James H. Schutte
Plant Common Name
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Anthurium is a large genus of more than 700 species and many more cultivated varieties. These are naturally distributed across the warm, humid, tropical regions of Mexico south to Brazil and Ecuador. Desirable species were brought to Hawaii late in the 1800’s where they are now a significant horticultural crop. Most varieties in commercial production are hybrids that are favored as houseplants, conservatory specimens and container or bedding plants where growing conditions are favorable.
Species are evergreen, terrestrial or epiphytic (tree dwelling) and either clump-forming or vines. Their leaves are single (simple), and may be heart-shaped, lobed, spatula-shaped or oval. These can be matte or glossy and thin or thick, depending on the species. Anthurium leaves tend to shift to track the sun, which is an interesting feature.
Like all members of Araceae, they have unusual flowers consisting of a finger-like floral column (spadix) surrounded by a colorful petal-like leaf (spathe). The female flowers are usually at the base of the spadix and the male flowers are towards the top. The spathe is often large, leathery and may be red, white, green, pink, burgundy or bi-colored. After pollination, the female flowers produce showy fruits of red, orange, black or purple, which look like fleshy berries along the column.
There are many desirable species available to gardeners. Anthurium andraeanum is an epiphyte from Columbia that has large, puckered, heart-shaped, leaves and flowers with a rounded red spathe and heart-shaped base. Anthurium crystallinum is a large plant grown primarily for its big, velvety leaves with white veins. And Anthurium scherzerianum is an extremely variable species with medium-sized short-stemmed leaves in various shapes and flowers with a twisting spadix, the surrounded by a large shiny heart-shaped spathe of red, white, yellow, green or orange.
Bright indirect light, high humidity and moist but well-drained medium are required for good growth and flower production. Epiphytic species grow best in an orchid mix. Water and fertilize regularly during the growing season and make sure that outdoor plants are shaded from hot intense sun. Anthuriums are grown as landscape plants in the tropics and prized as houseplants or tender patio plants in temperate climates. Their fabulous flowers are long-lasting and beautiful when cut for arrangements.