Anthurium is an exotic-looking plant with showy red, pink, or white flowers and glossy green leaves. The blooms can last for months, with the large, heart-shaped spathes adding bold color to indoor spaces. Commonly called flamingo flower, this tropical makes an excellent houseplant thriving in a site with bright, indirect light. Keep reading to learn more about growing, caring for, and propagating anthurium plants.
What is an anthurium plant?
Anthuriums, also known as flamingo flowers or painter’s palette, are tropical plants native to parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. They’re hardy in USDA zones 11 to 12 and grown as indoor plants in colder climates. The most common type of anthurium is Anthurium andreanum, which is often sold at garden centers and florists around the holidays to add cheerful color to the festive season. However, these plants are striking every day of the year and make excellent low care houseplants.
The heart-shaped ‘flower’ of anthurium is botanically a waxy spathe, which is a type of leaf. The central spadix is the true flower. The individual blooms can last for two months and appear throughout the year. Common spathe colors include red, pink, and white, but there are also those with yellow, salmon, and purple hues. The upright plants grow up to 18 inches tall and when not in bloom offer interest with their large shiny leaves.
In their native tropical habitat, most species of anthurium plants are epiphytes, which means they grow on trees. Like orchids which are also epiphytes, the roots of anthurium hold them to the branch or truck of the tree. They gather nutrients and water from the environment.
The best light for anthurium plants
Place anthurium plants in a spot where they’ll receive bright indirect light. Avoid a site with direct sunlight as direct light burns the leaves and flowers. In their native habitat they grow in the canopies of trees which filter the light. Inside a home, there are levels of indirect light and you want to aim to provide just the right amount, about 6 hours of bright, indirect light each day. Too little light can result in fewer flower spathes as well as smaller blooms. The plants can survive in lower light, but we grow this plant for the showy flowers so it’s worth it to find the right location.
Choosing the right soil for anthurium
Anthuriums can be grown as a pot plant or in a kokedama, which is a ball of soil that is covered in moss. Potting mixes are generally a blend of ingredients like peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Anthurium plants need a growing medium that is loose, well-draining, and well aerated. Soggy soil quickly results in root rot. I’ve found using orchid mix, with additional sand or a handful of peat moss, works great for these beautiful houseplants. You can blend your own orchid mix or buy a bag from garden centers or online. Orchid mix is a coarse growing medium that contains bark chunks, perlite, and charcoal.
How often to water anthurium
Water flamingo flower based on need, not a schedule. Check plants weekly by touching the top of the soil to gauge soil moisture. If the surface of the soil is dry, push your finger about an inch into the growing medium. If it’s also dry an inch down, it’s time to water. You don’t want the soil to be sopping wet and cause the roots to rot, but you also don’t want to under water which results in drooping leaves. Once you’ve watered the plant, drain any water that’s accumulated in the saucer or tray.
Given their tropical origin, anthuriums grow best with consistent moisture and high humidity. A bathroom with a shower is a great spot for this plant. In a living room you may wish to place a small humidifier nearby or keep the pot on a tray of pebbles and water. You can also keep a hand mister close by to give the foliage a daily mist. Don’t grow anthurium near radiators, heat pumps, or other heat sources which quickly dry out the roots and leaves.
How and when to fertilize flamingo flower
Fertilize flamingo flower plants monthly during the active growing season to ensure a steady supply of nutrients. Best time to fertilize is from early spring through mid-summer. Fertilize less often in autumn and winter, every two months or so. Signs that it’s time to fertilize include yellowing leaves, drooping foliage, or very slow growth. A liquid fertilizer or water soluble fertilizer is ideal, but dilute the product to avoid over-fertilizing. Anthurium doesn’t have high fertility needs and too much fertilizer is just as bad, if not worse than too little.
Look for a high-phosphorous fertilizer. A phosphorous-rich fertilizer is one with a high middle number. Fertilizers bottles and packages typically have three numbers. This represents the N-P-K ratio in the product. N is nitrogen, P is phosphorus, and K is potassium. A fertilizer with an N-P-K of 11-35-15 is one that is ideal for Anthurium.
Caring for an anthurium plant
Anthuriums are indoor plants that are easy to grow as long as you can supply the right light and humidity. Other tasks you can do to keep the plants happy include wiping the leaves with a damp cloth from time to time to remove dust. Dust blocks light and reduces the plants ability to photosynthesize.
These are relatively slow growing plants but every three to four years they’ll need to be repotted. Repotting also reinvigorates the plant and encourages new growth. When the roots have filled the current pot or when aerial roots form at the top of the growing medium, it’s time to move the plant to a bigger container. Repotting is best done in spring or early summer when the plants are actively growing. Select a new pot that is 2 to 3 inches in diameter larger than the current container. Also make sure that the new pot has plenty of drainage holes. I like using orchid pots which I then slip into a larger, more decorative container.
To repot, start by carefully removing the plant from its container. It will likely have a very dense root system. Use your fingers to try and spread out the roots, pruning some of the longer roots. You can remove about one-quarter of the roots without harming the plant. Root pruning promotes fresh growth. Using garden snips, also clip out any rotten or dead roots. Shake out most of the old soil as well. Add fresh growing medium to the bottom of the new container and place the loosened and trimmed root ball on top. Add more growing mix, working it in and around the roots. Use a chop stick or pencil to push growing mix into the root ball. Once the plant is repotted, water well and move it back to its spot.
Flamingo flower pests
Examine your plants every month or so to check for pests. Depending on the pest, signs of damage may include drooping foliage, discoloration, or shriveled leaves. Common insect pests include spider mites, mealybugs, white fly, and scale. Many pests can be eliminated with an application of insecticidal soap, but a stubborn pest like scale needs to be removed with rubbing alcohol.
More advice on growing anthurium plants
The easiest way to propagate anthurium is when you repot. Once the anthurium has been removed from the container and the roots loosened, carefully divide the plant into several pieces. Repot each section into a new pot. Another propagation technique is to root a stem cutting. Clip a 4 inch long piece of stem that has at least two sets of leaves. Ideally, select a stem that already has aerial roots. Insert the cut end into a container of orchid mix or place it in a jar of water. Once roots form, pot it up.
Anthurium plants are toxic to humans and pets so keep the plants away from children and pests to avoid accidental ingestion. Contact with the plant sap may also cause skin irritation.
For more information on growing indoor plants, be sure to check out these details articles:
- Mother of thousands plant: A complete growing guide
- How to grow string of dolphins, a unique succulent
- How to grow lithops
- A guide to growing Pilea peperomioides
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