Anthuriums

by Fred Moody

Anthuriums (an-thor-ee-um) is an extraordinary plant genus belonging to the Aroid (Araceae) Family.  The name means 'tail flower', alluding to the mostly slender, round, tapering, tail like infloresence.  The spathe is like a backing shield of the infloresence and the spadix contains the minute flowers.
This articleis merely an introduction to the genus, by showing some of the remarkable diversity of a plant genus of some 1,000 species of herbaceous perennials originating in the New World - tropical areas from Mexico to Central America to Northern Argentina, and Northern Peru in South America.  They may be found at altitudes from sea level to 2000 metres, as in the case of Anthurium scherzerianum which thus has a greater tolerance of cold conditions.

The Species
There is no typical Anthurium.  These plants can be terrestial, lithophytic (growing on rocks) or epiphytic (plants that grow above the ground, being supported by another plant such as a vine or a tree).  The growth habit of this group can be a dense creeping growth as in the unique A. radicans.  There are birds nest forms like A. jenmannii, A. hookeri, A. coriaceum and A.  plowmanii.  They could be an elongated climber such as A. digitatum or A. dussii with its large heart shaped leaves with wavy outer margins, or an epiphyte with pendant strap leavessuch as A. pallidiflorum with its 1m long intensely dark - green velvety, strap like leaves.  No other plant family in the world can match the Anthurium for diversity of foliage, as the leaes can be heart shaped as in A. andreanum; 60 cm long elongated hert shaped as in A. warocqueanum or 60 cm long elongated heart shaped with deep primary veins resulting in pleating effect across the leaf as in A. veitchii.  The heart shaped leves can have a puckered cobblestone road look like A. spendidum or they can have a very dark velvety, crystallinum or A. clarinervum.   There are many species with glossy oblong leaves, some pendulous and up to 1.5m long as in A. spectabile or A. pseudospectabile.
Others such as A. podophyllum have an open hand like leaf with many compound fingers attached, whilst others such a A. furcatum have a leaf resembling a three pronged pitchfork attached to a 75cm long petiole.  Leaf petioles in themselves are very variable and a cross section cut can reveal shapes that are terete (round), heart shaped, half moon shaped, triangular, square or markedly ribbed with up to 12 ribs and all of these factors play apart in the identifiction of a species.  The infloresence can have the classicl heart shaped A. andreanum type spathe, ranging in colours from whiter through pink to salmon and red, and mottled or as in the case of the 'Obake' forms, a combination of all of these.  The 'Obake' (japanese for change or ghost) firns gave spathes which are variable in colour, shape and size and the flowers can be up to 3cm long.  I have a red Obake which has spathes that are consistently 25cm long by 20cm wide and stay on the plant for in excess of 12 months.  Other showy forms include the old favourite A. scherzerianum, the spathe of which my be cream, orange, re, or mottled but all have a curious pig tal like spadix.

For most part however, Anthuriums are grown for their decorative leaves and many of these forms have a rather ordingary infloresence but some cn have very colourful spathe/spadix combinations.  The spadix or spadices (plural) whilst being of very ordinary shape in most instances can exhibit outstanding colours and this is especially s when swollen with berries.  My collection contains some40 named species plus approximately 20 A. andreaum cultivars and hybrids, plaus a number of undientified cultivars.

Outside in the garden I have been growing species successfully for a number of years.  These are A. hookeri, and A. scandens.  
A coriaceum
: is an open birds nest type and the best of the beginners species.  This plant has been growing in the garden for about 20 years.  It has a large leathery, matte dark green, paddle like leaf which is 80cm long by 22cm wide and is attached to the plant by a terete petiole which is 25cm long.  It has a low set incloresence witha purple spadix. 
A. luteynii: this plant is a large glossy leaved birds nest typt with a shuttlecock like leaf arrangement but very short petioles. 
A. andreanum: grows and flowers outside but does not look at its best unless getting some winter sun.
A. scherzerianum: is a small clumpint type with stiff, leathery, matte green leaves about 30cm long by 8cm wide on a 20cm petiole.  All cultivas of this species have a showy infloresence.
A. digitatum: is a large showy climer with umbrella tree like leaves having a 85cm long petiole at the terminal end of which is a point from which te leaves radiate.  The largest of these leaves is 40cm long and 1cm wide.  The infloresence has a thick green spather with a purple spadix.
A. bakeri: is a short stemmed plant with 45cm long b 5cm wide leathery strap leaves.  This plant sets seed quite easily and have a very showy infrutesence with bright red berries.

Culture
Although most anthuriums require warm humid conditions to thrive, I find that during the Sydney winter, potted specimens will general survive quite well with little loss of condition if a minimum temperature  of 10 degrees C is maintained and the plant potting mix is kept relatively dry (my garden temperature will occasionally drop to 3 degreesC).  In humid greenhouse conditions it is also essential to maintain air movement.  Having tried many different potting methods and mixes, I am inclined toward a free draingin cymbidium orchid potting mix with some draingae crocks in the bottom of the pot as most of these plants have fleshy roos similar to orchids.  Unfortunatelu the plants will have to be repotted every two years, as once the mix break down, root rot will follow dueto poor drainage.

Fertilising
 Plants in the garden gee a sprinkling of Dynamic Lifter or Organic Extra at the beginning of spring, summer and autumn.  Those in pots are sprayed with Powerfeed or Phostroge added at least once a month and if the plant hs good root growth, I will add a slow release fertiliser to the top of the pot.  I do however believe in rotating fertilisers.

 

 

Experiences Growing Anthuriums

by Alan Collins

Having a mild clmate hereat Pymble with winter minumums of 4-5C we have been able to grow quite a few species of interesting Anthuriums over the years.  While we have had no trouble with some birds nest types planted in the garden, we have been able to grow successfull others such as
A. clarinervium
A. bakeri
A. veitchii
A. longpillatum
to name a few, which we grow on a covered deck and take into the houseon cold nights during winter.
Planted in the garden are 3 species of birds nest type Anthuriums, plus A. watermaliense and A. cochabamba which have proved to be quite hard, along with recent plantings of Philodendrons which I hope will survive the coming winter.  Our collection has now expanded to over 37 species.  While they were smallish we have been able to keep them in a rather packed glasshouse in which we keep our tropical Hoyas.  As these plants outgrow the Hoya House they are being shifted into their own Anthurium glasshouse which I will trial at a minimum 10C in the coming winter.  My current potting mix for all Anthuriums is a composted orchid bark into which I put a dollop of Dynamic Lifter and some Blood and Bone.  I top dress this with a high nitrogen Osmocote.  Once a fortnight I water the soil and foliage with a variety of liquid fertilisers such as Maxicrop or Phostrogen.  While not a very scientific potting medium our plants are romping ahead.

Note: the spathe and spadix infloresence are the defining signature of the plants of the Aroid Family.
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