Update: Houseplant Spotlight - Chinese Evergreen

chinese evergreen

Learn all about Chinese Evergreen care with our complete guide.

Chinese Evergreens (Aglaonema) make stylish and easy indoor plants for low-light apartments or north-facing spots. They're also great for growing in water.

This plant became commercialized in Florida in the 1930s. By the 1960s it was an indoor staple. Its still popular and it's easy to see why: this is a beginner's plant that doesn't compromise on visual appeal. You could fill a space just with Chinese Evergreen varieties since they all look so different. There are plenty to choose from: twenty-nine Chinese Evergreen varieties received U.S. patents in the 1990s alone. Some are streaked pink - a rare color in the plant kingdom. Others feature red, silver, and cream. Some have soft, undulating profiles with large oval leaves. Set these up for contrast next to their spiky cousins.

The highlighter-pink 'Golden Passion' variety Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aglaonema_%27Golden_Passion%27_kz01.jpg

The most common variety is the 'Silver Queen'. As one of the more understated varieties, it has flat, sword-shaped leaves that drape densely off the stems. Its green, silver-streaked foliage looks very similar to that of the Satin Pothos.

Chinese Evergreens also have purifying powers. In the 1989 NASA experiment on the pollution filtering properties of houseplants, they found that the Chinese Evergreen removes benzene and formaldehyde from the air.


The 'Snow Cap' variety has artful off-white stems and leaf stripes Forest and Kim Starr https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr-080103-1393-Aglaonema_sp-Snow_Cap_habit-Lowes_Garden_Center_Kahului-Maui_(24806328191).jpg

Chinese Evergreens are best for: 

  • Gardeners who want low-mainteinance variegated foliage
  • Beginner gardeners who want a low-maintenance plant that's a notch more challenging than the very easiest species
  • Shaded spaces
A rarer Chinese Evergreen variety is the 'Siam Aurora' with leaves edged deep red. Mokkie https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chinese_Evergreen_(Aglaonema_%27Siam_Aurora%27).jpg

What kind of plant is the Chinese Evergreen?

'Silver Queen' is the most common Chinese Evergreen variety Mokkie https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chinese_Evergreen_(Aglaonema_nitidum_%27Silver_Queen%27).jpg

This flowering plant species belongs to the family Araceae. They come from dense, humid, and low-lit tropical and subtropical forests in southeast Asia, northeast India, southern China, Indonesia, and New Guinea. 

Position 

The Chinese Evergreen hates the cold. Keep them away from drafts in  old weather. 

Light 

This plant needs partial shade and will die under direct sunlight. If you are putting it in a south-facing window, make sure it is well shaded by placing taller plants between it and the sunny window. Shaded east and west spots, or north-facing spots, are best.

The colorful or variegated varieties will need more sunlight than varieties with straight green foliage. Without enough light, the deep colors and contrasts will become less pronounced. These still do not tolerate direct sunlight but a sunny east or west-facing window with net curtains would be ideal.

Temperature 

The Chinese Evergreen will be just fine in most indoor areas. It will survive in a temperature range of between 59-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-20 degrees celsius). However, this plant can't really get enough heat. As long as you shade it from direct light, it will love higher temperatures that remind it of its tropical home. 

Water

This is the most difficult part of Chinese Evergreen care to get right. You need to make sure that the soil is always slightly moist but never waterlogged.

Before you water your Chinese Evergreen, check with your finger that the top one inch of soil is completely dry. 

Although this plant likes slight constant moisture, it doesn't mean that you need to be watering your plant every other day. If your plant has the correct potting mix (see below) it will retain moisture for longer periods. 

Fertilizer

This plant is a slow-grower so doesn't need a lot of fertilizer. During the summer months give a regular dose of half-dilute balanced fertilizer every four to six weeks. 

Humidity 

The Chinese Evergreen doesn't crave crazy amounts of air humidity like some other tropical species. Give it a regular all-over bottle spray during the winter months when heated indoor air might dry it out. Another humidity-increasing tip is to sponge the leaves with a wet sponge or cloth every week or so - this will also boost plant health by removing dust and dirt from the leaves. Dirt can collect easily on big indoor leaves, which can block stomata and prevent the plant from regulating internal moisture. 

Potting Mix

A basic indoor houseplant potting mix will serve this plant just fine. If you want an optimally healthy plant, mix two parts potting soil with one part crushed clay. This mix is ideal because the Chinese Evergreen prefers heavier, moisture-retaining mixes. 

Repotting 

This is a slow-growing plant that won't need to be re-potted every season. The Chinese Evergreen is also one of those species that prefer being root-bound.

Repot your Chinese Evergreen only every couple of years. The new pot should only be one or two inches wider in diameter than the old one. 

Pruning 

Generally, this species doesn't need pruning because it does not have fast-growing trailing stems like the Pothos. You can remove browning leaves lower on the stem as they mature and die.

Propagation 

Chinese Evergreen is propagated by root division which is the easiest method of propagation. You can't propagate this plant through stem or leaf cuttings. 

To take a cutting, take the plant out of the pot and divide the plant by pulling the roots apart. Make sure the cutting has at least four leaves.

Cut the leaves on your new cutting in half so that the plant does not lose too much moisture before its root system develops. Plant the cuttings in a rooting medium. You can make a rooting medium by mixing one part perlite, one part coarse horticultural sand, and one part soil. Or you can simply plant the cutting into moist sphagnum moss. 

You should propagate the Chinese Evergreen during the spring and summer while it is actively growing. This will enable the plant to push out a robust root system. In winter, a weak root system might kill the cutting before it has time to mature. 

Pests

A plant with nutritional, water, and light deficiencies will always be more vulnerable to pests and diseases than a well-cared for one. The Chinese Evergreen is generally robust but you can have problems with mealybug and root mealybug. Signs of mealy bug infestation are white pieces of fluff on stems and leaves. Signs of a root mealybug infestation will be a white waxy substance on the root. Both pests can be treated with insecticide. 

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