Chinese evergreens

Aglaonemas (ag-lay-o-KNEE-mas), often called Chinese evergreens, are nearly
foolproof as houseplants. Because they have adapted to the dense shade on the
jungle floor, these Southeast Asian natives will survive even under minimal
artificial lighting conditions indoors and still remain attractive.

If given good care, the plants often flower. All aglaonemas have lustrous,
green leaves that may be streaked with silver, white or yellow. Mature plants
seldom exceed three feet in height. They can be used as low floor plants. Smaller
specimens are ideas for tables or planters. Aglaonemas may be propagated by
rooting cuttings in water, air layering, dividing, or from seeds.

These houseplants do best in a north window but will do fine in other locations
if kept out of direct sunlight. Bright light will cause aglaonemas to lift their
leaves straight upwards. Leaves will be more horizontal in lower light locations.

Keep the soil evenly moist if plants are grown in good light. If you place
the plants in extremely dim light, allow the soil to dry out slightly between
waterings. A temperature of 75 to 85 degrees F during the day with a 10-degree
drop at night is preferred. Cooler, drafty conditions retard growth. Temperatures
below 45 degrees F may kill plants.

Aglaonemas tolerate low humidity as well as low light. However, best growth
occurs when humidity is above 30 percent.

The soil should be rich in humus but well drained. If commercial potting mixes
are used, add one part perlite or coarse sand to three parts soil to increase
drainage. Apply a houseplant fertilizer every three to four months except during
the winter months when no fertilization is required.

Aglaonemas have shallow roots, so low wide pots are best. Under ideal conditions
new plants will develop from underground roots and soon fill the containers.
Insects rarely trouble these plants. If you spot any insect pests, give plants
a bath in soapy water. If this doesn’t work, you may need to apply an all-purpose
houseplant pesticide. Just be sure to choose the least toxic product available
to do the job.

Dr. Leonard Perry is Extension Professor, Department of Plant and
Soil Science at the University of Vermont. Visit his website at