Commonly known as anthurium or tailflower, Anthurium andreanum is a popular tropical plant for its slender, showy stems that end in brightly colored foliage with long cones covered in tiny yellow flowers. These spadix, or cones, provide extra interest in flower arrangements and add further textural contrast to this exotic plant. Growing them outdoors will be a challenge if not impossible in zones lower than 10, but as an indoor plant, the anthurium provides long-lasting, sturdy blooms in any setting.
A general misconception about anthuriums is that that flower itself is a glossy, polished-looking bright petal with a tall center. In truth, the center of the bloom, known as the spadix, is a conical tower that contains the flowers of the plant. The colorful, heart-shaped piece is a modified petal known as a bract. Bracts appear in shades of red, pink and white. Stems are slender and long, with dark green, heart-shaped leaves.
In climate zones 10 and 11, anthurium may be grown in containers or as a bedding or boarder plant, provided it is in the shade. Choose a spot with good drainage and allow 18 inches to 2 feet between each plant. Although anthurium will grow to height and spread of up to 3 feet outdoors, the tropical bloom is best suited to all but the warmest climates as a house plant.
As a house plant, anthurium requires bright, indirect light to bloom and grow steadily. Temperatures must remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at all times to avoid cold injury. Ideal conditions are temps ranging from 60 degrees at night to 80 during the day. Potting material should be loose and porous, and evenly moist at all times. Do not allow the plant to stand in water, however. Increase humidity by placing a tray filled with moistened pebbles below the pot.
Whether indoors or out, tailflowers prefer moist soil at all times. Roots should be protected from direct or harsh sunlight, particularly those in pots or containers. A layer of sphagnum moss over the surface is advised. Fertilize anthuriums on a regular schedule using a balanced liquid fertilizer. However, the roots of this tropical plant are delicate and may suffer fertilizer burn if applied when soil is dry.
Although tailflower is generally pest-free and easy to grow, leaf spot may become a problem. Easy to recognize, leaf spot begins as a small brown disk that expands, becoming lighter brown with a hairy appearance where spores are reproducing. The best medicine is to prevent leaf spot by keeping the indoor pot surface clean of leaf litter, and maintaining a regular fertilization and watering schedule. Always water at the plant's surface, never over the leaves, to discourage leaf spot spread.