In need of a houseplant that has show-stopping foliage without the hassle of difficult care? Yep, they’re out there! The genus Aglaonema, better known as the Chinese evergreen, is a beginner-proof eyecatcher. Chinese evergreen care is a breeze and you’ll adore the many different colorful cultivars!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Chinese evergreen care and growing this houseplant in your own home.
|Name(s) (Common, scientific)
|Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema sp.
|Keep lightly moist
|Light & airy
Chinese evergreen natural habitat
Chinese evergreen plants are a genus in the family Aracae.
The genus consists of more than 22 different species. They’re native to Asia and New Guinea. Here, they can be found in shady, humid forests throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Did you know? If some Chinese evergreen cultivars look awful familiar to you, there’s an explanation for that. Some are so similar to Dieffenbachia that they can’t really be told apart until they bloom. The difference is that Dieffenbachia is naturally found in the Americas.
Chinese evergreen light, temperature & humidity
One of the reasons Chinese evergreens are so popular is because they’re known to be pretty tolerant when it comes to lighting. After all, in their natural, forested habitats, most light would naturally be shaded out by larger trees.
Chinese evergreens typically do well with bright, indirect light. The rule of thumb is that the lighter in color the leaves are, the more light the plant needs. With this in mind, if the leaves have a lot of variegation, you may want to keep the plant close to a window. Just make sure the light is filtered.
Noticing your evergreen’s leaves starting to lose their color? If light variegation is fading, it likely means the plant needs to be moved closer to a light source. If the leaves are turning very light, that’s a sign you’re overdoing it with the sun.
Chinese evergreens are notoriously intolerant to cold. Since this species is a tropical plant, it does best in temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 15 to 26 degrees Celsius).
Be sure to keep your plant away from anything that can quickly change the temperature, such as heaters or drafty windows. They like stability.
If you really want to provide the best possible Chinese evergreen care, try and keep the humidity high. After all, those tropical forests this plant naturally grows in offer pretty steep humidity levels!
This may be easier said than done in regions where the air is dry. Luckily, though, there are various things you can do to help with local humidity levels. For example, you can get a humidifier, group your plants together, or move your Aglaonema into a bathroom.
Did you know? Chinese evergreens got their name from the fact that they have historically been considered a token of good luck in China and other Asian countries. They started to be commercially produced in the US around the 1930s.“Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Aglaonema“
Chinese evergreen soil and planting
Chinese evergreens are members of the family Araceae, better known as aroids. Plant species in this family usually appreciate a light and airy soil mix, and it’s no different for Aglaonema. You can use an aroid mix for yours, but it’s not a must.
A general potting mix usually does well as a base for your soil. A relatively low pH is preferable, though, meaning you can add some peat if you’d like (though the sustainability of this resource is strongly debated).
To ensure proper drainage and allow oxygen to reach the roots, mix in at least 25% gritty material: perlite, orchid bark, pumice and charcoal all work well.
One thing that’s great about Chinese evergreen care is that they don’t need to be repotted too often. In fact, you may only need to do so every 2-3 years. They don’t mind being a bit root-bound.
Repot during the growing season (spring, summer and early fall) when your Chinese evergreen is actively putting out new leaves. Use a planter that’s an inch or two (about 5 cm) larger in diameter than the previous one.
Since you’ll likely be using fresh soil, you may find you won’t need to use as much fertilizer that season, as the new soil should have everything the repotted plant needs. However, you can still sprinkle some compost on the top soil for a boost.
Just don’t let the compost touch the stem of the plant: coming in direct contact can cause burns.
Tip: Repotting time is the perfect moment to propagate your Chinese evergreen. This especially applies if you want to keep the mother plant in the same container. Scroll down for more info on how to propagate Chinese evergreen.
Chinese evergreen watering
Like most tropical houseplants, Chinese evergreens like their soil to be moist but not soggy. How much watering you have to do will vary depending on a lot of different factors. The sweet spot can be difficult to find if you’re a beginner, but luckily the genus Aglaonema is pretty forgiving!
During the growing season, you may find you need to water every few days (if your Chinese evergreen is in a light location). If the plant is in a darker spot or it’s wintertime, more than a week might pass between watering sessions.
Chinese evergreens are sensitive to metals and minerals in tap water, so you may notice some health issues if that’s all you use. Make sure you have distilled water on hand: you can use this to regularly flush your Chinese evergreen’s and other houseplants’ soil to help keep them healthy.
Tip: Not sure if your plant needs a drink? Just poke your finger a couple of inches into the soil. If it feels dry, then it’ll appreciate a soak. Getting used to the weight of the planter when it’s freshly watered vs. dry will also help you determine when it’s time to hydrate your Chinese evergreen.
Chinese evergreen propagation
Wondering how to propagate Chinese evergreen to turn one plant into a bunch of plants? It’s pretty easy. Mature Aglaonema plants will grow in a cane-like fashion, making it a breeze to take stem cuttings. If you prefer the division method, that works absolutely fine as well.
A few options for Chinese evergreen propagation are:
- Stem cuttings in water. First, use a sterilized knife or scissors and cut a section of stem, making sure to have a few leaves included. Place the cuttings upright into containers of water and keep them in bright, indirect light. Once the roots have grown about two inches, you can take the cuttings and plant them directly into new soil.
- Stem cuttings in soil. Just like with the above method of propagating Chinese evergreen, you’ll first use a sterilized knife or scissors to cut sections of stems, making sure to include a few healthy leaves. Then lay the cuttings out for a day or two to let the fresh cuts heal.
When the ends have healed over, you can plant the cuttings directly into new soil. Once you see new leaves popping up, you’ll know your propagation attempt was successful.
- Dividing. First, remove the plant from its pot (repotting time is great for this). Then, carefully cut through the root ball using a sterilized knife or scissors, dividing the plant into however many new plants you want. Be sure to keep healthy stems and leaves on all the portions. You can then plant the new divisions directly into new soil.
Although your new Chinese evergreen plants might sulk for a few days, with good care they’ll continue growing like nothing ever happened!
Tip: You can grow Chinese evergreen in water pretty much indefinitely. Just refresh the water once a week and add a touch of fertilizer during the growing season.
Chinese evergreen fertilizer
Chinese evergreens don’t need a whole lot of fertilizer to thrive. You can usually get away with using a diluted general houseplant fertilizer sparingly during the growing season (spring to early fall).
In high light conditions with quick growth, you can apply fertilizer once every 2-3 weeks. If the plant is not getting much light and therefore not growing as abundantly, only once or twice the entire growing season can already be enough.
Problems with Chinese evergreen
Although Chinese evergreen care is a breeze, these plants can still fall victim to the usual problems that plague all houseplants. Luckily, as long as you keep a close eye on your plants, you should be able to spot most issues before they get out of control.
A few common ailments are:
- Chinese evergreen leaves turning yellow and possible blackening, mushy stems: you overwatered and your plant is rotting (either root rot or stem rot). All afflicted parts need to go, so you might have to use the techniques discussed in the propagation section.
- Chinese evergreen leaves turning yellow and crisping: you underwatered. Keep a closer eye on the plant!
- Dry tips on Chinese evergreen leaves: If you notice the tips of your plants turning brown and crispy, low humidity is usually to blame. You might also need to flush built up salts from the soil using distilled water.
- Chinese evergreen leaf patterns fading or even appearing grey: Is it winter, by any chance? Cold damage can really turn your Chinese evergreen from ‘fab’ to ‘drab’.
- The usual pests: Mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects, and aphids may try to take up residence in your Chinese evergreens. Regularly inspect your plant, especially the undersides of the leaves.
Buying Chinese evergreen
There are many varieties of Chinese evergreen available. Not only does the genus consist of various different species, there is also a very wide range of selectively cultivated Aglaonemas (‘cultivars’) out there.
- Love green? Go for the classic Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ or branch out to ‘Silver Bay’, ‘Stripes’ or ‘Maria’.
- Love white variegation? There’s Aglaonema ‘Snow White’, ‘Osaka’ or even ‘Super White’.
- More of a pink enthusiast? The most popular option is Aglaonema ‘Crete’, though there’s also ‘Pink Valentine’, ‘Pink Dalmatian’ and ‘Pink Butterfly’.
- For those who prefer a more muted but still eye-catching leaf, go for the elegant ‘Red Vein’, ‘Pink Moon’ or ‘Chocolate’.
Please note that this doesn’t even come close to covering all of the Chinese evergreen cultivars out there! There are dozens upon dozens. Some will take a toll on your wallet (like Aglaonema ‘Pictum Tricolor’, a sort of holy grail) while others are perfectly budget-proof.
Is Chinese evergreen toxic to cats and dogs?
Chinese evergreen plants are harmful to cats and dogs, although they’re not outright toxic.
They should always be kept out of reach, as due to many other popular houseplants, all of their parts contain calcium oxalate crystals. These cause a burning sensation in the mouth if the sap touches the mucus membranes and can also leave a nasty rash.