Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)

Chinese Evergreen, Golden Evergreen, Philippine Evergreen, Poison Dart Plant

Green plants are gorgeous, but sometimes, we crave brighter colors and bold patterns. The aglaonema plant, also known as Chinese evergreen, offers both. This compact, easy-to-grow houseplant is loved for its vibrant coloring and patterns, ranging from jungle green, pink, red, silver, and yellow to stripes, speckles, and gradients. So if your space is in need of a little splash of color, aglaonema is the plant for you.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Aglaonema commutatum, the poison dart plant, is a species of flowering plant in the Chinese evergreen genus Aglaonema, family Araceae. It is native to the Philippines and northeastern Sulawesi, and has been introduced to other tropical locales, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Comoros, the Chagos Archipelago, India, Bangladesh, and the Cook Islands. Its hybrid cultivar ‘Silver Queen’ (with A. nitidum) has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit as a houseplant.

Chinese evergreens are slow-growing and make popular, indoor foliage plants that can be potted and cared for year-round. The plant is toxic to dogs and cats.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

When it comes to lighting, it all depends on the Aglaonema commutatum variety you have. The lighter color variations prefer indirect sunlight, while the dark green varieties can tolerate low-light conditions.

Your colorful Chinese evergreen needs bright light to hold that gorgeous color. But avoid direct sunlight if you have a variety with many creams or pink coloring. Too much light will scorch the leaves.

Your dark green varieties also adapt to fluorescent lighting, making them classic for malls or offices. Whether in indirect light or a bit more light, it helps to give your indoor plants a quarter turn every week.

Doing this allows all sides of the plant to become exposed to light.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants do not like cold drafts and don’t tolerate temperatures below 55°F. Ideal temperature range falls between 65°F and 80°F. Avoid areas close to vents, windows and doors where temperature may fluctuate.

Chinese evergreen requires a consistently high humidity level. To increase humidity around your plant, consider placing it in a kitchen or bathroom or on a pebble tray. If your home is particularly dry, invest in a small space humidifier.

Watering

These house plants are slow-growing plants loving moist soil and loathe wet feet. So, you can water well and leave the soil dry between watering.

If you have standing water, it can lead to root ball rot and the death of your plant. Thus water it well and let the excess water drain from the pot and remove it from the bottom basin.

If you feel there is insufficient drainage, you can add some bark to the mix to improve drainage.

Soil

Chinese evergreen plants are not fussy when it comes to the soil as long as it is moist and well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. If your chosen potting mix is retaining too much moisture, you can mix in some perlite or sand for drainage.

Also, ensure that your Chinese evergreen is in a pot with loads of drainage holes to prevent root rot.

Fertilizing

Compared to most houseplants, the Chinese evergreen can do with a slow-release liquid or pellet fertilizer twice a year.

You can do this at the beginning and end of the growing season in spring and summer. Doing this will help with the glossy oval leaves and boost the growth of the short stems.

You will also find in your mature plant that it might have a flower in spring or summer.

Planting Instructions

Chinese evergreen is usually grown as a houseplant but in zones 10 and 11 where winter temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees F, it can also be planted outdoors. Select a location in deep or partial shade, such as underneath a tree, where the soil is moist but well-drained and slightly acidic (pH below 6.0).

When planting Chinese evergreen outdoors, spring is the best time so the plant has the entire growing season to get established. Dig a hole about the same width and depth as the planting container. Remove the plant and loosen the roots a bit from the root ball before placing it in the hole. Backfill with soil, tamp lightly, and water well. Space the plants 3 feet apart.

Pruning

New stems grow from the crown of Chinese evergreen, and stems tend to put out leaves at the top. Lower leaves die back and either fall off or can be removed. This growth habit results in a plant that eventually becomes leggy and bare at the bottom with all the leaves at the top.

Keep your plant looking lush by removing spent leaves. You may need to reach deep down in the center of the plant. You can peel discolored or dead leaves from the main stem with your fingers. When stems become leggy, cut them back with a sharp sterile tool just above the 4th or 5th leaf node. The pruned stem will produce new leaves, bringing foliage closer to soil level to create a fuller appearance. Spring or early summer is the best time to prune Chinese evergreen.

Propagation

Chinese evergreens can be propagated using stem cuttings or by dividing the plants during repotting. Wait until summer when the weather is warmest.

To propagate with stem cuttings:

  • Use a sharp cutting tool to remove a stem several inches long.
  • Put the cutting in a glass of water in a spot that receives indirect sunlight. Roots should form in three to four weeks.
  • Carefully 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 soil and gently pull the plant from the pot.
  • Lightly shake dirt from the roots. Tease apart the roots 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 moist for a few weeks until both are established.

Potting and Repotting 

Chinese evergreens don’t mind being a little rootbound, but once your plant becomes too crowded with roots poking out of the drainage holes, that means it’s time to transplant. This is best done during the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing.

Choose a pot that’s 3 to 4 inches wider than the current container and line it with fresh soil. Gently loosen your plant around the edges with your hand or a slim garden trowel and wiggle it free from the container. Place it in the new pot, top with fresh soil, and give it a nice drink of water.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

The first pest that can result in problems is the mealybug. You will start seeing a white fluff forming on the underside of foliage or the soil. When you treat them early enough, it can prevent cross-contamination to other indoor plants.

You can prune away the infested foliage and use rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab to dab them away. Or you can use an insecticide for heavy infestations. For example, the following insect that can become a problem is spider mites.

It is a tiny pest that weaves sticky webs over the plant. The best way to treat the infestation is to remove the damaged foliage and use a spider mite insecticide. Lastly, scale insects can also cause problems in your Chinese evergreen plants.

The pest has a shell-like appearance popping up on the leaves and stalks. The only way to eradicate the infestation is with an insecticide during the first stage of its lifecycle. Sometimes it is best to toss your Chinese evergreen plant before exposing other home plants.

Common Problems With Chinese Evergreen

Whether you have light or dark green varieties, some things can cause problems as your plant matures. The first notable thing is droopy leaves. If this happens, your plant needs brighter light and water.

It helps to provide both and observe if there is any improvement. It is from cold drafts if you notice dark to greasy patches on the leaves. We recommend moving your plant to a warmer spot. Crisp leaves with brown tips mean your plant needs higher humidity levels.

You can mist the leaves or place your plant on a humidity tray with water. It is too much light when you see curling leaves, and moving your plant to a shadier spot can help. While brown and yellow leaves mean your plants get too much water. The best is to leave the soil dry before watering again.

III. Types of Chinese Evergreen

There are several popular cultivars of Chinese evergreen, including:

  • ‘Frasher’: Features milky green leaves, with cream variegation and white petioles.
  • ‘Pseudobracteatum’: Leaves are spattered with green-gray splotches, with white highlighting on the veins.
  • ‘White Rajah’: Foliage has broad amounts of white coloration.
  • ‘Red Zircon’: Green leaves with pink blotchy sections in the center.
  • ‘Silver Bay’: Silver tinges in the center of predominantly green leaves.
  • ‘Maria’: A shade-tolerant variety with dark green leaves and silvery stripes.

IV. Uses and Benefits 

Chinese evergreen is a tropical, evergreen perennial available in a number of cultivars that make excellent houseplants. Its large, glossy, lance-shaped to oval leaves come in different color combinations from shades of green, silver, and white to red, purple, and cream. Indoor plants rarely produce flowers.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum) Details

Common name Chinese Evergreen, Golden Evergreen, Philippine Evergreen, Poison Dart Plant
Botanical name Aglaonema commutatum
Plant type Herbaceous Perennial
Hardiness zone 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Medium
Harvest time Fall
Height 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 8 in.
Width 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 8 in.
Sunlight Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Gold/Yellow