Thursday, February 25, 2010

Easier Than I Thought--Thai Aglaonema Edition

When these beauties first appeared on the houseplant market, I hesitated to try them. For one thing, they were hard to find (mail-order sources only) and expensive. For the other thing, I heard that they were far fussier than the more common green Aglaonema species. They supposedly needed lots more water, humidity and light, three things that can be kind of difficult for me to provide.

Left to right: Aglaonema 'Butterfly,' A. ‘Sethimankong,’ A. 'Siam Aurora'

I have never found a reliable way of increasing humidity for plants outside of a terrarium, short of purchasing a humidifier, which I don't really like using. I tend to fall behind on my watering on occasion, so plants that can't handle a bit of dryness don't last long here among the leaves, outside of a terrarium. Light I can usually handle, but the question is how much: Plants with such colorful leaves tend to do best in southern or western exposures, both of which seemed counter-intuitive to me. These are Aglaonema varieties after all, and they seemed a little tender for a full blast of hot sunlight.

I needn't have worried. Now that I've had my plants for several months, I am happy to report that they do just fine without added humidity, they seem to like drying out a bit, just like their greener relatives, and they are happy in my east window, producing new leaves just as colorful as the older ones. I did lose two plants, but both of those were quite small, with immature root systems. The larger, well-rooted plants are doing great.

Of course, they are still hard to find: Mine are all eBay purchases. And they are still rather expensive. I have kept costs down by only purchasing from sellers located in the U.S., since the added costs of shipping from Thailand, plus the phytosanitary certificate required, can add a big chunk to the price.

Aglaonema 'Butterfly' with bright pink new growth.

Of course now I have my fingers so crossed that they are cramped, since I have found that whenever I brag about a particular plant, trouble strikes. My Monstera deliciosa is recovering from a scale attack, and I've lost several Hedera helix varieties to spider mites.


Ivynettle said...

I can't quite tell whether I like these. Probably because the colours look so strange and un-plant-like to me. Although it has to be said, when I first saw them, I didn't like Codiaeum variegatum either - now I at least like some varieties.

mr_subjunctive said...

I swear I wrote a comment on this post when you posted it. Grrrr.

Like Ivynettle, I'm a little iffy on some of the colors: I would buy 'Sethimankong' in a heartbeat, but some other varieties I've seen have more of an olive-and-orange thing going on, instead of green-and-red, and while I like olive and orange okay as colors, I don't like them together.

But anyway. I cut back my 'Red Gold' Aglaonema on Thursday, and I suppose (aside from a tendency to fall over, instead of growing upright) I agree with you; it wasn't significantly harder than the green ags I have. Though there are green ones I like much better ('Brilliant,' 'Diamond Bay,' 'Silverado'). And I expect that trying to root these cuttings is going to be a disaster.

Karen715 said...

But they are very plant-like in person. Like all colorful plants, they look best in a setting where they are an accent among plain green plants. Grouped together, I admit, they are a bit much.

Mr_S: I prefer the ones with red coloring, myself. 'Siam Aurora' has very red variegation, kind of like a gaudy shade of lipstick. And though I really like the Thais, and wouldn't be averse to having more, my favorite Ags are green varieties with white stems. Love, love, love those.

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