Chameleon ZZ Plant: Care for this Color-Changing Wonder

Imagine a plant that changes colors as it grows, a living piece of art that adds a dynamic touch to your indoor garden. 

Meet the Chameleon ZZ plant, a unique variety that is a visual delight and a hardy companion for those who believe they don’t have a green thumb. 

We will delve into the fascinating world of this plant, exploring its unique features, origin, and how to care for it.

First: What is the Chameleon ZZ Plant?

The ZZ Chameleon plant is a new and exciting variety of the family of Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant. 

While the classic all-green ZZ plant is known for its hardiness and lush green leaves, the ZZ Chameleon brings a new twist to the family. It shares the same robust nature as its green cousin, but its leaves undergo a fascinating transformation as they mature. 

The leaves of this plant emerge as an almost highlighter yellow with green veining. As they mature, they harden off to a deep green. This means that at any given time, the ZZ Chameleon plant displays a beautiful mix of yellow and green, giving it a distinct look despite the foliage eventually turning about the same shade of green as the classic ZZ plant.

This sets it apart from the classic ZZ and other varieties like the raven ZZ plant, which is known for its leaves that harden off to a nearly pure black color.

Origin and Distinct Characteristics

Image credit: Instagram @lety_and_plants

The ZZ Chameleon plant was discovered by Michael Kerry Rimland in a plant nursery in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2017. 

The patent for this unique plant, officially known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Chameleon’, was granted on September 29, 2020, under the United States patent number USPP32253P3.

Emerging as a spontaneous mutation of the Zamioculcas plant cultivar. Its unique features are stable and reproduced true to type in successive generations of asexual reproduction, first performed in January 2018.

The Chameleon ZZ plant stands out from its parent selection, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, and other varieties like ‘LUCKYWHIT,’ disclosed in U.S. Plant Pat. No. 23,614, due to its distinct characteristics:

  • Variegated leaves: The ZZ Chameleon plant produces leaves that are initially yellow with green veins and tips.
  • Metachromatic variegation: The leaves of the plant undergo a color transformation from a solid yellow to a solid green color as they mature. This process is known as metachromatic variegation.
  • Variety of leaf colors: At any given time, the plant displays a mix of green, yellow, and variegated leaves, adding to its visual appeal.

Chameleon ZZ Plant Care Guide

ZZ Chameleon plant

Ready to add a ZZ Chameleon to your indoor garden but unsure about its care? Don’t worry! This section will guide you through the simple steps to keep your color-changing companion thriving.

Light Requirements

The Chameleon ZZ plant thrives in medium to bright indirect light. While it can tolerate low light conditions, its unique color-changing feature is best displayed when the plant is kept in a well-lit location. However, direct sunlight should be avoided as it can scorch the leaves.

Water and Soil Needs

This plant is drought-tolerant, much like its ZZ plant relatives. It prefers to be kept on the drier side rather than being overwatered. The plant does well in well-draining soil, which prevents water from sitting at the roots and causing rot.

Tips on Watering

When watering the Chameleon ZZ plant, it’s better to err on the side of underwatering than overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common issue with many houseplants. 

A good practice is to allow the top layer of the soil to dry out before watering the plant again. This ensures that the plant gets the water it needs without the risk of overwatering.

Soil Guidelines

A standard houseplant potting mix should work well. However, you can amend the potting mix with some perlite or coarse sand to enhance drainage.

The soil should provide the necessary nutrients for the plant’s growth. Add fertilizer as needed during the growing season.

This plant is not particularly picky about soil pH but prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH levels. If you need clarification on the pH of your soil, you can use a soil pH testing kit to check it.

Humidity and Temperature

 These plants are quite adaptable regarding temperature and humidity, making them an excellent indoor gardening choice. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Temperature

The houseplant thrives in typical household temperatures. Aim to maintain an environment with temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal growth. 

While the plant is not frost-hardy, it can occasionally tolerate temperatures that dip into the 40s. However, it’s best to regularly keep the plant from such low temperatures.

Humidity

Unlike some houseplants, this plant doesn’t require high humidity levels. It can comfortably tolerate the average humidity levels found in most homes. Therefore, there’s no need to invest in a humidifier specifically for this plant. 

If it happens to be near a humidifier, that’s fine, too – the ZZ Chameleon is quite forgiving and adaptable.

Growth Rate

During spring and summer growing seasons, you can expect your Chameleon ZZ plant to produce a new stem every few months. However, growth may slow down or halt during the colder months of fall and winter. 

This is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle.

Size

Over time, with ideal growing conditions, the ZZ Chameleon plant can reach up to 4 feet tall or more. However, achieving this size can take several years due to the plant’s slow growth rate.

Repotting

repotting Chameleon ZZ plant

Given its slow growth, you’ll only need to repot your ZZ Chameleon plant every few years. 

When repotting, choose a pot slightly larger than the current one and use a well-draining potting mix. Despite the plant’s hardiness, it’s generally recommended to use pots with drainage holes to prevent water from sitting at the bottom and causing root rot.

How to Propagate ZZ Chameleon Plants

The Chameleon ZZ plant, being a patented variety, is legally protected, which means propagation for commercial purposes is prohibited. However, it’s pretty straightforward if you’re looking to propagate the plant for personal use, such as to have more of it in your home or to gift it to a friend.

ZZ plants, including the Chameleon variety, can be propagated by division. This involves separating the plant at the rhizome level.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove the plant from its pot: Carefully remove the plant from its pot, ensuring not to damage the roots.
  2. Identify the rhizomes: The rhizomes are the thick, tuber-like structures found at the base of the plant. They store water and nutrients for the plant.
  3. Separate the rhizomes: Using a clean, sharp knife, cut through the rhizomes to separate the plant into two or more sections. Each section should have at least one healthy leaf and a portion of the rhizome.
  4. Pot the new plants: Plant each section in a new pot filled with a well-draining potting mix. Water lightly and place the new plants in a location with bright, indirect light.
  5. Care for the new plants: Care for the new plants as you would the original one. They should establish themselves and grow fresh leaves in a few weeks.

Remember, this propagation method should only be used for personal use and not for commercial propagation, which is prohibited for patented plant varieties.

Role of the Plant’s Rhizomes

Like other ZZ varieties, this plant has rhizomes. These are storage units for water, allowing the plant to survive periods of drought. The rhizomes contribute to the plant’s hardiness and ability to tolerate less-than-ideal watering practices.

Fertilizing

While these houseplants are not particularly demanding when it comes to feeding, providing them with a balanced fertilizer can support their growth and overall health.

When to Fertilize

The best time to fertilize your ZZ Chameleon plant is during the growing season, typically from spring to early fall. During this period, the plant is actively growing and can make the most use of the nutrients provided by the fertilizer. 

There’s no need to fertilize in the dormant winter months as the plant’s growth slows down.

What Type of Fertilizer to Use

A balanced houseplant fertilizer with equal nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) is ideal for ZZ plants. These nutrients support leaf growth, root development, and overall plant health. 

Look for a fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.

How to Apply Fertilizer

Before applying fertilizer, make sure to water your plant. This helps to prevent the fertilizer from burning the plant’s roots. Mix the fertilizer with water according to the package instructions, then apply it to the soil, not the leaves.

Fertilizer Frequency

Generally, fertilizing once a month during the growing season should be sufficient for the ZZ Chameleon plant. However, following the instructions on your specific fertilizer package is essential to avoid over-fertilizing, which can harm the plant.

Note: While fertilizing can support your plant’s growth, it’s not a substitute for providing proper light, water, and care. 

Where to Buy This Plant

The Chameleon ZZ plant is now being mass-produced by Costa Farms, a large plant grower known for its wide variety of houseplants. This means you’ll likely start seeing the plant more frequently in plant stores and nurseries.

Costa Farms has included it in its Trending Tropicals collection, highlighting its unique features and increasing popularity among plant enthusiasts. They are the exclusive producer of this plant, making it an exceptional addition to their collection.

This mass production by Costa Farms is excellent news for plant lovers looking to add the ZZ Chameleon plant to their indoor garden. With its unique color-changing leaves and hardy nature, it will surely stand out in any plant collection.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.