Chinese evergreens, Aglaonema sp., are herbaceous perennials that are native to Asian tropical rainforests. These slow growers make wonderful houseplants because they are low maintenance, highly tolerant, and tremendously great air purifiers.
Chinese evergreens are simple to propagate, and their cuttings make great gifts, so read on to find out the different ways to propagate Chinese evergreens and how to properly care for them afterward.
Methods of Propagating Chinese Evergreens
Stem cuttings and root division are the two most popular methods of Chinese evergreen propagation.
Here’s a quick overview of both of those methods, but I’ll be explaining in detail exactly how to propagate by root division below. Which is by far the fastest and easiest method and the one that I prefer.
1. Propagating a Stem Cutting in Soil
Propagating a Chinese evergreen in the soil is easy, highly successful, and can be done on any size plant.
All you need are sanitized scissors and a healthy upright stem that is at least 6 inches long.
Cut the end of the stem at a 45-degree angle, dip it in a rooting hormone gel, and place it in the new container. Gently pack the soil around the stem until it can stand upright on its own, then water until the container is draining.
More successful rooting occurs from cuttings that are taken from the middle part of mature stems because the age of the nodes affects root and shoot formation. So, it’s best to take a cutting from the top 6 inches of a stem at least 1 foot tall.
2. Propagating a Stem Cutting in Water
Propagation of Chinese evergreens using the cut stem in water technique is viable, but I don’t recommend it. Chinese evergreens simply have such high rates of successful root growth in soil that you can skip growing their roots in water. I have also experienced more stem decay when using this method.
If choosing to use this method, make sure your cuttings are at least 6 inches long and place them in a jar located in a warm window with indirect sunlight. Once the roots have started to grow, promptly plant them in the soil to limit the possibility of stem rot.
3. Propagating by Root Division
Propagating Chinese evergreen plants through root division is easy and most often the most successful method, but it will only work on mature bushy plants with an excess of foliage and root growth.
This method produces strong fully mature plants in new containers, whereas other methods produce young stems that need time to grow new roots.
How to Propagate Chinese Evergreen – Step by Step
My preferred method of Chinese evergreen propagation is root division because it is always the most successful and takes the least amount of time before producing a mature plant. But don’t try it on too young of a plant or there might not be enough root ball to divide.
The following describes the steps it takes to propagate Chinese evergreen plants by root division, including the equipment needed, the after-care procedures, and the solutions to potential problems.
- Sharp, sanitized scissors or knife
- Plant container with drainage holes
- Potting soil
- Mycorrhizal inoculant (optional)
1. Check Your Plant’s Health
Starting with a mature and healthy plant is vital in the rooting process of your new Chinese evergreen plants.
Check your plant for signs of pest damage, disease, or infections by watching for signs of leaf chlorosis, wilting, or severely stunted growth.
2. Prepare the Container for Planting
Place new potting soil mix in a few containers, leaving room for the new plant in the middle. Lightly water, sprinkle with mycorrhizal inoculant and leave for a few days to acclimate to the environment.
Preparing the soil at least 2 days before planting and choosing containers that are only a few inches larger than its current size will help the plant from getting shocked when entering the new environment.
3. Sanitizing the Equipment
Sanitizing your equipment is the best way to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. Simply use 70%+ isopropyl alcohol to sanitize the pruning implements before making any incisions to the plant.
4. Separating the Root Ball
Carefully take the original Chinese evergreen from its soil and begin working the outer layer of roots away from the largest middle stems.
Tug these root growths apart until they loosen enough to break away gently from the leading root ball.
If necessary, cut the roots free from the main stem, but beware that each cut will open the root system up to possible infections once the transplant is complete.
5. Planting the Divisions
Place the new plants in the prepared containers and put the mother plant back in its original pot. I find that sprinkling the roots with a general mycorrhizal inoculant significantly increases the rate of recovery for both the mother plants and new plants.
Leaving a small amount of soil from the original container will ensure the beneficial microorganisms living in that soil are transferred to the new container as well. This increases the chances of propagation success and endurance.
6. Water the Plants
Promptly water all your plants until water begins to flood out the bottom of the container. This ensures that the excessive amounts of air pockets that are created during propagation are mostly removed from the soil.
Best Time for Propagating
The best time to propagate Chinese evergreens by root division is in the spring when the plant is starting to focus on growing again.
Since root growth is pivotal in the success of this method the plant might die if propagation is during its dormancy period.
Cuttings can be taken at any point of the season, but it is best to wait until they have left their winter dormancy period to increase their chances of survival.
Chinese Evergreen Care After Propagation
Properly caring for your newly propagated Chinese evergreen plants is vital in setting these slow-growing houseplants up for long life.
Avoid direct sunlight. Chinese evergreens are tropical understory species that are only accustomed to bright yet indirect sunlight. The different variations of Chinese evergreens need different amounts of light, with the lighter-colored foliage needing the most.
If your Chinese evergreen gets any direct sunlight, it will get sunburnt and show signs of leaf chlorosis, crisping, and wilting. If the sunburn is severe, the plant will likely not recover.
The watering needs of your Chinese evergreen plants depend on the location, season, and soil type. If located outside during the warm summer months, your Chinese evergreen might need daily watering. If located inside during the winter months, you may only need to water it every few weeks.
Wait to water your Chinese evergreens until around 40 – 60% of its soil is dry to the touch. Use a soil moisture meter or check by sticking your fingers in the soil around the edge of the container. If the soil feels dry for 2 out of 4 tries, then you should water the plant.
Give your Chinese evergreens enough water to drain through the container into the catch tray. This method of watering ensures the entire soil substrate has access to moisture while limiting oxygen depletion and root rot issues.
Watering schedule issues are the most common problem associated with growing Chinese evergreens. Remember to look out for signs of under and over-watering, including wilting and chlorosis of leaves.
Temperature & Humidity
Chinese evergreens are tropical species that prefer warmer temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity in the region of 60 to 70%.
Keep your newly propagated plants away from drafts or dry heat and move them to a new area if you see signs of wilting or leaf yellowing.
Chinese Evergreens prefer well-draining potting soil with high concentrations of peat moss. Like many tropical varieties, Chinese evergreens prefer a pH that is slightly acidic with a range of 5.6 to 6.5.
The best soil ratio for Chinese evergreens is as follows:
- 30% Organic Potting Soil
- 25% Worm Castings
- 25% Coco Coir
- 20% Perlite
Chinese evergreens don’t need a tremendous amount of fertilizer, especially when planted in nutrient-rich soil with at least 10% organic matter. Use a soil pH test kit to establish if any nutrients are lacking.
Liquid fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10, once in the spring and once in the fall will usually be sufficient.
Problems After Propagation
Pests and diseases can also cause issues such as the yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, and plant death, and they are especially vulnerable after transplantation or propagation.
Pests and Disease
Spider mites are a tiny common houseplant pest that can cause major issues including plant death if not rectified. Spider mites will cause tiny yellow dots all over the foliage and will eventually cover the entire plant in a fine webbing, starting with the underside of the leaves.
Scales are also a problem due to the slow-growing nature of these species. While less likely to harm the plant, they are unsightly and increase the plant’s susceptibility to fungal infections and bacterial diseases.
Cleaning the leaves of your Chinese evergreen regularly is a great way to identify any pest problems and kerb the likelihood of them inhabiting your plants in the first place.
All-natural sprays containing essential oils like neem, lemongrass, and lavender can be used to treat and prevent these pests and diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.