The anthurium is a native of Colombia first brought to Hawai‘i from London in 1889. It is highly sought for its vibrant colors and its ability to maintain its flowers for an extended period throughout the year.
By Damon Adamson.
Admired for their beautiful coloration, intricate and petite or bold and substantial appearance, as well as their incredible diversity expressed in form, the anthurium (Araceae andraeanum) is often overlooked as a crop or commercially viable alternative to traditional fruit or vegetable production models. The anthurium boasts over 100 genera and about 1,500 separate species common names include tail flower and flamingo flower.
Anthurium is a perennial herbaceous plant that demonstrates a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colorations. It is a native of Colombia and first brought to Hawai‘i from London in 1889. It is highly sought for its vibrant colors and its ability to maintain those flowers for an extended period throughout the year. It prefers tropic or sub-tropic temperatures and high humidity levels to flourish. It is often seen growing on other plants as a epiphyte or terrestrial.
The observed flower-like appendage crowning the plants stem is actually a modified leaf, called a spathe. The spathe houses the majority of the many variations in color that are apparent within the species. The inflorescence or spadix, rising from the base of the spathe, is in the form of an elongated spike and houses the male reproductive organs (the first half of the spadix from the stem), as well as the female reproductive organs (occupying the upper half of the spadix). A single flower emerges from each leaf axil.
A consistent sequence of leaf and flower continues throughout the life cycle of the plant. Leaves vary in size but are generally heart shaped and are shorter in stem length to the flower stem, which portrudes above. Like other aroids, its roots can procure moisture from the atmosphere so they are easily cultivated indoors as well as outdoors, and they prefer shaded areas. Extended direct sunlight often promotes poor spathe coloration and early wilting.
Anthuriums can be propagated by seed or vegetatively by cuttings, however most commercial entities prefer propagation via tissue culture. Though the time frame from tissue culture cutting to potted flowering plant is measured in years, the shear numbers of plants produced, measured in the hundreds or thousands, makes up for the time.
Many landrace species and hybrids are available in Hawai‘i, but there are a few that have commercially withstood the test of time. Ozaki—popular for its large, green margined spathe; Nitta—a classic medium to large, orange, and tall species; Tulip White—offers a stunning tulip-like spathe with a contrasted spadix; Tulip Purple—is regal in color and shape while maintaining a medium height.
The most serious pest of anthuriums is the Anthurium thrips (Chaetanaphothrips orchidii). Severe infestations damage all flowers when thrips enter the unopened plant buds after emergence. Anthurium thrips can be controlled by contact insecticide, however the spraying will require weekly applications for seven to eight weeks to ensure life cycle disruption. The newly emerging buds are protected during this period while effected leaves will die away from the previous infestation damage.
Damon Adamson (senior, horticulture) received a bachelor of arts in history from UH West O‘ahu. He is retired U.S. Army, born in San Diego, CA.