Yellow ZZ Plant Leaves – Reasons & Treatments

The ZZ plant is from Africa and though it does not require a tropical environment to survive you try to keep it the environment somewhat like its a natural place.

One day, you notice that its leaves are turning yellow but you are not sure why.  This article will help to answer that question.

The ZZ Plant

Many consider this the perfect plant for those that have a “brown thumb” because it is hard to kill.  It is almost indestructible and can take months and months of neglect and still look good.  This plant has a graceful, wand-like shape.  It starts out bulbous and thick at the base before it tapers to a point.  The oval-shaped leaves give the plant a stylized feather look.  The whole plant has a waxy, shiny coating.  It looks like the plant is made of plastic, which is why some think it is an artificial plant when they first see it.    

Keep reading: ZZ Plant Care & Growing Guide

Why ZZ Plants Have Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves on a ZZ plant are a common problem, which is usually caused by over-watering but there could be several other reasons.  Because it is normally such a hardy plant, when you notice yellow leaves, it is a sign that something is wrong.  Most likely there is a watering problem.

1. Over-watering

They are designed to thrive in dry conditions but have an adverse reaction to over-watering.  This can lead to root rot and fungal growth due to the fact that the plant’s root system has been exposed to a wet environment for a long period of time. It could be due to the soil is not draining or you are watering your plant too much.  When this happens, the plant’s root system cannot function like should. When a plant has root rot, it will stop the supply of nutrients and water to the plant and leaves.   The leaves are turning yellow because of the lack of nutrients and water to the essential parts of the plant.  The leaves may even fall off.

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2. Under-watering

Because the ZZ plant does not need a lot of water it is easy to forget to water it.  If it has been drastically under-watered, it could lead to not only yellow leaves but also the leaves could start to shrivel and drop off.  

3. Excessive light

They can tolerate a range of light conditions but are not tolerant of excessive direct sunlight.  If it is getting more than four hours of direct sunlight, this could be the reason. The leaves may also have brown tips or patches due to sunburn

4. Nutrient imbalance

Even though it can tolerate imperfect growing conditions, you can still get yellow leave due to excessive application of fertilizer or nutrient deficiency.

zz plant 1


Since the most likely culprit of yellow leaves has something to do with watering if you adjust how much and when you water the plant  it can help to reverse the damage and say the plant.

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  • The first thing to do is a soil check to see if it feels very wet.  If it does you have to take it from the pot to look at the roots.  The roots should be white all the way through but if they are not and you see brown areas, you have root rot.
  • Use pruners to cut out the root.  Remove the ones affected the worse and cut incisions into the healthy roots.  This is done to encourage new roots to grow.
  • Replant it into a pot that has sufficient drainage holes.  Make sure that you are using fresh new soil.  Water it but just make the soil slightly damp.  Let it dry out completely before you water it again.


  • Slowly start to water your ZZ plant but do not drench the soil.  If your plant is suffering from lack of water it is only natural that you want to drown it in water but do not.  Be sparingly with the water.
  • Make sure that you tip any excess water out of the drainage saucer and not let it just sit in water.
  • To help boost your ZZ plant’s nutrition and health, you can add soluble fertilizer to the water.  Mix it to half the dosage strength that is recommended.
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Excessive light

  • Move the plant to a location where it gets indirect light 

Nutrient imbalance

  • Only fertilize monthly using a balanced fertilizer that is water-soluble.  It should be no more than half of the recommended strength on the instructions.  Fertilizing right will help to avoid having a nutrient burn.
  • You should also take the plant out of the pot, rinse it out with a lot of water to help remove the excessive nutrients.  Use new well-draining potting soil.

Pruning the Yellow Leaves

  • Start by pruning off the yellow leave.  If all are yellow, leave some on because they need some leaves for photosynthesis.
  • Check the stems for contamination and if any are yellow, clip them off right at the tuber.

Also read: Yellow Stromanthe Leaves 


If your plant has root rot, make sure that you wash off the pruners before using it on the good roots.  This is to help spread the fungal growth to other healthy roots and plants.  Once you take of the reason for yellow leaves, your ZZ plant should rebound and become healthy again but it could take a little time for this to occur.  When you notice yellow leaves, find the underlying cause and take care of it quickly so your ZZ plant will make a full recovery.

How much water your ZZ plant will need depends on many factors like sunlight, temperature, ventilation, and humidity of the growing environment.  You also need to take in the size of the plant and the container you are growing it in.  On average, you should water your ZZ plant once a week during the summer and in the winter it should be once every two to three weeks.  Always let the soil dry out before you water your ZZ plant.

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