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Is The ZZ Plant Poisonous for Cats, Dogs or People?

We address a couple of burning questions related to the ZZ plant – Is it poisonous or toxic to humans? What about pets? Are they deadly?
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Zamioculas zamiifolia or the ZZ plant is an absolute must-have for indoor gardeners. You can see its gorgeous green leaves in the majority of Instagram posts showcasing houseplant collections. Native to Africa, the ZZ plant is easy to maintain. It will thrive in low light conditions and is drought tolerant.

Even though they have been around for quite a while, ZZ plants became popular in the 1990s when Dutch nurseries started growing the plant on a larger scale. Gardening enthusiasts quickly fell in love with this beautiful plant, and today it can be seen almost everywhere around the globe.

ZZ plant is ideal for small apartments or offices since its maximum height is somewhere around three feet. Not to forget that this plant also removes polluters from the air. With that said, we have to address a couple of burning questions related to the ZZ plant – Is it poisonous and harmful to humans? What about pets? Are they deadly?

ZZ Plants
Guide to ZZ Plants: How to Grow & Care for “Zamioculcas zamiifolia”

ZZ Plant: Is it Poisonous?

Shortly, the answer is yes. ZZ plant is poisonous to pets and humans. However, it will not seriously harm you or your furry friends. The majority of things you have maybe heard about the plant are blown out of proportion. A rumor that ZZ plants cause cancer started making rounds in the 2010s, but that information is also not accurate. ZZ plant is not deadly, but you still need to be careful around it.

The sap can irritate the skin, and that may lead to a rash. In case one of your pets nibbles on a ZZ plant, it will experience digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. All of this doesn’t mean you can’t keep a ZZ plant in your home. Learn a thing or two on how to handle this plant, and you can enjoy its green foliage safely.

Why is the ZZ Plant Poisonous?

ZZ plants contain calcium oxalate. If you have never heard of that term before, it is what kidney stones are made of. Calcium oxalate is very sharp even though we can’t see it without a microscope. Unfortunately, all parts of the plant contain this substance. It includes roots, seeds, leaves, etc.

When a ZZ plant comes into contact with skin, it can cause burning and irritation. You need to wash it off as soon as possible and not touch your eyes. It will cause the same problems with mucous membranes. If someone tries to eat any part of a ZZ plant, they will immediately feel pain and swelling in the mouth. The discomfort will be enough for a child to spit the plant out.

The ZZ Plant
The ZZ Plant

However, if a youngster swallows a piece of the plant, it will experience stomachache, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. The severity depends on the amount of the plant that is ingested. The symptoms usually last for a couple of hours and are manageable.

Your pets will have the same reaction to the calcium oxalate. If they brush against the plant, they will get skin or eye irritation. Additionally, when your pets ingest a ZZ plant, they will quickly develop symptoms of food poisoning that include vomiting and diarrhea.

How to Treat ZZ Plant Exposure

When a child eats a part of a ZZ plant, you have to act quickly by making them spit out the material left in their mouth. Clean their mouth with a cloth and remember to wash your hands afterward. A child might be feeling pain and discomfort by now. Cold liquids do wonders in these situations so give them a glass of milk or some ice cream.

If you are suspecting that your pet has nibbled on a ZZ plant, check their mouth and remove any leftover pieces. Then help them drink fluids. Not every pet likes them, but cold treats can help out as well. Keep a close eye on your cat or dog in case they develop more severe symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Your pet should be fine in a couple of hours, but don’t leave their side, especially if you are unsure of the amount of the plant they managed to eat.

Living With the ZZ Plant

Nothing is stopping you from having a ZZ plant in your home. It will not cause you any serious harm, but there are several rules you should follow, especially if pets and youngsters are in the mix. So make sure you pick a suitable spot for your plant. Find a tall shelf that is not easily accessible or hang the planter from your ceiling. There are plenty of options out there to try out.

Of course, you can also place coffee or orange peels near the planter to discourage your pets from coming close. These are common pet repellants that should do the job. If these fail for some reason, try vinegar. It will not make your room smell good, but your cat or dog will keep their distance from the ZZ plant.

Remind yourself to wear gloves when handling the plant. Standard garden gloves will work just fine. Wash them after every use. The same goes for any tools you plan on using. The sap will stay on them, so it is crucial to clean your gardening scissors or anything that came into contact with the plant. It will minimize the possibility of coming into contact with calcium oxalate and prevent skin rashes.

Leaves of the ZZ plant

Maintaining the ZZ Plant

After all of that out of the way, let’s talk about caring for your ZZ plant. This plant resembles small trees, with several stems that grow upward. The leaves are medium-sized, fleshy, and green. ZZ plants love average humidity but consider increasing it in case of artificial heating.

This plant doesn’t require a lot of time or effort, so it is perfect for beginners. If you want to have lush and green foliage in your living area but occasionally forget to water the plants, a ZZ plant is a great choice. Just make sure you use well-draining potting soil, and your ZZ plant will thrive on its own.

There is no watering schedule. Wait until the soil is dry and then apply water. You can even fertilize it once a month if you want to give more nutrients to your ZZ plant. Remember to fertilize only in summer. The plant is not fond of direct sunlight so keep it in full or partial shade.

When placed in indirect sunlight, your ZZ plant could surprise you. It sometimes produces flowers in summer or fall. However, the flowers are relatively small and grow on the lower parts of the stems. They are often beneath the leaves, so you might not even spot them right away.

This plant is resistant to common diseases and pests. Overwatering could be an issue, so watch out for any changes in the color of the foliage. If your ZZ plant has yellow leaves that are falling off, stop watering it right away. Additionally, aphids are attracted to the poisonous sap, and they could infest your plant. These pests could be almost invisible, so inspect the whole plant if you notice strange spots on the leaves.

Zamioculas zamiifolia
Zamioculas zamiifolia

ZZ plants generally don’t require pruning. Just remove the dry leaves, and that’s it. Of course, if the branches are getting in the way, feel free to prune them. Another useful tip is to dust off the leaves now and then. Keeping the plant clean is essential because it aids the photosynthesis.

The rhizomes that make a ZZ plant survive so long without water simplify the propagation as well. All you need to do is separate rhizomes and place them into a smaller planter. You can also use cuttings to propagate the ZZ plant. Make sure you take a mature stem with a couple of leaves. Then put a cutting in water. The roots should emerge quickly.

Consider repotting your ZZ plant once a year, especially when it is young. Do it every spring, before the growing season. It will give your plant enough time to get used to the new environment. Mature ZZ plants don’t need to be repotted unless they are outgrowing their current container.

Final Thoughts

ZZ plants are undoubtedly one of the best choices for a houseplant, especially if you are just getting started with your collection. ZZ plants not only look good in any space, but they also purify the air. Even though they can survive for months without water, having a watering schedule will make ZZ plants grow faster. But at the end of the day, there is no need to feel bad if you occasionally forget about your ZZ plant.

They are resilient and thrive on neglect. ZZ plants can grow in any soil, generally don’t need fertilizer, and like indirect sunlight. They are indeed poisonous when ingested. Every part of the plant may cause digestive problems and vomiting if eaten accidentally. So if you want to keep small children and pets safe, your ZZ plant should be far away from the reach of their tiny hands or paws.

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Ana is an experienced writer and an urban gardener, making use of limited space on her balcony to grow vegetables every season. She got into gardening thanks to her grandmother, who introduced her to the wonderful world of succulents. Two of them still collect succulents as well as cacti together, and Ana is always on the lookout for rare (and colorful) varieties. She is currently occupied with growing avocado trees indoors.

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