When I was young, we lived in Thailand and my mother (who grew up in Milwaukee) would buy plants and orchids from the market. I remember one houseplant in particular: the beautiful flowers were so waxy they looked like they had been polished with furniture polish. The red flowers would last for months. My mother of course did not speak Thai so we did not know the names of the plants but we enjoyed their exotic beauty. Now that I am older, I know the waxy plants are called anthuriums. Although I associate them with tropical Asian countries, they really hail from South America tropical environments.
Anthuriums are members of the Araceae or arum family. The “flower,” the red, heart-shaped part, is a modified leaf called a spathe. The actual flowers are tiny and appear in the center vertical structure called the spadix. The “flower” lasts a long time, making them ideal for cut flower arrangements.
As a houseplant, anthuriums can grow in low light conditions. However, the more light you can provide the more likely it will bloom throughout the year. It definitely does not like moist soil. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Anthuriums are easy, low maintenance plants, perfect for the home and office.
Usually one sees red-flowering plants at the hardware store or nursery but pink, green and white, and purple colored cultivars are available. There is even a black flower cultivar called ‘Black Love‘. My plant was less than ten dollars at the local hardware store but it was very root bound in a 4-inch pot so check your plant’s roots after you purchase it.
Because I see red flowering anthuriums during the holidays, I think of anthuriums as alternative poinsettias. Although poinsettias are instant Christmas, anthurium flowers last longer than poinsettia flowers and the plant tends to have a more exotic, year round appeal. This year I bought both, poinsettias for the home for instant Christmas décor, and an anthurium for the office for year round beauty.