Loved for their elegant and minimalist stems, the ZZ Plant is one of our personal favourites. Although they can be fairly low maintenance, it can happen from time to time that their stems begin to droop down and your ZZ Plant will begin to look limp.
To get to the bottom of why your ZZ Plant is drooping, we will go through each of the potential causes below as well as give tips on how to diagnose the issue correctly, treat the problem and stop it from happening again in future.
Overwatering can cause a ZZ Plant to start drooping
One of the most common causes of drooping ZZ Plant leaves is consistent overwatering. If drooping leaves are the only thing that seems to be wrong with your ZZ Plant, then this is good news – it means that the problem is in the early stages and should be easier and quicker to fix.
Some other signs of trouble that can indicate overwatering alongside drooping stems are soft, brown or yellow leaves, leaf drop and stagnant-smelling potting mix.
The reason why overwatering can be so harmful to your ZZ Plant is that it causes waterlogged soil which cuts off air circulation in the potting mix. This can happen pretty quickly as ZZ Plants prefer their soil to be very dry compared to most other houseplant types.
Once the roots have started to rot, it prevents the plant from taking in any oxygen, nutrients and ironically moisture. This is what turns the leaves brown and yellow or causes your plant to lose them. But alongside this, once the roots are damaged, it means it can’t physically support the plant anymore, causing the softer stems to start drooping down.
Before you change anything about how much or how frequently you are watering your ZZ Plant, you need to be 100% sure that this is the cause of the drooping leaves. The first thing to do is to take your plant out of its pot which will allow you to closely inspect the potting mix and root system. If the potting mix feels soggy and clumpy, then this means your plant has been overwatered. If the roots are soft and mushy it suggests that this issue has been going on for a while.
How to fix an overwatered drooping ZZ Plant
To solve the drooping stems issue, there are a few important steps you can take. Firstly, replace any waterlogged potting mix with fresh dry mix. Don’t wait for the soil to dry out on its own as this will only make the problem worse over the next few days and you risk causing even more damage to an already rotting root system.
Next, you want to trim off any soft and mushy roots. These will be black or dark brown in colour and be soft to touch. Removing these will prevent your ZZ Plant from wasting energy trying to keep them alive.
How to prevent the problem from happening in future
Now that your ZZ Plant should be on the road to recovery, there are a few things you can do to prevent the issue of drooping stems from cropping up again.
Only water when the potting mix is dry.
The most accurate way of knowing when to water your ZZ Plant is using a moisture meter. They are affordable little devices that you pop into the soil and it will give you a moisture reading.
Ensure good drainage.
This will help solve the occasional accidental overwatering as it allows some of the water to escape. Make sure your pot has drainage holes and you are using a well-draining potting mix that includes perlite. We also recommend switching to terracotta pots as they allow excess water to evaporate out of the sides.
Adjust your watering schedule depending on external factors.
Although watering calendars can help us remember to water our plants, they aren’t actually the best thing for our houseplants. There are countless factors that impact how quickly the soil dries out and therefore how much water your ZZ Plant needs such as pot size, plant age, light level, temperature and time of year. There’s no one fits all timeline which is why moisture metres are such helpful devices.
Severe underwatering can also be behind a drooping ZZ Plant
Consistent underwatering and bone dry soil can harm your ZZ Plant in more ways than one. It can cause dry leaves, stunted growth and nutrient deficiency. However, before all this occurs, drooping stems are often one of the earliest warning signs. This means if there aren’t any other visible issues, you’ve probably caught the issue fairly early.
When diagnosing underwatering in ZZ Plants we often recommend moving the entire plant from its pot as this allows you to inspect the root system. Because these plants don’t require much water, more often than not the soil will be quite dry. This is why you want to look out for crispy roots as a sign of underwatering.
Once you’ve diagnosed the issue, your first instinct might be to give it loads of water straight away. However, this can actually be harmful to your ZZ Plant if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should solve the problem
Moving forward, you should adjust your watering habits so that you are watering either more frequently than before or giving your ZZ Plant more water each time.
Not enough sunlight can cause drooping stems
Another cause of drooping ZZ Plant leaves is a lack of sunlight. ZZ Plants can grow in medium light conditions so are more tolerant to shady corners than other houseplants. However, if there is a severe and consistent lack of sunlight, it can start to cause some issues, drooping stems being one of them.
The best thing to do is move your ZZ Plant to a spot in your home that gets bright but indirect light. Avoid anywhere too close to windows as your plant will struggle with intense direct sunlight. After a few weeks, you should start to see the leaves bounce back.
Physical damage can also cause a drooping ZZ Plant
ZZ Plants have pretty long stems which means that they can often droop down if they are damaged in any way. If your ZZ Plant is in a high-traffic area of your home and might get knocked about a bit then this might be why the stems are drooping.
If there are no other signs of trouble, drooping stems due to physical damage don’t have to mean the end of your plant. We recommend propping the affected leaves up with support stakes to encourage them to regain their stability.
You also want to make sure to move your ZZ Plant to a quieter part of your home (where it’s still getting enough light) so that the risk of damage is minimised.
Those are the main causes of a drooping ZZ Plant. As these are fairly hardy plants, it means the issue has probably been going on for a while or is quite extreme for it to be causing visible damage to your plant. Diagnosing it quickly and treating it properly will be key to reviving your ZZ Plant!
To learn more about how to keep your plant happy and healthy, read through our ZZ Plant care guide.
Written by Billy Dawson