Anthurium, also known as the flamingo flower, flamingo lily, boy flower, oilcloth flower or laceleaf, is an exotic-looking house plant with large, glossy leaves and stunning waxy flowers. The name is derived from two Greek words, anthos (flower) and oura (tail), hence another of its common names, tail flower.
The flowers of anthurium are actually ‘spathes’ – brightly coloured leaves that attract insects in the wild. The flower is actually the central ‘spadix’, made up of lots of tiny blooms. The blooms appear intermittently throughout the year and last for between six to eight weeks, with a ‘rest period’ of up to three months in between.
There are over 1,000 varieties of anthurium available, but the most commonly found type is Anthurium andreanum, which has heart-shaped leaves and shiny flowers in a range of colours. These are most commonly red, pink or white, although you may also find shades of green, yellow, burgundy, lilac and even bi-coloured and spotted flowers. Anthurium scherzianum is similar, but has a curly centre and less glossy flowers, and is sometimes known as the pigtail plant. Some varieties, such as Anthurium clarinervium and Anthurium ellipticum ‘Jungle King’ are grown for their eye-catching and distinctive foliage.
In the wild, anthuriums grow in rainforests in South America and the Caribbean, where they are epiphytes, growing in the crevices of trees. You need to try and replicate this environment in your home by providing your plant with warmth, bright filtered light and plenty of humidity. This should keep it blooming regularly throughout the year.
Anthuriums are harmful to humans and pets if ingested. Wear gloves when handling.
How to grow anthuriums
Anthuriums are native to tropical rainforests, so this gives plenty of clues about their care – they thrive in a warm, bright room with plenty of humidity, such as a bathroom or conservatory. Mist your plant regularly, or place on a tray of moist pebbles. Water whenever the top few centimetres of compost feel dry. Repot only when the roots have filled the pot, in spring.
Anthuriums: jump links
- Planting anthuriums
- Caring for anthuriums
- Propagating anthuriums
- Growing anthuriums: problem-solving
- Buying anthuriums
- Best anthuriums to grow
Where to grow anthurium
Grow your anthurium in a spot that gets plenty of bright, indirect light but no direct sunshine. Anthuriums do best in a warm room that’s around 15-20°C, away from draughts and radiators. High humidity is best, so a bathroom or conservatory is ideal for them. Grouping plants together can help to raise humidity.
How to plant anthurium
Plant into a mix of peat-free, multi-purpose and soil based compost or a good quality house plant or orchid compost, with the root ball just above the soil surface.
Caring for anthurium
In spring and summer, water when the top few centimetres of compost feel dry. Allow the water to drain away afterwards. Water less in autumn and winter. Feed monthly with a half-strength, high-potash feed (such as tomato food) in spring and summer. Gently pull away the spent flowers. Mist the leaves regularly (avoiding the flowers) or stand the plant on a pebble-filled tray of water. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth from time to time to keep the leaves shiny and dust-free. Repot every two or three years in spring, into a slightly larger pot, when the roots have filled the pot or when aerial roots appear.
How to propagate anthurium
You can propagate anthurium by dividing it – a good time to do this is when you repot it. Gently pull the plant apart and plant the resulting divisions into their own pots.
You can also take cuttings – select a stem around 10cm long, with two or three sets of leaves and place the cut end in a small pot of compost.
You can also take root cuttings – cut off an aerial root, dip the cut end in hormone rooting powder and place into a small pot of compost.
Growing anthurium: problem solving
Brown spots or patches on the leaves or leaf tips could have a number of causes – the air isn’t humid enough, or the leaves have been burnt by sunlight. It could also mean the plant is getting too much or too little water.
No flowers? It’s normal for your plant to have a ‘rest period’ of a few months before flowering again. To keep your plant blooming, make sure it’s getting plenty of bright light, warmth and humidity. Feed it regularly with a weak high potash feed.
You may notice that your anthurium flowers change colour. This is natural as they age, and some varieties are naturally bi-coloured. If the flowers emerge green, this could be due to lack of light. If they turn green, this could be due to lack of water or low temperatures.
The odd yellow leaf is normal – this is just old foliage dying off. If the problem is widespread, it could be due to too much watering or feeding, or too much sunlight.
You may spot mealybugs on the foliage. Look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils.
If the leaves and stems of your plant are covered in fine webbing, this could be spider mites. The upper surface of the leaf may be mottled, while mites and eggs can be seen with a magnifying glass on the undersides of leaves. Improve air circulation around the plant and boost humidity by misting or standing on a tray of moist pebbles. Treat with a spray containing fatty acid or plant oils.
Raised brown spots on the leaves could be scale insect. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils.
Roots growing upwards out of the pot are aerial roots, which the plant would use in the wild to cling to its host plant. You can cut these off if you find them unsightly (use them as root cuttings) or push them back into the compost.
Advice on buying anthurium
- Make sure you have the right conditions for an anthurium – they do best in bright, indirect light, warm temperatures and high humidity
- Ensure your plant has green, shiny leaves, a colourful flower (spathe) and a fresh-looking centre (spadix) and no signs of pests and diseases
- You can buy anthuriums in flower at the garden centre – they may just be labelled by colour. The ‘Champion’ and ‘Love’ series are the most widely available, in a range of colours – but for the best choice of varieties, buy at a specialist house plant retailer or online
Where to buy anthuriums online
- Thompson & Morgan
- Bloom Box Club
Varieties of anthurium to grow
Anthurium andraeanum ‘Pink Champion’ – china pink blooms. Part of the ‘Champion’ series, which is also available in red, white, coral and vanilla.
Height x Spread: 50cm x 50cm
Anthurium andraeanum ‘Champion Zizou’ – very unusual, ribbon-shaped lilac flowers.
H x S: 40cm x 40cm
Anthurium andraeanum ‘Black Love’ – unusual, dark burgundy flowers.
H x S: 40cm x 40cm
Anthurium andraeanum ‘Million Flowers’ – a particularly free flowering variety, with red blooms.
H x S: 40cm x 40cm
Anthurium clarinervium – grown for its spectacular dark green leaves with prominent white veins and unusual pink flowers.
H x S: 50cm x 50cm
Anthurium ellipticum ‘Jungle King’ – grown for its unusual, lush, paddle-shaped leaves.
H x S: 90cm x 70cm