A ZZ plant needs about 12 hours of bright, indirect light each day. It will burn the leaves if you place them in a spot that receives strong direct sunlight because it is too harsh. A ZZ plant will still be able to live in low light, but it won’t be able to grow to its full potential and may end up looking unhealthy and droopy.
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How To Test Light Levels In Your Home
There are several ways to determine how much light is present in your house.
The simplest method is to simply place your hand above the plant, separating it from the light source. The intensity of the light increases as your shadow grows larger over the plant.
Low light will produce almost no shadow, whereas bright indirect light will cast a soft shadow that can still be seen.
You can also use certain technologies to conduct tests that are more trustworthy. Apps for smartphones can calculate the footcandles or lux of the light in your house. The truth is that they are not always the most precise.
Invest in a specialized light meter for the most accurate reading.
Do ZZ Plants Need Sunlight?
During my research for this article, I came across a lot of questions, some of which seemed fairly obvious. I believe that many blog writers, including myself, have unintentionally persuaded some new plant owners that ZZ Plants are so hardy that they require no sunlight at all because they are excellent survivors and can tolerate lower light levels.
ZZ Plants need sunlight to survive, despite the fact that they adapt to lower lighting conditions better than most plants do. ZZs utilize sunlight as the energy source for photosynthesis, just like all other plants do.
All plants use photosynthesis, a chemical process that uses the sun’s energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Oxygen is primarily a byproduct that allows us to survive on Earth and the sugars become a source of food for the plant.
Because of the breakdown of this reaction in the absence of sunlight, your ZZ Plant is unable to grow. No matter how many nutrients are available to the plant, eventually, its food supply will run out, and the plant will perish.
A ZZ Plant Requires How Much Light?
ZZ Plants are indigenous to the arid grasslands and tropical forests of Eastern Africa, which are primarily located near the equator. Aiming to give your ZZ Plant 12 hours of sunlight every day is a fantastic goal because the day length at the equator is typically around 12 hours.
This is difficult for those of us who are not located directly on the equator because the length of our days varies with the seasons. Giving your ZZ Plant the recommended 12 hours of light per day—possibly even more—will be simpler in the summer.
However, during the winter, you should think about relocating your ZZ to the best-lit room in your house or using a grow light to supplement during the shortest days of the year.
ZZ Plants can now withstand much less light than the recommended 12 hours per day, but take into account the costs associated with putting your plant in a darker location. These trade-offs become more obvious the less light your ZZ Plant receives.
You’ll notice growth gradually slowing and eventually ceasing as a ZZ Plant gets close to the upper limit of its light tolerance range. As your ZZ searches for new sunlight sources, you might also notice that the growth changes from robust and compact to leggy and sparse.
This is not to say that you can’t place a ZZ Plant in a dark hallway, but keep an eye on it over time to see if it might benefit from a few weeks in a bright, prime location in your house.
The Difference Between Direct & Indirect Sunlight
Almost any article about ZZ Plants will tell you they like “bright, indirect sunlight.” But what does that actually imply? How does it apply to a location in your house? I’ll try to be more clear.
Strong, unfiltered light from direct sunlight enters your home through your windows. You can feel the heat of the sun when it hits your skin, and it typically casts shadows with sharp edges. This light can cause burned foliage because it is frequently too intense for plants.
When light is reflected off of another surface, such as a tabletop, wall, or floor, it fills the space with indirect light. While not producing heat like direct sunlight, this kind of light keeps a room bright.
Put your hand between the plant and the window if you’re not sure how much light your ZZ Plant is receiving. The light is too direct if it makes you feel very warm from the sun or if your hand casts a hard-lined shadow. You’ve probably chosen a great location for your ZZ if there isn’t much heat and the shadow is gentle.
What’s The Best Place To Get Your ZZ?
The best place for your ZZ Plant is one where it receives its recommended 12 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Usually, but not always, this is a room with south-facing windows that is bright. The plant should be positioned sufficiently away from the window so that any hot, direct sunlight streaming through the window will not reach it. The sun exposure will ensure that there is plenty of soft, indirect light in the room.
Along with adequate lighting, your ZZ should be situated somewhere where there are no sudden temperature changes. It can occasionally feel a little drafty in areas close to exterior doors or by a heating or air conditioning vent.
Signs Your ZZ Plant Is Receiving Too Much Light
ZZ plants can withstand direct sunlight, but too much of it is undoubtedly bad. Some plants can actually burn when exposed to the sun’s UV rays, just like humans can.
Amounts of light that are too high can kill cells, harm the chlorophyll in the leaves, and damage leaf tissue that is necessary for growth.
Browning, dropping leaves or stems, or dead brown spots where the sun hits the plant are symptoms of burnt leaves. Another indication that a stem is seeking some shady protection from direct light is if it is leaning away from the source of illumination. In such cases, you may also want to think about cutting back foliage that has passed its prime.
Do not forget that the afternoon sun is the harshest. While these plants can tolerate some morning sunlight, prolonged exposure to the hot summer afternoon sun will probably cause them to burn. ZZ plants that have recently been propagated can also be particularly sensitive to improper lighting.
Signs Your ZZ Plant Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
For a brief period of time, they can tolerate lower light levels, but if the conditions persist for too long, they will start to struggle.
The plant’s growth pattern provides the quickest clue. The plant requires more light if its stems start to splay out unevenly from the center and stretch toward the light source.
Another troubling indicator is a lack of expansion. New leaves or stems may not emerge from the plant. In these circumstances, fertilizing your ZZ plant may also be helpful. If your ZZ plant has outgrown its current container, you might also need to repot it. You should also make sure your plant is exposed to a range of temperatures and humidity levels that are appropriate for it.
Instead of being full and bushy, the ones that do grow might be small and dispersed. Additionally, the stems might be weak and slack, gradually drooping and getting thinner over time.
If it doesn’t get much bigger quickly, that’s normal because they are slow-growing plants.
For a better understanding, focus on the stems’ directions and the space between each leaf on the stem rather than the plant’s overall growth.
The Best Light Exposure For ZZ Plants Grown Indoors
Wide variations in lighting are known to be tolerated by ZZ Plants. After several months in low light or with a few hours of direct sunlight per day, they may still appear as they did the day you purchased them.
But just because they don’t appear to be struggling doesn’t mean they’re in the best of moods.
When placed in an area with strong indirect or filtered light, plants will develop to their full potential. This most closely resembles the forest ecosystem in which they thrive. They can receive a few hours of morning sunlight, but afternoon sunlight should be avoided.
So, avoid having windows that face south. Although east-facing windows are preferred, north-facing windows can work if there are items in the room to reflect the light. The best growth and the healthiest plants will be produced in places like this.
For even growth, rotate the plant every few weeks to evenly distribute the light. Watch for indications that the plant is receiving too much or not enough light, and make adjustments as necessary.
When handling the pot and your ZZ plant, put on gloves. Crystals of calcium oxalate, which can irritate the skin and eyes, are present in the plant’s sap.
What If My Room Is Windowless?
For those of us with more than a couple of plants, we often run out of “prime real estate” for our houseplants quickly, having to resort to placing plants in dimmer corners or dark hallways. As an alternative, we might prefer to add live plants to every room in our house, including the ones without windows.
Don’t worry if you have a room that doesn’t get much or any sunlight. As long as you provide a ZZ with a dependable light source, such as a grow light, you can still prepare these areas of your home for their success.
Grow lights are light bulbs that artificially simulate the sunlight your ZZ Plant requires to thrive. Grow lights can be used to add the extra light your plants need when sunlight isn’t easily accessible, whether it’s because of a windowless space or a dark winter.
The materials, dimensions, and shapes of grow lights vary. The best options available are LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, both of which perform admirably and exhibit consistency and dependability. Check out this article to find out more about the various grow light types.
I would advise you to choose a grow light that is effective at simulating daylight for a ZZ Plant kept in a room with little or no natural light. Look for lights that are cooler (higher in temperature) and fall between the 3500 and 6500K range.
Keep your ZZ Plant’s grow light 18 Prime inches or more above it, away from the top of the foliage. Because the light is more intense the closer it is to the plant, you should keep an eye on your grow light setup. You can burn your foliage if it gets too close to the plant, just like if it were placed in direct sunlight.
As before, aim to give your ZZ Plant at least 12 hours of light each day. If using only a grow light setup, you might even want to give it closer to 14–16 hours. This will ensure the plant receives the light it requires while still simulating the natural day/night cycle it is used to.
Purchase an outlet timer (such as this one from Amazon) to automate this lighting schedule so you don’t always need to be present to turn the grow light on and off.
The Sansi 15W LED Bulb is my personal favorite grow light. I currently have three of these, and I’m very pleased with how they affect my indoor plants. Click here for more information on why I chose this bulb.
Can ZZ Plants Be Outdoors In The Summer?
You might be able to give your ZZ Plant a much-needed energy boost by placing it outside during the summer, depending on where you live. Keep in mind, though, that there are guidelines for indoor light exposure, and you can bet your bottom dollar that these guidelines also apply to your ZZ Plant when it’s outside.
The ideal temperature range for ZZ plants to grow is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows not much lower than that. You can actually plant your ZZs in the ground all year long if you live in USDA Zones 9 or 10.
However, for the rest of us, where it gets chilly at night, we have to embrace our inner meteorologists and be vigilant about checking the weather report to determine whether our ZZs can go outside to play.
This typically means that the only time you can set your ZZ Plants outside without worrying about temperature shock is during the summer. Before putting your ZZ outside, wait until there have been a consistent number of days with the ideal temperature range and no predicted dips or spikes.
You may want to practice “hardening off” your plant, so as not to shock it. This implies introducing it to the outdoor environment gradually, a little at a time, as opposed to leaving it outside all day and night, which could be stressful for your plant.
Put your ZZ Plant outside for a few hours on day one, more on day two, and gradually increase the amount of time it spends outside over the following few days until it is prepared to spend the entire day outside.
If there are any changes in the forecast, such as a significant increase in the expected temperature or a threat of severe weather, bring your plant inside.
Temperature is important, but so is light exposure. Keep in mind that ZZ Plants prefer bright, indirect light, so placement outside needs to be taken into account to prevent unintentionally burning your plant. The best locations for plants are shaded or covered outdoor spaces with lots of bright light, provided that the plant is never subjected to direct sunlight. The best places are those with covered patios, porches with overhangs, or shaded awnings.
Additionally, keep in mind that potted plants tend to dry out more quickly when kept outside, so pay attention to how often you water your plants and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that your ZZ Plant receives the proper amount of water.
Mistaking Symptoms For A Low-light Situation
I’ve already mentioned a few signs to look out for if you think your ZZ Plant isn’t getting enough light. Some of these symptoms, though, can be difficult to identify, or they might even be brought on by another condition that manifests itself in symptomatically similar ways.
Therefore, you might need to think about a different cause if your ZZ exhibits a sign of inadequate lighting but doesn’t improve when moved to a brighter location.
I’ve already explained to you that the absence of growth isn’t always a good sign that conditions are dim. Although many other factors can slow or stop the plant’s growth, the primary reason for this is that ZZ Plants are naturally slow growers.
Underwatering, overwatering, temperatures outside the ideal growth range or a lack of nutrients can all stunt growth. To find out if something else is restricting growth after eliminating light exposure as the cause, you would need to address each of these factors individually.
Remember to always take the season into account. ZZ Plants won’t probably produce much growth during their active season (Spring to Early Fall), but they will most definitely produce no growth at all while they are dormant in the winter. You might not even have a problem if you don’t notice any growth during the winter; the plant may simply be dormant.
Leggy Growth/drooping Branches
To an untrained eye, drooping branches or sparse leaves can often be diagnosed as “leggy growth,” when in fact, something else is going on. If your plant starts to droop or lose leaves, a more widespread problem is usually to blame.
When it comes to caring for ZZ Plants, overwatering is the most frequent problem. When a plant is consistently overwatered, it frequently exhibits droopy branches and may even begin to lose its leaves, making it appear sparse and unwell. Do not mistake the serious issue of overwatering for a minor issue by maintaining control over your watering practices.
ZZ Plant Light Requirements FAQs:
ZZ Is Able To Grow In Low Light.
ZZ plants can endure lower lighting for brief periods of time, but if exposed to it for an extended period of time, they will start to struggle.
How Do ZZ Plants Fare Under Artificial Lighting?
If your home or office receives little direct sunlight, ZZ plants are a good option because they can thrive happily when exposed to artificial growth lights. Just be sure to adjust the light settings and proximity to a level that is favorable for ZZ plants.
Are ZZ Plants Tolerant Of Bright Light?
ZZ plants can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much of it is undoubtedly bad. Some plants, just like people, are susceptible to UV ray damage and even burning.
Amounts of light that are too high can kill cells, harm the chlorophyll in the leaves, and damage leaf tissue that is necessary for growth. When at all possible, try to give your ZZ plant bright, indirect light.
ZZ Plants are extremely adaptable indoor plants that can endure a wide range of environmental conditions. The conditions they tolerate and the conditions they require to thrive differ from one another, just like with all other plants.
Find a better location with better lighting (or add a grow light as a supplement) if your ZZ is starting to look a little depressed and leggy. In all likelihood, your ZZ will adapt to its new surroundings without much trouble and will give you good growth in return.
You will be well on your way to owning a show-stopping ZZ Plant that will enhance any room you put it in by making sure they have plenty of bright, indirect light.