What is an Anthurium?

Helga George

An Anthurium is a very large genus of tropical plants that grow primarily in rainforests. Many are epiphytes and live up in the canopy of trees, while others are adapted to grow on the forest floors. Some Anthuriums have very attractive flowering structures. These plants are frequently grown as houseplants in cooler climates, or as garden plants in warm ones. They are also popular flowers in floral arrangements.

Some anthuriums flower and are grown as house plants.
Some anthuriums flower and are grown as house plants.

Anthuriums are part of the arum family, Araceae, and have the distinctive flower structures found in it. What is most visible is the bract that holds the flowers. It is called a spathe and is often brightly colored. Red is the color frequently associated with these bracts, but they can be produced in a number of different colors. Technically, Anthurium flowers are tiny and grow up out of the spathe on a tail-like structure called a spadix.

The Anthurium plants can vary greatly in their appearance. Some are short with simple leaves, while others are vines. Many species have leaves that are multi-lobed. Other plants that are adapted to dryer areas can have leaves in a rosette. This enables them to trap water.

The species of Anthurium most commonly grown is the flamingo flower, Anthurium scherzerianum. This species generally has bright red spathes, although cultivars with other colors are also available. The leaves are oblong and up to 6 in (15 cm) long.

Another commonly grown species is the tailflower, Anthurium andreanum, with spathes that are orange-red to bright red. As with the flamingo flower, cultivars in other colors are available. The leaves are 6-8 in (15-20 cm) long, and are borne on long stalks. With both species, a single spathe can last a month. They can bloom continuously if cared for properly.

Anthurium care is fairly straightforward. The plants should have bright light, but not be subjected to direct sun. The species that are grown for their foliage will tolerate lower light levels. The ideal potting mixture is a one-to-one mixture of coarse sphagnum moss and fir bark. They should be kept moist and grown on top of a humidifying tray if grown indoors.

During the day, the temperature should be at least 68°F (20°C), but no greater than 90°F (32.2deg;C). At night it should range from 60-65°F (15.6-18.3° C). Anthurium plants will not survive frost.

Plants that grow as vines should be given a structure to climb. Those that have crowns should be treated differently. As the crowns develop higher up, they should be covered with sphagnum moss. All these plants should be fertilized every two weeks with a dilute fertilizer.

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How do I get different coloured flowers for anthuriums?

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