by Bryce Fulton
You may already be aware of the most commonly seen Anthurium available in corner stores, nurseries and flower shops. They usually have very large red flowers and plain looking leaves.
Personally, we're not too excited about them, but some people love collecting the different colour blooms.
What we love about Anthurium though are the foliage varieties.
You likely have seen these foliage Anthurium all over Facebook and Instagram, and they go by many names (there are approximately 1000 types of Anthurium, sorted into 19 different sections!). Some of the most well-known types are Anthurium veitchii, Anthurium warocqueanum and Anthurium clarinervium.
Anthurium Care 101:
Anthurium care is not necessarily difficult, but there are some key differences in their care and cultivation to keep them happily growing indoors.
Anthuriums require similar light to most plants indoors, which is medium to bright indirect light. There is a lot of diversity among this collection of plants, so it is recommended that you read about where your desired plant grows in the wild to find out how you can best replicate this at home. It is important to avoid direct sunlight, as some Anthurium can burn easily. Low light will be tolerated for a short while, but don't expect fast growth.
The majority of Anthurium are epiphytes, meaning they grow in the wild attached to trees, rocks, and other plants without causing major damage to the host plant. To replicate this at home, you want the soil to be very aerated and loose, with moisture holding amendments. The most popular of these are perlite, coconut husk chips and orchid bark. To make sure your soil mix is well-draining, the water should come out of the drainage hole in 60 seconds or less, depending on the size of the container.
You want to have the mix to be about 15-20% of your main filler soil (coco peat is our choice, or peat moss, which is the normal filler found in "potting soil") and the rest (80-85%) to be chunky amendments. You essentially want it to be all chunks, with some soil to fill in the gaps. Some people even use 100% coco chips, sphagnum moss or orchid bark, but we find that we have to water them very often, which can be inconvenient.
Anthurium are native to tropical areas with a lot of rainfall, so they like to be kept evenly moist. As with all house plants, make sure they are not sitting in soaking wet soil, but you also don't want the soil dry out completely. If you follow the advice above for a very chunky soil mix, it will be hard to overwater, but it is still possible!
Your watering needs will vary based on your environment, so take any advice and apply it to your own growing area. Generally more light will mean that the water is used up faster. Natural sunlight growers will notice a decline in water needs during colder months, and more frequent watering required in summer.
Personal anecdote: We love using coconut husk chip amendments and perlite in our soil, and the way we check the moisture level is to pick up the coco chips and squeeze a few of them. If they drip water, that plant doesn't need water. If it's moist, but not dripping, it's probably time to water.
This is one of the main factors separating Anthurium care from a normal houseplant. You will want to have a rough idea about your home's relative humidity before getting an Anthurium. If you're diving into the world of collectible plants, it's a good idea to get a humidity/temperature monitor so that you can address the humidity needs of different plants.
Generally at a minimum, you will want your humidity to be around 60%. There are some varieties that require even higher humidity, but most of the more common Anthurium are happy in this range. This can be achieved by adding a humidifier, growing them in a well lit bathroom, or using evaporation from a pebble tray/sphagnum moss on the top of the pot.
Once you start collecting many tropical plants, you may look at purchasing or building a vivarium or enclosed space for your plants. This helps maintain humidity without as much intervention because the plants inside will all transpire (release water from their leaves, raising humidity).
When you begin working with higher humidity, specifically in a home setting, you will also want to introduce airflow. Airflow is important to prevent any sitting or stagnant water on leaves, surfaces and walls, and prevents mold in an enclosed space. It is also important for your plants as they grow larger, as it helps them to form stronger petioles to hold up their leaves. This is through a process called thigmomorphogenesis if you would like to research more on it. Generally the easiest way to do this is to add one or multiple fans to your growing space that will circulate air.
Personal Anecdote: We find that the high humidity helps with new leaves. Anthurium leaves have a tendency to start small and keep growing larger for weeks. If the humidity is low during this time, the leaf may harden off before it has reached its full potential. Humidity is VERY important to having great growth and nice looking leaves on anthuriums.
There are many different ways you can fertilize your Anthurium, the most commonly used method is to fertilize in the growing season, every 6-8 weeks at a diluted (often recommended at 1/4 what the packaging instructs) strength or using a specific houseplant fertilizer.
The method we use is to fertilize weakly, weekly. What this means is that we dilute our fertilizer A LOT, we put about a capful of low-strength fertilizer into a large watering can, but we fertilize every watering. Sometimes we skip it, but for the most part, we do this with all of the plants we grow.
Personal Anecdote: We use coconut products for all of our growing, and it needs to be supplemented with Calcium and Magnesium intermittently to make sure that all nutrients you are adding are made available to the plant.
Propagating Anthurium can be done through seed or from stem division. It can take a while before you have enough stem to work with, and many people prefer to leave their plant to grow to its full potential. Before cutting, make sure you have sterilized your shears or scissors. Make a cut low on the stem, trying to include roots and leaves and then pot into container suitable for the cutting size.
Be sure not to confuse the stem with the petiole. The petiole is what the leaf is attached to, and the stem is where the crown of the plant is.
When repotting Anthurium, be sure to keep the crown above the soil.
Overall, Anthurium are easy enough to care for once you know what they need. We would recommend Anthurium clarinervium as the first in your collection. We find them to be quite simple to care for and they aren't as demanding about humidity as others can be. Don't be intimidated, as they are such a rewarding plant genus to collect and care for!