The lush, vibrant foliage and easy-care nature of Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema) make them fantastic additions to any living space.
But what if I told you that you could also expand your collection of these striking tropical houseplants without breaking the bank?
Find out how in this Chinese evergreen propagation guide.
Yes, they can!
Like many tropical houseplants, you can propagate Chinese evergreens using the proper method and a bit of care.
It’s a rewarding and cost-effective way to multiply your indoor plant family or share your gorgeous Aglaonemas with friends or family.
There are several methods you can use to propagate Chinese evergreens and preserve the exact genetic traits of the parent plant.
Stem cutting is a technique used to create new plants by taking a section of a plant stem and allowing it to develop roots.
This method is faster than using seeds since stem cuttings already have established stems and leaves. You can expect them to grow into full-fledged plants more quickly.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to propagate Chinese evergreen using stem cuttings:
- Look for healthy stems on the parent plant. These stems should be at least 6 inches long and have a few nodes (the points where leaves and stems branch out).
- Snip off the bottom leaves to reveal more of the stem, leaving a few leaves at the top intact.
- Make a clean, diagonal cut below a node using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can disinfect your cutting tool with rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of disease among your healthy plants.
- Dip the freshly cut end of each stem into rooting hormone powder or gel. This will stimulate root growth and increase the chances of successful propagation.
- Fill a container with a well-draining potting mix, preferably made with three parts peat moss and one part perlite. Mist the soil with water so that it’s moist, not wet.
- Poke a small hole about 1–2 inches deep and bury your stem cutting in it. Press the soil lightly around the stem to secure it in place.
- Cover the cutting loosely with a large plastic bag to create a humid environment. Secure the plastic around the pot with a rubber band or tuck the ends under the bottom.
- Place the cutting in indirect sunlight and keep the potting mix moist.
- Look for new growth after about 4–6 weeks. Or, give the plant a gentle tug; if it resists, the new root system is taking shape as it should.
Separating the mature plant into smaller sections is another way to increase your Chinese evergreen collection. It’s useful when your plant has overgrown its current pot.
Here’s a quick guide to propagating your Chinese evergreen by division:
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and shake off excess soil to expose the root system.
- Use a clean, sharp knife or gardening shears to divide the plant into smaller sections. Make sure each division has both roots and stems.
- Repot each division into a separate container with fresh potting mix.
- Water thoroughly and place the new plants in bright, indirect light.
- Continue to care for them as you would with mature Chinese evergreens.
Air layering is a less common propagation technique but works well with Chinese evergreens that have become leggy. It encourages roots to grow on a stem while still attached to the parent plant.
For this method, prepare the following:
- Rooting hormone
- Sphagnum moss
- Cling wrap or clean plastic bag
- Yarn or twine
Now, check out the steps to air layer your plant:
- Choose a robust stem from the parent plant.
- Locate a node on a bare stem you want to root.
- Strip away a thin layer of the stem using a sharp, sterile knife. This strip should be around ½ inch and encircle the entire stem.
- Dab the exposed stem with rooting hormone using a Q-tip.
- Soak a handful of sphagnum moss in water for a few minutes. After soaking, squeeze out any excess water.
- Wrap the moist sphagnum moss all around the stripped section.
- Cover the moss with plastic and tie both ends with yarn or twine.
- Wait for roots to form in the sphagnum moss.
- Once you have a healthy root mass, cut below it and pot it up.
Chinese evergreens are not the best candidates to propagate using leaf cuttings.
Typically, plants with fleshy or succulent foliage are more likely to produce new plants from individual leaves. These plants have leaves that can store water and nutrients.
Water propagation works well with many houseplants, including Chinese evergreens. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a healthy stem with a few nodes and a couple of leaves.
- Make a slanting cut below a node with a sharp pair of shears.
- Fill a small jar or glass with clean, room-temperature water.
- Submerge the cut end of the stem in the water. Ensure the leaves stay above the water to keep them from rotting.
- Place the jar or glass with the cutting in a location with indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can promote algae growth in the water and scorch the leaves.
- Change the water every few days to keep it fresh and prevent stagnation.
- Root development can take several weeks to a few months when propagating Chinese evergreens in water.
- Once the cutting has developed a sufficient root system, transplant it into a pot with a well-draining potting mix.
Spring and early summer are the best times to propagate Chinese evergreens.
During this period of active growth, the plant focuses its energy on producing new leaves and stems. Also, this is when it’s most receptive to propagation efforts.
Follow these tips for successful propagation:
- Start with a healthy and disease-free parent plant. Healthy parent plants are more likely to produce vibrant offspring.
- When using stem cuttings, take them during their active growth, typically in spring or early summer. The plant is more likely to produce new shoots and roots around this time.
- Look for non-flowering stems that are at least 4–6 inches long and have multiple nodes. Nodes are points from which new growth will emerge.
- Ensure your cutting tools are sharp and sterile. Clean cuts reduce the risk of damaging the plant and spreading deadly pathogens.
- Avoid exposing your cuttings to direct sunlight, which can be harsh on young plants.
- Keep the potting mix consistently moist, not soggy. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can hinder root growth.
- Once your cuttings have developed a healthy root system and new growth, transplant them into individual pots.
- Handle the fragile new plants with care when transplanting.
Here are some potential pitfalls that can hinder the success of propagating your lovely Chinese evergreens:
Plants carry their genetic information within them. When you take a cutting or offset from a parent plant, you’re essentially creating a genetic clone of that plant.
Is the parent plant stressed? Is it susceptible to pests or diseases?
Propagating from such a plant increases the risk of passing those same problems on to the new growth.
Unhealthy parent plants might produce weaker offspring. The cuttings or offsets may struggle to establish themselves or take longer to thrive—if they thrive at all.
Premature transplanting means the cuttings or sections haven’t had enough time to develop strong and healthy roots. This leaves them susceptible to stress and damage when moved to a larger pot.
As the baby plant isn’t ready to handle the change in environment, it may struggle to absorb nutrients. Worse, it may experience transplant shock, which can lead to stunted growth or plant failure.
Like many other houseplants, Chinese evergreens have specific growth cycles influenced by seasonal changes in light and temperature. They experience growth spurts during spring and summer when days are warmer and longer.
Propagating Chinese evergreens outside their growing season can lead to slower or failed root development. The plant may not have the necessary hormonal activity to promote root growth during these periods.
Another common misstep in propagating Chinese evergreens is putting your cuttings in low-light areas.
Light is the energy source that fuels photosynthesis, where plants convert resources into food. Sufficient light is essential for young plants trying to establish roots and grow.
Cuttings placed in dim corners and shaded spots may take longer to root. In extreme cases, they might not develop roots at all.
Inadequate light can also result in leggy, stretched-out growth.
Ensure that your cuttings receive bright, indirect light. Place them near a window with diffuse sunlight or use artificial grow lights if natural light is limited.
The wrong potting mix can impede the growth of your new plants.
Chinese evergreen cuttings need a well-draining potting mix that provides adequate aeration for their developing roots. A heavy or water-retentive soil can suffocate the plant and result in root rot.
The potting mix should also provide essential nutrients to support the early growth of your cuttings.
Sharp, clean tools are essential for making precise cuts on the plant. Blunt scissors or pruning shears can bruise or crush the stem.
Meanwhile, dirty tools can introduce contaminants and disease-causing pathogens to your Chinese evergreen cuttings.
Hopefully, this Chinese evergreen propagation guide has equipped you with the know-how to expand your indoor garden.
Remember to be patient, follow the proper techniques, and avoid common mistakes to ensure the best results in growing healthy and thriving Chinese evergreens.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.