How to Care for Anthuriums
Anthuriums are popular plants in ornamental horticulture. From the long, dark and elegant Anthurium warocqueanum to the odd, bullate, three fingered beauty Anthurium cutucuense, Anthuriums are as diverse as they are awe inspiring. The most commonly kept cultivars are grown for their beautiful spathes that come in almost every color of the rainbow, and can usually be picked up for a bargain at your local big box store. The arguably more beautiful velvety species and hybrids may be more difficult to come by but are starting to solidify their place in the collections of horticultural hobbyists. One of the major reasons that they are not kept as widely is because of their reputation of being difficult to keep. Our goal is to dispel these rumors and give growers the confidence they need in order to grow Anthuriums successfully.
For this care guide we will be speaking on our experience keeping velvety Anthuriums; as their waxy counterparts, such as Anthurium luxurians and Anthurium veitchii, don't give growers quite as hard of a time. The care for waxy anthuriums is going to be identical to that of velvety species, they just seem a bit more forgiving when it comes to their watering and humidity requirements.
Soil: Caring for the roots of your Anthurium is going to be the most important aspect when it comes to your success growing these plants. Ensuring that the roots are able to dry out between waterings is of utmost importance. This being said peat based potting mixes do not work well for Anthuriums, as they typically stay far to wet for far to long and become difficult to rehydrate once they do dry out. They also dont allow for proper airflow around the roots which makes for the perfect conditions conducive to rot. The mix that we use for Our velvety anthuriums is:
1pt - Pearlite
1/2pt- Sphagnum moss
2pt- Rinsed coconut chunk
- 2pt- Orchiata “Classic” orchid bark
When potting your anthurium ensure that you don't pack the substrate. Allow for plenty of space for air to flow through the roots. Though anthuriums come from tropical regions, staying too wet is the fastest way to kill your anthurium and also the hardest to recover from. Keep that in mind when watering your plant. Water it thoroughly so that the water pours out the bottom of the pot, but wait until the substrate completely drys out before watering again. There are a few signs to keep an eye out for that are signs of over-watering or substrate that doesn't allow for proper airflow, namely yellowing of newer foliage from the center of the leaf outwards, leaf rot at the base of the petiole, and guttation on the back of the leaf. If you see any of these symptoms either slow down on the frequency of watering or repot your anthurium into a better drained substrate.
Above: Root rot shown in Anthurium roots.
Above: Healthy Anthurium roots.
Fertilizers: Feeding your anthurium can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be. We prefer to use Osmocote every six months in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations as well as a monthly fertilization with a seaweed based fertilizer. You may also use CalMag, fish meal, worm castings, or a plethora of chemical fertilizers; anthuriums don't care that much as long as they get fed. The symptoms to look out for that may be indicative of under fertilizing your anthurium are old foliage yellowing and dying out prior to pushing a new leaf. This happens as the plant tries to suck as much nutrient as it can out of the older foliage in order to sustain the new growth. As well as the plant not achieving the color that it should, given that the plant is in proper lighting.
Above: Chlorotic Anthurium.
Humidity: Humidity is one of the areas where people seem to be highly opinionated. Some will say that anthuriums don't require supplemental humidity while others say that anything less than 90% will spell disaster for your plant. Though humidity ranging from 65%-85% is ideal, some growers have success growing anthuriums closer to the 50% range. We will say that the higher the humidity, the easier it is to grow these plants. The major sign to look for when it comes to lack of humidity are crispy edges. If your plant is yellowing from the outside edge inward, you might want to boost your humidity.
Light: Finally, we have lighting. Anthuriums are understory plants, living beneath the dense canopy of the rainforest. The amount of light they need is minimal and an abundance of light will prove to be detrimental. As lighting varies from location to location, We will instead give you things to look for in an anthurim that is in too low and too high of light. Over-exposure is definitely more harmful so that is where we will start.
Above: Anthurium crystallinum x debilis seedlings grown in different lighting (left grown in low light and right in high light).
In too bright of light your anthurium may lose a lot of its color. Leaves will harden off to a light green/yellow and in time will sunbleach completely. It may stop growing all together going months without pushing a new leaf. The worst case scenario is that the catyphyll itself burns, at which point the plant will have to start over from a new growth point, the dead catyphyll is extremely susceptible to rot so it is extremely important to keep an eye on it as it may need to be removed all together. On the other hand we have anthuriums grown in too low of light. Keep an eye on emergent leaves and notice the length of the petiole. As the anthurium reaches for the light, The petiole may become comically elongated. The goal with lighting is to give your anthurium just enough light that the petiole to leaf ratio stays within reason and that the plant hardens off to a nice rich color. In extreme cases of low lighting, Anthuriums may push out a new leaf without enough energy to finish the process. The new leaf may not expand to its proper size, the petiole may remain short and it will harden off extremely dark in color.
Above: Anthurium experiencing sunburn due to overexposure.
Above: Anthurium experiencing etiolation from not having enough light.
It may seem like a lot but in practice you will probably only encounter one issue at a time. Once you dial in on these requirements then you will realize how quick and easy these plants are to grow. They don't require anything that other plants don't need as well, just in different quantities. If you have experience growing philodendrons, dieffenbachia, or spathiphyllum (peace lilies) then you are probably already providing a lot of the same conditions that anthuriums need. They are wonderful plants with unmatched beauty among Aroids. They provide insight into the grandeur of our Earth's natural diversity, and keeping them is extremely rewarding. If you follow these tips then you should have no problem bringing a slice of that diversity into your home. Feel free to reach out with any questions and we will be more than happy to assist you!