Keeping Aglaonema around as houseplants has multiple benefits, and uses. What’s more is that with the right care, you can expect it to be around for 10 years. The only way for that to happen is to know how to truly nurture one.
Winter care is essential because there’s a knack to balance for light, water during dormancy, and some steps you’ll want to take in the run-up to the plant going into hibernation.
Understanding the Dormancy Period of Plants
You’ll get the best growth from Algaonema’s when they’ve had a good rest. That’s right through the winter. They go into hibernation when the days get shorter. Pretty smart. Rather than try to struggle with the lower amount of sunlight, they put the brakes on and go to sleep – for months.
During this time, like us when we sleep, which is our dormancy period every night, the plants are still breathing. Given the length of time (months) that they’re dormant, they need moisture in the pot to keep their roots nourished. They don’t drink a lot when dormant, but they do need water, and they still need light to survive.
Those two areas are the prime things you’ll want to pay attention to for an effective Chinese Evergreen winter care routine.
A 7-Point Checklist for a Chinese Evergreen Winter Care Strategy
1 – Watering – Cut It Right Back
During the winter is when Chinese Evergreens are most at risk of overwatering and underwatering. The signs to pay the most attention to are yellowing leaves, and leaf drop which can be indicative of root rot caused from overwatering. Underwatering is signaled by leaves curling inward and when they become extensively dried out, the tips of the leaves turn brown.
Neither is good for the plants health.
Best practice is to water only when necessary, and that’s best indicated when the potting soil is 50% moist. Don’t let it entirely dry out, and never water to the extent the soil becomes soggy. Roots in soggy soil is a certainty to lead to root rot.
2 – Lighting Requirements
Aglaonemas are considered among the best low light indoor plants, but that just means they tolerate it. They grow bigger, better, and healthier when they get good levels of indirect light.
As the shorter days roll in, the lack of sunlight is what sends Chinese Evergreens into a state of dormancy. They still need nurtured over the winter to survive,. They just don’t drink as much, nor do they need feeding because they won’t be growing. Just surviving.
To help yours through the winter, give it plenty of indirect sunlight.
A few hours of soft morning sun is good for them. North facing windows are likely to lack sufficient light. Preference is south or west facing windows.
Something to know about Chinese Evergreen light requirements is that different varieties have different levels of light tolerance.
Keep the following in mind: The darker the green of the leaves, the less light they need.
As an example, the Aglaonema Modestum tolerates far less light than the Aglaonema Kiwi owing to the Modestum having solid dark green leaves in comparison to the lime green and white variegations of the Aglaonema Kiwi.
To ensure they’re able to absorb as much sunlight as possible, wipe the leaves regularly with a soft damp cloth to rid dust from the leaf surface.
3 – Repot Before the Fall
Preparation is the key to helping your Chinese Evergreen through the winter with minimum fuss.
Whilst, they do not repotted frequently, when they do, you’ll notice. The more rootbound the plant becomes, the smaller the leaves will be. If you notice the size of the leaves shrinking during the season, it’s likely the roots are struggling to spread.
Inspect the roots of the plant in the late summer because you don’t want to disturb the plant once it’s in dormancy. It takes a fair amount of energy for the plant to recuperate from the stress of being transplanted into a new potting mix, and a different size of pot. Don’t do this in the fall.
Repot when the plant is actively growing. If you do happen to leave it too late, wait until it begins putting out new growth next season, then repot it. The end of the summer is ideal though as it’ll give it plenty of time to acclimate into the new growing conditions.
As for the type of pot to use, it’s best to go with plastic. The type you get from nurseries. If you’re using a decorative planter, double-pot it, which just means to keep the plastic pot, and place that inside the decorative planter with a liner at the base.
You can place some pebbles or gravel in the liner to help capture water and raise humidity within the container.
If you aren’t double-potting, you can use a pebble tray to get the same effect of raising humidity and preventing the plant getting its roots wet.
The size of the pot should only be one-size up, and pot sizes go up in 2” increments. So if it’s currently in a 8” pot, repot it in a 10”. Likewise, if you’re already at the 10” pot stage, up the size to 12”.
When you do repot, use the right potting mix. A soilless potting mix with perlite added to it to improve drainage works wonders. Right out the bag though, no potting mix is going to have perfect drainage. Chinese Evergreens do better when the potting mix has perlite added.
4 – Humidity and Air Circulation Are Essentials
As Aglaonema plants are a tropical species, they absolutely need humidity. For winter care of Chinese Evergreens, it’s likely you’ll need to do two things. Use something to raise the humidity around the area you keep the plant, and improve air circulation too.
Without both, the result is a droopy Chinese Evergreen. What worse is that stagnant air in high humidity environments is likely to lead to bacterial and fungi diseases setting in.
To raise humidity, you can use a humidifier, pebble tray, or an evaporation tray. The idea is to sit a tray of water near the plant and as that evaporates, humidity rises. To prevent stagnant air causing problems, air circulation is essential.
Tips for improving air circulation is the obvious oscillating fan. Just don’t position directly at the leaves as that will cause cold spots. It could be a mini desk fan, floor fan, or even a ceiling fan.
It’s also common practice to group tropical plants together with plants that have similar winter care requirements because groups of plants help each other out due to the transpiration.
When clustering tropical plants, don’t have them too close together, or pressing against walls where air flow becomes restricted. Plants similar to dieffenbachia and algaonemas are ideal for grouping together to elevate humidity, because each has similar light requirements, temperature, humidity, and a need for air circulation.
5 – Stop Feeding It
Aglaonemas need very little fertilizer. In fact, it can do fine without it. It does help it put out bigger leaves, and with deeper color, which is why most growers tend to feed them with an all-purpose fertilizer in the spring and summer.
That’s not a hard and fast rule though. People have their own preferences. Some find the plants do better with a liquid fertilizer diluted further and fed more frequently, such as with every other watering, and fed throughout the winter. That is something you can try, but only on mature Chinese Evergreeens, which are the ones over three years old.
Until the plant ages, stop feeding fertilizer after the summer feed. While the roots are developing, they will be extremely sensitive to fertilizer burn.
6 – Temperature Precautions
Every plant care guide, and the instructions that come with plants when bought, tell you the ideal temperatures to keep them in. That’s in relation to the room temperature. Where you place your plants though can have a higher surface temperature.
For example, in front of window pane getting direct light, the glass is going to heat up, then heat transference causes leaf scorch, or if the leaves of the plants in contact with the glazing, it’s likely to burn the leaf, too.
If you have direct sunlight, use a sheer curtain to filter it. And be aware of drafts. Blasts of cold air are going to damage the plants leaves. As will blasts of warm or cold air coming from heating ducts and air vents.
Pay attention to where you keep your plants because if there’s surfaces around them that can become hot or cold spots, it’s likely to damage the leaves. One way to know if a wall or window is causing damage, is if you see discoloration only on one side of the plant. They’re likely being blasted with sudden temperature changes from drafts or hot spots.
7 + Be on the Lookout for Pests
If your humidity levels indoors do drop, the lower humidity levels can be a star attraction to plant pests like spider mites, aphids, and thrips. Sap suckers that’ll drain the juices from your plants.
Low humidity and overwatering are the common duo that attracts these. They’re attracted to overly moist soil, which is why you really need to cut back on watering in the winter months.
At the first sign of any insect damage, treat the whole plant with an insecticide solution. A wipe down with a neem oil does a fantastic job.
Where to be inspecting the plant is the underside of the leaves. That’s where these congregate, hiding out of sight.
Take extra care overwintering your Chinese Evergreen and it’ll reward you with lush growth when it bounces back to life when spring rolls around and it can get those extra hours of bright natural light that it needs to thrive.
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.