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Chinese Evergreen Getting Leggy? Here’s What to Do

Chinese Evergreen Getting Leggy? Here's What to Do

Chinese Evergreens are among the most loved house plants due to their charm and little care needed. While there are not many conditions that could easily affect the health of your plant, it is not uncommon to deal with a leggy Chinese Evergreen. Luckily, this is not the most threatening of conditions and can be solved quickly.

A Chinese Evergreen can get leggy if planted in a pot that is too small for its roots, or as a consequence of improper lighting conditions. Symptoms include bare stems, visible roots out of the soil, and wilted leaves. To restore its bushy look, prune the leggy stems or repot the plant.

Even if taking care of your Chinese Evergreen is a straightforward task, some extra tips can help you solve hiccups in no time. Read on to find out how to repristinate the look and health of your plant.

What Does It Mean That Your Chinese Evergreen Plant Is Leggy?

What Does It Mean That Your Chinese Evergreen Plant Is Leggy?

Any plant or house plant can become leggy. However, this condition is more common in flowering plants that grow in conditions of low or poor lighting. “Legginess” is the conversational term for a process known as Etiolation.

Etiolation can happen in plants growing in improper lighting conditions and can cause the stems to become longer than natural, yet unhealthy. The plant employs this strategy in an attempt to reach a more suitable lighting source such as the sun. Elongation, weak leaves and stems, a pale color, and longer internodes are common symptoms of this condition.

Causes of Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

Causes of Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

As we have seen, Chinese Evergreens are incredibly easy-to-care-for plants that will thrive in low-lighting, high humidity conditions. They adapt well to dry air and increased lighting, but they are highly sensitive to overwatering. 

While these factors make them perfect for any gardener or grower, they can quickly become affected by Etiolation or legginess. The condition is often caused by three factors: pot’s size, fertilizer, and lighting.

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on May 14, 2020.

Why does the pot’s size matter?

If you are now caring for an adult Chinese Evergreen, you have probably been dealing with it since it was a young plant. However, Aglaonemas tend to grow vertically and erected. Therefore, they need to increase the length of their roots to absorb enough nutrients and sustain their natural growth.

If their pot is too small, the plant will continue growing upwards, which can cause the stems and part of the root system to emerge from the soil. Consequently, the stems will appear leggy and more prone to bend.

Elongation tends to affect mainly mature plants as they grow further. However, if it is caused by a lack of space for the roots to grow, it can affect the health of the Chinese Evergreen in several other ways. Indeed, your houseplant might not be able to receive the necessary nutrients needed to support growth, which will lead to yellows, discolored leaves


As you know, Chinese Evergreen only needs little watering to thrive. However, when planted indoors or in improper soil, many owners opt to add fertilizer into the potting mix occasionally. While such addition can boost the strength and growth rate of your plant, it is essential to understand what is the right type of fertilizer for it.

Indeed, most commercial fertilizers include a mix of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Plants that received too much nitrogen at the beginning of the growing season – usually in spring – will grow faster and longer. In turn, this makes them more prone to legginess. 


Improper lighting is the second factor that could increase the chances of your Chinese Evergreen to become leggy over time. Undoubtedly, one of the characteristics that make a Chinese Evergreen such an excellent house plant is its high adaptability to lighting conditions.

As it does not need direct sunlight and exposure to other light sources, Aglaonemas are the perfect addition to any flats and condos. However, low-light condition differs in several ways to no-light conditions. 

In turn, legginess is a sign that your plant is trying to reach out towards the nearest light source, whether this is a window or fluorescent light.

Solution to Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

Solution to Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

Before attempting to treat legginess in your Chinese Evergreen, identify the cause behind it. Indeed, in some cases, repotting or pruning might not be necessary. In other instances, your plant might need a more direct intervention to continue growing. 

Generally, legginess is an indication of perfect growing conditions that cause your plant to increase in size. At the same time, the plant might not be able to receive the necessary nutritional support. Below you can find the guidelines to restore the charm of your plant.


While not necessary in the case of a healthy plant, pruning is essential to repristinate a leggy Chinese Evergreen’s bushy look. To do so, cut the stems down to 2-3 inches (5-7cm) above the soil line. This method encourages rejuvenation and healthy growth.

Once your plant regains its original look, you should proceed to prune it only in the case of yellow leaves and cane-like stems.

Repotting and propagation

If necessary, repot your Chinese Evergreen into a bigger pot to ensure your growing plant has access to enough nutrients. In any case, use the stems you have cut off for propagation if these are long enough (6 inches or 15cm, with a set of leaves at the top). You can do so in water or air-layered.

Finding a more suitable spot

If you have identified the cause of Etiolation in poor lighting, opt to move your plant to a location that receives more sun during the day. Even in this case, make sure the Chinese Evergreen does not have to deal with prolonged exposure to the sun.

Symptoms of Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

Symptoms of Legginess in Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreens, or Aglaonemas, are flowering plants native of tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. Each variety tends to grow at different rates, yet they can all suffer from Etiolation during their lives. 

However, to know whether your plant is suffering from Etiolation or legginess, it is essential to understand what is its standard growth rate and natural shape. Through this knowledge, you will be able to identify the symptoms of legginess.

Normal Growth VS Legginess

Chinese Evergreens are perennial plants that can grow to a length of 150cm (59 inches). They are naturally bushy, and their stems grow vertically and erect. Size, developing habits, and height vary depending on the type of Chinese Evergreen you are caring for, but you can expect their leaves to be elliptic, variegated, and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20cm) long.

As you can see, a tall Chinese Evergreen is not necessarily affected by legginess and could be entirely healthy. However, such plants are highly prone to Etiolation, especially as they become more mature and grow further. Hence, you should always keep an eye out to identify some tell-tale signs.

Other Symptoms

Signs of Etiolation include:

  • Long, cane-like stems that are not erect
  • Uneven, sparse leaves and new stems due to longer internodes
  • Roots visible outside the soil or potting mix
  • Untidy look
  • Elongations of leaves
  • Pale coloration

Final Thoughts

Legginess, or Etiolation, is a condition that affects many mature Chinese Evergreens. It often derives from perfect growing conditions that allow your plant to increase in length. However, if the growth happens so quickly that your plant can’t get enough essential nutrients, you will notice the stems to start bending and becoming weak. 

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on May 14, 2020.

Often, this condition is associated with sparse leaves and visible roots emerging from the soil. To restore the health of your plant, repot it into a more suitable container, prune the stems in excess, and allow for propagation. You could also consider moving it onto a better-lit spot.