Chinese evergreen is not a needled conifer, but rather a tropical perennial available in several cultivars that make excellent houseplants. They all have large, narrow, and glossy oval leaves on short stems, and flowers (on older plants) that bloom in spring or summer. The Chinese evergreen is one of the most popular houseplants and its color variations—from dark green and silver to red—add personality to your home's decor.
Chinese evergreens are slow-growing and make excellent indoor foliage plants that can be potted and cared for year-round. Take care if you have pets because the plant is toxic to dogs and cats.
|Common Name||Chinese evergreen, Philippine evergreen, Poison Dart Plant|
|Botanical Name||Aglaonema commutatum|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 1–3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial, full|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Watch Now: How to Grow an Aglaonema Plant (Chinese Evergreen)
Chinese Evergreen Care
If you're looking for a beautiful, easy-to-care-for houseplant, a Chinese evergreen may be the way to go. Beloved for its (nearly) hands-free care, the plant is simple to nurture, provided you follow one simple rule: The lighter the variegation on the plant's leaves, the more sunlight it will need. Once you understand how that applies to your specific Chinese evergreen, you should have no problem helping it thrive. Beyond that, keep your plant warm and moist, and you'll be rewarded with a long-lasting, stable houseplant that will not outgrow its pot anytime soon.
Darker green varieties of Chinese evergreens can grow in near-shade, while the variegated varieties require a bit more bright light. Take care not to expose any of the plants (no matter the variety) to direct sunlight, as the harsh rays can easily burn the delicate leaves.
Ultimately, the Chinese evergreen isn't particularly picky when it comes to the soil it's planted in. Typically, a well-drained, slightly acidic potting soil is perfect for the plant. If you find that your chosen soil is retaining too much water, try mixing in sand or perlite to aid in drainage. You should also make sure to plant your Chinese evergreen in a pot with ample drainage holes at its base.
The Chinese evergreen plant thrives in moist but not water-logged soil. To achieve this balance, water your plant thoroughly, then allow it to dry out before watering again. You can maintain this cadence through the spring, summer, and fall, tapering off in the winter (but never letting the plant dry out completely).
Temperature and Humidity
These plants do not like cold drafts or temperatures below about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to keep your Chinese evergreen away from windows or vents that blast in cool temperatures—the warmer the spot you can find, the better.
Due to its high humidity requirements, some growers consider Chinese evergreen to be a greenhouse plant. It will do best in the warm, humid, and bright environment of a greenhouse, but it can be successfully grown indoors by coming as close as possible to these conditions. To increase the humidity levels around your plant, mist it frequently, and consider placing it in a humidity-prone area of your home, like your kitchen or bathroom. If your home is particularly dry, you can invest in a small space humidifier to put near your plant.
For best results, feed your Chinese evergreen with slow-release pellets or liquid fertilizer twice a year, at the beginning and end of its growing season. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions.
Types of Chinese Evergreen
There are several popular cultivars of Aglaonema commutatum, including:
- 'Frasher': This variety has milky green leaves, with cream variegation and white petioles.
- 'Pseudobracteatum': This type has leaves spattered with green-gray splotches, with white highlighting on the veins.
- 'White Rajah': This cultivar has leaves with broad amounts of white coloration.
- 'Red Zircon': This variety has green leaves with pink blotchy sections in the center.
- 'Silver Bay': This cultivar has silver tinges in the center of predominantly green leaves.
- 'Maria': This is a shade-tolerant variety with dark green leaves interrupted with silvery stripes.
Propagating Chinese Evergreen
Chinese evergreens can be propagated using stem cuttings or by dividing the plants during repotting. Wait until the middle of the summer when the weather is warmest to propagate Chinese evergreen.
To propagate with stem cuttings:
- Use a disinfected, sharp cutting tool to take a stem from the mother plant that's several inches long.
- Dip the bottom end in root hormone and put the cutting in a glass of water placed in indirect sunlight. Roots should form in three to four weeks.
- Carefully and gently transfer your cutting to a pot filled with well-draining potting soil and keep moist.
To propagate by division:
- Lay the pot carefully on its side. Use a trowel to loosen the soil on the sides of the container. Gently take the plant and soil out of the pot.
- Lightly shake the dirt from the roots. Carefully tease apart the roots (this plant likes to be a bit root bound so move slowly) to separate a clump for repotting.
- Repot the clump in a pot filled with well-draining potting soil.
- Keep both the original plant and the divided plant a bit extra moist for a few weeks until they are both established and less stressed.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
While not terribly susceptible to pests or diseases, the Chinese evergreen can occasionally pick up a common houseplant issue like scale, mealybugs, or spider mites. These can be treated with an insecticide or neem oil.
Most other issues arise because the plant is kept too moist, and fungal problems (and root rot) are typical of an over-watered Chinese evergreen.
Potting and Repotting Chinese Evergreen
This plant grows well in a standard peat-based potting mix. It can be a good idea to blend in some sand or perlite to improve drainage. Any material will do for a pot, though it's common to use a decorative ceramic or clay pot with good drainage. Repot them every two or three years during spring. Chinese evergreen can be allowed to become slightly root-bound before repotting. The potting mix should be kept moist at all times, but watering can be slightly reduced for the winter months.
Common Problems With Chinese Evergreen
There's really one problem that you may find with the otherwise hardy and easy-going Chinese evergreen houseplant: curling or wavy leaves. Once the problem is solved, the plant should recover. Besides the common pests already mentioned, here are a few reasons why your plant's leaves may do this:
- Age: This is a normal occurrence in an older plant. Just remove the affected leaf.
- Too much light: Direct sunlight can cause leaf scorch. Remove burned leaves and move the plant to a bright area that is not in direct sunlight.
- Temperature changes: The plant prefers warm, draft-free spots.
- Low humidity: You may need to increase the humidity in the air around your plant with misting.
- Underwatering: Overly dry soil will affect the leaves. Slowly water the plant so the leaves can recover. Remove dry, crisp leaves.
- Overwatering: These plants prefer drier to overly moist soil. Let the top inch of soil dry out before watering to prevent root rot. If the pot is larger (around 10 to 12 inches in diameter), let more of the soil dry out—about halfway down.
Is Chinese evergreen easy to care for?
They are very easy houseplants to grow. Best of all, they don't like full sun, so they're perfect for almost any room in your home, especially if window light is a commodity.
How fast does Chinese evergreen grow?
Chinese evergreen is a slow-growing plant, which means repotting is necessary only every two to three years.
What is the difference between Chinese evergreen and dieffenbachia?
Chinese evergreen and dieffenbachia are often confused because their leaves look alike though there are subtle differences. Chinese evergreens will have more of a silvery look to their variegated leaves. But the dieffenbachia's leaves may be much larger and wider than a Chinese evergreen's smaller and more oval leaves.
Aglaonema commutatum. North Carolina State University Extension.
Aglaonema commutatum. Missouri Botanical Garden.
Chinese Evergreen Plant. Houseplant Expert.