Aglaonema 'Siam Aurora.' Photo: landp-farmcom_phixr

Names matter. How many computers would Apple have sold if they'd named the Mac the "Phlegm?" The green industry (growers and garden centers) need to catch on. Here you have a wonderful new houseplant that's beautiful, easy to grow, and perfect for homes, offices, and dorm rooms. And yet many of you have saddled it with a name that sounds like a disease.

It's called "Aglaonema." Pronounced "ag-lo-nee-ma." Imagine the conversations that might include this word. Like:

"Did you hear about Whitney? She's been diagnosed with Aglaonema."

"Oh, dear Lord! How long does she have? Is she in pain?"

Please make your tax-free donation now to the American Aglaonema Society. Every dollar brings us one step closer to a cure.

The Real Cure The real cure, of course, would be for someone trying to sell this plant to give it a sexy, marketable name, like 'Bloody Mary,' 'Passion Fire,' or 'Flaming Flag.' I first discovered the plant above at a tropical plant show in Miami a few years ago and asked what they had named this glorious new creation.

"Red,'' they said.

******************************Palm smacking forehead.***************************

It is now called 'Siam Aurora.' Well, that's a start. Not a good one, but a start.

What's in a Name? Most of you are familiar with Aglaonema, even if you've never called it that. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is a tough-as-nails, popular houseplant. The caladium-like leaves are marbled green-and-silver. Until recently that's about the only kind you could get. But then plant breeders in Thailand and Indonesia started cranking out hybrids with spectacular leaves and stems in an incredible array of colors and patterns. Feast your eyes on these.


This gem is called 'Sparkling Sarah.' Take her home and feel sparkly all over.


And this heart-breaker is 'Valentine.' Surely, you know someone who deserves one.


Bright orange stems and burgundy-green leaves distinguish 'Fire Flash.' (At last! A cool name!)


And this hottie is 'Big Bertha.' Sounds perfect for your office or hamburger joint.

How to Grow No houseplant is easier to grow. It tolerates dry, indoor air and doesn't need direct sun, only indirect light from a window a few feet away (or the fluorescent light in an office). It slowly grows 18-24 inches tall and seldom needs grooming or repotting. Water only when the soil feels dry, letting excess water drain from the bottom of the pot. (If you forget to water and the plant wilts into a death-like state, it's no biggie. Just water it and it will quickly recover.) Fertilize once a month in summer with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Where to Buy With the holidays over, garden centers and greenhouses will be filling up with new foliage plants shortly. Look there first. Print out this story and take it with you if you need it to remember the name. Two good mail-order sources: Hirt's Gardens and Logee's.