Aglaonema – Chinese Evergreen (A. commutatum)

Native to the tropical rainforests of South-east Asia, Aglaonema (A. commutatum) sometimes called Chinese evergreen, is one of the most favourite plants to grow indoors.  It is very resistant to disease, adapts easily to different situations, and can be grown in conditions many other indoor plants would struggle with.  The plant has glossy, lance-shaped leaves, each about 8 inches (20 cm) long, 3 – 4 inches (7 – 10 cm) wide, and coloured dark green with silvery markings.  In older plants, there is often a scarred, trunk like stem with circular markings where leaves were once attached.  Young specimens are virtually stemless.

The genus Aglaonema includes many decorative varieties notable for their subtly patterned cream, grey, and green leaves.   Two varieties, with widely differing features include A.c. ‘Treubii,’ a compact plant that has 8 inch (20 cm) long and 2 inch (5 cm) wide, grey-green leaves blotched with yellowish green and A.c. ‘Pseudobracteatum,’ with foot-long (30 cm) leaves that are green with large patches of grey-green and creamy-white, and its scarred stem is marked with white.

   Aglaonema produce a white or yellow arum-shaped flower head comprising a 2 inch (5 cm) long spathe with a central stalked spadix in summer or early autumn followed by red or orange berries.  The flowers are not particularly showy, so that Aglaonema are grown primarily for their large and colourful foliage.

Proper Care

Light  Semi-shade or bright light depending on the species.  The near-white or yellow varieties need a well-lit situation to retain their colouring.  Keep well away from direct sunlight, as the leaves can scorch. 

Temperature  Aglaonema do well in normally warm temperatures.  Watering  Water plants moderately during periods of active growth – enough to make the entire soil mixture moist.  Allow the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) to dry out between waterings.  Water sparingly during winter.

Propagation  In spring or summer, plant a basal shoot with three or four leaves and roots attached, in a pot containing a moistened mixture of equal parts peat moss and perlite or coarse sand.  Enclose the potted shoot in a plastic bag, and keep in medium light.  Rooting should occur in six to eight weeks, after which the new plant can be treated as mature.

Potting/re-potting  Move young plants into pots one size larger in the spring.  Repot older plants only once every two to three years.  These plants do not need large containers and will thrive in 5 – 6 inch (12 – 15 cm) pots.  Feeding  Feed both plants monthly except during the rest period (winter). If leaves get dusting, spray gently with warm water.

Special Problems

Leaves shrivelled with brown tips.  These plants like moist air.  Mist leaves regularly and for extra humidity, stand plant on trays of damp pebbles.

Leaves curled with brown edges.  Plant may be subjected to cold draughts or air that is too cool.

Insects.  Mealy bugs at the base of the leaf stalks can be a problem.  If you discover them, take a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol; clean off the mealy bugs with the swab.  Repeat as necessary.