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Raven ZZ Plant: Comprehensive Care Guide

The Raven ZZ plant, also known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’, has become trendy in the houseplant scene due to its dark, leathery foliage and its low maintenance requirements.

Raven ZZ Plantin large white pot

Image Source: Shutterstock/Stephanie Frey

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The Raven ZZ plant, also known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’, has become trendy in the houseplant scene due to its dark, leathery foliage and its low maintenance requirements. Raven ZZ is a variety of the hardy ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) plant, a tropical perennial native to Eastern Africa.
They have a unique growth process producing new leaves that emerge in a lime-green color and turn purple-black as they mature. They are very low maintenance and tolerant of a wide range of light, water, and humidity conditions making them a great addition to an office, bedroom, or living space. 
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to care for and grow the Raven ZZ plant.

What is a Raven ZZ?

Like ZZ plants, Black Raven ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’) are slow-growing, low-maintenance houseplants that can survive most light, water, and humidity conditions. They are also self-sufficient, and they can manage their own water and nutrition retention. Because of this, it is best to let this easy care house plant be rather than to hover over it like a helicopter parent.
With the aid of its rhizome, the ZZ plant is able to conserve water for weeks, which helps those who forget to water regularly or travel often. Because of their resistance to diseases and pests, Raven ZZ plants are great houseplants for beginners.
Are Raven ZZ plants and ZZ plants different?
Both Raven ZZ and ZZ plants both tropical succulent houseplants of the same zamiifolia species in the Araceae (aroid) family. The main difference between the two is that the Raven ZZ plant produces bright green (lime) new growth that transforms into a dramatic purple-black color as it matures. ZZ and Raven ZZ plants have similar plant care requirements and are both hardy, low-maintenance, pest/disease resistant, and can withstand low light conditions.
Why are Raven ZZ plant leaves black?
Black leaf pigmentation is actually quite rare in natural plant populations and is most commonly found in horticultural cultivars made through plant breeding programs. Black pigmentation is common amongst berries and seed coats, but rare to find in foliage in the wild.

Quick Raven ZZ Care Guide

Botanical Name
Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Dowon’
Common Names
Zanzibar gem, ZZ plant, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, eternity plant and emerald palm
Plant Type
Perennial, tropical succulent
Family
Araceae
Sun Exposure
Bright indirect light, but low light tolerant
Water
Low - once every two to three weeks
Fertilization
Balanced liquid fertilizer - 20-20-20/10-10-10
Soil Type
Well-draining potting mix with perlite, pumice
Propagation
Stem cuttings, Leaf cuttings, Rhizome division
Growth Rate
Slow
Growing Season
Spring to Fall
Window Locations (Ideal)
East or West Facing Windows. Can tolerate low light from North Facing windows.
USDA Hardiness Zones
9, 10
Toxicity
Toxic to humans and pets
Where to Buy
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How to Care For Raven ZZ

Raven ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are easy-care, low-maintenance plants that can survive and thrive in almost any conditions. Consistency in care is key here as it’s easy to forget about these ones because they need so little maintenance. They thrive best in bright indirect light, but can also grow in low light conditions.
Being a tropical succulent, water sparingly but consistently. You should allow the soil to dry between waterings. Make sure you’re growing in a well-draining potting mix. As long as you’re using proper watering habits, maintain good drainage, and provide enough light, you shouldn’t run into major care issues. 
As long as you are following proper care, you shouldn’t face any major issues with this easy care houseplant! Let’s dig into how to properly grow and care for your Zamioculcas zamiifolia raven plant.

Growing Outdoors

Although Raven ZZs are more common as indoor houseplants, they can thrive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. If you live outside of those zones, we recommend growing the Raven ZZ plant in a container and overwintering your ZZ plant inside when temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Outdoors, they do well in areas that are partially shaded receiving sunlight for a couple of hours each day. Planting them near a wall or alongside taller bushes and trees is ideal so they can protect the ZZ plant from direct sunlight. If overexposed to direct sun, the leaves will burn. If you’d like to add black-purple foliage to your outdoor garden, the Raven ZZ is the perfect plant!

Growing Indoors

Like their hardy ZZ plant sisters, Raven ZZ plants are low-maintenance and easy-care houseplants that are great for beginners. Although they tolerate a wide range of light and watering conditions, they prefer consistency above all else. They thrive in well-draining soil planted in pots with drainage holes. Although they can tolerate low light conditions, they prefer bright indirect light.
Placing them near east or west-facing windows will shower them with enough light and shade throughout the day making these the most ideal locations. Water them sparingly but consistently making sure the top soil is dry between waterings.
Raven ZZ plants prefer to be more dry than moist, so if you are unsure whether to water, side on the side of waiting a few days to water. In this care guide, we’ll cover the proper water, soil, light, and maintenance requirements to keep your Raven ZZ plant bright and healthy.
Top view of a Raven ZZ plant in a white pot on a marbled gray table.
Image Source:Raven ZZ plants are generally easy to care for. They don't need much water and can tolerate moderate to low light.

💧 Low Water

Being tropical succulents, Raven ZZ water needs side more with succulents than with tropical houseplants. Due to their rhizome base, Raven ZZs are able to retain water and moisture incredibly well. They can go without watering for a long period of time. 
You will want to make sure that the top couple of inches of soil are dry before watering. As a general rule of thumb, watering your ZZ every 2-3 weeks is recommended. Stay on the side of caution as these plants prefer to be more dry than wet. When in doubt, wait a few days to water. Overwatering the Raven ZZ can lead to waterlogged soils causing root rot.
During the winter months when the ZZ plant is dormant, you can cut back on watering.

☀️ Wide Range of Sunlight

Raven ZZs can tolerate a vast range of light conditions, but they prefer to grow in bright indirect light. This makes west and east facing windows most ideal as they receive a few hours of bright light and shade every day.
Raven ZZs can tolerate low light conditions as well. You will want to avoid overexposing them to direct sunlight as that can cause the leaves to burn. We recommend avoiding placing your ZZ near south-facing windows which tend to have the most direct sunlight exposure. If you do, place them a few feet away from the window to avoid direct light.

🌡️ Temperature

Native to East Africa regions, Raven ZZ plants are tropical succulents that thrive in warm temperatures. They grow well in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. Indoors, the most ideal temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similar to other houseplants, avoid placing your ZZ plant near cold drafts, air conditioners, or exterior doors which can impact the temperature.

🚿Humidity

Being succulents, Raven ZZ plants don’t need a lot of humidity. They are native to fairly dry regions of East Africa. Generally, you won’t have to worry about humidity growing this plant indoors except in the wintertime.
If you use heating during the winter, you’ll want to keep an eye on your Raven ZZ plant and consider increasing humidity by using a tray with pebbles and water, a small humidifier, or by grouping it amongst other houseplants.

🌱 Best Soil For Raven ZZ

Raven ZZ plants love well-draining, houseplant potting mix. Choosing the right soil mix is a big part of avoiding root rot and other issues that come with overwatering the plant. You can add perlite, sphagnum peat moss, pumice to your potting soil to increase drainage.
The soil should have a neutral to acidic pH levels between 6-7 to create the most ideal environment for your plant. Make sure your pot has drainage holes so that your soil doesn’t become waterlogged.

🌻 Fertilizer

Although ZZ plants don’t require fertilizing, you can fertilize during the growing season from spring to fall with a standard 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 houseplant fertilizer.
The three numbers stand for the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium (NPK ratio) in the fertilizer. If you’ve owned your plant for a while, we recommend fertilizing to replenish the lost nutrients in the potting soil.

😎 Pruning and Maintenance

Although regular pruning is generally not required for the Raven ZZ plant, if you are seeing damaged foliage or leggy growth, pruning can maintain the most optimal health and encourage new plant growth. Pruning is most ideal during the plant’s growing season from spring to fall to encourage faster recovery.

If you’re ready to prune your ZZ plant, you should be aware that they are considered toxic to humans and animals and its sap causes skin irritation. You will want to wear gloves before you dig in and start trimming. To prune your plant:
  • Wear gloves and sterilize your gardening shears or scissors
  • Trim away any damaged or diseased stems or leaves
  • For leggy growth, trim away any sparse growth down to the soil line

How to Repot Raven ZZ

As a general rule of thumb, Raven ZZ are slow growers and should be repotted roughly every two to three years. If you start to see roots poking out of the drainage hole of your pot, it’s likely time for a new home. The most ideal time to repot is during its growing season from spring to fall so the plant has time to get established before it goes dormant in the winter. 

To repot Raven ZZ:
  • Prepare a new pot with drainage holes - one size larger than your current. Add a few inches of well-draining soil mix to the bottom of the pot.
  • Carefully remove your Raven ZZ from its old pot and softly loosen the root ball removing clumps of soil.
  • Inspect your roots and prune any dead or mushy roots (signs of root rot) with sterilized gardening shears.
  • Place your Raven ZZ into its new pot and backfill with fresh, well-draining potting mix
  • Water your plant right after you’re done!

How to Propagate a Raven ZZ

Image Source:

Ready to expand your Raven ZZ family by growing a new one? ZZ plants are easy to propagate from cuttings. However, be wary that they are patented plants and propagation is prohibited for commercial use. 

From Stem Cutting

This is the most common way to propagate a Raven ZZ plant. Here’s how to propagate a Raven ZZ plant cutting:
  • Wearing gloves, use sterilized garden shears to snip off a stem at the base of your plant. You will want to make a straight cut.
  • Dip the cut stem into rooting hormone and place in water or soil. If you propagate in water, make sure to replace the water every couple of weeks to avoid mold growth.
  • Place the cutting in bright, indirect light which will encourage your new cutting to grow.
  • Once you see your cutting has developed at least an inch of new roots, you can transplant into a pot.
  • Make sure to follow proper care and maintenance to see your new buddy thrive!

By Rhizome Division

Propagation by rhizome division can be great if you have a mature Raven ZZ plant that has bulbous rhizomes you can divide. This can be one of the quickest and easiest methods to propagate. Here’s how:
  • Prepare your materials including a new pot to plant the rhizome, soil, and gloves
  • Cautiously remove your Raven ZZ plant from its pot
  • Gently loosen the soil around the roots so you can examine the rhizomes for any easy separation points
  • Ideally, you can use your fingers to separate the rhizome. If that’s not possible, you can use sterilized garden shears to cut the root at the connection point.
  • If separation was not clean, you will want to let your cut rhizome heal over and build a callous before you repot it. This may take 30-60 minutes.
  • Repot both of the plants respectively and make sure to water!

From Leaf Cuttings

It is possible to propagate a Raven ZZ plant from a single leaf, but it’ll take longer to develop a new rhizome and roots. Here’s how you can do it:
  • Wearing gloves, use sterilized scissors to trim a leaf as close to the stalk as possible. Consider trimming a few leaves to create a fuller plant.
  • Place the new leaf’s (leaves) stem upright into well-draining potting mix about ½ an inch deep
  • After placing the leaves into thew new pot, make sure to water the soil every two to three weeks.
  • It’ll take roughly 2-3 months for the leaves to grow new rhizome and root system

Common Raven ZZ Problems and Pests

Raven ZZ leaf cuttings with a bulb and roots.
Image Source:Raven ZZ plants are generally disease resistant. You may encounter issues if you're overwatering your ZZ since it's more drought tolerant.

Raven ZZ plants are generally pest and disease resistant, however, that doesn’t mean they never get sick! One of the most common causes of issues in Raven ZZ plants is overwatering which can lead to root rot.

Root Rot

Root rot is one of the most common issued with Raven ZZ plants as they are easy to overwater. Signs of root rot include yellow, mushy leaves, stunted growth, wilting. The only way to truly know whether you have root rot is to inspect your plant’s roots directly by removing your ZZ plant from the pot. To inspect, remove your plant from the pot and gently loosen the root ball. Inspect the roots looking for dark, mushy roots. Healthy roots are generally lighter and sturdier to the touch.
If you’re seeing mushy roots, use a pair of sterilized scissors to snip away these roots. You can disinfect the roots further by mixing one part 3% hydrogen peroxide solution with two parts water and spray your plants roots. After cleaning up the roots, repot the plant in fresh, healthy and well-draining soil. Make sure to maintain an appropriate watering schedule.
Pro Tip Icon
Pro Tip
When in doubt about watering your Raven ZZ, wait a couple of days to water. Raven ZZs prefer to be more dry than wet. This will help prevent root rot in the future. You can read more about treating root rot here.

Pests

Raven ZZ plants are generally pest resistant, but that doesn’t mean they never develop infestations. ZZ plants can be victims of aphids, fungus gnats, or mealybugs which can be treated with neem oil or insecticidal soap. However, one of the most common pests are scale insects. 

Scale Insects

Scale insects are the most common pest when it comes to Raven ZZ plants. Roughly a size of a pinhead, brown scale insects attach themselves to Raven ZZ plant leaves and pierce through to drink their toxic sap. These pests typically live on the underside of the leaves. If left untreated, these pests can cause leaf drop and yellow leaves.
Once you diagnose scale insects, you can treat the plant by using a cotton swab or ball dipped in alcohol and wiping the bugs away. Make sure to cover the entire plant. Inspect your plant every day and repeat treatment until scale insects are removed.

📚 Raven ZZ Care Cheat Sheet

  • Raven ZZs prefer to be dry over moist. Water every 2-3 weeks. When in doubt, wait a few days to water again.
  • Place them in bright, indirect sunlight or near east or west facing windows!
  • Repot them roughly every two to three years
  • Wear gloves anytime you’re pruning or propagating. Raven ZZ has toxic sap that will irritate your skin.
  • Use well-draining soil and plant in a pot with drainage holes.
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Where to buy Raven ZZ?
A great beginner indoor plant, the hardy Raven ZZ has stunning deep purple-black foliage that will spruce up any space! Looking for more plant tips or want to add a new plant to your space? Checkout Neverland and get yours today.

FAQs on Raven ZZ


Is the Raven ZZ plant rare?
Although they might seem rare due to their deep purple-black foliage, they can be commonly found in nurseries or sold exclusively online through Costa Farms.
Why does the raven ZZ turn black?
Raven ZZ plant leaves turn black as they mature due to an increase in anthocyanins, the same chemical that turns blueberries blue as they mature.
How big does a raven ZZ plant get?
Raven ZZ plants can grow up to 3 to 4 feet tall.
What is a raven ZZ plant's scientific name?
Zamioculcus zamiifolia ‘Dowon’
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