This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.


Chinese evergreen plants (from the genus Aglaonema) are beautiful house plants grown for their large leaves, which bring lush, tropical elegance to any interior. They are easy to grow and tolerate low light levels, and can live for many years if given the right care.

Chinese evergreen has been grown as an ornamental plant in Asia for centuries and plant breeders have developed a range of interesting varieties. Some have deep-green leaves with paler green or silver splashes, stripes or speckles, such as Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ or Aglaonema ‘Maria’. Some have pink stems, veins and leaf margins, such as Aglaonema ‘Crete’ or ‘Pink Moon’. In other varieties, the leaves are almost entirely pink, coral or red, as in Aglaonema ‘Red Star’. While Chinese evergreens are slow-growing, cultivated varieties can become substantial clumps, growing to 90cm tall by 90 cm wide, but there are also compact varieties for more restricted spaces, such as Aglaonema ‘Jubilee Compacta’.

Chinese evergreen is a relatively slow-growing plant and is unlikely to need repotting more than once every two to three years, when the strong roots start to emerge from the drainage holes. Don’t be tempted to transfer to a much larger pot – the extra volume of compost can hold onto excess water, threatening your plant’s health. Instead, just pot it up into a slightly larger container, ideally in spring.

How to grow Chinese evergreen

Grow Chinese evergreen in a bright spot away from direct sunlight, ideally in a humid room such as a bathroom. Water sparingly, allowing the compost to completely dry out between waterings, and feed every six weeks. Reduce watering in winter.

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Where to grow Chinese evergreen

Chinese evergreen growing on a shelf. Getty Images
Chinese evergreen growing on a shelf. Getty Images

Chinese evergreen originates from the tropical and subtropical forests of Asia and New Guinea, so bright light is ideal, but away from direct sunlight – which would scorch its leaves. While it's known for tolerating low light levels, the pale-leaved varieties will need more light (dark-green leaves can photosynthesise at lower light levels). It needs to be in a relatively warm place with no sudden swings in temperature, and where the temperature drops no lower than 16 °C, which means most living spaces will suit its needs.

As Chinese evergreen thrives in humidity, grow it in a humid spot such as a bathroom.

Another important factor to consider when deciding where to place your plant in the house is that Chinese evergreen foliage can be toxic to pets and humans if ingested. You may therefore want to raise the plant up to a level where it can’t be reached by toddlers or pets.

How to plant Chinese evergreen

Planting Chinese evergreen. Getty Images
Planting Chinese evergreen, using gloves. Getty Images

As Chinese evergreen is mildly to moderately toxic if ingested, wear gloves when planting, repotting or propagating your plant, and wash your hands when you’ve finished. Always plant at the same depth it was in its original pot, using peat-free house plant compost mixed with perlite, which improves aeration around the roots.

Choose a pot with drainage holes at the bottom. It should be a relatively snug fit for your Chinese evergreen’s rootball. Plant it so that the leaf stems flair from the surface of the compost, which should be about 2cm below the rim of the pot. Use a jug or watering can and pour the water gently at the base of the plant until the liquid reaches the rim of the pot and let it slowly disperse through the compost. Repeat this until the compost is thoroughly wet, allow to drain completely, and then do not re-water until the compost has dried out again.

How to care for Chinese evergreen

Misting Chinese evergreen plant. Getty Images

Chinese evergreen is a fairly drought-tolerant plant, and it’s better to underwater it than to overwater it. Water the plant thoroughly from the top and let the pot drain until no more water is dripping through the holes at the bottom, before returning it to its outer container or saucer. Allow the compost to almost dry out before watering again – sometimes the plant will start to droop, telling you it needs water, but otherwise push your finger several centimetres into the compost and if it’s dry, that tells you it's watering time. In winter, your Chinese evergreen will go a lot longer before it needs watering. This is because the light levels are low and the plant is hardly growing.

In the growing season (spring and summer), feed your Chinese evergreen every six weeks, adding liquid plant food to your watering can according to the instructions. If your plant is new, check whether the nursery or plant shop has already added slow-release fertiliser to the compost. If they have, don’t feed it until the following year, as too much feed can damage the plant.

Like many forest plants, Chinese evergreen thrives in high humidity. The air in our houses and offices can become dry in winter, thanks to central heating. There are several ways to raise the humidity of the air around the plant – these include misting the leaves, placing the pot on a tray of pebbles topped up with water, and grouping plants together to create a slightly humid mini microclimate over the foliage.

Now and again use a damp, lint-free cloth to remove household dust from your Chinese evergreen, gently wiping the broad leaves. Make sure this cloth isn’t used for any other cleaning in the house, otherwise it might transfer harmful chemicals and damage your plant.

Mature plants may produce flowers in spring or summer in the form of a pale spike (called a spadix) with a green, cream or yellow cowl or hood (called a spathe). Unless you’re keen to experiment with growing Chinese evergreen from seed, cut the blooms before seeds begin to form so that the plant concentrates its energy on its leaves and roots.

How to prune Chinese evergreen

As your Chinese evergreen matures, some stems will elongate and drop their lower leaves, so the plant can start to look spindly. You can make the plant bushy again by pruning it. Wearing gloves, trim the plant by cutting the stem just above a leaf node (the ‘scar’ where a leaf was attached to the stem). This will encourage more leaves to grow from the remaining lower part of the stem.

How to propagate Chinese evergreen

You can multiply your Chinese evergreen by dividing the basal shoots. Wearing gardening gloves, tip the whole plant out of the pot. Identify a shoot at the edge of the rootball, gently loosen the compost around it (an old chopstick is useful for this) and then tease the shoot and its roots away from the main group. Pot both plants up in separate pots.

You can also take stem cuttings of Chinese evergreen. Wearing gloves, use a sharp knife to cut a healthy, vigorous stem below a leaf node. Remove all but the top six leaves and then either insert into a tall jar of water or into peat-free house plant compost with added perlite for fast drainage. Leave in a bright, warm place. Refresh the water in the jar regularly and pot up the cutting when roots have formed. Keep the compost moist and new shoots should emerge from the cutting within four to six weeks.

Pests and diseases

Aphids, mealybugs and whitefly are common pests of Chinese evergreen. Check your plant regularly and pick off these insects at an early stage. Spider mite is another possible pest, but keeping the humidity raised around the plant should deter them.


If the leaf margins of your Chinese evergreen become yellow or brown and the leaves start to droop, you may be overwatering. If the leaves turn fully yellow and crisp, you may be underwatering. Check the compost and alter your watering regime accordingly. If the stalks of the plant turn yellow or brown, this may be a sign of root rot. Knock the plant out of the pot, brush away the compost around the rootball, then prune out any rotting material before repotting the plant in fresh compost.

Advice on buying Chinese evergreen

  • Chinese evergreen is widely available in garden centres and interiors stores
  • When choosing your plant, avoid any that show signs of stress, such as wilting, crisp, discoloured or falling leaves, and check thoroughly for insects or signs of disease

Where to buy Chinese evergreen