There are about 800 species of anthuriums native to tropical Central and South America. They are forest species and can grow on the forest floor or as epiphytes on tree branches and trunks. Some anthuriums are grown for their curious and long lasting flowers, while others have spectacular leaves. All species require warm and humid conditions to thrive and many are best grown in greenhouses by experienced gardeners. The most commonly sold anthuriums, such as Anthurium andraeanum, make good houseplants, provided they are well cared for.
Anthuriums have evolved to grow under a dense forest canopy and have large leaves which allow them to absorb as much of the available light as possible. They require indirect light and are damaged by direct sunshine. A north or west facing window is ideal for the most commonly sold species.
While anthuriums grow in naturally humid places, they are vulnerable to water logging. Allow the soil to dry out on the surface between waterings and do not keep a potted anthurium in a saucer of water. Use rainwater or bottled water to water anthuriums, as they can be sensitive to chlorine and minerals. Mist anthuriums at least twice a week to maintain humidity and keep the leaves clean.
Tropical anthuriums will not tolerate temperatures below 60 degrees F and can be damaged by cold drafts. A temperature of about 70 degrees F is ideal for most species.
Plant anthuriums in a peat-based compost with some perlite or bark chips to aid drainage and keep the soil well aerated. Provide a moss-stuffed pole for species that produce aerial roots and vining stems. Anthuriums only need to be repotted once their roots have completely filled the pot.
A liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants is fine for anthuriums. Apply it once a month during the warmer months of the year at only one-quarter of the recommended strength. This prevents root damage and misshapen leaves. Use a high-phosphorus formula for flowering species and a high-nitrogen mix for foliage plants.
Species with long stems can be propagated by stem cuttings. Each cutting should have several leaves and can be placed in a jar of water until the first roots develop before being potted up. More compact plants are best divided at the root ball in the spring before the growing season.
Anthuriums are vulnerable to most common insect houseplant pests such, as mealybugs and scale insects. Low-level infestations are best dealt with by painting the pests directly with rubbing alcohol. More serious infestations need to be treated with a pesticide spray containing pyrethrins.