so dangerous that people went on to wear gloves when handling it.

The truth? The plant is toxic but not cancerous. Be responsible and avoid eating it, keep it away from nibbling pets and overly curious children, and always wash your hands after handling it to avoid skin irritation.

Are ZZ Plants Carcinogenic?

ZZ plants happen to be safe plants despite being part of the Philodendron family which contains calcium oxalate crystals in the plant that can act as irritants to various sensitive skin parts. The belief that the plant acts as a carcinogen is absolutely incorrect. So this clarifies the cancer-causing rumor. 

ZZ plants are known to cause skin and eye irritation with direct contact and can cause stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Many people, even gardeners, believed that the plant was so toxic that it could cause cancer and that the only way to safely handle the plant was while wearing gloves.

If not cancerous, how toxic are the plants?

These plants are poisonous to both humans and pets. ZZ plants are known to cause skin and eye irritation with direct contact and can cause stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. 

However, you can share your home with the given plants easily with a few simple precautions. Ingesting the leaves and sap of the plant can be toxic to both humans and pets, but just a simple touch of the plant will only cause minor issues at worst. 

It is extremely important to wash your hands directly after touching the plant to ensure that no residue or sap could end up causing skin irritation, get into your eyes, or unwittingly end up in your mouth.

Toxicity to Pets


While a ZZ plant can bring about allergies if humans come into contact with its sap, what happens if a pet eats a little bit of your ZZ plant? Many people believe that because their cats and dogs are smaller than they are, the ZZ plant tends to have a more severe reaction to the ingesting of the leaves. 

The truth of the matter is that ZZ plants are poisonous, but not exactly lethal to your furry little friends. A pet that happens to come in contact with a ZZ plant may develop inflammation on the skin, eyes, or mucus membranes.

If your pet happens to eat part of a ZZ plant, it will experience some discomfort but in the end, it should be absolutely fine. In a situation like this, your dog or cat might get a stomach ache and a bad case of diarrhea. If your pet vomits, you need to ensure that your pet is properly hydrated.

Dehydration is a very common cause of death in pets. Encouraging your furry friend to eat can help the body pass the plant and toxins. If the pets you have are overtly curious, perhaps avoid bringing a ZZ plant into your home or move it to an area where pets won’t have access to it.

Toxicity to Babies

Eating the ZZ plant is not something one needs to be proud of. In the rare circumstances that you, your toddler, or someone you know eats this plant here is what might happen to them. It will start with a sharp mouth pain that will progress into a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. 

All of this can be accompanied by swelling of the mouth and throat followed by temporary hoarseness in the voice of the person. 

What are the benefits of the plant?

The plant happens to be an air purifier, which can eliminate toxins in the air such as xylene, toluene, and benzene to a great extent. ZZ plants are extremely easy to care for and maintain as they can survive in minimum sunlight and are very tolerant to drought conditions. All of that is owed mainly because the plant roots have rhizomes that help store water.

Plants can help reduce stress and have a positive effect on health. In some parts of Africa, ZZ plants are also used for medicinal properties as their leaves can cure earache.


Are any animals resistant to toxicity?

The plants aren’t always lethal to all sorts of animals but they might cause discomfort and the situation that the animal is in might escalate if you don’t take them to a trained professional. 

Are Zanzibar gems easy to care for?

ZZ plants are said to be impossible to destroy because they tolerate poor conditions and neglect, making this an excellent choice for beginner indoor gardeners. But know that when it comes to flowers, it is a little hard to make them bloom.

How fast does the ZZ plant grow?

The plant is known to grow rather slowly. But, it is known to generate a handful of new stems every year. It also tends to grow in spurts of a couple of inches or more at a time every given season.


Plants are beautiful things but at the same time extremely misunderstood. The rumors that were born about 10 years ago have managed to ruin the reputation of this beautiful plant. But this doesn’t mean that we have to deprive people of the knowledge and beauty of this plant. 

Though the plant has a few quirks, with a little care and a few things in mind, you can be a proud plant parent too!

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  • Maansi

    Maansi is a botanist with a strong passion for understanding and preserving the natural world. She holds a Master's degree from the prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in India and has a wealth of experience in her field. For the past two years, she has been working with the Adani Landscaping Project, where she has been able to apply her knowledge and skills to create sustainable and beautiful outdoor spaces. Maansi is dedicated to using her expertise to make a positive impact on the environment and is constantly seeking new opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. She is also a great communicator and able to convey complex scientific concepts in an easy to understand manner.She has worked with Jayoti on Recent Advances on Floriculture and Urban Horticulture in Global Perspective Highlights and Recommendations https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360313545_Highlights_and_Recommendations_Recent_Advances_on_Floriculture_and_Urban_Horticulture_in_Global_Perspective_Highlights_and_Recommendations She has also worked with Shobha on Effect of Climate Changing on Horticultural Crops in India-A Review https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331987868_Effect_of_Climate_Changing_on_Horticultural_Crops_in_India-A_Review

  • Prachi Parate

    Prachi Parate is an enthusiast writer. She is a native of a science background, where botanical science was one of her favorite subjects. It was always Prachi's dream to combine her passion with a career. Hence, her fascination with plants led to a career as a writer. Also, she believes that taking good care of yourself is key to happiness. Time spent in nature is one of her favorite self-care practices. It is her goal to transform her learning into content that helps readers.

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