Friday, December 24, 2010

Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’

If you’ve grown houseplants for as long as I have, and a huge variety of them to boot, you’ll have undoubtedly formed strong opinions about most of them. And these opinions will be biased, of course, because they’re mostly based on your own experiences that have either been successful or disastrous. Regardless of what the general consensus is about a plant, if it’s growing well for you, your opinion of it will be positive. And if it isn’t growing well, you’ll tell whoever is willing to listen to you ramble on about houseplants that [insert plant name] sucks.

For example, I do not have fond memories of Helix hedera, commonly known as English ivy, so I will not sing it praises. Not that it would sing praises for me; what with the harsh way it ended up in the trash. My dislike of ivy has nothing to do with the fact that it has a reputation as being difficult (although it certainly does), just the fact that it’s difficult, really difficult, with me. The same is true about Gardenias and Alocasias; two beautiful plants that I’ve tried numerous times to grow (unsuccessfully, might I add), despite the warning that they’re rated ‘challenging’ by most plant growers. You see, popular opinion doesn’t matter to me; I need to experience each plant myself before I can give them up. Not that I always learn from my experiences, mind you. The jury is still out on the Alocasia; about whether I’m going to try again. Yeah, yeah, I know: “A fool and his money are soon parted”. That would be me.

Then there are other plants that have a reputation of being easy, and yet I can’t seem to get a grip on them. Philodendrons under my care, for instance, lose too many leaves or end up with some infestation or another. Of course, it is possible that I cause this grief since I move them around so much and tend to forget about them; in fact, I change their location so often (to make room for other plants) that they don’t know whether to put out new growth or drop leaves and go dormant. Why do I treat them so badly, you ask? Well, I suppose I take them for granted, assuming that they can handle unfavorable conditions better than most plants, which for the most part they can, but not always. Especially when they’re being continuously abused.

Let’s not forget about the ‘oh so easy to grow’ Aloe Vera, which I’ve tossed I don’t know how many of in the trash. Is there ever enough sun for these in my house? Uh…NO. Without sufficient light, they don’t grow properly, and I eventually get tired of caring for them when there are other plants that need my attention, so I end up throwing them away. Terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it’s really not the plant’s fault that I don’t have the ideal conditions, especially its need for very bright light. And perhaps I shouldn’t bring one of these home to begin with. But. I. Can’t. Resist. The. Temptation. They always look so beautiful at the greenhouse.

And don’t even get me started on the plant that ends up on many ‘easy-to-grow and-perfect-for-beginners’ lists: Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily). Easy? Pfft. Puh-lease. This has to be the most neurotic plant on earth. Can you say drama queen? In fact, if I was new to houseplants, this would not be the plant I’d start with; it would discourage me from growing anything else. Although it will stick around even in dire conditions (it won’t die easily), it will whine about every little thing. For this princess, it’s always too dark or too light or too dry or too humid or too warm or too cold. And it will faint regularly, leaves sprawled dramatically over its pot, when it’s under-watered or over-watered, leaving you juggling the watering can in frustration. But alas, I do love them, and end up bringing one after another home with me.

Alright, so it’s obvious that I have strong opinions about certain indoor plants that I’ve grown over the years. And although it’s difficult to find a houseplant that can fit the ‘perfect plant in almost every way’ category, it’s not impossible. Because in all my years of growing houseplants, I have come to realize that there is such a plant. And it goes by the name of Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’. As far as I’m concerned this is the perfect plant, and if you are new to houseplants, start with this one. It will encourage you to keep going.

Caring For The Silver Queen

One of the most widely-used plants in residential and commercial areas, the Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' has an undemanding temperament and grows happily with minimal care. Resistant to disease and able to adapt to conditions that are detrimental to most other houseplants, this is the perfect candidate for the most inexperienced or negligent houseplant owner. Even pests are not much of an issue with this lovely plant. It’s not that they’re immune to infestations; it’s that they’re not easily prone to them. Because of their resilience, Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' is usually neglected, often quite severely. And yet, this accommodating plant hangs in there, for better or worse. But why just have it hanging on when it can be looking its best with proper care.

Here’s what it needs:

One of the first things people assume about this plant is that it doesn’t need much light, and although it will survive in low light areas, the leaves of this plant require adequate light to maintain their decorative variegation. And the plant itself needs to be placed in a location that offers medium light for it to thrive. A position right up against a north or east window is ideal. The direct sun of south and west locations is not recommended, but a little early morning sun from an eastern location is.

Like many plants, this Aglaonema is no different when it comes to water requirements; it wants a perfect balance. Extremely susceptible to root rot from over-watering, it’s important to try and find that balance, although there’s no need to fret over it; this is a really tough plant that won’t keel over easily, even with watering habits that are less than desirable. As long as the watering blunders are infrequent, Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ will survive them. If you’re ever unsure about whether your plant needs watering or not, give it one more day; it’s better to under-water than over-water.

If you live in an area where humidity is astonishingly low, usually during the winter months when the heating system is running, there’s no need to worry; Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ is one plant that hardly, if ever, makes a fuss about humidity levels. But even though this beautiful houseplant won’t grumble when the air is dry, try to provide extra humidity when the levels plummet severely. Your plant will appreciate it, and you will discourage spider mites from moving in. In addition, gently wipe the leaves now and then to remove dust. Regular cleaning will help the plant breathe better, make the leaves shine and remove a few pesky critters.

To eliminate water woes, convert your Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ to hydroculture; this plant is one of the most remarkable performers in this alternative growing style. Conversion is quick and painless; the plant hardly takes notice as you switch it from soil to clay pellets. Make sure to wash the roots free of soil to avoid the possibility of rot. Water roots should appear fairly quickly, anywhere between 4 – 8 weeks.

Perhaps the only thing that needs a little more attention is temperature. Although this highly-tolerant plant does well in a variety of settings, it does not do well with the cold. It prefers the warm and fuzzy feeling of a reasonably warm room away from cold drafts. It also does not like dealing with temperatures that fluctuate abruptly so don’t place it in a room where your thermostat will go up and down like a yo-yo. Be careful when placing your Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' on a windowsill or near a door or window where the temperature is lower during the cold season. Keep your plant warm.

Although some sources will stress that this plant is a heavy feeder, that certainly has not been my experience with it. I’ve discovered that like many of its Aglaonema cousins, the ‘Silver Queen’ is a fairly slow grower and therefore does not need to be fed very often. My personal recommendation is to go easy on the fertilizer; give your plant a dose of liquid fertilizer, diluted to half recommended strength, no more than once a month during the spring and summer periods. I’d even go so far as suggesting that you feed only 2 – 3 times during the entire active growing season. Do not feed your plant at all during the late fall and throughout the winter, or if the plant is growing in poor lighting.

That’s all there is to it folks; the needs of this plant are simple and straightforward. It isn’t difficult to succeed with a plant that will put up with slapdash care. Even so, don’t just keep this lovely plant alive, care for it properly and encourage it to thrive.


  1. I've never known a Spathiphyllum to complain about anything other than too wet or too dry, honestly. Granted, they complain about both of those things a lot.

  2. That's been my usual experience with them, too. However, I did have one Spathiphyllum that complained (and deteriorated quickly) about the cold and dry air; it was near a somewhat rafty window, and the humidity in the room was quite low, so I discovered that they are capable of whining about other things. I still like them, though.

  3. I have done hydroculturing in Korea, ex.. boston fern, spathiphyllum, areca palm, english ivy, snake plant(sansevieria), calathea..

    Contents of this blog always have been helpful for me. Thank you very much.

  4. You're welcome, Juhyun :) I'm glad that my blog is helpful to you.