Chinese evergreen is an herbaceous perennial in the Araceae (arum) family, native to the Philippines and northeastern Celebes and commonly grown as a houseplant. This tropical shrub grows to 1.5 feet, is erect and bushy, and resembles dumb cane (Dieffenbachia). The tendency to have only 5-8 main lateral veins distinguishes it from Dieffenbachia.

It has elliptic, aglaonema butterfly dark green, lance-shaped leaves that reach 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Attractive silver-gray blotches appear on upright stems. It blooms rarely as a houseplant in the late summer or early fall with a white spadix and greenish-white spathe. Red clusters of berries follow the blooms.

The plant does well in diffuse sun or good indirect light and prefers high humidity but will tolerate dryer air. Keep the potting mix moist from spring to fall. It does not require a winter dormancy period but prefers a reduction in watering during the winter. Remove flowers and fruits to direct energy to plant growth. It is an excellent plant for low-light, indoor locations; it can also be used outdoors as a filler plant or low hedge in warm regions. Grow it in an Asian or shade garden, in a container, beside a patio or walkway, or in a woodland setting.

Quick ID Hints:

Lanceolate leaves are green and variegated with yellow/cream, grey, or pink/red

Leaves contain 5–8 main lateral veins

Inflorescence is white spadix and greenish-white spathe

Stem is present, becoming sugarcane-like with age

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: There are no serious disease or insect problems, but watch for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. Root rots can occur with over watering; allow the medium to dry between waterings and avoid using cold water. The leaves may turn brown in very dry air or a drafty location. It is intolerant of cold temperatures and prefers a daytime temperature in the 70 to 80 degree F range. The plant tends to get leggy with age as the stem grows.

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for “Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants” a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.