The Easiest Houseplant

No time to take care of a plant? Try Chinese evergreen.
Gene B. Bussell

The leaves are so beautiful on Chinese evergreens that you just want to reach out and touch them. Glossy greens, silvers, and grays with stripes, spots, and streaks create a subtle tapestry of wonder. And when you learn all the qualities of this forgiving and carefree houseplant, you're going to wish that someone had told you about it sooner.

It's Simple Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema sp.) are easy right from the start. You can find them just about anywhere--at the grocery store, nursery, or garden center. You can even order them by mail. There are lots of selections; so look for one with the leaf pattern you love, or try more than one. Use them in different rooms throughout your home, and then decide which plant is your favorite.

You don't need a green thumb to grow these. Care is not a problem, as Chinese evergreens require just a few things. They thrive in low light, so you can place them in locations where other houseplants won't grow. Being tropicals, they like warm, slightly humid conditions with room temperatures of at least 65 degrees. Leaf tips can turn brown if the air is too dry. Water well, let drain, and then let the soil dry slightly before doing so again. Overwatering is the most frequent way houseplants are killed.

 

Gardener's Secret
A common error beginners make when buying houseplants is transplanting new ones directly into decorative pots. All of a sudden, these beautiful plants start looking poorly, and the leaves begin drooping and falling off. The solution? Don't repot. It's much easier to keep it in the plastic container it came in. Just place a plastic saucer or dish inside your decorative pot to catch the drainage.

Why is this better for your plants? Lots of reasons. It avoids the risk of transplant shock. You can water them where they are; or lift the plastic containers out of the pots, water them in the sink, and then let them drain. If the leaves get dusty, you can place the plastic containers in the shower to gently clean the foliage. It also makes it easy to give plants a summer vacation outside in the shade.

Is your plant leaning to the side? Just rotate the plastic container inside the pot to balance the amount of light received. Remember, too, that large plants in glazed pots can be heavy to move. But if you keep them in their plastic containers, you can lift them out of the glazed pots and move the pots separately.

 

Nice Surprise
In the spring and summer, small blooms that resemble those of the common peace lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) may appear on your Chinese evergreens. However, the leaves are the real show. NASA has determined that these plants help clean the air indoors. So not only are they easy and carefree, Chinese evergreens also work hard when you have things to do.

CHINESE EVERGREEN
At a Glance

Light: low to bright, indirect light (New selections with white and yellow in their leaves, such as 'Deborah,' need brighter light.)

Temperature: Keep warm, with a minimum temperature of around 65 degrees. (New selections such as 'Stars' and 'Emerald Star' can take temperatures as low as 40 degrees.)

Moisture: Water well, let drain, and then allow soil to dry slightly before watering again. They also like a little humidity.

Feed: In spring and summer, use a liquid plant food (10-15-10).

Expect to pay: $8-$35, depending on the size of the plant and where it's purchased.