Aglaonema Plant: Chinese Evergreen Plants You Need To Grow

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Have you ever wanted to grow a lucky plant? Aglaonema, also referred to as the Chinese Evergreen, is considered to be a luck-bringer in China. Native to China and the Philippines, these leafy tropicals are extremely popular, easy-care houseplants which are now grown worldwide.

NASA has placed aglaonema modestum on its top ten list of clean air plants because of the plant’s natural ability to cleanse the air around it. It has been shown to remove benzene and formaldehyde from air sources, making them safer to breathe.

Lush and colorful, this tropical not only cleanses the air, but it looks stunningly beautiful while it does it. It’s easy to see why these are such popular plants!

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Aglaonema Overview

Aglaonema Quick Care
Aglaonema quick care guide. Custom made for Epic Gardening by Seb Westcott.
Common Name Aglaonema, red aglaonema, Chinese evergreen, Philippine evergreen, and a number of cultivar names such as Silver Queen, Emerald Bay, Harlequin, and others
Scientific Name Aglaonema modestum, Aglaonema nitidum, Aglaonema widuri, Aglaonema commutatum, Aglaonema pictum, Aglaonema costatum, and more species (21-24 in total)
Family Araceae
Light Low to moderate light, can tolerate short periods of bright, indirect lighting
Water Water to moisten the soil, but do not overwater.
Temperature 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit optimal, do not allow temps to drop below 60 degrees
Humidity Moderate to high humidity, can absorb some moisture through its leaves
Soil Moist but well-draining with lots of perlite or sand
Fertilizer Half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer monthly in spring/summer, limit to bimonthly in fall, none in winter
Pests Mealybugs and scale insects most common. Spider mites and aphids less common but possible.
Diseases Fungal leaf spots such as anthracnose and myrothecium common, as are bacterial leaf spots. Also susceptible to fusarium root rot and other root rots.

Types of Aglaonema

There are between 21-24 species of aglaonema, although the exact number varies depending on which botanical registry you are looking at. However, there are hundreds of different cultivars in a diversity of leaf colorations.

It’s more common to find Chinese evergreen plants classified by their cultivar names than by true botanical name, which complicates identification. Here’s a mixture of aglaonema varieties which should provide an idea of the array of colors they can produce.

Aglaonema modestum

Aglaonema modestum
Aglaonema modestum. Source: marissa

Named one of NASA’s top ten air-cleaning plants, this particular Chinese evergreen has white-striated green leaves rising from pale green stems. While the one shown in this photo has signs of overwatering (some yellowing to the leaves), it still shows the leaf patterning quite well.

Aglaonema nitidum

Aglaonema nitidum
Aglaonema nitidum. Source: berniedup

A deep, dark green plant, nitidum is extremely low-light capable. This particular plant is quite popular in office environments for its ability to stay lushly green no matter how minimal the light access is.

Aglaonema widuri, ‘Red Peacock’

Aglaonema widuri
Aglaonema widuri. Source: GREGORIUZ

Green leaves with bright pink veins and dappling create a riotous amount of color indoors. This red aglaonema prefers a bit more sunlight than its darker relatives, but still should be kept in indirect lighting.

Aglaonema ‘Cutlass’

Aglaonema Cutlass
Aglaonema ‘Cutlass’. Source: douneika

Long, streaked leaves earned the ‘Cutlass’ variety its name, as they’re almost dagger-like. Creamy green-white surfaces with dark green center vein and edging produce a vibrant look indoors or out.

Aglaonema ‘Emerald Bay’

Aglaonema Emerald Bay
Aglaonema ‘Emerald Bay’. Source: mlcastle

Emerald Bay pairs dark green with a silvery grey-green to make a full and lush indoor plant. This variety is more tolerant of low-light conditions than many other variegated types.

Aglaonema ‘Harlequin’

Aglaonema Harlequin
Aglaonema ‘Harlequin’. Source: GREGORIUZ

In low-light conditions, Harlequin is a deeper green mottled with yellow and veined with pink. Brighter conditions flush the leaves to an almost uniform yellow tone and encourage the pink to go pastel. This variety is quite popular!

Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’

Aglaonema Silver Queen
Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’. Source: Starr Environmental

Known far and wide as the gold standard of Chinese evergreen plants, Silver Queen is probably the most widespread and commonly-grown variety. Its leaf patterning is cream on a dark green base, and it thrives in low to moderate lighting conditions.

Aglaonema ‘Silver King’

Aglaonema Silver King
Aglaonema ‘Silver King’. Source: dwittkower

Silver King is quite similar to Silver Queen except that it does not have quite as many chevron-like stripes running across its leaves.

In this photo, one of the inflorescences is shown. These flowers don’t provide much beauty, but they do shed pollen like crazy, so it’s recommended to snip them off before the bud opens.

Aglaonema ‘Suzy’

Aglaonema Suzy
Aglaonema ‘Suzy’. Source: douneika

A popular indoor variety, Suzy mixes the low-light tolerance of the darker cultivars with the pop of pink color which many of the more light-loving aglaonema varieties produce. It’s become extremely popular as a houseplant variety.

Caring For Aglaonema

These lush tropicals are extremely easy to care for, making them office favorites worldwide. Here’s a quick list of the best conditions for your aglaonema plant and how to keep it in tip-top shape!

Light and Temperature

Renowned as a low-light plant, the darker varieties of aglaonema are extremely popular as indoor plants in windowless offices. Lighter or variegated varieties prefer a bit more indirect bright sunlight, but can also survive in fluorescent-lit bright office spaces.

Needless to say, they’ll do just as well as a houseplant. In their natural environment, they’d be tucked beneath the shade of tropical trees, and would seldom get direct sun, so they thrive even indoors as long as there’s some light.

These plants are sensitive to cold conditions, however. They should never be placed in a location which drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, as the plant can begin to show signs of cold damage anywhere beneath that range. Optimally they should be maintained at 65-80 degrees.

Water and Humidity

Aglaonema commutatum leaf closeup
Closeup of an Aglaonema commutatum leaf. Source: Dingilingi

Your Chinese evergreen will be somewhat tolerant of low water conditions, but should never be left completely dry for long periods of time. Ideally, never allow the soil to dry more than 25-30% of the way down the pot before watering again.

In its natural environment, humidity is high enough that the plant will absorb some of its moisture from the air. You can mist your plant occasionally to bring up the humidity level, or place it on a pebble tray with water in it to offer extra moisture.

Avoid placing your plant under air conditioning vents or in drafty areas. It doesn’t tolerate dry conditions well, plus colder conditions can cause damage to the leathery leaves. Similarly, avoid placing it directly in the path of a heater vent, as it can dry out rapidly.

Soil

The soil for your aglaonema needs to be able to hold some water, enough to stay lightly moist. However, it should easily be able to drain off excess water quickly so that you don’t risk root rot damage.

A peat-based potting soil with extra perlite is recommended, but you can also consider blending in a bark-based orchid mix. The soil itself should be reasonably nitrogen-rich, but should be loose and not densely-packed.

Lightly-acidic soil in a range of 5.6-6.5 pH is recommended for aglaonema growers.

Fertilizer

Aglaonema Red Gold
Aglaonema ‘Red Gold’. Source: techieoldfox

It is surprisingly easy to over-fertilize your aglaonema. While it does in fact require some nitrogen for leaf development and plant growth, fertilizer tends to carry a lot of salt deposits in it which can build up in the soil.

I personally recommend using a half-strength balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer once a month in the spring and summer months. In the fall you can slow this down to once every couple months, but in the winter you should avoid fertilizing.

Propagation

While aglaonema can be propagated by seeds, tip cuttings, division, or by tissue culture in a lab, most people opt for division. It’s the simplest for home growers to do.

To divide your aglaonema, first look to be sure there are multiple points from which the plant is emerging from the soil. It naturally propagates itself via suckers beneath the soil’s surface, and a pot can rapidly fill up with young sucker plants. You want many healthy plants showing.

Then, gently remove your plant and its soil from the pot. If the soil is loose enough, lightly dust it off with your hands to expose the roots. Provided that the plants are not rootbound and tangled together, you should be able to gently pry them apart with your fingers for replanting.

If your plant is rootbound, you will need to use a sharp, sterile knife to cut the root mass into multiple sections for replanting, but be sure to leave an even number of leaves and stalks on each.

Repotting

Aglaonema pseudobracteatum
Aglaonema pseudobracteatum. Source: Nasser Halaweh

Aglaonema should be repotted into fresh soil every two years. This not only replenishes the soil, but it also allows you to divide your plant if you wish to or to increase the size of its pot.

Keep the pot size proportionate to the plant itself. Aglaonema likes to have secure, dense root structures, but does not need a lot of extra soil that can hold too much moisture.

Replant your Chinese evergreen plants at the same height as they were originally planted for best development.

Pruning

These low-maintenance plants make pruning not absolutely necessary. In fact, it’s mostly done for cosmetic adjustment.

You can remove dead leaves as they appear by following the leaf stem down to the plant’s base and using a pair of sterile pruners to snip it off there.

Avoid pruning off leggy live growth in the same fashion, however. You can remove some just above a leaf node to encourage bushing, but try to avoid taking the live growth off at the base of the plant, as you risk severe damage to the plant itself.

One thing which is always recommended is to prune off any inflorescences as they start to appear. Aglaonema flowers are not very pretty, and they use up the energy your plant should be devoting to leaf growth. Trim off flower stalks before the bud opens to prevent pollen going everywhere!

Aglaonema Problems

Aglaonema Cutlass
Another view of the ‘Cutlass’ Chinese evergreen plant. Source: douneika

A surprisingly easy plant to care for, the Chinese evergreen is popular for indoor growers. But what happens when problems arise? While few will materialize, here’s how to handle them when they occur.

Growing Problems

The most common issue for these plants is yellowing of the leaves. Chinese evergreen yellow leaves can be caused by under or over watering, usually the latter. Be sure you maintain a regularly-moist but not wet soil to prevent yellowed leaves.

If yellowing still occurs despite maintaining optimal watering conditions, your plant may be suffering from a copper deficiency. This is surprisingly common in this type of plant, as it’s a heavy feeder on copper in the soil. Your plant may be lacking micronutrients and should be fertilized appropriately.

Browning tips of leaves are usually caused by a buildup in the soil of salts, chlorine, minerals or fluoride from tap water. To remedy this, you can either leach the soil of its mineral deposits by thoroughly draining it using distilled water, or you can simply repot in fresh soil.

Pests

The most common pests for Chinese evergreen plants are mealybugs. Attaching themselves to the leathery leaves, they will suck the plant sap right out of them and cause damage. Other scale insects may also make an appearance.

Less common but still possible are spider mites and aphids. These too like to consume the plant’s sap, and will affix themselves to the undersides of leaves and stems.

All of the above can be handled with a light misting of Safer Soap on all plant surfaces. This organic insecticidal soap should be applied in the evening or when the plant is less likely to be exposed to light prior to the mist drying, so as to avoid leaf burning.

Diseases

Your aglaonema plant is mostly susceptible to root rots and leaf spots, so let’s go over the most common offenders.

Anthracnose and myrothecium leaf spots are both fungally caused. These can discolor your leaves and cause holes or patchy dry brown spots, and can slowly develop into more severe damage over time.

Treating the fungal-based leaf spots requires a light misting of a liquid copper fungicide such as Monterey Liqui-Cop. Again, apply this product at dusk so that it can dry on the leaf surfaces overnight. Your plant should appreciate the extra copper, as well!

Bacterial leaf spot may also appear on your Chinese evergreen plants. Typically transmitted via non-sterilized tools or by pests such as aphids, this will also respond well to Monterey Liqui-Cop treatment.

If your plant is frequently overwatered, it may develop fusarium root rot. This is generally fatal, so your best protection against this is prevention. Do not overwater your plant!

Frequently Asked Questions

Aglaonema pseudobracteatum
Aglaonema pseudobracteatum. Source: Dísznövény Webáruház Galéria

Q: Is aglaonema or red aglaonema poisonous to pets or people?

A: It certainly can be. The ASPCA states that it is a toxin to cats, dogs, and horses. Aglaonema and cats and dogs should not mix. Don’t let them eat it, and if they do, get them to the vet immediately!

Meanwhile, the University of Riverside, CA states that these have calcium oxalate crystals that can cause irritation to human skin, mouths, tongues, and throats. If ingested, it can cause stomach upset, swelling, and breathing difficulties.

In addition, the sap is dermititis-causing, and can create skin irritations and skin rashes. Keep this plant away from children.


Ready to grow your own lucky Chinese evergreens? These are super easy plants to grow and can liven up your office or living room! Do you have a favorite variety of aglaonema? Let me know down below!

Whether you call it Chinese Evergreen or aglaonema, this
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2 thoughts on “Aglaonema Plant: Chinese Evergreen Plants You Need To Grow

  1. Hi Lorin,

    I have a really healthy looking Aglaonema which is growing well, lots of new leaves. However, the flowers that grow come though lovely but the start to turn brown and die before they ever open. Also i have notices that they have sticky sugar like crystals o them (I’ve checked, there is no pests and i don’t over or under water). Rest of the plan seems happy but the flowers are so not. Any ideas??

    • In regards to the sticky crystals: this is a process called guttation. The plant is basically secreting moisture, which as it dries develops those sticky crystals. They’re nothing to be particularly concerned about, and you can wipe them off with a damp towel. In essence, they actually ARE sugar crystals, as the crystals which remain after the liquid dries is basically plant saps, mostly made up of natural sugars.

      Some people believe that guttation can be a sign of over-watering, but many tropical plants do it even if they’re watered on a perfect schedule. I wouldn’t be very worried about those were I you!

      As for the flowers, Aglaonema flowers are a type called a spadix. It’s basically a fleshy stem that sometimes looks fuzzy. That fuzz is actually many tiny little flowers. Often, there will be a spathe, which is essentially a curved leaf protecting the spadix. They don’t really “open” to become anything particularly pretty – that’s all there is, just that curved leaf behind a fuzzy-looking stem.

      If the spathe isn’t unfurling from around the spadix, that may actually be a blessing in disguise. The spadix has a LOT of pollen on it, and you may end up with pollen dust all over everything. Since the flowers themselves aren’t really pretty to look at, I usually prune them off before the spathe can open up and unleash a pollen storm into my house!

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