November 16, 2010

The Chinese Evergreen Group- Aglaonema and Company.

Every year there are several big horticulture trade shows. Each year there will be a "new " plant on display,  often a plant that has been grown a long time ago, now enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It is getting increasingly difficult to really "wow" someone in the retail plant market, although in my opinion plant breeders have done a pretty decent job in the last 2 decades. In these trade shows, we'll see something like Zamioculcas zamiifolia as a "new" plant, (although it has been in cultivation for at least 50 years.) Dieffenbachias have made a comeback, and in the last 5 years or so, Aglaonemas have also made a comeback. Sometimes there are new cultivars of something long in cultivation. One witty nurseryman called this type of plant a " heritage" plant, meaning that if you wait for 2 or 3 generations of people to pass through the plant world, lots of old plants are "new" to the new customers.

One of the nicest aspects of modern Aglaonema breeding is the influx of Thai and Indonesian plant selections. Greg Hambali is a well known plant collector in Indonesia, responsible for introducing dozens of new cultivars in the horticultural trade. Some of them have incredible, flashy, surreal colors. In our local nursery trade, several of these plants are coming into the retail market to supplant the old standby varieties like 'Silver Queen' and ' Emerald Beauty'. Only time will tell if these newer varieties are as easy to produce and care for as the older varieties are.         

Indonesian selection

Indonesian selection

Aglaonema costatum
a miniature species
There are dozens of selections in this group available for the interior landscape business. Many of these make good landscape plants in the subtropics where the plants won't be exposed to freezing temperatures. At Pinecrest Gardens we use these plants as bedding plants and as decorative potted plants. Some of the selections can grow to 2 or 3 feet tall, whereas some of the more compact types, like A. costatum, stay under 6 inches tall forever, and rarely grow out of an 8 inch pot. Most of these plants like shady growing conditions, with bright filtered light early mornings, and no direct afternoon sunlight. Even moisture and regular fertilizing makes for strong plants indoors and out.    

'Key Lime'

Aglaonemas are "new" again, and we should harvest these "new" plants for our gardens, especially for those who have a lot of shade.
In our situation at Pinecrest Gardens, they fill an important niche in our shade gardens, underneath tall canopy trees, in raised planting beds, and as potted plants.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Rain',  
an Aglaonema look-alike

 'Emerald Beauty'

'Silver Queen', and industry standard

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