Plants gracing smaller businesses and organizations that don’t (or can’t) hire professionals are cared for by the staff. When plants are maintained by a company’s employees, the results vary depending on the skill levels of the caretakers; they may flourish, cling to life or bite the dust. In addition, you can usually tell if only one person is carrying out all the care requirements, as opposed to a team effort, because the plants more or less all look the same visually – healthy or ragged. For example, whenever I walked into one of the local convenience stores in the city I previously lived in, all the plants there looked equally beaten with their broken down soil, dry leaf tips and tired foliage. I’m guessing that the same person took care of all of them. (This is not to say that plants can only thrive under the care of hired professionals. You don’t need a license or a degree to acquire a green thumb. But in order to get to the point of this article, let’s concentrate on plants grown in less than ideal environments by a specific individual who doesn’t have the greenest thumb.)
Every now and then, there is one plant that defies the ‘all plants look the same under the care of one individual’ logic by responding differently from the surrounding victims – er – greenery. And that was the case with a particular specimen in a doctor’s office from my previous city where a variety of interesting plants resided. The overall impression I got was that the live plants were being cared for by a staff member that a) was making a sincere effort but didn’t have a green thumb or b) didn’t like plants but felt obligated to care for them or c) was grudgingly caring for them but was subconsciously (or consciously) doing something that was sabotaging their health (passive/aggressive behaviour).
There were a couple of Phalaenopsis Orchids – no longer in bloom – that looked like they were ready (and hoping) to check out soon; an Aechmea Fasciata wondering what it had done to deserve growing in a dark corner; a Dracaena Marginata that had shed its lower leaves and its determination to make new ones; an Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ making the best of a bad situation because they’re such good troopers; a Dieffenbachia Camille that had lost almost all of its variegation and looked rather offended by the appalling growing conditions; a Spider plant that had decided to self-destruct and end its misery; and a Peace Lily – well, I won’t even get into details about that one. Hence, they were all equally dilapidated, which lead me to believe that one person was caring for all of them. But then there was an Anthurium in that battered collection that defied all logic. It was happy as a clam with its regular production of healthy new leaves and frequent blooms. In fact, that plant was doing so well that it was growing into a monster-sized specimen. So it threw a monkey wrench into my overconfident logical deduction that ‘all plants look the same under the care of one individual’. Damn plant.
On another note – that doesn’t involve my ego – Anthuriums are a wonderful choice if you’re looking for attractive foliage and long lasting flowers. And although many resources maintain that these plants do not adapt easily to average indoor conditions, I find that they roll with the punches better than most.
Belonging to the Araceae (Aroid) family of plants and a relative to the extremely popular and beloved Dieffenbachias, Philodendrons, Aglaonemas, Alocasias, Caladiums and Spathiphyllums, the genus Anthurium is the largest group in this clan boasting 600 – 800, and probably much more, different varieties. Despite the fact that there are so many of them, very few are available to the general public, with the A. Scherzerianum and A. Andreanum leading the way. There is a third one – A. Crystallinum – that is grown primarily for its ornamental foliage because the inflorescence is quite insignificant compared to the other two specimens. But you are much less likely to find this one in local stores.
Characterized by shiny, dark green foliage and showy, heart-shaped flowers that come in shades of red, pink and white, an Anthurium can bloom all year round with proper care. Long lasting, with flowers that stick around for many weeks, this ornamental plant adds a decorative touch to any home or office, and makes a great gift.
Ensure that your Anthurium receives plenty of light. Choose a spot that provides bright, indirect light. A little early or late day sun is ideal. Do not place this plant in low light areas, regardless of what some houseplant books say. These plants need a lot of light to bloom.
While your plant is actively growing, water generously and keep the medium evenly moist. In the winter, when growth slows down, allow it to dry slightly between successive waterings. Never allow the plant to dry out completely; occasional slight dryness around the root ball can be tolerated but frequent under-watering cannot. Be especially careful of over watering. Use a very porous, coarse, fast-draining medium; Anthuriums will not survive long in compact, waterlogged soil mixes. Keep the plant slightly root bound.
Warm and humid conditions are needed by this plant that originates from the tropics. Although an Anthurium will tolerate slightly higher levels, ideal temperatures range between 18°C -21°C (64°F -70°F) with a slight drop at night. Protect from cold drafts and constant temperature fluctuations. Raise humidity by placing the pot on a pebble tray filled with water or by adding a humidifier nearby. (For other ways to increase moisture in the air, visit Improving Humidity) Feed monthly from May to September if the plant is healthy and putting out new growth.
If you want to be permanently rid of the water juggling act associated with growing these plants in soil mixes, switch to hydroculture. Anthuriums convert easily and grow happily in this alternative style. The plant adopts the system quickly with very little stress; there may be some yellowing of leaves but not much else. Make sure that you eliminate all traces of soil from the roots before transplanting to avoid rot. Anthuriums have a dense root system that is usually caked with soil; you may have to disassemble the setup, once or twice, to wash the roots again if the first time hasn’t left them thoroughly clean.
If you’re searching for plants that can handle the day-to-day stresses of indoor environments reasonably well, visit a local business that grows indoor plants cared for by the staff. If all the plants look worn out except for one, find out what that robust survivor is and pick one up at your local garden center. Chances are it may be an Anthurium.