When I was young, we lived in Thailand and my mother (who grew up in Milwaukee) would buy very cheap houseplants and orchids from the market. I remember one houseplant in particular. The beautiful red flowers were so waxy they looked like they had been polished with furniture polish and they lasted for months. We did not know the names of the plants, but we enjoyed their novelty and exotic beauty. Now that I am older, I know these are called anthuriums. Although I associate them with tropical Southeast Asian countries, they really hail from South American tropical environments.
Anthuriums are members of the Araceae or arum family. The “flower,” the red, heart-shaped part, is a modified leaf called a spathe. The actual flowers are tiny and appear in the center vertical structure called the spadix. The “flower” lasts a long time, making them ideal for cut flower arrangements.
As a houseplant, anthuriums can grow in low light conditions but the more light you can provide, the more likely it will bloom throughout the year. It does not need a lot of fertilizer however fertilizing a few times a year will encourage blossoms. It definitely does not like moist soil. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Anthuriums are easy, low maintenance plants, perfect for the home and office.
Usually one sees red-flowering plants at the hardware store or nursery but there are cultivars with pink, green and white, and purple flowers. There is even a black flower cultivar called ‘Black Love’. My plant was less than ten dollars at the local hardware store. It was very root bound in a 4-inch pot, so check your plant’s roots after you purchase it.
During the holidays, I see red flowering anthuriums in the stores where I live so I think of them as alternative poinsettias. Although poinsettias are instant Christmas, anthurium flowers last longer than poinsettia flowers and the plant tends to have a more exotic, year-round appeal. Try growing anthuriums; these also make great gift plants!
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