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Anthuriums – an early Valentine’s Day gift!

By Ralph E. Mitchell

When I was in the Peace Corps on the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I was able to visit a mountainous tropical site called Montreal Gardens which grew a wonderful ornamental plant and cut flower called the anthurium.  Anthuriums sport lush tropical foliage with an added feature of a bright, long-lasting inverted heart-shaped inflorescence.  These waxy colorful blooms are available year round, but are particularly ornamental as a gift plant any time of year – even an early Valentine’s Day gift!

The Flamingo Flower, Tail-flower, Hawaiian Love Plant and Tongue of Fire are all common names attached to the anthurium.   Originally found in Central and South America, the anthurium now has a wide market within garden centers and florists.  New technologies have allowed this plant to be propagated via tissue culture where thousands of clones can be grown from actively dividing cells.  Florida is in fact the number one producer of anthuriums in the nation.

The leaves and the flowers are actually heart-shaped.  The flowering colorful spathe almost looks plastic as it is shiny and waxy in appearance.  The actual flower is the central tube-like, cream, white, yellow or pink-colored, growth called a spadix that emerges from the middle of the spathe. Producing four to six flowers per year, anthuriums can remain in flower all year long as a potted plant.

While this exotic beauty may look fragile and difficult to care for, it is really a sturdy container plant.  Known as a low-light plant, flowering may stop if too little light is received however.  The anthurium does not like direct sun as the leaves will actually sun-burn.  This plant will do best and flower most abundantly with ninety percent shade, but bright, indirect sun.  Anthuriums require well-drained soil and do not like it constantly wet.  As such, they should be allowed to dry out in between waterings and actually do best in relatively small containers – root-bound anthuriums do better overall.  Too much fertilizer can also be detrimental to anthuriums.  An abundance of nitrogen can cause leaves to burn and plants to produce few flowers.  They do not like it too hot or too cold and will benefit if brought inside if the summer temperatures get over ninety degrees F.  Anthuriums are also cold sensitive and should be brought in if temperatures go below seventy degrees F – frosts and freezes will of course cause severe damage.  Maintain anthuriums as containerized plants for the convenience of being able to move them to a warmer (or cooler) environment when needed.

Anthurium flowers will last on the plant for about six weeks, and several weeks as a cut flower.  Our humid Florida weather generally provides what anthuriums need, but if the humidity goes below fifty percent or more, place the plant on a tray of moist gravel or mist with water to compensate.

While anthuriums flowers come in red, pink, orange, white and some with touches of green, there may be named varieties available at local garden centers such as ‘Red Hot’, ‘Cotton Candy’, ‘Peaches N Cream’ ‘White Frost ‘and so on, each with a variation in shape and color.  As ornamental plants, they nicely complement other Valentine’s Day gift plants and offer long-lasting eye appeal. Consider anthuriums this year for something different and colorful that will be sure to please!  For more information on all types of tropical ornamental plants, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Just as a reminder, our new office is located at the North Charlotte Regional Park at 1120 O’Donnell Blvd, Port Charlotte FL 33953. The Plant Lifeline is now open at our new site.    Our phone numbers and email addresses continue to remain the same.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/charlotte/docs/pdf/Plant-Clinics-Schedule1.pdf. Our Eastport Environmental Demonstration Garden is always open to the public outside the gate at 25550 Harbor View Road and will continue to be in operation.  Master Gardener volunteers tend this garden on Tuesday mornings from 8 to 10 am and are available for questions.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Gilman. E. F.,  Klein R. W. & Hansen, G. (2018) Anthurium andraeanum Tailflower, Flamingo Flower.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Henny, R. J., Chen, J. & Mellich, T. A. (2017) New Florida Foliage Plant Cultivar: ‘Red Hot’ Anthurium.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Henny, R. J., Chase, A. R., & Osborne, L. S. (2012) Anthurium Production Guide.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS. – CFREC.