Anthurium is a lovely flowering houseplant that’s easy to grow (and fun to have around). These beauties have large, glossy red/pink/purple flowers and dark green shiny leaves. Anthurium will thrive in the bright, indirect sunlight beside a window in your home.
Here are 3 key things to know about anthurium houseplants:
- Anthurium plants need bright light, but not direct sunlight. That can be kind of tricky to find, but fortunately, these plants are forgiving.
- Anthurium roots need easy access to air – kind of like orchids. In the rainforest, they grow on the sides of trees! You’ll likely have to re-pot the houseplant in a light, airy soil containing perlite (or orchid soil).
- Anthuriums grow best in soil kept at a consistent moisture level. Both overly dry soil and wet, mucky soil can be detrimental.
Now that we’ve covered the very basics of anthurium houseplants, read on to learn more about this lovely tropical and how best to care for it in your home.
Anthurium: An introduction
Anthurium is a tropical flowering herbaceous perennial plant from Central and South America. The natural climate of anthurium is that of a moist, warm, tropical rainforest under a canopy of tall jungle-like trees. The tree cover shields the plants from direct sunlight while creating a warm, humid environment.
In their natural setting, anthurium plants grow mainly on trees, but also sometimes grow on the ground. They use aerial roots to attach themselves to trunks and branches, reaching upwards to get more light. Their climbing habit allows anthurium plants to access good air circulation, which is key to their health in the humid rainforest environment.
The big waxy pink flowers are actually not flowers at all, but colourful bracts or spathes that surround the tiny flowers in the centre (not unlike a Christmas poinsettia). The spike in the centre of an anthurium bloom, called the spadix, is where the real tiny flowers of the anthurium are located. The tiny flowers are pollinated by bees, beetles, or flies.
There are about 1500 known species of Anthurium, but scientists estimate that there may be as many as 3000 (Aroid Species Diversity: Are we underestimating the number of aroids?, by Thomas B. Croat, P. A. Schulze Curator, Missouri Botanical Garden)
How to care for anthurium as a houseplant
Fortunately, learning how to care for anthurium is not complex. These houseplants are very forgiving and are great for beginner gardeners. The key to caring for anthurium houseplants is to understand their natural rainforest environment and do your best to re-create their jungle-like climate in your home.
Newly-purchased anthuriums should be inspected and repotted into light, airy soil if they are in rich, dense potting soil. Find a bright spot for the plant near a sunny window but out of direct sunlight beams. Do your best to keep the soil moist, but also airy – like a damp sponge that’s been wrung out but still has some water in it. Keep this tropical away from particularly drafty doors and windows.
Caring for anthurium is all about balance. They like bright light, but not direct sunlight. They like consistently moist soil, but the soil must also be well-draining and not wet and muddy. Their roots need access to air just as much as they need access to water. Anthurium also likes a consistent temperature and a stable, moist humidity level.
Avoid overly dry soil or overly dry air when growing anthurium as a houseplant. Keep them away from cool wind and cold temperatures. Too little light or too much sunlight can harm them. The leaves may need to be dusted or wiped with a damp cloth for the plant to fully function.
Anthurium houseplants are prone to certain pest bugs, including mealybugs and spider mites on the foliage. Pests are attracted to unhealthy plants, although they may attack a healthy anthurium. Organic insecticides can help to decrease the population of pests insects. A summer vacation on the patio may also help by increasing natural pest pressure from outdoor predator insects.
Anthurium plants for sale online
There are a few places online that have anthurium plants for sale. Check that the shop ships to your area (and know that you may have to wait for warm weather if you live somewhere where it’s freezing outdoors).
“The flowers usually appear from February to July, although plants growing in good conditions may produce more throughout the year. The leaves are dark green, leathery, lance-shaped, and up to 8 inches (20 cm) long. They mix well with other plants.”The Complete Guide to Houseplants: The Easy Way to Choose and Grow Happy, Healthy Houseplants, by Valerie Bradley
Soil for anthurium houseplants
Like orchids, anthurium does not fare well in standard potting mix. Anthurium is one of those houseplants that really does need special potting soil. These plants are used to growing on the sides of trees in the middle of the tropical rainforest…it makes sense they’d need special soil when grown in a container.
In nature, Anthurium roots absorb rainwater as it falls through the canopy and the plants can also withstand dry seasons by absorbing moisture from the humid, tropical air. Anthurium does require some mineral nutrition for growth, but they are accustomed to tropical environments in which organic matter breaks down rapidly, limiting its availability.
Anthurium plants grown indoors do best with a growing medium that allows the roots free access to air. Like orchids, anthuriums have developed to have aerial roots. These air-loving roots are prone to suffocation if they don’t have good access to air. Use a potting mix that contains at least 20% perlite, or choose an orchid potting soil for your anthurium. These potting soils hold adequate air, while also holding enough moisture pockets to support plant life.
The best soil for anthurium houseplants is generally a mix of peat or coconut coir, plus perlite, charcoal, and bits of wood bark. You can mix these up yourself or buy pre-made orchid soil.
I like to mix up the normal potting soil that comes with the anthurium with roughly an equal amount of orchid potting mix. Try not to disturb the roots too much while you do this, but do remember that the roots will need access to air just as much as they need to reach moisture. Your anthurium will probably grow better in bark mulch and perlite than it would in rich, concentrated compost. Follow mother nature on this one.
Sunlight for anthurium plants
The best place for an anthurium houseplant is near a bright window where it can get diffused indirect light without the scorch of direct sunlight. This is hopefully also a spot with nice consistent warmth and moisture, plus some air moving around their leaves.
Anthuriums have evolved to flourish in the filtered sunlight under the canopy of the rainforest or jungle. They need bright light – but not direct sunlight. They’ll likely survive in low light, but the plants will get leggy and have trouble blooming their bright, cheery blooms.
Anthuriums do love strong light but it needs to be indirect…. No direct sun! In the summertime especially, anthuriums need their sunlight to be diffused before reaching foliage. It is possible to summer anthurium outdoors in warm areas/seasons, but care should be taken to acclimate the plant to a sheltered, shady spot.
“Wipe your glossy-leaved plants occasionally with a damp cloth to remove dust. Leaf-shine products may block the pores and prevent the plants from growing as strongly as they would otherwise, so just use lukewarm water and a soft cloth.”My Tiny Indoor Garden: Houseplant Heroes and Terrific Terrariums in Small Spaces, by Lia Leendertz
Watering anthurium plants in containers
Anthurium plants do like moist soil, but the soil shouldn’t be waterlogged. These are not the kind of plants that like their soil to dry out completely. There’s always moisture beneath the canopy of the rainforest, whether it’s the (extended) rainy season or the (relatively short but still moist) dry winter season. Even the “dry” season in the jungle is quite humid.
Tap water in most locations is perfectly fine for watering anthurium houseplants. Some garden centers do purchase special water that’s been purified by reverse osmosis, but this is rarely necessary for a houseplant setting. If you want to spoil your anthurium, perhaps collect some rainwater for watering to better re-create the rainforest experience for your plant.
With new anthurium plants, check the soil moisture level with your fingers each day. You can even pick up the container plant and get a feel for how heavy it is at different moisture levels. Remember that the soil should contain moisture but it should also contain air. Picture a sponge that’s just been wrung out by hand…damp but not wet.
Try not to let the soil get soggy or go bone dry. The roots should be sitting in pooled water and they shouldn’t dry out either. Air humidity is very helpful (yet another reason for that humidifier in the winter!). You can boost humidity with a humidifier, but also by misting the plant with water and by positioning it on top of a tray of water with pebbles.
“The combination of houseplants and central heating is not a good one. Central heating dries the air, and this can lead to dulling of the leaves and browning of the tips. It is sensible to try to improve humidity levels around your plants by placing them on trays filled with pebbles and water. Mist them regularly, at least once a week in winter.”My Tiny Indoor Garden: Houseplant Heroes and Terrific Terrariums in Small Spaces, by Lia Leendertz
It can be helpful to recreate the seasonality of the rainforest with your watering. Some anthurium plant parents do a mini “dry season” for their plants in the winter. They water more in the heat of summer and let the plant experience a bit of dryness in the winter. If you try this, keep in mind that the dry season in the tropics is not the same as dry weather in temperate climates! These plants still love humidity.
“Keep the potting mix thoroughly moist from spring to autumn, but allow it to dry slightly between waterings during the winter. High humidity will encourage the plant to flower more prolifically.The Complete Guide to Houseplants: The Easy Way to Choose and Grow Happy, Healthy Houseplants, by Valerie Bradley
Fertilizer for anthurium houseplants
Anthurium houseplants will benefit from a high-quality organic fertilizer. These plants do have access to ample nutrients from organic sources in their natural environment, so a steady dilute stream of plant food can be helpful. Synthetic chemicals or insecticides are not recommended.
“You will achieve best growth if you use about 10% of the manufacturers recommended amount but give it to the plant more often than is recommended. Fertilizer does not produce more frequent inflorescences! Anthurium species are seasonal. Some species freely produce an inflorescence any month of the year but others are designed by nature to only reproduce during a particular season of the year.”Growing the Tropical Anthurium, by Steve Lucas
Read the instructions on the fertilizer package to get a feel for the standard doses. Then do the math to spread the same dosage over multiple feedings instead of giving it to the plant once in a while.
Water with liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks during spring to autumn.”The Complete Guide to Houseplants: The Easy Way to Choose and Grow Happy, Healthy Houseplants, by Valerie Bradley
Anthurium repotting is generally done when the houseplant is first purchased, and then again once every 2-3 years. The initial re-potting upon purchase is done because anthurium is often sold in regular potting soil which must be amended for optimal health (at least half of the soil should be a specialized orchid potting mix). Re-potting in subsequent years freshens up the soil and provides a chance to divide the plant.
When re-potting anthurium, choose a pot with a drainage hole and preferably a pot with porous sides. You can use unglazed ceramic, terra cotta, or even an open wire basket planter lined with moss. Moss can also be placed loosely on top of the soil in any pot to keep moisture. If you’re growing a vining species that like to climb, you can also add a coco coir totem or another stick support for the vine to creep up.
Pruning an anthurium houseplant is mainly about keeping it presentable without hindering its growth in the process. Vining plants might get a little out of control, and there will always be the odd wayward leaf or dead stem to be removed. Tend to the plant and remove dead/damaged/diseased foliage as soon as observed. This regular maintenance should help the plant get the fresh air circulation it needs.
“Even with regular misting, some plants will occasionally develop brown tips, there is no chance they will recover and green up, so go over the plant occasionally and snip them off. The plant will look better for it.”My Tiny Indoor Garden: Houseplant Heroes and Terrific Terrariums in Small Spaces, by Lia Leendertz
Troubleshooting unhealthy anthurium plants
There are a few things that can make an Anthurium plant unhappy. Here’s how to troubleshoot common issues with this plant.
The first (and most common) problem is brown tips on the green leaves. The brown tips on Anthurium leaves tend to occur because the air is too dry (not humid enough), or because the plant is receiving direct sunlight (and getting sunburnt). Move the plant out of direct sunlight (but still in bright light), and mist the leaves regularly. In dry climates, a room humidifier will help decrease the occurrence of brown tips.
Anthurium houseplants are prone to getting pest mealybugs and spider mites on the foliage. Organic insecticides can help to decrease pest insects on infected plants.
Anthurium houseplants may go through periods of time without flowering. Generally, plants are sold in flower and may have been encouraged to flower by the grower. They likely need a period of rest after this initial flush of flowers. Anthurium plants do go through annual dormancy periods. If the plant is consistently not flowering, it may not be getting enough light or it may be lacking in nutrients. Move the plant to an area with bright, indirect light, and feed it with a quality organic fertilizer (see above for good options).
Sometimes Anthurium plants will develop yellow leaves. This generally occurs when the plant is watered too often or if it is overfed with plant fertilizer. Let all excess water drain out when watering the plant. Change out the potting mix to a lightweight blend if the water pools. Don’t water the plant unless the top of the potting mix is dry. Decrease the amount and frequency of feeding with fertilizer.
Questions about caring for anthurium houseplants
Here are some common questions that indoor plant owners have about caring for their anthurium plants:
Is anthurium a good indoor plant?
Anthurium is a great indoor house plant and is best suited to bright, humid areas. These cheery tropicals brighten up a room and are generally easy to care for.
Anthurium is naturally well-adapted to living indoors as a houseplant because it prefers consistent temperatures in the range of comfortable room temperature, as well as consistent humidity and bright yet indirect light. With the right spot and consistent watering, they’ll be quite easy to take care of indoors.
How long do anthurium plants live?
In its natural environment, anthurium is a perennial which can live for many years. Likewise, anthurium houseplants can also live for multiple years if kept healthy. The anthurium will, however, have to be repotted every two or three years.
Where is a good place to view anthurium plants?
Perhaps the best place to view anthurium plants grown indoors is at the The Climatron®, the geodesic dome conservatory at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. This giant, fascinating greenhouse is a tropical rainforest oasis right in the middle of the USA. Here’s how the pros there re-create nature for their plants:
“The lush, green tropical rainforest environment is maintained by a computerized climate control system. Inside temperature ranges from 64°F (18° C) at night to a high of 85°F (29° C) during the day. The average humidity is 85 percent. Plants are watered with reverse osmosis purified, tempered water.”Climatron Geodesic Dome Conservatory, Missouri Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens are also home to world-class anthurium expert Dr. Thomas Croat. His work has made major contributions to our knowledge of anthurium plants.
Is anthurium poisonous?
All parts of the anthurium plant are poisonous to humans and to household pets like cats and dogs. This plant should not be ingested, and even its sap can cause skin irritation. Choose a safe location for your anthurium plant.
Will an anthurium flower again?
Anthurium is a perennial flowering plant that will produce flowers year after year if conditions are adequate and the plant is healthy. Some anthurium seems to bloom throughout much of the year, while others concentrate bloom in the late winter through to early summer. Flowers are long-lasting, with each individual bloom lasting about 6 weeks on a live plant. Once an anthurium flowers, it may enter a rest period, often coinciding with the season of the rainforest.
How do I make my anthurium bloom again?
To encourage an anthurium to bloom again, first ensure you’re following all the best practices for care discussed above. A healthy anthurium will bloom again. Some anthurium bloom for only a few months of each year, generally during the spring. Others seem to bloom freely any month of the year. This behavior depends on the variety and also on the environmental conditions the plant has experienced.
Some anthurium clone plants are treated with chemicals to force them to grow lots of flowers while they’re on the store shelf. This can interfere with the natural blooming cycle. An anthurium that suffers drought, cold shock, waterlogging, or low light may also have an interrupted blooming cycle. Keep the plant happy and it will generally reward you with more blooms.
How do you propagate anthurium?
Anthurium is generally propagated by taking cuttings and rooting them to create new plants. Anthurium can be propagated by both stem cuttings and root cuttings. Here is a detailed article about how to propagate anthurium by wrapping it in moist sphagnum moss (instead of direct transplanting it into the potting mix.)
An established plant can also be divided during repotting to produce multiple plants. This is generally done in the spring, but could also be done in other seasons. Here are some expert tips for dividing anthurium houseplants:
“Large clumps can be divided in spring; each section will need a growing point and some roots. Transplant and keep at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) until growth starts.”The Complete Guide to Houseplants: The Easy Way to Choose and Grow Happy, Healthy Houseplants, by Valerie Bradley
Is anthurium a peace lily?
Anthurium is not a peace lily, but the two plants certainly share some similarities. Both plants are evergreen herbaceous perennials with dark green foliage. They’re even in the same botanical family, called Araceae.
Anthurium and peace lily blooms have a similar appearance. They both grow wild in Central and South America, and they’re both popular flowering houseplants in North America and Europe. They both have spathe-like bract flowers with a spikey spadix in the center.
Here are some differences between anthurium and peace lily:
- Anthurium is in the subfamily Pothoideae, tribe Anthurieae, while Peace Lily is in the subfamily Monsteroideae, tribe Spathiphylleae.
- Anthurium tends to have thick, waxy red flowers, while Peace Lily tends to have thin, white flowers.
- Anthurium is not tolerant of shade, while Peace Lily can tolerate partial shade or even full shade.
- Anthurium grows naturally up trees and tends to form aerial roots, while Peace Lily is a lowland plant that tends to grow near streams and other water sources
Is anthurium an orchid?
Anthurium is not an orchid. Anthurium is in a different botanical order and family than orchids. These two plants do, however, share similarities in their preferred habitat.
Both orchids and anthuriums are epiphytic, meaning that they are climbers who live in trees. They also both thrive in warm, tropical environments. Anthuriums grown as houseplants generally do better in the orchid potting mix than in standard potting soil. You can also use organic orchid fertilizer to feed your anthurium.
What do anthuriums symbolize?
Anthuriums symbolize happiness and abundance. These plants are common at hospitality reception desks and also make lovely housewarming gifts. Anthurium is a decidedly positive plant in terms of symbolism.
Anthurium blooms are cheerful, exotic, and almost heart-shaped. Their dark, waxy leaves are equally as striking. As pretty as they are to look at though, they are poisonous plants. This toxicity, however, does not seem to have attached any negative symbolism. These are plants that bring joy and abundance!
Many cultivated Anthurium hybrids with red and pink blooms tend to bloom well in February, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. This fortuitous timing and the heart-like shape of the floral bracts make them very popular Valentine’s gifts for loved ones. They’re also very popular as decor plants in commercial spaces in February as a way to welcome guests with positive, festive symbolism.