What is an Aroid?

O. Parker

Aroid is a common name for a large species of plants in the Araceae family. This family of plants is also often called Philodendron or Arum family. There are over 100 genera and 3,750 species of aroid plants, most of which are from the tropics, though some temperate species exist. Most of the tropical species evolved in the dim light of the rain forests, a feature that makes many aroid plants well suited as houseplants where low light levels tends to stress many sun-loving plants. Some members of the Araceae family are familiar houseplants while others are rare mysteries rarely found outside the rain forests or greenhouses.

Anthuriums are considered to be aroids.
Anthuriums are considered to be aroids.

Aroid plants often have lush, dark green and glossy leaves. The flowers are characterized by an erect spadix surrounded by a spathe. The spadix is a spike that is made up of multiple tiny flowers; it is surrounded by the spathe, a thick, often colored, petal-shaped sheath. Anthuriums, calla lilies, and peace lilies — all aroids — are common examples of this flower structure. The entire flower structure, including the actual flowers, the spadix and the spathe, is called an inflorescence.

Many aroids evolved in the dim light of the rain forests.
Many aroids evolved in the dim light of the rain forests.

One example of the strange members of this plant group is the titan arum. The spadix reaches a dramatic 10 feet (about 300 cm) tall. The spathe is maroon on the inside and, when fully open, extends out 3 to 4 feet (about 90 to 120 cm). The tiny flowers bloom in the thousands along the erect spadix, where they are pollinated by insects that are attracted to the smell of rotting flesh that emits from the inflorescence of the titan arum.

A calla lily is an example of an aroid.
A calla lily is an example of an aroid.

While the titan arum does not make an ideal houseplant both for its size and particularly unpleasant smell, many aroid plants are ideally suited for indoor growing. The deep green foliage is attractive year-round, even when the plants are not actively flowering, and the flowers appear periodically throughout the year, often in winter when other plants are dormant. Peace lilies and anthuriums are some of the most common and popular aroid houseplants, but others such as the dumb cane and Chinese evergreen, both of which have multi-colored, visually interesting foliage, are also well suited for indoor growing.

Many commonly found aroids require little care. Good drainage, some humidity, and the occasional fertilizing will keep these plants happy and flourishing, and because they do not require lots of light, they can add greenery to some of the darker rooms and offices. The flowers are simply pinched or clipped off when they fade, and browning or dying leaves are removed at the soil line periodically to keep the plants looking their best.

Aroids include the titan arum.
Aroids include the titan arum.

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Discussion Comments


@Grivusangel -- I'd like to know what kind of philodendron she had. My desk at work could use a little greenery. It needs some life.

I'm all for any kind of plant that doesn't require much care except a little water and getting rid of the dead leaves. I need to ask someone at the garden center the next time I go about getting a philodendron that would be suitable for my desk, and that would grow well, even in the office. We would have plenty of dark hours, and I could always put it in the sunlight for a couple of days a week if it needed a little extra light.


Our librarian kept a philodendron in a pot on her desk. It really grew very well. It was perfectly happy in an office environment. She watered it and, as the article said, pinched off old leaves and undesirable new growth, and it thrived!

She always called it "Audrey" after the man-eating plant in "Little Shop of Horrors" because, no matter what she did to it, the plant just kept growing. I never saw her feed it any blood, but it surely did grow. She had it festooned over the doorway at one point, it had grown so much!

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