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‘Silver Queen’ is often called Chinese evergreen

Foliage of rich-green leaves with silver patches is main attraction of this easy-care plant

Last month I wrote about houseplants with metal in their name, such as copper, iron, or aluminum. Here’s one with silver in its name — Aglaonema “Silver Queen.”

Aglaonema plants are often referred to as Chinese evergreens since they originated in Asia. There are dozens of cultivars but my favourite is “Silver Queen” which has thick, waxy leaves that are lance shaped, about 30 cm long and six to eight cm wide. The leaves are produced on long stems that are attached to the main stems of the plant, and are typically grown as multi-stemmed specimens with eight to 12 individual plants in a large pot. The leaves grow outwards and upwards, creating a lovely display, and although the foliage is the main appeal, in summer the plant can produce flowers similar to those of the peace lily (white spathes).

The leaves are rich green with silver patches and the amount of silver will depend on how much light the plant is receiving (the more light the more silver). Even in a low-light environment there will still be quite a lot of silver, making the plant perfect for an area exposed only to fluorescent light — such as an office.

Silver Queens are easy to care for and problem free, not being prone to insect problems. They do not demand constant care and the soil can be allowed to almost dry out before it is watered again. In a low-light environment, the plants should not be excessively watered or the soil kept constantly damp as this will lead to stem/root rot.

All Aglaonema plants prefer a peat-based planting medium with good drainage. I have my plants in black nursery pots that fit into three good-size ceramic containers. The pots are sitting on inverted plastic lids or shallow pots turned upside down so that excess water has a place to go and the soil doesn’t become waterlogged. Because it is a slow-growing plant it is not a heavy feeder. Feed a couple of times a year in the summer with a half-strength solution of 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer. Silver Queens are very sensitive to cold so never position them near a door or air-conditioning vent.

The foliage is the main attraction of Silver Queen plants so keep them clean and dust free by wiping the leaves individually with a soft, damp cloth, cupping each leaf in your hand as you wipe it to prevent damage.

Because the plant is slow growing it doesn’t have to be regularly repotted, slipped or refurbished. Propagation is done by using the ends of stems to start new plants. The lower leaves are removed, the ends of the stems (which should be about 30 cm long) are dipped in rooting hormone, and about 10 stems are planted in a large pot of damp soilless mix. They take a long time to root and the pot should be kept in a low-light location and watered sparingly while this takes place.

Sometimes a few of the more mature stems will become tall and leggy and these can be snipped off about eight cm from the soil surface and used as cuttings. New stems will soon develop on this parent plant to take their place, so it is actually self-rejuvenating all the time.

All Chinese evergreens are noted for their ability to take toxins like formaldehyde and benzene from the air, so they not only make our surroundings beautiful but healthier as well.

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