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Anthurium debilis Cultivation

Growing Anthurium debilis in Cultivation 

Authored by: Roger Fahnert III 

Anthurium debilis is a phenomenal species of terrestrial Anthurium from the Valle del Cauca region of western Colombia. It was given the name debilis, translating to “weak, by Thomas Croat in 2005 due to its particularly fussy disposition in cultivation. I'm hoping that, through this article, I may be able to rectify the reputation of this plant so that many more people will get to enjoy this species to its full potential. 

Emergent Leaf

Figure 1, A. debilis, Emergent Leaf

Figure 2, Hardened Leaf

Figure 2, A. debilis, Hardened Leaf

With emergent leaves ranging from coppery to pink in color and hardening off to a dark green with a smokey blue matte sheen, A.debilis has shown great potential to be a major player in cultivation, not unlike its close relative A. luxuriansAnthurium debilis expresses beautifully undulated, or quilted, leaves with a subtle bullate texture at maturity. Hybrids containing A. debilis often display its characteristics heavily. We've successfully hybridized this plant with three species at this point (A. crystallinum, A.  forgetii, and A. carlablackiae) and I am more than excited with the results. The hybrid seedlings are uniform, carrying the slight bullate, sub-velvety texture and the dark blue green hues from their debilis parentage, creating some of the most beautiful non-velvety hybrids in our collection. 

debilis and its hybrids created at Carnivero

Figure 3, A. debilis and its hybrids created at Carnivero

 

Now is the part everyone has been anticipating, “how do you keep this plant from  turning into a crispy chip without rotting it out completely?” In-situ Anthurium debilis grows in riparian settings in the pluvial forests of Colombia so wet' is really going to be the name of the game with this species. The trick is to keep the soil wet while also allowing the  roots the ability to breathe and avoid conditions conducive to rot. For this reason, I find peat based potting mixes nearly impossible to use for this species and I prefer to use a soilless substrate. My mix for debilis differs from that of other Cardiolonchium species, in that, I double the sphagnum moss usually required. The ratio for my mix is: 

  • 1pt - perlite 
  • 1pt- sphagnum moss 
  • 2pt- rinsed coconut chunk 
  • 2pt- Orchiata “Classic” orchid bark 

When potting this species, it is important not to pack the substrate too tightly around the roots. I only use the slightest pressure to compact the substrate; only enough to hold the plant in an upright position. This allows for plenty of air movement around the roots, avoids rot and encourages root growth. 

Debilis Emergent Leaf (old growth crispy)

Figure 4, Beautiful A. debilis emergent growth with "crispy" old growth from underwatering

Most Anthuriums prefer to dry out between waterings but debilis absolutely despises it.  If allowed to dry out then the infamous crispy edges will follow.  I can’t stress this enough. I water the debilis in our collection upwards of twice as often as other related species.  Other than that, you should care for your debilis much in the same way you do any other Anthurium. A lot of people say that this species requires a lot of supplemental humidity, but I simply haven't found that to be the case. Our greenhouse ranges from 65-80% humidity and our temperatures fluctuate widely throughout the day while my personal grow tent ranges from 85-90% humidity with temps between 70-80F. I don't find  the care to be any different in these two settings and have been successful growing these plants to leaf perfection in both. 

As always, this is just my experience, so growing this plant might require a little  extra experimentation given your conditions, but I'm confident that these tips will help  you grow Anthurium debilis to its full potential. I'm excited to get to share my  experience with you all, and I'm even more excited to see more people enjoying this  plant instead of shying away from it due to its reputation. 

Best regards and good luck growing these!


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