Whether you’re a beginner, an enthusiast, or a master gardener – an Aglaonema plant is a classic choice.
Also called the Chinese evergreen, this is a highly popular houseplant with stunning foliage that’s often variegated in pink, silver, or cream. It’s also very low-maintenance and easy to look after.
Some basics for Aglaonema care:
- Position in indirect light
- Keep in warm, humid environments
- Maintain slightly moist soil
- Feed in spring and summer
- No need to prune
- Repot every 2–3 years
Make your Chinese evergreen the statement piece of any room with proper care. Then your biggest problem will be restraining yourself from buying more and more!
About the Aglaonema Plant
Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen or Philippine evergreen) are tropical perennials native to Southeast Asia and New Guinea. Many cultures consider them as “good luck” plants, or ones good for feng shui.
The Aglaonema’s signature feature is its arrow-like leaves. These can be dark or light green, and often feature variegation in colours such as pink, red, silver, and cream.
These plants have an upright growth habit, although some can creep along the ground. The leaves clump together to create a bushy appearance.
How big do Aglaonema get? On average, the plants reach 0.3–0.9m in height.
Some popular Aglaonema varieties include the Silver Queen, Cutlass, Red Valentine, and the much-coveted pictum tricolor.
Please note that all Chinese evergreens are toxic to humans and animals. They contain calcium oxalate crystals, which are harmful when ingested. The sap can also cause skin irritation.
Aglaonema Care: The Basics
Aglaonema plants are low-maintenance and quite hardy, making them perfect for beginner plant parents and people with less-than-green thumbs.
In Australia, you can grow Aglaonema cultivars in Zones 1–5 with no issue, and in Zone 6 so long as you protect them from frost.
For those cultivating Aglaonemas outdoors, you can leave the plant care to a professional garden maintenance service!
Lighting and placement
Do Aglaonemas need a lot of sun? Not really. They thrive best in indirect sun.
Chinese evergreens with dark green foliage and limited variegation can grow even in low-light conditions. Some varieties, such as the Stardust, can tolerate even artificial lighting.
Aglaonemas with variegated leaves – especially those with light-coloured variegation – will need indirect sunlight. Take care not to expose any Chinese evergreen to direct sunlight.
Insufficient light will cause the variegations to disappear.
Aglaonemas are generally indoor plants, but if you’re growing one in a garden, position them in partial to full shade. Keep them away from full sun, especially in the afternoon.
Climate and temperature
Since Chinese evergreens are native to Southeast Asia and New Guinea, they prefer tropical and subtropical environments. Aglaonema plants grow best in a warm, frost-free climate.
These plants are sensitive to cold, so keep them in temperatures above 15ºC (59ºF). Below that threshold, chilling injury sets in and causes dark, greasy patches on the plant’s leaves.
There are some varieties that can tolerate cold down to 7ºC (44ºF) such as the Silver Bay.
Avoid placing your Chinese evergreen near air-conditioning vents, entrances, draughty areas, and heat sources (e.g. heater or radiator).
Aglaonemas have high humidity requirements, usually between 60–70% (although they’ll tolerate as low as 30%).
You can increase the humidity around your plant(s) by:
- Regularly misting the leaves
- Using a pebble tray
- Grouping plants together
- Placing a humidifier nearby
The Chinese evergreen likes slightly moist soil – just moist, not waterlogged!
How often to water aglaonema? On average, water every 1–2 weeks, but it will depend on the size of the pot.
Do a moisture check by pressing your finger into the top layer of potting mix. If the top 3.0–5.0cm of soil is dry, it’s time to water.
If your pot has a saucer, empty it after watering so your plant isn’t sitting in wetness.
Soil and potting mix for Aglaonema
Like many other plants, your Chinese evergreen prefers well-drained soil that’s slightly acidic (pH 5.6–6.5).
Use a good quality potting mix based on peat, with perlite or bark, and keep the soil loosely packed.
For outdoor plants, aim for rich, loamy soil that retains moisture but doesn’t become water-soaked. The ground should have a reasonable concentration of nitrogen.
Fertiliser for Aglaonema
A Chinese evergreen can survive just fine without fertiliser, but you can use liquid feed or slow-release pellets to encourage more lush foliage.
Apply the fertiliser twice a year, at the beginning and end of the growing season (spring and summer). No need to feed during the winter months.
It isn’t necessary to prune Aglaonemas besides cutting off any yellowed or dead leaves and stems. You can cut some stems to encourage a certain shape or appearance.
The Aglaonema foliage is its primary feature, so you can trim off any flowering stalks before the buds open.
A Chinese evergreen can tolerate being slightly root-bound before needing an upgrade. You can repot the plant every 2–3 years unless it has outgrown its pot more quickly.
Choose a pot made from ceramic or clay with at least one drainage hole. When repotting, the next container should be around 5.0–10.0cm larger in diameter.
Aglaonemas have shallow roots, so try to look for shallower plants so their root systems can reach all the way to the bottom.
Growing Chinese Evergreen
It’s difficult to grow a Chinese evergreen from seeds, so it’s more common to purchase established plants or seedlings.
Your Chinese evergreen will thrive both in a pot and in the garden.
How to grow Aglaonema in pots
Choose a pot that’s appropriately sized and a spot with indirect light. Fill it with your chosen potting mix.
Remove the plant from its bag or container, gently teasing the roots. Position it in its new pot and backfill.
Firm the soil carefully, then water well.
How to grow Aglaonema outdoors
Choose a spot in your garden that is sheltered from direct sunlight. If you have soil with high clay content, mix in sand or perlite to assist drainage.
Dig a hole in the ground that’s slightly larger than the root ball.
Remove the plant from its container, gently lifting it out of the soil. Tease the roots and cut away anything that’s tangled or damaged.
Position the plant in the hole and backfill it, carefully firming it down without compacting.
Water the soil well but keep the leaves dry.
How to grow Aglaonema from seed
It’s almost impossible to collect seeds from a Chinese evergreen houseplant since they flower so infrequently.
Your local nursery or plant centre may have some in stock, but this method requires plenty of patience.
Sprinkle the seeds onto a starter tray kept at approximately 21ºC (70ºF). Germination can take up to 60 days.
Transplant the seedlings only when they have produced true leaves.
Fill a 10.0cm container with well-draining potting soil and plant the seedling at the same depth as its seed tray. Maintain moist soil while the plant establishes itself.
How to Propagate Aglaonema
It’s much easier to propagate a Chinese evergreen from stem cuttings. You can get one from a friend, a local nursery, or a garden centre.
If you’re getting a cutting from a friend, make sure to use sanitised pruners.
Choose a young basal shoot on the mother plant that’s about 12.0–15.0cm long, with 2 or more leaves.
Cut the stem near its base, below the node (where the stem swells).
Propagating Aglaonema in water
The most recommended method of propagating an Aglaonema is in water.
Place the cutting in a clean, transparent container with fresh water. (Glass preferably, but plastic is fine.) If you live in a hard water area, try to use filtered or distilled water not from the tap.
Set the container in bright, indirect light. Change the water daily and watch for signs of rot.
Roots will sprout over the next few weeks. Once the roots are at least 7.0cm, you can transfer the cutting to a pot with a good quality potting mix.
Keep soil moist.
Propagating Aglaonema in potting mix
Once you have your stems, dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Let the cuttings sit for a short while.
Fill a 10.0cm pot with well-drained soil. Place the cut ends of the stems directly into the potting mix and water to settle them.
Leave the cuttings to develop roots.
Propagating Aglaonema by division
You can ask a friend or nursery for a “clump” or division from a mother plant – a section of Chinese evergreen that has leaves, stalks, and roots.
These are commonly taken from plants that are ready for repotting.
Transfer your division to a new pot that’s appropriately sized. Fill the container with a well-draining potting mix and firm it down gently.
Keep the soil moist while the plant settles.
Common Aglaonema Problems
Even those with green thumbs can make mistakes, or maybe external factors conspire against you and your dedication to your plant babies.
If you notice something wrong with your Aglaonemas, check here to see what’s up!
- Yellow leaves
- Holes or brown spots
- Leaf spots
- Brown leaf edges
- Brown leaf margins or shrivelled leaves
- Yellow or brown stalks
1. Aglaonema has yellow leaves
This is usually a sign of overwatering. Yellow Aglaonema leaves are a heads-up that the soil is too waterlogged, which could eventually lead to root rot.
If you’re underwatering your plant, it could still turn yellow. The difference is in the leaves – if they feel soft and mushy, that’s too much water, not too little.
Solve this by moving your plant to brighter light to help the water evaporate. You can shake up, loosen, or aerate the soil to introduce more air to the roots and let the soil dry.
If that doesn’t work, you may need to repot the plant and cut away damaged roots.
Yellowed leaves may also be a sign of a copper deficiency. If that’s the case, apply the appropriate fertiliser.
2. Aglaonema has pests
Common Aglaonema pests are mealybugs, which will suck plant sap from leaves. There could also be spider mites or aphids.
Get rid of the pests by misting the entire plant with organic insecticidal soap or neem oil.
You can also check your local plant centre to see if they have neem powder. Apply the solution in the evening to avoid burning the leaves.
3. Aglaonema has holes or brown spots
Chinese evergreens are susceptible to anthracnose and myrothecium leaf spots, which are both fungal problems. The fungi can cause holes or patchy, dry spots.
If you don’t treat the problem ASAP, the damage will become more severe over time.
Try using a copper fungicide or neem oil. Apply the substance in the evening and let it work overnight.
4. Aglaonema has leaf spots
This might be caused by bacteria! These often come from non-sterile tools or aphids.
Usually, there are also lesions on the leaves or small blisters.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for bacterial leaf spot. You’ll need to discard the affected Chinese evergreen and check any surrounding plants.
Cut off any leaves showing symptoms and monitor your collection for any further damage.
Prevent infection by maintaining good air circulation and wiping leaves.
5. Aglaonema has brown leaf edges
Of course, this only applies to brown edges – if your Aglaonema has brown leaves, that might just be because its leaves really are brown!
If your Chinese evergreen has brown tips or edges, there could be a build-up of:
- Other minerals
This usually comes from tap water, especially if you live in a hard water area. Leach the soil by flooding it with distilled or filtered water and letting it drain, or simply repot your plant.
It could also be a case of too much fertiliser. Again, leach the soil and make sure to water thoroughly whenever you feed your Aglaonemas.
6. Aglaonema is drooping
For droopy leaves, there are two common causes:
- Too-dry soil/too-little water
- Insufficient humidity
If the soil is too dry, you’re likely underwatering your Aglaonema. The plant will need a thorough watering through bottom-soaking so that you don’t shock it.
Fill a sink, tub, or bucket with 5.0–10.0cm of water based on the size of the pot and plant. Lower the base of the pot into the water so the potting mix absorbs moisture through the drainage holes. Let the plant sit for about 30 minutes.
Check the top of the soil when time’s up to see if it’s moist. Once the pot is thoroughly soaked, lift the plant out and allow excess water to drain out. Put the plant back.
Pay close attention to your Chinese evergreen for the next few days as going from dry to saturated soil can cause stress.
7. Aglaonema has brown leaf margins or shrivelled leaves
These are signs of leaf scorch, which occurs when your Aglaonema is under too much direct sun.
Move the plant to a brightly lit spot with bright, indirect light and remove burned leaves.
8. Aglaonema has yellow or brown stalks
It’s important to note that Aglaonema stalks retain water in order to sustain the plant through periods of dryness.
Improper watering or overwatering causes the soil and stems to retain too much moisture. This causes rotting stalks and eventually root rot.
Avoid watering the Aglaonema plant, and aerate (or in severe cases replace) the potting mix. Before replacing the plant, trim off any damaged roots or stalks.