By Claire Woodward, Ph.D
Friends of the Conservatory Gift Shop Director
Anthuriums are stalwarts of Volunteer Park Conservatory’s tropical displays and can be seen in their full glory in the palm and fern houses right now. The picture below shows three of the species that Volunteer Park Conservatory has in its collection. The King Anthurium (A.veitchii) has large leathery, spear shaped leaves that can reach six feet in length. Anthurium jenmanii has leathery club shaped leaves.
There are over 1000 species in the Anthurium genus which are in the Araceae family. Fellow Aroids include many of the plants that you will see alongside Anthuriums in the conservatory such as Spathyphyllums, Caladiums, and the spectacular Corpse Lily (Amorphophallus titanum). As diverse as they may seem, all are characterized by the flowers being arranged in spirals on a fleshy spike called the spadix. Once pollinated the flowers produce bright colored berries along the spadix. Many have a colored bract (modified leaf), called the spathe which is joined to the base of the spadix and held above the foliage by the peduncle or inflorescence stalk. Anthurium species native range extends from the rainforests in Northern Mexico to Northern Argentina and the Caribbean islands.
Volunteer Park Conservatory senior gardener David Helgeson believes Anthuriums are easy to nurture as houseplants:
“Anthuriums are generally easy keepers provided their basic needs are met. Anthuriums require bright indirect light for maximum health and bloom development. Water regularly, alternating every other watering with a half strength general purpose house plant fertilizer. The frequency of water will obviously depend on your particular circumstances such as light availability, temperature and so forth. The ideal to aim for is to keep the plant medium evenly moist without being soggy or wet. Do not let the pot sit in a saucer of water. The potting medium needs to be airy and well drained, and should be comprised of two thirds large particles of Orchid bark, course peat, or chunks of coconut fiber, mixed withonethird regular potting soil. Anthuriums are Tropical Aroids mainly from South America and as such require temperatures of at least 65°F or higher. Avoid cold drafts or the direct heat of a radiator or heat register. Also Anthuriums enjoy higher humidity than average house plants, such as might be achieved in a bathroom or laundry area. You can use the pebble and tray method to increase humidity around the plant provided the plant does not sit in water. These plants are essentially epiphytic in nature. In the wild they root freely from their stems as they climb up into trees reaching for light and access to pollinators and so maintaining maximum air circulation and free drainage of moisture around the roots is essential to good root/plant health.”
If you need a break from the Seattle winter come in to the tropical paradise on the hill and see the Conservatory’s Anthuriums in all their splendor.