Chinese Evergreens or Aglaonema are decorative foliage houseplants that thrive easily in our homes and workplaces. Tolerant of low light conditions and sporadic care they're perfect plants for the beginner but remain equally attractive to experienced hands.
It's true they don't necessarily have the wow factor that a lot of other indoor plants have, but Chinese Evergreens are seriously understated. They grow fairly slowly and take a long time to outgrow their pots, meaning ongoing maintenance is minimal. They're hardy and for the most part easy-going. In fact, they're some of the least fussy houseplants going. Aglaonema's, in general, are also incredibly versatile and adaptable to a variety of indoor environmental growing conditions.
How do you pronounce Aglaonema correctly? Say:
They're native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia so do need a warm location in your home and do need some humidity to perform at its best, although in the average home neither of these things are normally a problem. If you fulfill some quite basic care needs they give their owners a lot of benefits.
The popular nature of these plants has encouraged growers to come up with more and more interesting looking Aglaonema varieties and cultivars. Most are fairly common to find in stores and this translates into them being fairly priced.
In total there are possibly over a hundred different types available so we can't cover the entire range here, but below are some of the more familiar ones.
Aglaonema Silver Queen was one of the early hybrids that interior designers fell in love with. With its skinny marbled silvery-green lance shaped leaves they appeared everywhere from hospitals to shopping malls, a fantastic variety for underplanting for tall floor plants.
Perhaps not as popular as they were 20 years ago, they're still sold and because of Aglaonema's general long-lived nature, means there will be plenty of established Silver Queens still growing happily around the world.
Aglaonema Maria has wider but shorter leaves compared to some of the others on offer. It also has a much lower and compact appearance so could easily be overlooked. However, the glossy leaves are dark green splashed with small splashes of silvery blotches that helps the plant to stand out.
The darker leaves mean Maria will do better than the others in darker spaces and it's smaller nature makes it a great specimen houseplant for those awkward locations that you want to fill with something green.
One of the largest growing varieties, with a sharp-looking leaf due to the longer and wider leaf shape. Go for Diamond Bay if you want a standout plant that draws the eye. They can be grown under a taller plant with an exposed trunk, such as a Yucca or Dragon tree or by themselves, it's highly flexible.
The leaves have a light green edge and a large wide center stripe that is greeny-creamy white, the two shades meet at an irregular border. It does need more light than other types, so keep it out of dark corners to help it perform at its best.
The vivid Aglaonema Key Lime has, as the name gives it away, colourings that resemble a Key Lime. Several shades of green and yellow in narrow bands that cover the entire leaf being held in the air with contrasting creamy stems.
In our experience, they tend to be harder to come across and slightly more expensive compared to the others. Although they could still be worth a second look as they're very striking and grow to a large size. They're potentially better suited as a stand alone plant to really let it show itself off.
The bulk of Chinese Evergreens play around and mix things up with different shades of green. But the Red Aglaonemas bring in splashes of red and pink making them very unusual and pretty. They can also cope with slightly higher light intensities.
Three of the more popular ones are Red Ruby which has dark green leaf edges with splashes of solid pink in the center (see photo below). Siam Aurora which has pinky-red leaf edges that carry on into the stems (click to launch a quick 10 second video tour of this variety) . Finally, Aglaonema Crete is more subtle than the previous two, it has thin pink leaf edges and young rhubarb coloured pink stems.
As pointed out earlier there are so many different Chinese Evergreen plants that we can't cover them all. But we know our visitors love looking at the different varieties available, so if you'd like to share a photo of yours please do post it in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
These are perfect plants for your low, medium or bright light locations in your homes. They'll give a splash of greenery and thrive in spots that other houseplants will struggle with. They won't survive in no light conditions though so don't even think about trying it in windowless rooms!
Established wisdom points out, that in general, Aglaonema's with light green or heavily variegated types will need more light than those with darker green and less variegation. Follow that rule and you won't go wrong.
These plants like their soil to be just damp / moist. No sodden soil or allowing it to fully dry out. In Winter and if your plant is in a lower light location it might only need watering once every two weeks. In brighter light locations or if the temperature is very warm watering once or twice a week might be needed.
In ideal cases, you will never see either of the below warning signs because you've been looking after your plant like we'd told you above right? Although on the off chance something might have accidentally gone wrong, these are the signs to look out for and what they mean.
Although these are tough plants, given the choice they would prefer high humidity, but will still cope reasonably well with low humidity conditions. They won't do well if the air in your home or workplace is very dry though so do bear this in mind.
Growing and active plants will enjoy a feed every few weeks using a normal houseplant fertiliser. Based on what we've already told you about their easy-going nature, you might have predicted this anyway, but they'll still do perfectly well with less frequent feeding. Don't bother feeding in Winter.
True to it's tropical origins, these plants love it warm. In fact, they crave it. Avoid cold rooms at all cost, they want to be snug and cosy all year round. The warmer they are the better they grow. Keep them in your living spaces and away from unheated guest rooms and unheated porches. Aim for temperatures 18°C (64°F) and above.
The warmer they are, the better they grow.
Aglaonema plants tend to grow slowly and in a compact way. This means they take quite a while to outgrow a pot. Of course, this will eventually happen and so when you notice the plant is particularly congested or there has been no new growth for a long time, it's probably time to repot it.
They'll grow well in a variety of different growing mediums mixes so you could likely use whatever you already have to hand. If you're buying something fresh, it'll likely be cheaper and easier to simply stick to the basics and look for one labeled as suitable for houseplants or garden plants.
Chinese Evergreens look beautiful and certain ones are bound to catch the eye of visitors and illicit comments like "Oooh I like that one". If you're feeling generous, then know that they can be propagated quite easily, and a young cutting can make for a fab give away or present. You can also do it to increase your own stocks. There are two main ways of doing it and we cover them below.
Division - Each mature plant will usually have a cluster of offsets that give it the "bulk" of the overall plant. If you're happy to split and break everything down, division is the way to go.
Remove the plant from its pot and wash off or remove the soil so you expose the roots and can easily identify the parts of the clump. It's then a case of separating everything.
You can easily divide the clump with just your hands and we'd recommend this, as tools can be harsh and too precise. Your hands will be more gentle and cause the splits to be more random and should allow each piece to come away with some of the roots.
After everything is separated, just plant each section into its own pot or container. Use a similar potting to what it was growing in before and keep the environmental conditions the same. The new plant should be fully established within a month or so.
If you're not sure about division or just want to take a smaller cutting from the main plant then you can do this too.
Cuttings - Use a sharp knife to cut away a stem at the base of the plant. In your hand, you'll be holding the leaves and the main step without any roots. You can then pop the cutting into a cup of water and new roots should start to appear over a few weeks.
Once the roots have formed in the water (or you want to just skip the water rooting step) you can put the cutting into a pot filled with soil and grow on in the usual way.
Sound confusing or you want more information? We love seeing things explained visually, and you might too. We found the below to be a super helpful YouTube video that confidently covers both types of propagation described above. In one part of the video, he recommends putting the plants in direct sunlight. A reminder that most Chinese Evergreens do not respond well to direct intense sunlight, so we would suggest following our Light instructions above instead.
Warm temperatures with bright light conditions will trigger most Chinese Evergreens to produce new growth at a moderate rate. If the temperature is cooler or the light levels lower, growth will be much slower. Plants grown in very low light places are unlikely to produce any new growth.
This varies considerably between the different varieties. As a general rule, these will almost always be moderately low growing and compact houseplants. The plant you buy in the store is unlikely to grow significantly in height or width.
These plants do sometimes produce flowers, however as with many indoor plants with interesting looking foliage, the flowers are quite dull in comparison. You're likely to see them in late Summer, but they can appear at all times of the year when being grown indoors.
These are poisonous plants, however it rarely kills human or animal, (we've not been able to find any documented cases of it happening). When considering safety, the problem here is that all parts of the plant contain microscopic needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals and when some unfortunate animal (or person) eats a bit, they end up with a painful and swollen mouth. Not life-threatening, but not nice to experience or see someone suffering with.
Some Aglaonema plants will produce red berries when the flowering period is over (see flower section above). Although children and animals will not normally eat plant leaves, they might be more tempted by the berries. We'd recommend removing the flowering stalk before the berries form, just to be safe.
Dust can be a problem for these plants. Their slow-growing nature means it's easy for dirt to accumulate and cover the leaf surface. Make sure you wash them down from time to time to keep things clean and the foliage vibrant.
Low, Medium or Bright Light Anything will do except no light and direct sunlight.
Moderate Watering Once or twice a week at most in Summer and once every week or two in Winter or if growing in lower light conditions.
Warm to Hot Temperature Aim for temperatures 18°C (64°F) and above.
Feeding If you can, fertilise every couple of waterings.
Some leaves will go yellow from time to time. That's normal. If there is quite a few doing this, or it happens more than once or twice a year then you could have a problem.
Typically, problematic yellowing like the above would be caused by one of the following:
This is fairly unusual in most homes. But you can expect brown tips if the humidity is low or there is a lot of hot dry air being blown over the leaves for example if the plant is positioned above a radiator or above a heat vent.
Some people have reported that if they use water from the tap and live in a hard water area, over time this encourages the build-up of minerals in the soil and corresponding brown tips.
Brown Leaf Spots
If the brown is crispy and dry, occasional and is present on older leaves then it's very likely to be sun damage. These are semi-shade loving houseplants and direct sunlight falling on the leaves will cause them to easily burn and create scorch marks.
For sure this is a hardy houseplant with a positive can-do attitude. It puts up with a lot and can resist most pests, but it's not immune to some of the fairly common ones that afflict indoor plants (Spider Mites, Scale Insects, Mealybugs and Aphids). It's still rare to have issues, but if you do, have a read of our pest article for guidance.
Leaf Position Changes
Not the worst thing that could happen to your plant. In fact it's actually communicating with you and letting you know what's wrong. Helpful things are Aglaonemas. Listen to its pleads and help it out where you can.
Leaves Wilting - This happens when your plant has been overwatered. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's been underwatered and pour more on. If you see this happening have a feel of the soil and hold back on the watering for a week or so until it dries out again.
Leaves and Stems Standing Tall - This happens when your plant has been underwatered. It's quite a sight to see, but if you see this happening then give it some water as soon as you can.
On the surface, the Aglaonema should have been the ideal houseplant. I've always tended to live in homes that had a strong North facing aspect and the resulting low light situation these tend to have, plus in the early days of houseplant ownership, like many people, I made my share of silly mistakes so could have done with a few more hardy ones. But this houseplant just never did it for me and I shunned it. Massively.
In some ways, it seemed a smaller Aspidistra substitute without any of the grandeur and history. In particular, it was Aglaonema Silver Queen that did the damage. For some reason where I lived, it was constantly grown in places that most people do not want to spend any time in - Dentist waiting rooms and hospitals. So the last thing I wanted was one of these anxiety-inducing bad memory houseplants rocking out in my living room!
Times change though and so did the Aglaonema. I'm now sharing my home with several different varieties that really thrive with minimal effort. One is actually positioned next to a splendid Aspidistra, and they really don't look the same at all. I don't know what I was thinking, cousins at best! That said, as much as I've grown to like this plant now, I've still not given Silver Queen a chance to redeem itself. Maybe one day...
What's been your story with this plant? And more generally, are there any houseplants you cannot stand to have around? Let us know in the comments below.
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit A. commutatum 'Silver Queen' - Mark Bosky
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of Red Aglaonema 'Red Ruby' - David Clode
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the flowering Aglaonema - HQ