Sunday, February 12, 2017

Anthurium for Valentine's Day

If your poinsettias are like mine, by early February they are
dropping bracts and beginning to look pitiful.  Like most flower lovers, I am ready to move on to the next flower in the seasonal line-up, namely, the fragrant and beautiful red roses associated with Valentine's Day.  In the language of flowers, red roses signify love, and it is no surprise that for many centuries they have dominated a holiday associated with romance.
Whether ordered online or purchased in the local grocery or florist, a variety of fragrant rose bouquets are available to delight a sweetheart, mother, or other special someone.  In 2016 we spent $1.9 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day, no doubt mainly roses.  But not always.  I recall wiring hydrangea or tulip plants and mixed bouquets to my mother over the years.  

If you would like something more lasting than cut roses, however, and something less common than a potted hydrangea or tulip, let me suggest Anthurium.  People who have lived in Hawaii are probably familiar with it. This plant was suggested to me as a Valentine’s floral substitute by a friend. The name was unfamiliar to me, but not the description. Since that discussion, I have learned a lot about this genus and even ordered one from Rachel’s Flowers and Gifts so that I could study it up close and personal!  

It is the beautiful heart-shaped flowers and leaves that make Anthurium so fitting for this special holiday.  What I am calling the flowers bears closer scrutiny, however.  The actual flowers of Anthurium are not the red (or other colored) heart-shaped structures on stems rising from the pot; instead, the flowers are contained in dense spirals on the spadix, which is often elongated into a spike shape.  Beneath the spadix is the spathe, a type of bract we are familiar with from the "blooms" of poinsettias.  The spathe can extend out flat or in a curve or even rise backward like a hood.  All postures are evident on my specimen.  


The genus name comes from the Greek words anthos meaning a flower and oura meaning a tail referring to the tail-like spadix.  In its native zone 11 or 12, fruits develop from the flowers on the spadix—juicy berries usually containing two seeds.  Even without the “flowers,” the plant is attractive with its dark green foliage, which florists frequently use in floral displays.  Anthurium is in the Araceae or Arum Family, and is classified in a genus of herbs.  My potted specimen is terrestrial, but some often grow as epiphytes on other plants. Because Anthurium is tropical,  actually native to Columbia and Ecuador, in our zone 7, it is definitely a houseplant and unlikely to have fruits although supposedly long-lived.

The Missouri Botanical Garden has many specimens, and many hybrids come out of Hawaii.  Like other plants in the Araceae family, this one contains calcium oxalate crystals and is toxic.   Among its common names are flamingo lily, laceleaf and painter’s palette, but I have also heard it referred to as little boy plant. 😊  more info

I have been taking my Anthurium from room to room with me as I contemplate its features, and I have to admit that while it has its charms,  it doesn’t live up to roses, certainly not in aroma, but I am still happy I made it my Valentine’s plant this year.  I will see if I can keep it alive for a while by locating it in a sunny window, keeping it warm and humid, and watering it every day or two.  The real success of that will be if my plant puts forth new "blooms" and eventually gets big enough to divide.

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