Looking for a black plant to add to your collection? Learn all about raven ZZ plant care and how to help this stunning black variety of ZZ plant thrive, including propagation tips.
Raven ZZ plant care: All about this stunning black plant!
The raven ZZ plant really lives up to its cool name with its purple-black shiny leaves. You might be familiar with the original ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) that began gaining popularity as a houseplant in the 90s. It’s still popular today and can be found at both big-box garden centers and speciality nurseries.
Original green ZZ plants have long been found in malls, shopping centers, and medical offices because they are so low maintenance and hardy. With very little attention, the leaves still retain their gorgeous high-shine look—so much so that the plants can sometimes look fake.
ZZ plants are a low-maintenance, beautiful plant to keep indoors, and the raven ZZ shares much of the same characteristics. Its full name is Zamioculcas zamiifolia Raven, and it’s a tropical succulent that sprouts lime green leaves that turn a deep purple-black as they mature. Sometimes it can take quite a few weeks for the lime green leaves to begin changing.
It’s a slow-growing plant that can reach anywhere from a foot and a half to three feet tall. They are rugged houseplants, making them perfect for beginners. In fact, the raven ZZ plant was chosen “Best New Plant” at the 2018 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition and entered the mainstream market shortly after. It has since shot to popularity and only recently has started showing up in big-box garden centers.
Why is ZZ raven black?
The ZZ raven plant is brand new and was only introduced in 2019 to garden centers in the United States. The Zamioculcas zamiifolia Raven borrows part of its name from the original ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, which stands for “the Answer tree” or “eternity plant” and adds “raven” to distinguish its dark leaves.
Unfortunately I don’t know much about exactly how the raven ZZ turns black, and that’s probably because it is so new and still has a plant patent on it. The plant patent restricts who can grow and sell the plant, and it keeps some of the secrets under wraps. So don’t panic when the leaves come out bright green! They will change, and it’s fun to watch.
Since the raven ZZ came from the original ZZ plant, it is also native to Eastern Africa in parts of Kenya and South Africa. It grows naturally in dry grasslands, forests, and along riverbanks. Their hardiness reminds me of haworthia succulents.
Raven ZZ plant care: How much light does a raven ZZ need?
The raven ZZ plant can survive very low light conditions, which makes it awesome anywhere in your home. Bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and even dark basements. For a beautiful, healthy plant, you’ll want to put it in a south-facing window where it will get sufficient indirect light. ZZ plants cannot take full sun, though, so direct sunlight is a no-no for the raven ZZ. If it sits by a bright window put up a thin curtain to give it shade.
Remember that even plants that do well in very low light will thank you for giving them a good bit of bright, indirect light. This is a hardy plant, but the stems might become a bit leggy with too little light. A sign of a leggy plant is increased space between the leaves on the stem. It’s literally stretching for light!
If you choose to move your raven ZZ outdoors, make sure the sun isn’t directly shining on it during peak daylight hours. The best times are early morning or late afternoon when the sun is weaker and a bit more dappled. I took my regular green ZZ plant out for the summer last year, and it did very well on my covered patio. By the end of the season, I had to split it and give away half due to space!
How often should I water my ZZ raven plant?
Water might be the hardest part of raven ZZ plant care, and it’s not hard at all. Raven ZZ plants can survive long periods of time without water. Their neat little tuberous rhizome water storage system ensures that they have plenty of water during that time. Once you’ve watered, it’s important to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again to prevent overwatering or root rot. During its growing season in the summer, water the Raven ZZ only once every two weeks.
When it’s dormant in the winter, you only need to water it once a month max, maybe even once every 6 weeks. I have mine in our bedroom in a large ceramic pot with drainage holes I drilled into the bottom, so I typically bring mine over to the shower and give it a good drink when it needs water.
A pot with a drainage hole is best. However, since this plant needs so little water and attention, I’ve had great success with a ZZ plant in a pot without drainage holes. I just do a layer of perlite on the bottom before planting and take extra care not to overwater. (So no shower watering without a drainage hole!)
Root rot is the most common issue and results from overwatering. You can tell the Raven ZZ has root rot when the leaves turn yellow and mushy. At that point, stop watering for 4-6 weeks and make sure your soil drains well enough. If not, add sand or clay pebbles to ensure proper drainage.
Choosing the right soil is a big part of ensuring you don’t overwater. Luckily, since the raven ZZ is so hardy and durable, it isn’t too picky about soil. A well-draining potting mix or succulent-style potting soil mix will suffice. If you don’t have a good mix, you can work some perlite and sand into a potting soil to lighten it up.
Raven ZZ plant care: Temperature needs
Like with most other things, the Raven ZZ is not particular about temperature; there isn’t a set temperature range for ideal growth. Anywhere between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (room temperature) should be just fine. This generally covers the vast majority of normal household temperatures.
However, think of where the plant comes from—a warmer, dry climate. Raven ZZ plants won’t do very well below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and might start to look unhappy. The plant will die below 40 degrees. They definitely aren’t frost hardy, so keep them inside over the winter unless you live somewhere warm all year round. Keep your raven ZZ plant indoors and you won’t run into any temperature issues.
Do raven ZZ plants need humidity?
ZZ plants in general don’t need a lot of humidity. Again, when caring for this plant, think back to where it grows in nature: dry grasslands and forests, mostly. Raven ZZ plants grow well in average household humidity levels, meaning you don’t have to worry about adding a humidifier or pebble tray to increase humidity.
During the winter when central heating is cranked on high, just keep an eye on your raven ZZ to make sure it doesn’t dry out. A great way to naturally increase the humidity in the air is to place several plants together, and that should work just fine. That’s how I have mine—grouped with a fiddle leaf fig and a snake plant (on the stand below, but I’ve since swapped some of the plants.)
Raven ZZ propagation info & tips
The Raven ZZ currently has a plant patent on it. This means it cannot be multiplied and sold in the U.S. by just anyone. Only registered nurseries who have a deal with the original breeder can multiply and sell it. In case you’re only interested in making a back-up raven ZZ plant for yourself, there are three ways you can propagate it.
1. Propagating raven ZZ plants by stems cuttings
Using raven ZZ plant stem cuttings is the best way to propagate it. Cut off a stem that is at least 6 inches long. Place the stem in a jar of water and change the water every three or four days. You’ll notice roots develop at one end of the stem in about three weeks.
Another three weeks to a month later, those roots should be about an inch long, then you can transplant the stem into a pot with well-draining soil. If water propagation doesn’t get you roots, you can try LECA propagation. I had great success with LECA propagation on a snake plant leaf cutting that wasn’t rooting in water and was starting to rot.
2. Propagating raven ZZ by a single leaf
Full disclosure, I have never done this method on a raven ZZ myself. But I have seen it done, and I have propagated using a single leaf for other plants. It can be done. However, just know that leaf propagation always takes considerably longer with any plant since you’re basically starting from scratch.
First cut a single leaf from your plant; try to get a little hit of the stem with it without digging too far into the stem. In a shallow container, put some potting mix. Stick the single leaf cut-end down into the potting mix. Just deep enough so that it will stand on its own. (I’ve outlined this propagation method using a cut up snake plant leaf as well.)
Water it a bit and press the soil in around the leaf a bit if you’re having trouble getting it to stand up. Water when the soil dries out. After a few months, give the leaf a gentle tug. If you are met with resistance, the propagation is a success! Soon you’ll have a new plant sprouting.
If you want to speed along the process, you can dip the cut-end of the leaf in rooting hormone powder before you plant it. I have had mixed success with rooting hormone powder helping with propagations. However, it’s cheap and it has never hurt a propagation for me…so why not try it?
3. Propagating raven ZZ by division
Propagating by division is kind of cheating because it isn’t REALLY propagation…you’re just splitting the plant. But splitting raven ZZ plants is really easy. Just take it out of the pot, find an area where you can gently break the rhizomes apart, and split them.
Make sure you take as much of the attached root system as possible with you. The stems can be a little fragile at the rhizome, too—so careful not to break them off. If you break off a stem, it will die (unless you propagate it by re-rooting it and re-growing the rhizome).
Does the ZZ plant cause cancer, and is it toxic to pets?
I noticed on my other ZZ plant care post that lots of people search for whether or not the ZZ plant causes cancer. I am not sure where this rumor started or why, but it’s just that—a rumor. Just being around a ZZ plant has no impact on your health. In fact, having more plants in your home is good for you!
However, the plant does have calcium oxalate crystals, which can be irritating to the skin. All of the ZZ plant is some level of toxic to humans and animals if ingested, so it’s best to keep it away from children and pets if they’re particularly curious.
Even though they are toxic, I have a regular ZZ plant and a raven ZZ plant in my home. I have two cats—one has absolutely no interest in plants (and has no teeth) and the other likes leafy plants like palms, pothos, etc. So I keep those up and away from him. I have my ZZ plants up on a table he doesn’t bother. Be smart about things and check out my list of the best pet-safe, non-toxic houseplants.
How do I clean a ZZ plant’s leaves?
Keeping a tidy plant and regularly cleaning its leaves is a great practice. It helps keep the plant healthy and prevent pests from moving in. The raven ZZ plant’s thick, shiny black leaves are big magnets for dust, too. I don’t usually clean off the leaves individually (a method I outline in my post about how to clean houseplant leaves).
Instead, to keep the leaves looking their best, I usually give my raven ZZ plant a shower in the bathroom when it’s time to water it. (Only do this if you plant has a drainage hole in it, otherwise you’ll drown it.) I rinse the plant’s leaves down top and bottom with room temperature water to rinse off dust. If you have any pest concerns, you can spray the plant down with a neem oil concentrate, too.