Growing Aglaonema species: the stunning Chinese Evergreen plant

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Aglaonema Stripes

Aglaonema, commonly known as Chinese Evergreen, is a genus of highly decorative foliage house plants. There are around 25 species of Aglaonema, and multiple different Chinese evergreen varieties that are well worth growing.

The lush and colourful leaves of Aglaonema give us a clue to its sub-tropical origins in parts of South-East Asia and New Guinea. The foliage of the cultivated varieties is often accented with pink, silver, red, or white markings.

Its resilience, adaptability and air purifying qualities make it particularly suited for indoor environments.

Aglaonema is one of our selected easy care plants that are ideal for beginners. It is especially prized for its ability to thrive in low light conditions. In fact, some of the varieties with darker foliage can survive in conditions where only artificial light is available.

The larger varieties look good as a standalone feature plant, but Aglaonema is often effective when grouped with other plants to create a tropical effect.

Aglaonema quick care guide

Aglaonema is an easy house plant to care for. It thrives without much fuss and can tolerate some degree of neglect.

  • Light requirements: Low to bright indirect light.
  • Water requirements: Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Humidity requirements: Prefers high humidity but can tolerate less. Misting the plant once a week can prevent leaf edges from browning.
  • Temperature requirements: 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C), with a minimum of 60°F (15°C).
  • Potting soil requirements: Well-draining soil mix.
  • Fertiliser requirements: Balanced, water-soluble fertiliser every month during the growing season. The ideal balance of N:P:K is 3:1:2. Ensure your fertiliser also contains micronutrients as some cultivars are prone to micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Propagation: Through stem cuttings or division.
  • Repotting: In general, every two years, in spring or summer.
    • For smaller plants, repot once every 12-18 months into a pot 1”- 2” (2.5 to 5cm) larger in diameter.
    • For larger floor-standing plants, repot every 18-24 months into a pot 2”- 4” (5 to 10cm) larger in diameter.
  • Pruning: Prune to remove dead or yellowing leaves. Also prune back leggy or overgrown stems to maintain shape and promote new growth.

All about Aglaonema

Aglaonema key facts

  • Scientific name: Aglaonema commutatum (see also Aglaonema pictum, Aglaonema costatum, Aglaonema crispum and Aglaonema modestum).
  • Meaning of scientific plant name: ‘Aglaos’ means bright; ‘nema’ means thread.
  • Common names: Chinese Evergreen
  • Plant family: Araceae
  • Origin: Asia and New Guinea
  • Type of plant: Evergreen perennial
  • Size: Up to 3 feet tall indoors.
  • Foliage: Glossy, variegated and coloured leaves.
  • Flower: White insignificant spathes; blooms are rare indoors.
  • Fruit: Red berries; infrequent in indoor settings.
  • Toxicity: Toxic to pets and people if ingested (refer to ASPCA for verification).
Aglaonema Siam Aurora (Aglaonema lipstick)

Aglaonema

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Aglaonema

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How to grow Aglaonema: the detailed guide

Aglaonema care is not that hard as the plant can stand some neglect, but it is still worth following these maintenance tips to get the best from your plant.

Since the whole point of growing Aglaonema is to enjoy its beautiful foliage you should definetly do the following:

  • Protect the plant from hot and cold drafts, including breezes from windows, heaters, and air conditioning;
  • Dust the leaves often, especially in lower light conditions, to ensure the plant can photosynthesise efficiently;
  • Rotate the plant periodically for even growth.

Read more about house plant care in general in our comprehensive guide to the 7 critical requirements of house plant care here.

Light

Aglaonema flourishes in a range of lighting conditions from low to bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves. The ideal position is near a window with sheer curtains.

Aglaonema light requirements
Aglaonema can cope with low to bright light

Soil and feeding

Use a well-draining potting mix, possibly with added perlite.

Feed with a balanced fertiliser monthly during the growing season. A 10-4-3 fertiliser, which has higher nitrogen levels, would be okay, because that will provide more or a boost to the foliage. Reduce feeding in the winter.

Watering

Water when the top inch of soil is dry. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while under-watering will cause the leaves to wilt.

Pruning

Pruning is straightforward: remove yellow or damaged leaves at the base to keep the plant tidy.

Propagation

The easiest method is by division during repotting. Cuttings can also be rooted in water or soil. Here is the step by step guide:

Propagating Aglaonema by Stem Cuttings:

Step 1: Choose a Healthy Stem
  • Look for a healthy parent plant with robust stems.
  • Select a stem that has at least 5-6 leaves and is free from pests and diseases.
Step 2: Prepare Your Tools
  • Sterilize a sharp knife or a pair of scissors with rubbing alcohol to prevent disease transmission.
Step 3: Cut the Stem
  • Make a clean cut below a node (the point on the stem where leaves are attached).
  • The cutting should be about 4-6 inches long.
Step 4: Remove Lower Leaves
  • Gently remove leaves from the lower part of the stem cutting, leaving 2-3 leaves at the top.
  • This helps to prevent too much loss of moisture from the plant and focuses the plant’s energy on root development.
Step 5: Let the Cutting Dry
  • Allow the cutting to air dry for a few hours or overnight to callous over, reducing the risk of rot.
Step 6: Prepare the Potting Mix
  • Fill a pot with a well-draining potting mix suitable for Aglaonema.
  • A mix of peat, perlite, and vermiculite is often recommended.
Step 7: Plant the Cutting
  • Plant the cutting into the potting mix, making sure the node (where you removed the lower leaves) is buried.
  • Firm the soil around the stem to provide support.
Step 8: Water Lightly
  • Water the soil lightly to settle it around the cutting.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged.
Step 9: Create Humidity
  • To create a humid environment, you can cover the pot with a clear plastic bag or place it in a mini greenhouse.
  • Make sure the plastic doesn’t touch the leaves by supporting it with sticks or a frame.
Step 10: Place in Proper Light
  • Position the pot in bright, indirect light, away from direct sunlight.
  • Ensure the temperature is warm, ideally between 65°F and 75°F (18°C to 24°C).
Step 11: Wait for Roots to Form
  • In about 4-6 weeks, the cutting should start to develop roots.
  • Check for root growth by gently tugging on the cutting. If there’s resistance, roots have formed.
Step 12: Care for Your New Plant
  • Once rooted, care for your new Aglaonema as you would the parent plant.
  • Start fertilizing with a balanced liquid fertilizer at half strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
Step 13: Transplanting
  • When the plant becomes root-bound or the roots start peeking out of the drainage holes, it’s time to transplant to a larger pot.

Common Problems and Solutions

Aglaonema is not a hard plant to grow, which means it is not much troubled by pests and diseases. The most important point is not to over-water it. Other than that, keep an eye open for any bugs and deal with them before they can spread.

Aglaonema troubleshooting guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Yellowing leaves may indicate overwatering.

Roots

  • Root rot from overwatering; ensure good drainage.

Pests

  • Look out for spider mites and mealybugs. Inspect regularly and inspections and treat with insecticidal soap when needed.

Diseases

  • Fungal infections can occur with excess moisture; improve air circulation.

Winter care

Reduce watering and stop fertilising in winter. Ensure the plant is not exposed to drafts or cold windows.

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Buy

So, if you’ve got this far and are feeling like you can’t resist this beautiful plant, I’ve listed some buying options below – depending on whether you are US or UK based.

The buy links are affiliate links, which means I’d be paid a (very) small commission if you go on and buy after clicking these links. But that does not affect the price you pay.

Money Tree

US Buyers

Money Tree

Uk Buyers

Uk

Aglaonema varieties

Read our separate post with images and descriptions of some of the best chinese evergreen varieties to grow:

  • Chinese evergreen varieties: Aglaonema cultivars

Other great foliage plants

See our guides to caring for these other great foliage plants:

Key references and resources

Chen, J., McConnell, D. B., Henny, R. J., & Everitt, K. C. (2003). Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Aglaonema: ENH957/EP160, 7/2003. EDIS, 2003(18).

Alloway, Z and Bailey (F). (2018) RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, Royal Horticultural Society, UK.

Camilleri,L and Kaplan, S. (2020), Plantopedia: The Definitive Guide to Houseplants, Smith Street Books.

Hessayon, Dr D.G. (1991) The New House Plant Expert, PBI Publications, UK.

Brickell, C. (2016). Royal Horticultural Society AZ encyclopedia of garden plants. 4th Edition Dorling Kindersley.

Squire, D. (2017). Houseplant Handbook: Basic Growing Techniques and a Directory of 300 Everyday Houseplants, CompanionHouse Books.

Nelson, G (2021). Plant – House plants: Choosing, Styling, Caring. Mitchell Beazley. London

Brickell, C. (2011). American horticultural society encyclopedia of plants and flowers. Penguin.

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