Awful Name, Beautiful Plant

January 5, 2014 | By | Comments (6)

Aglaonema ‘Siam Aurora.’ Photo: landp-farmcom_phixr

Names matter. How many computers would Apple have sold if they’d named the Mac the “Phlegm?” The green industry (growers and garden centers) need to catch on. Here you have a wonderful new houseplant that’s beautiful, easy to grow, and perfect for homes, offices, and dorm rooms. And yet many of you have saddled it with a name that sounds like a disease.

It’s called “Aglaonema.” Pronounced “ag-lo-nee-ma.” Imagine the conversations that might include this word. Like:

“Did you hear about Whitney? She’s been diagnosed with Aglaonema.”

“Oh, dear Lord! How long does she have? Is she in pain?”

Please make your tax-free donation now to the American Aglaonema Society. Every dollar brings us one step closer to a cure.

The Real Cure
The real cure, of course, would be for someone trying to sell this plant to give it a sexy, marketable name, like ‘Bloody Mary,’ ‘Passion Fire,’ or ‘Flaming Flag.’ I first discovered the plant above at a tropical plant show in Miami a few years ago and asked what they had named this glorious new creation.

“Red,” they said.

******************************Palm smacking forehead.***************************

It is now called ‘Siam Aurora.’ Well, that’s a start. Not a good one, but a start.

What’s in a Name?
Most of you are familiar with Aglaonema, even if you’ve never called it that. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is a tough-as-nails, popular houseplant. The caladium-like leaves are marbled green-and-silver. Until recently that’s about the only kind you could get. But then plant breeders in Thailand and Indonesia started cranking out hybrids with spectacular leaves and stems in an incredible array of colors and patterns. Feast your eyes on these.



This gem is called ‘Sparkling Sarah.’ Take her home and feel sparkly all over.



And this heart-breaker is ‘Valentine.’ Surely, you know someone who deserves one.



Bright orange stems and burgundy-green leaves distinguish ‘Fire Flash.’ (At last! A cool name!)



And this hottie is ‘Big Bertha.’ Sounds perfect for your office or hamburger joint.

How to Grow
No houseplant is easier to grow. It tolerates dry, indoor air and doesn’t need direct sun, only indirect light from a window a few feet away (or the fluorescent light in an office). It slowly grows 18-24 inches tall and seldom needs grooming or repotting. Water only when the soil feels dry, letting excess water drain from the bottom of the pot. (If you forget to water and the plant wilts into a death-like state, it’s no biggie. Just water it and it will quickly recover.) Fertilize once a month in summer with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Where to Buy
With the holidays over, garden centers and greenhouses will be filling up with new foliage plants shortly. Look there first. Print out this story and take it with you if you need it to remember the name. Two good mail-order sources: Hirt’s Gardens  and Logee’s.


  1. Steve Bender


    Yes, you can grow it using grow lights or fluorescent lights as along as they are bright. I would also mist the plant occasionally to keep the foliage from getting too dry.

    November 1, 2015 at 5:59 am
  2. Shahin

    I am from Bangladesh. I recently bought an Aglaonema Ruby plant. I love this plant, but don’t know how take care of it. I have read your article and a little from here.
    Can I keep this plant inside my room ,where no sunlight reached but my room is lighted with fluorescent lamps. Please suggest me.

    October 18, 2015 at 8:45 pm
  3. Renney

    Hey, I found this plant at Lowe’s several months ago. I have bought three of them….two for friends. Thanks for the telling us how to pronounce the name of this plant. The directions for mine say to keep the soil damp and in indirect sun light. So far it looks great. I am wondering if the lesser amount of light effects the coloring of the plant. Thanks, Irene

    January 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm
  4. Steve Bender

    These plants can take heat, but not hot sun. I think if you’re going to use them outside, they need to be in light shade.

    January 10, 2014 at 9:22 am
  5. Colin McKnight

    Grumpy- what do you think about using these in window boxes when the weather warms up? My window boxes are on a south facing wall, but shaded by a tree in front of my brownstone, so they get spotty light, and a fair amount of heat during the mid-summer. I’m always looking for something different to fill the boxes, and that RED looks pretty splashy. I’m thinking filling the boxes with just those leaves would be pretty eye catching.

    January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm
  6. Dea

    Ahhhh… Chinese evergreen! Well, will wonders never cease!? I was gifted one of these beauties a couple of months ago, and have had it on my kitchen table, thinking that it would finally succumb to my purple thumb. It has proved remarkably hardy, not even wilting when I let it get too dry. (I’m sure it would have, but I did eventually have sense enough to stick my finger in the dirt and found out it wasn’t damp anymore.) The little tag that came with mine just says RED, in big capital letters, so I guess I’ve got one of the original hybrids. I love it. It’s gorgeous. And it seems to thrive on neglect, which is what is definitely needed in my household. Grumpy, thank you. I’m so glad to know that this plant might actually survive in my home, and I am certainly enjoying the colorful foliage.

    January 6, 2014 at 2:59 pm

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