What a cute plant. Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor leaves have 3 colors (2 shades of green + 1 shade of cream) that resemble army camouflage!! Up close, it even looks a little “pixelated”. 🙂
Good news. This rare and unique plant is easy to care for. It requires high humidity >70%, bright but indirect light, and deep watering when the topsoil is dry. Using a high-quality indoor potting soil with added bark and perlite is ideal for improved drainage properties.
In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know to look after and propagate this plant, as well as troubleshoot for common pests and diseases.
Also known as the Chinese Evergreen Tricolor or the Camouflage Plant, the Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor is native to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Nias. These islands are known for their tropical wildlife and active volcanoes. The Tricolour is commonly found from 3,000 to 6,000 feet (914 – 1,828 metres) above sea level, living atop volcano slopes.
Being a terrestrial plant that grows upright, the Camouflage plant stands at 2 feet tall when mature (60cm). Like many Aroids, its inflorescence presents in the form of a central white spadix protected by spathe. However, most consider this insignificant when compared with its uniquely variegated foliage.
Is the Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor rare?
Yes it is. This rare and unique Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor plant can be 2-5 times the price of regular houseplants.
How to care for your Aglaonema Pictum Tricolour
As a jungle understory plant, the Aglaonema can tolerate low-light conditions. However, it will respond with visibly slower growth rates. Its prized foliage will also appear dull and less vibrant, and new growth will take longer to emerge.
The usual prescription of bright but indirect light applies for your plant to thrive. East-facing windowsills are great for this purpose. Here, your Aglaonema receives gentler morning light and 6-8 hours of indirect light for the rest of the day.
On the other hand, direct light will burn leaves. Use a 30-40% shade cloth or translucent curtain to lessen the intensity of natural light if you need to!
This Aglaonema’s soil must be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Never let the soil go bone dry throughout the pot. Instead, water your plant when the top 1 inch of soil is dry.
A well-known hack is to check on the soil’s moisture level every few days with your finger. If soil particles stick to your finger, it is still moist. If it doesn’t, it’s time to water your plant.
As a general rule of thumb, this may work out to be once every week in the summer, reducing to once every 2-3 weeks in winter. (BUT – this is a reference only. Always check the soil’s moisture with your finger!)
Like many Aroids, root rot is a common issue that arises from overwatering your plant. Be strict about only watering your plant when the topsoil is dry, and ensure you use a pot with drainage holes to runoff excess water. Empty your plant’s saucer after watering.
Don’t stick to a fixed watering schedule (every X days), as growth rates and evaporation rates change with the seasons and climate. This affects how much water your plant needs. If you’ve found yourself with an overwatered plant, read our guide on how to rescue your plant.
Keeping humidity levels high is critical for your plant’s health. They love basking in humidity >70%! For this reason, this Aglaonema is suitable for greenhouses or terrariums if you have one.
No surprises here – your tropical plant is not cold-hardy. Don’t let temperatures dip below 65 degrees F (18 degrees C).
For optimal growth, aim to keep your plant in temperatures of 70 – 90 degrees F (21 – 32 degrees C). In addition, avoid placing your plant near air vents or drafty doors. Providing a warm and stable climate is a great environment for your tropical plant.
Our experience is that using an indoor potting mix and adding perlite, a little orchid bark, and peat is a good option.
This will give the soil a good balance between water retention and drainage properties. Having this balance allows your plant to easily absorb water and nutrients, at the same time, does not waterlog or suffocate its roots.
The addition of peat also makes for a slightly acidic growing media. An acidic pH allows soil nutrients to be readily available for your Aglaonema’s uptake.
Being a naturally slower grower, your plant is a light feeder. But it can use some help in the growing season.
Use a water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength once a month during the spring and summer months. Opt for a balanced houseplant fertilizer (NPK 10-10-10).
Hold off fertilizing in the autumn and winter months.
Here are some repotting tips:
- Your plant likes being rootbound. It also grows slowly, so repotting your plant every 1-2 years is sufficient.
- Repotting is best done during the spring. This gives your plant time to establish itself in its new pot during the summer months when growth is at its highest.
Of course, the only way to know for sure that your plant is root-bound is to examine its roots. However, several signs would give you a pretty good idea that the time to repot is drawing near:
- Symptoms of a root-bound plant are similar to that of an underwatered plant. The plant grows much more slowly than usual and has brown or yellowing leaves.
- Your plant appears as if it never has enough to drink, no matter how much you water it. Additionally, water takes a long time to drain through the plant. This points to a very densely-packed pot.
- Your plant has little roots emerging from the bottom of the drainage hole or has roots appearing above the soil.
- In extreme cases, your container may be warped due to the pressure of the tightly-squeezed roots pressing against the container. (Of course, this is only applicable if you are using a flimsy plastic container. You’ve also likely held off repotting for several years by this time!)
Unfortunately, Aglaonemas are toxic when ingested, according to ASCPA. Keep this one away from pets and children.
Interestingly, you don’t need to prune your Camoflague plant. It prefers that you don’t!
This is because pruning close to the crown can damage sensitive tissue and may even cause harm. For Aglaonema plants, the crown is where new growth emerges.
Furthermore, cutting back too much can leave the plant denuded (bare) for a long time due to its slow growth habit.
The best solution? Leave it be. Let yellowing or dead leaves fall off naturally. Yes, if your plant is diseased, definitely prune it, but limit the pruning to the affected area only.
You may also want to deadhead the spathes (inflorescence), which won’t harm the plant. This is so that the plant can focus its energy elsewhere, such as growing that lush foliage!
If you have a healthy plant, there are two main methods you can use to propagate your Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor. These are by stem cuttings and by division.
It’s easy – here’s how:
Propagation by Stem Cuttings
- Identify two nodes on a portion of the stem about 4 inches long.
- Using clean garden shears, deliver a clean cut to the stem below the node. (The node is where the new growth will emerge, so you need to keep this on the cutting.)
- Place the stem cutting in a jar of room temperature water. Ensure that the nodes are submerged in the water.
- Change the water every 2-3 days and wait until roots emerge from the node.
- When the roots are 2-3 inches long, replant the rooted stem cutting into a moistened potting mix.
- You should feel some resistance when gently tugging on the stem in about a month. This means that the roots have been established into the soil.
Propagation by Division
Division is another intuitive way to propagate a plant. All it is is separating the root systems of your existing plant and repotting them into two separate containers. For this reason, you need to ensure your plant is relatively mature and has established root systems.
Similar to repotting, propagation by division is done in spring.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Gently remove your plant from the pot, carefully using your fingers to free any compacted soil from its roots.
- Identify a section of the plant that has formed its root system.
- Gently separate the two sections, again using your fingers to untangle the roots carefully.
- Repot your plant in two containers that are just a little bit bigger than its rootball size. This may mean that the original pot is now too big for the plant, as it may have reduced in size by up to half!
- Use an appropriate potting mix (See the Soil section for details) for the two plants. Gently tap down the soil to secure the plant in place. But be sure not to be too aggressive to avoid compacting the soil.
- Water both plants.
- It’s normal for the plants to have slower growth after repotting, as they may be in shock. You will need to give it time to adjust to its new home.
Common Pests and Diseases
Aphids, spider mites and mealybugs are the usual gambits of houseplant pests that may infect your plants. It’s always good practice to inspect your plant’s leaves before introducing them to your home and at regular intervals after that.
We recommend the Bonide Insecticidal Soap Spray to rid ourselves of these pests. We’ve found this to be the most effective method of dealing with infestations. We keep it on deck in case of pest emergencies – it is also convenient to tackle all these pests in one product.
Similar Plants and Varieties
Aglaonema Silver Bay
This popular houseplant, also known as the Chinese Evergreen, boasts elegantly variegated leaves. With silver-cream centers and grey and green specks and margins, this plant is known for its foliage. It’s also known to be near impossible to kill!
Aglaonema Silver Queen
Another popular Aglaonema, the Silver Queen, has elongated leaves with green variegation.
Aglaonema Maria Christina
Another cultivar, this Aglaonema is also very easy to care for. Visually, you can see that this plant has more deep green variegation when compared with the Silver Queen.
Now, this is a beauty. We love the bright pink on its midrib and veins, set against the green foliage. It’s as if someone outlined this plant with a bright pink marker!
Aglaonema Pink Dalmation
Don’t you love these names? This is another easy-to-grow variety. The Dalmation boasts leaves with light pink midribs with large pink splotches. Like the Pictum Tricolor, it is also a slow grower thanks to its heavy variegation.
Why are they leaving drooping?
The main reason for droopy leaves is either too much water or too little.
Examine your soil’s moisture to check and adjust accordingly. Also, ensure you are using an appropriate potting mix that balances retaining moisture and allows excess water to drain off. See the Soil section for details.
Why are the leaves brown and crispy?
This is usually because your plant has too little humidity or is underwatered. First, examine if your plant’s soil is too dry. Change up your watering routine accordingly.
If this is not the issue, invest in a humidifier (honestly, it’s one of the gardening tools we think is so worth it).
Why are the leaves yellow?
Yellowing leaves points to improper watering. The top reason for yellow Aglaonemas is overwatering!
Your plant doesn’t like wet feet (waterlogged roots). Remember to empty your plant’s saucer after watering and ensure you have a well-drained soil mix, like the one we recommend in the Soil section.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy this plant?
Unless you live in Indonesia, chances of you finding this plant in your local nursery are pretty low. You’d need to look up reputable online sellers on Etsy or private sellers on eBay or Facebook groups to source a Tricolor.
How quickly does it grow?
Like all heavily variegated plants, the Aglaonema is a relatively slow-grower. When mature, it can reach up to 2 feet tall (60 cm).
Can you grow Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor from seeds?
Yes, you can. You can plant seeds in moist sphagnum moss or plant in a moistened potting mix with the seeds just under a thin layer of soil. However, you’ll need to be patient – it can take up to 2 months for the seeds to germinate. Remember, this is a slow-growing plant.
Do Aglaonemas purify the air?
Yes. A study by NASA showed that the Chinese Evergreen Plant reduces harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene from the air. Do note that this specific study was on the Aglaonema modestum, and not specifically the Aglaonema Pictum Tricolor.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.