The ZZ plant grows long stems due to a lack of sunlight. When the plant doesn’t get sufficient sunlight, it tries to grow longer stems in search of the sun.
This is why you might see the plant growing in a certain direction. It happens with all houseplants when you keep them in a shaded place or dark room.
It can also turn leggy because of underwatering, environmental stress, and lack of nutrients in the soil. You can easily fix these issues by providing proper sunlight, regular watering, and balanced fertilizers.
Let’s learn more about it in the following guide.
Why Does My ZZ Plant Have Long Stems?
Although I have mentioned the key reasons, the ZZ plant can turn leggy due to various other causes.
What Is A Leggy Plant?
The plant shows leggy growth in the branches (petioles) and stems if it doesn’t receive proper sunlight. Usually, these parts grow in a single and outward direction. While it may look alright in the initial growth phase, you will observe a noticeable difference in the plant’s appearance in later stages.
Here are the main reasons for long stems on your ZZ plant –
- Lack Of Sunlight
- Unidirectional Sunlight
- Environmental Stress
- Lack Of Space In The Pot
If the ZZ plant is suffering from any of these issues, it’s likely to face problems in terms of long stems, leggy and irregular growth.
Let’s understand these causes in more detail below.
1. Lack Of Sunlight
It is the primary reason for the legginess in your ZZ plant.
When you grow your plant in a dim room or under artificial lights, it exhibits unidirectional growth over time. Of course, it is an indoor plant, but it still requires light to produce food and nutrients for survival as well as growth.
If the plant doesn’t acquire the required light during the daytime, it will grow new stems that look leggy. These stems may also appear lean as they do not have strength and support from the base of the plant. If the growth is uncontrolled, some of these stems will begin to droop on the pot’s edges.
Besides, the leggy stems might grow more upward than most old stems. This is another indication of a lack of sunlight, especially in a situation where the plant has been kept in a low-light place for a long.
According to research at the University of Minnesota, the plant may also drop older leaves if it doesn’t get enough sunlight.
2. Unidirectional Sunlight
When you grow a ZZ plant indoors, it often follows the direction of sunlight.
If you have kept this plant on a desk near the window, you will see the stems advancing toward sunlight. It is a natural behavior of the plant. Hence, if you grow the plant in a place where the light arrives from just one direction, it will have longer stems with a leggy appearance.
Note: It also happens when you grow your ZZ plant in artificial light. The light sources are often placed quite far from the actual position of the plant. This results in the plant producing more slender branches.
The ZZ plant can survive in low water conditions, as it possesses a rhizome structure along with the roots. But if it frequently undergoes long spells of underwatering, the plant will show a similar growth pattern.
That said, there is less probability of seeing leggy growth due to underwatering. There might be other causes as well that lead to this type of plant behavior.
Note – Overwatering can also cause the drooping issue in the ZZ plant. However, it’s highly unlikely that your plant will grow long stems because of too much water in the pot.
So, you can rule out the overwatering cause while inspecting the plant for this issue.
When you feed the ZZ plant unnecessarily in short intervals, it begins to show sudden vigorous growth. And once you stop it abruptly, some of the stem growth looks bigger and taller than the rest.
In addition, if you provide low light to this plant, the stems will be long, and the leaves will turn dark.
Similarly, under-fertilizing can cause the plant to produce thin stems. The stems will look much more delicate when the plant doesn’t get proper nutrients promptly.
This happens with the mature plant, though. The requirements of a well-grown plant will be much higher than those of a young plant. So, you won’t see much impact on the newly propagated ZZ plant.
5. Stress Factors
The ZZ plant can experience stress if it doesn’t get the resources and conditions for its growth.
The plant triggers its survival mechanism during these situations and produces more lackluster growth. As a result, some of the stems may grow longer and outward. If the same problem persists, the plant will find it difficult to cope with excess stress.
In general, here are the common stress factors for the ZZ plant –
- Environmental Changes
- Leaf, Stem, or Root Damage
- Fungus Infections
- Lack of Water and Nutrients
These internal and external factors contribute to stress in the ZZ plant.
6. Lack Of Space In The Pot
If the ZZ plant has outgrown the existing pot, it can produce long stems with a lean appearance. Since the plant doesn’t get the required resources from the present pot, the new stems will look thin and elongated.
In the same fashion, if you have placed a bigger plant in a somewhat smaller pot, it will project similar growth in the future. The lack of resources in its growing medium causes irregular development in the plant.
Again, this is related to fully-grown plants only. If you have a fairly young plant at home, you will have to look at the other likely reasons cited in this guide.
How To Fix Long Stems On A ZZ Plant
The resolution to this situation in your ZZ plant is straightforward. You can resolve this issue by snipping the undesirable stems and providing the plant with sufficient sunlight.
There are some other solutions too, but as you know, lack of sunlight is the preliminary cause for this issue. So, you must address it before fertilizing, revising the watering schedule, repotting, etc.
Let’s check out the following section to learn more about the fixes.
1. Provide The Plant With Sufficient Sunlight
As I said in the guide, the ZZ plant needs decent daylight to grow invariably in indoor conditions.
So, move the plant from its present place and find another corner of your room that gets adequate sunlight. It shouldn’t be direct. The plant needs bright but indirect sunlight for nearly 4 hours. You can keep it in a bright room for more hours, but it can still grow nicely with a few hours of daily sunlight.
Note – If you have already placed your ZZ plant in a well-lit spot, keep turning it from time to time. It will help get the perfect shape to your plant, and you may not even have to trim the stems.
2. Trim The Unwanted Stems
Trimming is the second best option while fixing the long stems in ZZ plants.
You can trim the stems that are growing too long and outward. But don’t cut too many of them at a time. Go slow with this process.
Use regular gardening scissors or shears for trimming, depending on the plant size. The tools need to be sharp, and you should cut the stems at a 45 degrees angle. This will prevent the plant from accumulating water on the wounded surface.
Important – Do not trim the fresh stems. Initially, you should only focus on the stems with dull appearance and existing damage or other issues.
3. Fertilize The Plant With Balanced Fertilizers
Balanced fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 1:1:1 are good enough for the growth of the ZZ plant. You can also consider homemade compost as a natural fertilizer.
Fertilize the plant with any of these fertilizers every 3-4 months. You may boost the frequency in summer and spring. In winter, there is no need to fertilize the plant.
But fertilize the plant on time. Otherwise, you will see the same plant behavior as noted earlier.
4. Fix The Watering Frequency
The ZZ plant needs to be watered every 10-15 days, depending on its size. You can follow this schedule in all the seasons except winter.
During the cold climate, you can reduce the watering frequency considerably. You can skip it entirely for a few weeks if it’s too chilly outdoors.
However, in the growing season, you shouldn’t neglect to water your plant for too long. If the watering intervals are long, the plant will ultimately experience stress.
Repotting is another useful technique to fix many houseplant problems.
In this case, you should repot the plant only if it’s rootbound. There is no need to repot the ZZ plant if it’s growing nicely in the current pot. Before repotting, you should execute the trimming process. It will help shape the plant. Plus, it will promote new growth in the plant.
While repotting, you can also change the soil and add fertilizers as needed.
How To Make ZZ Plant Bushier
When you see long and slender stems on ZZ plants, it doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
In this case, all you can do is trim the large stems to a place where they look proportional to other stems on the plant. You can change the shape as per the appearance you desire for your plant. But generally, you don’t have to trim them till the bottom leaves. Remove 1/3rd of the stem in the beginning and take it from thereon.
For a fuller appearance, you will need to have more leaves at the bottom as well as the midsection area of the plant. If most stems are leggy, you must wait for the plant to grow new shoots. These fresh shoots will rise from the sides and give a fuller look to the plant.
Also, don’t forget the tips I have suggested about sunlight and fertilizers in this guide. It will be a huge factor in making the plant bushier.
You cannot grow this plant upward all the time.
Once it attains a specific height, it will slant in the direction of natural light. In case you feel there is something wrong with the plant, you should probably try watering it. Occasionally, the lack of water can also make plants fall over.
You can prune the overgrown stems to manage the growth in your plant. I have written a detailed guide on this topic, which you can read here.
Yes, you can cut off yellow leaves from your ZZ plant.
ZZ plants do well in available spaces. They won’t mind if you put them in rather smaller pots. But if you are looking for new shoots, move this plant to a medium-sized pot.