Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) Care and Growing Tips: The Houseplants With The Fabulous Foliage

Are you a fan of houseplants with patterned leaves? Let me please introduce you to Aglaonemas which are the epitome of fabulous foliage. Not only are they easy on the eyes but if you’re a beginning gardener, they’re 1 of the easiest maintenance houseplants out there. These Agalonema aka Chinese Evergreen care and growing tips will get you well on your way.

When I worked in the interior landscaping biz Aglaonemas were the quintessential file cabinet and credenza plants that we used in offices. Not easy environments for these sub-tropical and tropical plants but they handled it all like troopers. I’ve always had a fondness for these patterned beauties and decided it was about time to do a post on them. They’re so easy to care for and easy to find – what was I waiting for?!

a large aglaonema silver bay sits on a table in between a wicker patio chairs

This is my Aglaonema Silver Bay. It’s in our living room & I love looking down on this gorgeous foliage.

How Are Chinese Evergreens Are Used?

Their most common use is as a tabletop plant. The larger varieties are low, wide floor plants with a rounded form. Besides offices, we used them in lobbies, malls, and even airports too. They make fine underplantings for tall floor plants and are also seen in dish gardens and living walls.

Size

They’re sold in 4, 6, 8, 10 & 14″ grow pot sizes. They range in height from 10″ tall to 3-4′ tall.  My Aglaonema Silver Bay in a 10″ grow pot is 3′ x 3′.

Varieties

Many years ago when I worked in the trade the Silver Queen, Chinese Evergreen (A. commutatum) & the Roebellini were the 3 Ags to buy. Now there are so many varieties, leaf sizes and shapes, and patterns of Aglaonemas on the market. A sampling: Maria, Silver Bay, Siam Red, Emerald Beauty, Golden Bay, Romeo, & First Diamond to name a few.

Two of the colorful varieties that currently have are Aglaonema Siam Aurora & Aglaonema Lady Valentine.

Growth Rate

Aglaonemas have a slow to moderate growth rate. My Silver Bay (which puts out new growth like crazy in the warmer months) & Red Agalonemas grower faster than my Maria (which is sometimes called Emerald Beauty). Agalonemas in low light will grow slower.

Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference:

Chinese Evergreen Care and Growing Tips

Exposure

2 green thumbs up – many of the Ags are known for their tolerance of lower light conditions. I’ve found that the dark leaf varieties, like my Ag. Maria, handle low light (which isn’t any light by the way) the best.

My Aglaonema Red & others that have more color & brightness in their foliage need medium-light to do their best. These can tolerate high light but keep them away from windows with the strong sun coming in or they’ll burn in no time flat.

Watering

I water mine when dry. That tends to be every 7-9 days in the warmer months & every 2-3 weeks when winter comes around. The watering schedule will vary for you depending on your home environment, type of soil mix, and pot size.

You can read my Guide to Watering Indoor Plants to get a better idea when determining a watering schedule.

2 things: don’t water yours too often & back off on the frequency in the winter. This is the time of year when your houseplants like to rest.

More on this subject: Winter Houseplant Care

agalonema chinese evergreen marias sit on a table next to snake plants

Darker leaved varieties like this Ag. Maria can tolerate lower light conditions.

Temperature

If your home is comfortable for you, it’ll be so for your houseplants too. Just be sure to keep your Aglaonemas away from any cold drafts as well as air conditioning or heating vents.

Humidity

Chinese Evergreens are native to the subtropical & tropical regions. Despite this, they seem fairly adaptable & do just fine in our homes which tend to have dry air. Here in hot dry Tucson, mine only have a few teeny, tiny brown tips.

If you think yours look stressed due to lack of humidity, fill the saucer with pebbles & water. Put the plant on the pebbles but make sure the drain holes &/or the bottom of the pot aren’t submerged in water. Misting a few times a week should help out too.

Fertilizing

Ags aren’t needy when it comes to fertilizing. I don’t fertilize mine but that might change soon because I’m experimenting with a concoction. I’ll let you know. Right now I give my houseplants a light application of worm compost with a light layer of compost over that every spring.

Easy does it – 1/4 to 1/2″ layer of each for a larger sized houseplant. Read about my Worm Compost/Compost Feeding right here.

Liquid kelp or fish emulsion would work fine as well as a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer (5-5-5 or lower) if you have that. Dilute any of these to half strength & apply in spring. If for some reason you think your Chinese Evergreen needs another application, do it again in summer.

You don’t want to fertilize houseplants in late fall or winter because that’s their time for rest. Don’t over fertilize your Ags because salts build up & can burn the roots of the plant. Avoid fertilizing a houseplant which is stressed, ie. bone dry or soaking wet.

aglaonema chinese evergreens with different patterning on the page of the book keep your houseplants alive the header says aglaonema

You’ll find Aglaonemas in our houseplant care book “Keep Your Houseplants Alive“.

Soil

I plan on repotting my Red Aglaonema & Emerald Beauty next spring so stay tuned for a post and video.

You want to use a potting soil that is peat-based and formulated for indoor plants. I alternate between Happy Frog and Ocean Forest. They’re high quality & have lots of good stuff in them.

Aglaonemas, like other houseplants, don’t like a heavy mix.  You can up the ante on the aeration and drainage factors, which lessens the chance of rot, by adding some pumice or perlite.

3 parts potting soil to 1 part pumice or perlite should be fine. Add a bit more to the mix if it still needs lightening up.

Repotting / Transplanting

This is best done in spring or summer – early fall is fine if you’re in a warm climate. The faster your plant is growing, the sooner it’ll need repotting.

My Silver Bay is growing like crazy & is currently in a 10″ pot. Early next spring I’ll divide it into 2 plants & put them in 10″ pots. Stay tuned for that.

I’ve done a Guide to Repotting Plants which I think you’ll find helpful, especially if you’re a beginning gardener.

Pruning

Not much is needed. The main reasons to prune this plant are for propagation or to prune off the occasional lower yellow leaf or spent flower.

Just make sure your Pruners Are Clean & Sharp before you do any pruning.

4 aglaonema first diamonds in white grow pots sit on the floor in a row

Oh my goodness, Aglaonema First Diamond is quite the looker for you fans of green & white!

Propagation

I’ve always propagated Chinese Evergreens by division & this has worked very well. I’ll be dividing my Silver Bay next spring & you’ll see how I do it.

If yours gets leggy over time then simply cut the stems down to a couple of inches above the soil line to rejuvenate & stimulate new growth.  Cut the stems with the foliage back to 4-8″ & propagate them in a light mix.

I’ve rooted Aglaonema stems in water but never got around to planting them in the soil. I’m not sure how they transfer over from water into soil for the long haul.

Pests

Mine have never gotten any. On commercial accounts I saw Aglaonemas with mealybugs & spider mites.  Keep an eye out for aphids & scale too. I’ve done posts on mealybugs & aphids, spider mites & scale so you can identify & treat early on.

Pests can travel from houseplant to houseplant fast so make you get them under control as soon as you see them.

Pet Safety

Chinese Evergreens are considered to be toxic to pets. I consult the ASPCA website for my info on this subject & see in what way the plant is toxic. Here’s more info on this for you. Most houseplants are toxic to pets in some way & I want to share my thoughts with you regarding this topic.

close up of the spathe flower & foliage of an aglaonema red

The spathe flower of my Aglaonema Siam Red. The stems are a beautiful pink color. 

Flowers

Oh yes! They are a spathe type flower which you see above. My Aglaonema Red has been in flower for 5 months now & still has some blooms on it. The spathe is light green & the spadix (the center part) is white. My Ag. Maria bloomed also but the flowers were much smaller & shorter lived & more of an ivory color.

I’ve heard that it’s good to remove the flowers because they zap energy from the plant. I leave them on & haven’t found that to be true. I cut them off (down to the base) when the spathe & spadix are both dead. Maybe I’m missing something but I like to look at them!

Chinese Evergreen Care Tips

Yellow leaves can be due to quite a few causes. The most common are: too dry, too wet or a pest infestation. If the lowest leaves are occasionally turning yellow, no worries as this are the normal growth habit of this plant.

Small brown tips are just a reaction to the dry air in our homes.

Be sure to rotate your Aglaonemas every few months so they get sunlight from all sides.

More easy office/desk plants: 15 Easy Care Office Plants for Your Desk

close up of the spathe flower of a spathiphyllum peace lily

Here’s another spathe flower – this is the very popular Spathiphyllum or Peace Lily. I think this is harder to maintain than an Aglaonema. Plus, where’s the jazzy foliage?

These plants are all called Chinese Evergreens as a group. This is actually the common name for the Agalonema commutatum but I think it evolved for all Aglaonemas because they were so few varieties back in the day.

More great plants for beginning houseplant gardeners:

Aglaonemas, Ags, Chinese Evergreens. Whatever you call them they’re awesome houseplants well worth having and you’ll love the easy care. Their fabulous foliage will win you over! I hope you found my Chinese Evergreen care roundup to be useful.

Do you want to try an Aglaonema or 2?  Here are Silver Bay, Siam Red & White Calcite (similar to First Diamond) available online from Costa Farms.

Happy gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

OTHER HELPFUL GUIDES:

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24 Comments

  1. Hello!

    Thanks for your article this is extremely helpful. I’m experiencing some issues with my Chinese evergreen “silver bay” and came here for help. The leaves are losing their color and some are turning brown. I’ve eliminated any bugs since there’s so sign of that. And I don’t think it’s water or sunlight related since I’ve tried a few different methods over the last month. I’ve resorted today to repotting with fresh soil. But, I am still unsure why this happened if I should prune the plant at all? Or, wondering if I should use fertilizer or any sprays? I’d love for your advice!

    Thanks,
    Keri

  2. Keri – Sounds like a watering issue. I don’t fertilize my houseplants but I do feed them with worm compost & Eleanor’s. Nell

  3. I just received one as a gift; thank you for all the useful information! I had no idea how to care for it, as there was no little card in the pot.

  4. You’re welcome Joyce! Just know that if you have 1 with a lot of variegation in the leaves (white, pink or red) it’ll need a bit more light. Nell

  5. Thank you for the great information. I have a Siam Red Ag which I’ve had for several years. When it gets any height to it, it leans over. Are they supposed to grow straight up, or is being ‘top heavy’ normal? It’s not really losing its lower leaves except occasionally.

  6. Hi Cathy – This variety doesn’t have really strong stems. I know, I have one! They tend to get top-heavy & lean as they age. Nell

  7. Thank you for this very informative page…….I do have a question: I am a novice gardener and have a Siam with pink/green leaves and bunches of the white flower stems, but just before the white flower is about to open up, it turns a dark brown and dies. The plant is healthy and produces new leaves regularly, but why are the curved flowers dying off just before they open? Thank you! Marilyn in central Florida.

  8. The last few years my Chinese evergreen flowers turn brown before they ever bloom…the leaves are great, but I miss the flowers!

  9. Hi Marilyn – A few common reasons why: It could be too much water, too much fertilizer or water with too high a mineral content. Nell

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