A popular blooming houseplant in winter and spring is Anthurium andraeanum, which goes by the common name of Flamingo Flower. Like many tropical plants grown as houseplants, it’s a member of the Araceae or Aroid Family. Plants in this group have an inflorescence made up of a spike of small flowers called a spadix, and an often colorful leaf, called a spathe. Other members of the family include our native wildflower Jack-in-thePulpit; and many tropical plants including Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily) with a pure white spathe; and Dieffenbachia, Aglaonema, and Philodendron, which have the same flower structure but it isn’t showy.
On Anthuriums commonly offered in garden centers, the spathe is very showy indeed, coming in white, pink or deep red, making it a natural for a Valentine’s Day flower either in cut flower arrangements or as a blooming plant. With good care, the flowers last a long time and if you want to keep it as a houseplant, you may be able to get it to rebloom.
So, what is good long-term care of an Anthurium? Plant it outdoors in Hawaii, hard to go wrong with that. They originate in tropical rainforests of South America, and are epiphytic—that is, like many orchids and bromeliads, they grow on tree trunks and branches instead of in the ground. They aren’t parasites, they don’t derive sustenance from the tree, they just need a place to hang out. What this means is that they are going to grow best with moist soil that drains well; high humidity; warm temperatures; and bright light but not hot sun, which will burn the leaves. [As an aside, my editor says she got one for Valentine’s Day a year ago, and it’s still in bloom. Her house is cool in the winter, the plant doesn’t get particularly bright light and she only waters it every couple of weeks. I’ve grown a couple with limited success, so maybe she should write the article.]
The recommended temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Water when the soil starts to feel dry on the surface, and don’t let the plant stand in water or the roots will rot off. Those goals are pretty easy to achieve.
A recommendation for “bright, indirect light” is one of those vague horticultural bromides that is hard to achieve. After your initial display, if you want to keep it going, put it directly in a north-facing window in summer, or east-facing window in winter. A couple of hours of morning sun are really going to help, even in summer if it’s early morning while it’s still cool. Supplementing with a horticultural grow light would also help. Putting it outdoors in the shade in summer is ideal. If it gets enough light, it should rebloom for you.
Maintaining a high humidity level indoors is difficult because most humidity boosts like misting or putting your plant in the bathroom when you are taking a shower are very fleeting. Too high a level of humidity is uncomfortable for you, and may cause other issues. (As a novice orchid grower I continually ran a humidifier in my apartment; that is, until my books all started getting moldy.) I think a furnace humidifier set to a comfortable level is your best bet.
by Larry Hurley, Behnke horticulturist