Aglaonema commutatum 'Maria'. Photo by: dropStock / Shutterstock

For a pop of indoor color, try a Chinese evergreen plant to dress up your home or office. This popular houseplant is revered for its exotic-looking foliage that comes in an array of colors and variegated patterns. A favorite in China, this Asian native is traditionally considered good luck.

Chinese evergreen thrives in low light environments and is easy to grow, even for beginners. It’s considered one of the best foliage plants for cleansing room air of toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Aglaonemas are usually grown indoors, but can also be moved outdoors during summer to adorn containers, or grown outdoors in a shady spot year-round in warmer regions. Here’s how to grow and care for this beautiful plant.

On this page: Basics | Growing Tips | Care and Maintenance | Pictures | Troubleshooting & FAQ's | Display Ideas

On this page:

BASICS

Botanical name:

Aglaonema spp.

Common names:

Chinese evergreen, Philippine evergreen

Origin:

Native to tropical and subtropical forests of Asia and New Guinea

Zones:

Usually grown indoors as a houseplant, but can be grown outside in Zones 10-11

Plant care level:

Easy to moderate

Growth rate:

Slow growing

Foliage:

Large glossy leaves are long, oval or pointed, occurring on short stems. Colors include shades of green, silver, white, pink and red, with striped, splotched, or symmetrical variegation.

Flowers:

Small white blooms that resemble peace lilies produce a flower spike enclosed by an outer leaf bract. Plants bloom in spring and summer.

Habit and size:

Upright compact or clumping habit; 1 to 3 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide

Toxicity:

Chinese evergreen contains calcium oxalate crystals that are toxic to dogs and cats. Plant sap can cause skin irritation or rashes in adults and children. See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.

Chinese evergreen lookalikes:

Plants that look similar include croton, prayer plant, rubber plant, dumb cane, and calathea.

CHINESE EVERGREEN GROWING TIPS

Chinese evergreen varieties. Photo by: K Abejuela / Shutterstock

Where to grow:

Place in a draft-free area near a window that receives bright indirect light.

Temperature:

Ideal temperatures range between 65 to 80 degrees F. Temperatures below 60 degrees F can cause cold damage. Keep plants away from drafts and heater vents.

Humidity:

Chinese evergreen prefers moist air with a humidity level of 60 to 70%. Increase humidity by using a room humidifier, misting plants frequently or setting pots on a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water. Don’t allow pots to sit in standing water. Plants can also be kept in a more humid room such as a bathroom or kitchen.

Soil type:

Use a peat-based potting mix that is well-draining, with an acidic pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Add sand, perlite or bark to improve drainage.

Pot requirements:

Grow in a pot with adequate drainage holes that is no more than 1 to 2 inches wider than the root ball, which will help prevent root rot.

Propagation:

The easiest way to propagate Chinese evergreen is by root division. Divide in spring and make sure there are multiple young suckers or pieces to work with. Remove plant from pot and brush off the soil to expose the roots. Gently pry apart the suckers, or if potbound, use a sharp knife to cut the root ball into sections. Replant in separate pots using fresh soil.

CHINESE EVERGREEN CARE

How often do you water a Chinese evergreen?

Soil should be kept moist but not soggy. Allow to dry out in between waterings. If soil is dry 2 inches down, it’s time to water. Reduce frequency of watering during winter when plants are semi-dormant.

How much light does a Chinese evergreen need?

Provide low to bright indirect light. Varieties with darker green leaves can tolerate dimmer conditions, while those with light or colorful variegation require brighter light to retain their colors and patterns. Avoid placing plants in direct sunlight, which can cause leaf burn.

Fertilizing:

Apply a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer at half strength once a month in spring and summer. Avoid fertilizing in winter when plants are semi-dormant.

Pruning:

Trim off brown, yellow, or damaged leaves back to the plant base using a pair of sterile clippers or scissors. Don’t remove live growth, as this can cause damage. Flowers can be removed to direct energy into the foliage.

Cleaning:

Wipe leaves with a damp cloth every few weeks to keep foliage looking fresh.

Repotting:

Remove plants from their pots and replenish with fresh soil every 2 to 3 years, or whenever they appear overgrown or rootbound. Plants prefer to be slightly potbound.

CHINESE EVERGREEN VARIETIES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Shadow Inspiration / Shutterstock

'Silver Bay'
Aglaonema commutatum

Size: Upright habit, 30 to 36 inches tall and wide

One of the most common cultivars, the stunning variegated foliage is silver streaked with irregular dark and cream green margins. Narrow tapered leaves reach up to 9 to 12 inches long. This variety is faster growing than most others.

Photo by: dropStock / Shutterstock

'Maria'
Aglaonema commutatum

Size: Upright habit, 30 to 36 inches tall and wide

Glossy foliage is dark green streaked with silver splotches, with a narrower shape than other varieties. More tolerant of low light than other more brightly colored varieties. The neutral coloring goes with any room style or color scheme.

Photo by: noypb / Shutterstock

'Red Siam'
Aglaonema

Size: Upright habit, 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Dense clumping foliage grows on short pale pink stems. Long glossy leaves are distinctly marked with red margins and veining that accentuate the irregular dark green and cream marbled patterning. Add a pop of color to a room with a bold color scheme.

Photo by: sharohyip / Shutterstock

'Silver Queen'
Aglaonema

Size: Upright compact habit, 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Silvery-white lance-shaped leaves 4 to 6 inches long are streaked with dark green veining and brushstroke patterns. As the plant matures, it drops its bottom leaves to reveal a trunk-like stem. Place in bright indirect light for best coloring. Display this elegant variety in a modern or casual-style room, as a tabletop or floor specimen.

Photo by: Hendro Prayogo / Shutterstock

'Tricolor'
Aglaonema pictum

Size: Upright compact habit, 2 feet tall and wide

This eye-catching variety is named for its unique leaf pattern with three shades of light, medium and dark green. Elliptical glossy leaves can reach 4 to 8 inches long. The unique camouflage-like foliage is a conversation starter that will go with any room decor. Place this slow growing plant in a spot that gets bright indirect light to maintain its striking coloration.

Photo by: haya_pictura / Shutterstock

'Sparkling Sarah'
Aglaonema

Size: Upright compact habit, 18 to 24 inches tall, 24 to 36 inches wide

Thick, glossy, dark green foliage is heavily splashed with sparkling pink and cream variegation. Plants are accentuated by pale pink stems and pink veining down the center of the leaves. Glossy pointed leaves can reach 6 to 8 inches long. The vibrant color and pattern will liven up any living or work space.

Photo by: untungsubagyo / Shutterstock

'Lady Valentine'
Aglaonema

Size: Upright compact habit, 16 to 20 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide

Variable pink splashed leaves are accentuated by green margins and veining. Mature leaves acquire more pink tones. Place in bright indirect sunlight for best coloring. Add a splash of bright color to bookshelves and coffee tables.

TROUBLESHOOTING

  • Yellow leaves can indicate overwatering or underwatering. Keep plants evenly moist and allow to dry out in between waterings. Yellow leaves can also be a sign of copper deficiency. Make sure to properly fertilize plants.
  • Brown leaf tips may be caused by a buildup of salt, chorine, or fluoride in the soil. Repot plants in fresh soil and use distilled water to irrigate plants. Make sure plants are well watered before fertilizing.
  • Brown leaves can result from low air humidity, cold drafts or underwatering. Raise room humidity, move plants away from drafty areas, and make sure plants get enough water.
  • Scorched leaves are caused by direct sunlight. Move plants to a spot with better lighting conditions, such as bright indirect light.
  • Wilted or dropped leaves or a rancid odor can be a sign of root rot. Remove the plant from the pot and examine for dark roots or a mushy root ball. Rinse roots thoroughly to remove contaminated soil. Cut out dead or damaged roots and stems. Treat with hydrogen peroxide solution (1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide, 2 parts water) or a fungicide if needed. Repot in fresh soil and reduce watering. Make sure pots have adequate drainage holes and don’t allow pots to sit in standing water.
  • Damaged leaves with curling, yellowing, browning, or small holes may indicate the presence of insects such as mealybugs, scale, spider mites, or aphids. Inspect affected leaves with a magnifier to identify the pest. Rinse off leaves with water or use a cotton swab dipped in 70% rubbing alcohol to remove and kill eggs and insects. If insects persist, apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil according to instructions. Test a small area of the plant first to make sure it’s not sensitive to soap or oil. Reapply as needed.
  • Leaf damage including discoloration, holes or patchy brown spots can indicate fungal disease such as anthracnose or leaf spot. Use a copper fungicide according to instructions. Make sure it specifies safe for Chinese evergreen, as their leaves are quite tender.
  • Curled leaves can be due to a number of factors, including underwatering, overwatering, low humidity, cold stress, insect predators, or over-fertilization. Diagnose and treat as necessary.
  • Small flying insects during warmer summer months may indicate the presence of fungus gnats. These bugs are harmless, though they can be annoying. Reduce watering, mix diatomaceous earth into the top inch of soil (wear a mask to prevent inhalation), or try decorative pebbles as a barrier.

DISPLAY IDEAS

  • Plant in a colorful ceramic pot and display on a shady patio or deck during summer.
  • Place a smaller specimen in a bathroom on a shelf or in a macrame hanger where it will benefit from the added room humidity.
  • Dress up a dark hallway or corner of a room with a darker colored aglaonema that can tolerate lower light levels.
  • Create a centerpiece on a dining room table with Chinese evergreen, poinsettias, and colorful garlands for a festive holiday display.
  • Place on a plant stand next to your bed for air cleansing benefits while you sleep.
  • Spruce up an office desk, boardroom table, or lobby counter with one or more Chinese evergreen specimens.
  • Display a larger specimen on the floor of a home entryway or office lobby.

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