10-16oC/50-61 deg F

These plants are usually easily identified by their strange flowers. and are most often sold bearing them. The ‘flowers’ are eye-catching and consist of a very showy and brightly-coloured heart-shaped lleshy and glossy spathe. from the centre of which arises a cylindrical spadix bearing the tiny true flowers. The entire structure is borne on a long. strong stem arising from a cluster of handsome foliage.

Their essential requirement is warmth. coupled with good humidity, and the lack of this is the reason why they tend to fail after a time in many homes. This plant was grown extensively in Victorian conservatories, and in the high temperatures they maintained reached a considerable size. Gardening books of those days recommend potting-on into very large pots, and describe really massive plants measuring at least 1.2 m (4ft) across.

Probably the easiest species is /I. scher-zerianum, from Costa Rica. This plant is happy with a minimum temperature of 10 deg C (50 deg F), although a little higher is preferable. It is a beautiful plant of neat habit, with elongated arrow-shaped leaves. The common name of flamingo flower presumably refers to the brilliant red, waxy-textured spathe, with yellow spadix. usually curled. A number of cultivars with spathes in white or shades of pink, sometimes flecked or spotted, are also available. The flowers are produced over a long period. from spring to autumn. A. andreanum, which has several common names, such as painter’s pa ette, wax flower, and oil-cloth flower, is from Colombia and needs a temperature a few degrees higher. It has large, dark green heart-shaped foliage. The flowers are similar in structure, but the waxy-textured spathes can be bright red or white and the spadix is stiff and erect. reaching about 6.5cm (24in) in length. A. crystalknum is different, in that the spathes are of no great signiticance. It is grown for its delightful foliage. It bears large, pointed, heart-shaped leaves of dark green and velvety texture, purplish when young. These are contrastingly veined in cream, the colour being pinkish below, and with a crystalline texture.

This species is the most difficult to keep in good condition. It. too, is from Colombia and should preferably be given a temperature a few degrees higher than the absolute minimum, otherwise the foliage deteriorates and tends to go dry and brown around the edges. A special potting compost is required for anthuriums. It must be fibrous and open. Use a mixture of fibrous peat, sphagnum moss, crushed charcoal, and a little John Innes potting compost No. 2. When potting, place a generous layer of broken clay pots or clean pebbles at the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage. Do not set the plants too deep in the compost. Deep planting may lead to basal rot. Usually. 13-18cm (S-7in) pots are suitable. Anthuriums are not suitable for positions that are draughty or for where temperatures change widely or rapidly. They like slight shade. but A. crystallinum is suitable for quite dull places. Every attempt must be made to maintain a good humidity level, and the plants like to be in groups, with other houseplants. where the humidity is usually higher. Often, roots may appear around the bases of the plants, and these should be well covered with potting compost.

In summer, spray the plants with clean rainwater, whenever possible, and keep the compost moist at all times. However. water more cautiously in winter. Propagate by division of the roots in March. Various aphids are the most likely pests, and low temperatures and humidity the usual cause of general deterioration.

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