Chinese evergreen, also known as Aglaonema Silver Bay, is a popular houseplant prized for its beautiful foliage and easy care requirements. Native to the Philippines, this tropical plant grows erect and bushy with elliptic, lance-shaped leaves.
Large plants can reach up to 36 inches (90 cm) in height, but they typically stay much smaller indoors. Leaves reach lengths of 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm) and resemble the leaves of dieffenbachia (dumb cane). Leave are variegated with white, cream, yellow, gray, or pink.
How to Care for a Chinese Evergreen Houseplant
Chinese evergreen is considered one of the easiest houseplants to grow. It’s one I would always recommend for beginners, as it tolerates low light and dry air better than most other houseplants. Here’s a brief run-down of optimal care requirements:
- TEMPERATURE: 65 – 75 degrees F (18 – 24 degrees C)
- LIGHT: Low light
- HUMIDITY: Moderate
- WATER: Keep soil slightly moist at all times
- FEEDING: Feed monthly spring – summer
- SAFETY: Toxic to cats and dogs
- DIFFICULTY: Easy
Keep reading for more in-depth information on how to to care for a Chinese evergreen houseplant, including propagation, potting, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Chinese evergreen needs a moderate amount of water. Keep the soil slightly moist at all times (not wet). And never allow it to become so dry that the leaves droop. In winter, it can go a bit longer between waterings.
As as a good rule of thumb, water any time the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Every morning when I wake up, I check the soil on all my houseplants to see which ones need water. I recommend doing the same thing. Check daily and water when it feels dry.
Although it can tolerate dry air pretty well, Chinese evergreen prefers higher humidity levels. For the best results, mist your plant daily when indoor air is dry (especially during winter).
Use a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water set to the “mist” setting. Another option is placing a houseplant humidifier in the room near your plant or placing it on a humidity tray. See my post on how to make a humidity tray for more information.
Feed your plant monthly in the spring through summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. In winter, reduce feeding to once every six weeks.
My favorite houseplant fertilizer is Jack’s All-Purpose Fertilizer, but any all-purpose food will work. Read my review of Jack’s Fertilizer to see why I love it so much. I use it on almost all my houseplants except those that require special nutrients – like cacti and succulents.
One of the best low light houseplants, Chinese evergreen thrives in north-facing windows or in east-facing windows with the light filtered by gauzy curtains.
If you only have a sunny window available, place this plant back several feet so it’s only exposed to indirect light. Never place an aglaonema in direct sunlight. It’s one of the rare houseplants that actually keeps its variegated pattern in low light.
Chinese evergreen’s only weakness is an intolerance of cold air. Keep the plant away from drafts, cooling vents, opening doors, etc. Newer cultivars (Emerald Star, Silver Bay) are less likely to be damaged by cold, so consider one of these if you live in a colder climate.
Normal room temperatures of 65 – 75 degrees F (18 – 24 degrees C) are ideal. Never allow temperatures to drop below 60 degrees F (15 degrees F) or the plant may drop leaves.
Chinese evergreen grows slowly and only needs to be repotted once every two to three years. Repot in any seasons, but don’t move to a huge container. When repotting is necessary, choose a pot no more than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter larger than the previous one.
This plant is not too picky when it comes to potting soil. Use any high-quality potting soil formulated for houseplants and you’ll be fine. My favorite is this one by Happy Frog because it contains mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial soil microbes, but any good potting mix will work.
When your plant grows too tall, cut off a single tip and root it as you would a stem cutting. Here’s what to do:
- Snip off the tip just below a leaf node.
- Dip the cut end in rooting powder.
- Plant, cut-side down, in moist seed starting mix in a small pot.
- Place the entire pot in a plastic bag and seal.
- Mist morning and afternoon with lukewarm water for 3 weeks.
- Remove plastic cover after 3 weeks, but continue to keep moist. Move to a place that receives indirect light, such as a north-facing window.
- When signs of rooting/growth are observed (which can take 4 – 8 weeks), plant the cutting in potting soil and begin normal plant care.
Chinese evergreen may also be propagated by division. But you shouldn’t try this until it has become very rootbound and needs to be repotted anyway.
Clean your plant’s leaves occasionally with a soft, damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. Remove any dying leaves if necessary. Otherwise, Chinese evergreen needs very little maintenance to keep it happy aside from its regular care.
Never prune a Chinese Evergreen. All growth emerges from the crown, which means plants cannot be pruned back without killing them. It’s okay to take a single tip for propagation purposes, but extreme pruning will kill this plant.
Here are some common problems indoor gardeners have when learning how to care for a Chinese evergreen houseplant (plus solutions):
- Yellowing Leaves – This is usually due to cold injury. Remove damaged leaves and keep temperatures above 65 degrees F (18 degrees C). Make sure the plant is not being blasted by opening doors from the outside or placed too close to chilly windows in winter.
- Pale Leaves and Leaf Tips – This is due to too much light. Move plants to a shadier location such as a north-facing window or somewhere that only receives diffuse light. This plant really needs low light conditions.
Where to Buy Chinese Evergreen
Chinese evergreen is very popular, so you may be able to find it in local nurseries and garden centers at big box stores like Wal-Mart or Lowes. When I can’t find a plant locally, I prefer to order my houseplants from Etsy sellers.
I would rather order from small growers to support small business and also because they tend to care more about the quality of their plants (compared to large corporate nurseries). Plus, there are so many varieties for sale that you can’t find locally!
Click here to see the current listings for Chinese evergreen on Etsy. Happy plant shopping!