Aglaonema, commonly named a Chinese evergreen, is a popular houseplant, known for its large, showy leaves. These guys are considered luck-bearing plants in Asian cultures. However, for our purposes, the simplicity of Aglaonema plant care is the best thing about this lush fellow.
There are many different varieties of Aglaonema with leaves that can be solid, speckled, blotched, or variegated. Not only that, colours can range from dark greens to white, pink, red, and silver.
A Chinese evergreen’s leaves are large and glossy. Although they can produce a mediocre flower, if given enough light, Aglaonemas are known for their foliage. In fact, many plant parents advise snipping away the flower stalks so all the nutrients will go into producing the leaves.
Fun Fact – NASA considers Chinese evergreens one of the top air-cleaning plants.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY – beginner
Aglaonema Plant Care: A Beginner’s Guide
Chinese evergreens are low maintenance plants and their care is uncomplicated. This makes an Aglaonema well suited for a beginner or anyone who worries about having a brown thumb.
Aglaonema will tolerate many conditions and you’ll often find them in the “plants of steel” section of a greenhouse. They’re rather bushy and can grow to about 3 feet, which can make them a great option as a floor plant.
Water & Humidity
Moderation is the key when it comes to watering your Aglaonema. Although this plant can tolerate a couple of weeks without water – which makes it ideal for travelers – it prefers a regular watering schedule.
On the other hand, even though they like a regular watering, Aglaonema do not like a constant soggy soil. So it’s important to let your plant dry out in-between waterings. In most cases, weekly watering should be sufficient.
Chinese evergreens may not like wet feet, they do, however, like humidity.
Because of this, it’s important your plant isn’t placed in an area where the air is habitually dry. For example, in the winter, you don’t want your Aglaonema sitting beside a heat vent.
Keeping him around other plants or using a pebble tray underneath the pot are ways to help increase the humidity.
Light & Temperature
In its native environment, the Chinese evergreen is a tropical plant tucked underneath other plants. They’re not fond of direct sunlight, preferring instead medium to low light.
These guys are perfect for apartments, offices, or rooms with north-facing windows. Or any other room where your light is only so-so.
Their tolerance for lower light is one of Aglaonema’s best features.
However, just because it will stand for low light, that doesn’t mean you can stick him in a room that’s habitually dark. No plant wants that! Even low light plants, like your Aglaonema, need some light.
It’s also good to keep in mind that the more variegated the leaves, the more light your plant will need.
As for temperature, Chinese evergreens like it warm and humid. They won’t do well in an environment that gets below 60 degrees F.
And make sure to keep him away from cold drafts. Although your overall home temperature may not be a problem, sitting by a drafty window during winter may cause issues.
Proper soil is all part of good Aglaonema plant care. This means using well-draining soil.
In general, a peat-based potting mix with perlite or sand is your best bet.
The soil should be able to retain some water, but be loose enough for excess water to drain away quickly. Remember, Aglaonema aren’t fans of wet feet, so you don’t want your soil to remain soggy.
If you’re new to plant propagation, then your Aglaonema is a great specimen to test the waters with since it produces roots fairly easily.
There are several methods to grow a Chinese evergreen. However, for the beginner plant parent, the two easiest ways are by stem cutting and root division. So, we’ll focus on these.
One thing to keep in mind, no matter which method you choose, you’ll want to propagate your plant during the growing months.
Using a sharp instrument, such as a pair of scissors or pruners, cut a 3” – 6” long piece from the end of a healthy stem. Make the cut just below the leaf node (the place where the leaf joins the stem). Then, remove the bottom leaves from the stem, so that about 1/3 of the bottom of the stem is bare.
From this point, the cutting can then be placed in either water or soil.
If rooting using water, place the cutting in a jar or cup of water and set the container on a windowsill, or another spot that gets moderately bright, indirect light. Make sure to keep an eye on the water level of the jar and replenish the water as necessary.
In about two weeks, you should start to see some roots forming. Once this happens, you can transplant the cutting into soil.
Tip – With any cutting being propagated in water, don’t wait too long before transplanting your cutting into soil. Otherwise, the roots will become used to taking in nutrients from water instead of soil and may have a harder time getting used to being back in soil again.
If placing the cutting in soil instead of water, plant the stem in moist potting soil. You can mix in some perlite as well to help aerate the soil and give the roots lots of room to grow.
Prior to planting, you may also want to dip the end of the stem in some rooting hormone that contains a fungicide. This will help prevent the cutting from developing a fungus.
To increase humidity, cover the pot with clear plastic wrap, forming a tent over the plant. It’s important to check the plant every few days to ensure the soil is staying moist.
After a few weeks, new roots should form. You’ll know this by gently tugging on the stem. If you meet resistance, the roots have developed. At this point, you can remove the plastic and begin watering your new plant as you would any Chinese evergreen.
Stem cuttings are a great way to propagate your plant, especially if it’s become leggy – like mine here. I’ll be giving this guy a haircut and rooting the new cutting.
If your plant has multiple stems growing out of the pot, the easiest way to propagate your Chinese evergreen is to divide the plant into two or more plants.
To do this, simply take the plant out of its pot and carefully separate the rootball. You’ll do this by teasing apart the roots attached to each of the different stems. Try to use your fingers vs a knife to separate the roots, if possible. You don’t want to cut them, you just want to gently pry the roots apart.
However, if your plant is rootbound and the roots are too tangled together to unwind, then you may need to cut the root mass into sections. If this is the case, always remember to use a sharp, sterile knife.
Once you’ve separated the roots, place the new plant in a pot a few inches larger than the new plant’s roots. Whenever possible, use a soil mixture similar to the one the original plant was in. This is because that new plant is used to being in this type of soil mixture.
Place your new plant in a bright spot with indirect light and give it a generous watering. Keep the soil moist for a few weeks while the roots get established, after which you can return to your regular watering schedule.
Thankfully, Aglaonema plant care doesn’t call for much in the way of maintenance. So, keeping him a happy houseplant is not too difficult.
You can use a balanced water-soluble fertilizer, a few times in spring and summer. Dilute the ratio to half the recommended strength.
Occasionally wipe down the big, glossy leaves to get rid of dust. This will help the plant better absorb light.
Aglaonema doesn’t require pruning, but you’ll want to remove any dead or dying leaves by snipping the stem off near the base of the plant. Again, always use clean, sharp pruners.
If you want your plant to be a bit bushier, cut the stem back to just above the node – don’t it cut back all the way to the base as you would a dead leaf. As I said, I’ll be giving my plant a trim with the goal of not only producing a new plant but to help this one become a bit fuller.
If your plant flowers, you can prune the flowers and their stalks to keep the nutrients concentrated on the lush foliage.
About every two years, re-pot your Aglaonema into fresh soil.
If you notice lots of young plants popping out from the soil – Aglaonema naturally propagates itself by sending out suckers beneath the soil’s surface – you can divide the plant.
Pests & Problems
The most common issue with Chinese evergreens usually revolves around watering. In particular, overwatering.
If your plant’s leaves are yellowing, check the soil and adjust your watering schedule.
If the leaf discolouration persists, or you’re noticing browning of the tips, the soil may be lacking nutrients. To help remedy this, you can give your plant a little fertilizer.
Another possibility for browning tips is that there is too much salt or chlorine build-up in the soil. This can happen over time from using tap water that is heavier in these elements. In this case, give the soil a good flushing with distilled water or re-pot in fresh soil.
If you’re seeing browning tips, I would start with giving the soil a flush, then fertilize.
As for pests, the most common problem with Aglaonema is with mealybugs. Spider mites and aphids can also make an appearance, but usually not as often.
Aglaonemas can also be susceptible to fungal leaf spot, such as anthracnose. To find out more about this disease, check out this article from Epic Gardening.
It’s very important, whether a pest or disease, you address the issue immediately. If you think there’s a problem, but are unsure, don’t hesitate to bring in a sample of a leaf to your local garden center. Very often, they can help you diagnose the issue and recommend a treatment.
As for pests, although I haven’t had any issues with my Aglaonema, the most common problem is with mealybugs. Spider mites and aphids can also make an appearance, but usually not as often.
Aglaonemas are toxic to people and animals due to calcium oxalate crystals. If ingested they can cause difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the mouth and lips.
The juice from the plant can also cause a rash if touched.
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