Anthuriums belong to a family of over 800 species, most of which are native to tropical areas of Central and South America, according to Dr. Paul M. Resslar, a horticulturist with Virginia Wesleyan College. These showy, tropical beauties are popular in Hawaii and other locations where they are grown for their glossy, brightly-colored spathes (modified leaves). Anturiums are also popular with florists due to their ability to last for weeks after being cut.
Anthuriums vary widely in size, shape and color. Most plants grow to a height of 1 or 2 feet. The "flowers", the colorful part of the plant, are actually composed of one modified leaf, or spathe, that is so shiny that it almost appears lacquered. Anthuriums can features flowers in shades of red, purple, cream, orange, pink and even green. The bracts can appear cupped, heart-shaped or shaped like a rain drop. The leaves of the plant are bright or dark green and usually heart-shaped.
Arthuriums prefer loose soil that drains well and is rich in nutrients. Many professional growers do not use dirt as much as other, organic materials such as bark, tree fiber, coconut husks and organic mulch. "Soil-less" planting mediums, which can be purchased at any home or garden center, are an excellent choice for growing anthuriums in a container.
Anthuriums are tropical plants. As such, they can only be grown outdoors in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 10B through 11, which is limited to parts of Hawaii, the southern tip of Florida and the extreme southern coast of California. For this reason, many tropical plant lovers grow anthuriums in containers. Anthurium thrives in shady areas of the landscape, as direct sunlight can scorch the delicate leaves of this plant.
The first anthurium plant to make its way to the United States was Anthurium andraeanum, or the "flamingo flower", according to Dr. Ressler. This species is native to the West Andes in Colombia. It was brought to the Royal Botanic Gardens in England in 1876 by Jean Linden. It wasn't until 1889 that the plant was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by a man named Samuel Damon. He brought the plant over from England to grow it on his island plantation. Today, Anthurium andraeanum is one of Hawaii's most symbolic plants.
Most popular cultivars, including "Ozaki" and "Nitta," are shades of bright red or orange and grow to a height of between 1 and 2 feet tall, with flowers around 5 inches across and 6 inches long. The "Obake," a hybrid produced in Hawaii, has flowers that can be as large as 12 inches wide and 9 inches long.