University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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EASY HOUSEPLANTS-- CHINESE EVERGREENS

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
 
Aglaonemas (said as ag-lay-o-KNEE-ma), often called Chinese evergreens, are nearly foolproof as houseplants.  They’re great for beginners, or those with little time to fuss with plants, with easy care and almost no problems. 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 may even flower. 
          
All aglaonemas have lustrous, green leaves that may be streaked with silver, white or yellow.  You may just find one of the three main species in stores, or one of several popular cultivars (cultivated varieties).  ‘Emerald Beauty’ and ‘Maria’ are a rich green, with paler green markings.  ‘Silver Queen’ is perhaps the most commonly seen, having lots of silver in the leaves.  One of the newer selections, ‘Siam Red’ has dark green leaves flushed with bright red. While many of the couple dozen or more cultivars you may find originated in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, the Stars of India series came from the southern part of that country.
           
Mature plants seldom exceed three feet in height, and are generally one to two feet.  They can be used as low floor plants or in planters, with smaller specimens on tables.  If you have pets or children that chew on plants, you should keep these plants away from them.  Aglaonema contains calcium oxalate crystals which causes severe irritation and burning when ingested.
           
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.  Aglaonemas tolerate low humidity as well as low light.  However, best growth occurs when humidity is above 30 percent.
           
A temperature of 68 to 78 degrees (F) during the day, with a 10-degree drop at night, is best for the most growth.  Cooler or drafty conditions retard growth, but this can be good if you want to keep them from growing too quickly.  Just keep above 55 degrees.  Temperatures below 45 degrees may kill plants.
           
If plants do grow quickly, or over time get too tall with no lower leaves, you may want to give them away or tuck in behind other plants.  If you want to try your hand at propagation, stems can be cut into sections and rooted (about 6 inches of stem with some leaves on the top, placed in a jar of water, may root in a few weeks), or air-layered. Aglaonemas also may be propagated by dividing, or from seeds.
           
The soil should be rich in humus (such as peat moss), but well drained.   Apply a houseplant fertilizer according to label directions while plants are growing, less or none if plants are not making new leaves or longer stems. 
           
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 such as the white cottony mealybugs, or brown scales, give plants a bath in soapy water.  You can rub scales off, or use daps of rubbing alcohol on the scales. 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 and follow label directions.

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