THE floral world is never short of surprises, whether they are in the wild or have been ‘domesticated’ in nurseries.
One of them is the anthurium, which is very attractive with its ‘spike’ called the spadix protruding amidst a leaf-like bract called the ‘spathe’.
It comes in a variety of colours – from plain white or green, to vibrant orange or crimson.
The plant bears small flowers that contain male and female structures, enclosed in the spadix.
However, anthurium – also known as ‘pigtail plant’ – is poisonous to man and pets, as it contains calcium oxalate crystals that are toxic when ingested and upon contact, can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and mouth.
The famous variety is the ‘Flamingo Flower’ which, matching its name, is usually red with the spathe resembling the flamenco dancer’s layered skirt. It is a favourite among flower artists due to its long-lastingness – under the right condition, it can stay fresh for up to five weeks.
The anthurium is a genus of herbs belonging to the family Arceae, which refers to monocotyledonous (grass-like) flowering plants in which flowers are borne on a type of inflorescence called a spadix. The spadix is usually accompanied by – and sometimes partially enclosed in – a spathe.
There are 1,000 known anthurium genus and species including the philodendron, alocasia and monsteras. Many of them are epiphytes – an organism that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it.
However, others can become terrestrial once they have adapted to ground with indirect sunlight, good drainage and soil, encouraged by the warmth and high humidity that are familiar in the rainforests across the tropical regions.
In this regard, they naturally thrive in the rainforests of South America.
Nonetheless, many species have been ‘domesticated’ by agri-hobbyists and horticulturists.
Types of anthurium
- Anthurium andraeanum – These are the popular hybridised varieties that include ‘Champion’, ‘Zizou’, ‘Oaxaca’, ‘Livium’, ‘Purple Plum’ and ‘Black Beauty’. These are common species with heart-shaped leaves, and can grow up to one foot long. It produces red, white, or pink flowers held upward by straight flower spikes.
- Anthurium scherzerianum – These have curly orange flowers carried on the spike with surrounding arrow-shaped leaves.
- Anthurium crystallinum – These have deep green velvety leaves and clear white ribs on big leaves measuring two feet across.
- Anthurium faustomirandae – These are the monster-sized plants with stiff leaves measuring five feet long, and are cultivated in greenhouses.
Anthurium, once mature, would send out air roots at the base or the side of the stem. These air roots are fleshy and tuberous, good for propagation, of which can be done through stem or root cuttings. Seed planting takes a much longer time, up to four years, to reach blooming stage.
Prepare well-drained soil and incorporate rooting hormone to enhance rooting success.
Use a sharp blade that has been sterilised thoroughly to cut off the air roots or stems, at about six inches long with one or two leaves.
Plant them in fresh potting mix and water them thoroughly. It is Important to keep the soil moist and place it under the shade or indirect sunlight for one to one-and-half months to facilitate growth.
Pruning is necessary to get rid of wilting or browning leaves as it helps to preserve energy for the growth of new leaves or flowers. Remove any faded flowers by snipping them off the base of the spikes – or, leave them for the seeds.
Some common pests that strike other house plants can also attack anthurium: they include mealybugs, spider mites, white flies and other scale insects. Sap-sucking aphids can cause distorted, mottled leaves. Additionally, ants are attracted to the aphids’ sticky residue or urine.
To deal with these ‘stubborn’ pest insects, one would need horticultural oil sprays and soaps.
To boost blooming, run a weekly ‘feeding’ with a high-phosphorus fertiliser, in addition to nourishing the plant with sufficient light and humidity, but this does not mean soggy soil and too much sun, which can cause yellowing of the leaves or bleached and the browning of the tips.
However, dark green leaves indicate that there is too little sunlight.
Floppy leaves are a sign of fungal attack such as the spread of rhizoctonia on the roots that could make the stem weak.
The anthuriums are available at most nurseries in the city and towns.
I hope that old and young gardeners alike would grow some, for decorations either at home or at the workplace.