Anthurium intro, part 3

Discussion in 'Araceae' started by photopro, Oct 25, 2007.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I've had several "nursery experts" write to tell me my soil mixture won't work due to the orchid potting media. They claim the bark will eventually rot and create air pockets in the soil and then kill the plant. Well, we've been using it for over five years now, some plants even longer, and our Anthurium along with Philodendron species just keep growing! If the wood is decomposing, and it probably is, it appears to simply become part of the soil the same way it does in any rain forest. The principal reason this mixture works is the soil stays aerated and loose. It holds the water, but will not stay soggy. And that is precisely what many Anthurium species desire.


    The next important consideration is light. In almost any rain forest, light is a very precious commodity! Plants fight for position and large ones often deprive small specimens of almost any light at all! That is the exact reason Anthurium, and other species, are climbing a tree. They are trying to reach the light! As they grow high on the side of the tree botanists see that almost all morph into what often appears to be a totally different species! But in reality this new morphed "form" is just the adult leaf shape of the juvenile plant. Almost all Anthurium species prefer bright indirect light. Some will live in deep shade, but many will not flourish. As a
    result, don't try to grow them in a darkened corner of your living room. Keep them near a window with bright, but indirect light. Some can be trained to live in very bright light, but very few will survive in direct sunlight. As a result, if you are growing your Anthurium species outdoors, keep them close to a tree that will allow for filtered sunlight.

    Typically, fluorescent light or incandescent light bulbs just don't provide enough light, or the right spectrum of light, to keep an Anthurium specimen both happy and healthy. "Grow lights" will make them "grow", but won't make them flourish. Filtered, relatively strong light is best. Just ask any professional photographer. The light coming through a window is much stronger than the light from a fluorescent tube. And the plant will often reward you with a dramatic change in leaf shape if you give it what it has been craving all along!

    Watering is very important. In our artificial rain forest we water four or more days a week (normally five days) during the heat of the year and two or three days a week in winter. During August we water daily! There are species that prefer a longer dry period and we attempt to segregate those during the winter season.

    Remember, these species normally grow in a rain forest, not a living room! It often rains daily in the "rain forest". They like to have their roots damp all the time, just not in soggy soil. In your home, water often enough to keep the soil damp, but not soggy. Make sure the pot can easily drain. If you use a pot with no drain holes in the bottom, then add a minimum of three inches of gravel (non-limestone) beneath the soil mix so the water can drain from the soil.

    What about fertilizer? In nature an Anthurium receives only natural forms! The epiphytic species can collect minerals in the rain which comes from the winds blowing across the Atlantic from Africa. They often bring dust from major dust storms in the African plains to the rain forests of tropical America. Once it settles in the rain the long dangling roots of the plants do gather a small amount of dissolved minerals and nutrients. But nothing like home growers are prone to offer! Even the species up in the canopy often collect falling debris in the form of dead leaves and convert that to a natural form of fertilizer.

    Regarding fertilizers, aroid expert Julius Boos wrote, "It is also the epiphytic plants that benefit just as much from falling debris and rain! Many 'birds-nest" type plants actually grow on trunks and branches of trees. In French Guyana we saw a species of Philodendron that grows like a vine up tree trunks, and when it reaches a suitable spot, changes form from a climbing vine and becomes a 'birds-nest', catching leaves. It then creates an area where ants actually build their nest in the roots and amongst the leaves/debris mix. These ants also provide lots of fertilizer with their by-products, left-over insect and fruit parts, etc.. The rain also washes debris and the nitrogen it picks up and contains on to the long, pendant roots of other species." Species, such as the terrestrial "birds nest" forms are designed to collect falling vegetation: leaves and other debris. In nature, those species will often be found with piles of dead leaves and other plant material inside their conical base. That material then decays and the result is a natural form of fertilizer for the plant, especially when insects are invited to set up home. But most collector/growers carefully collect and clean out all dead and decaying material found around their plant! We are then depriving the plant of the natural form of fertilizer for the sake of "beauty".

    As a result, most experienced growers do not fertilize heavily. Instead, they fertilize sparingly. Many adhere to the term "fertilize weakly, weekly". Simply, that means adding a small amount of fertilizer to your water and give it to your plant often, best once each week. A good recommendation is 20% of the manufacturer's recommended amount. Large doses of artificial fertilizer do little to encourage the plant to grow as large as it will in nature. But minimal doses of liquid fertilizers can cause your Anthurium to reach an unusually large size and beauty.

    Temperature? Virtually all Anthurium species are tropical. That means they just can't tolerate really cold temperatures. Some live high in the Andes Mountains well above the cloud line. As a result, these are "cool" loving species. But not cold! The cloud forest species don't like heat and won't do well in an outdoor setting where the temperature may stay above 80 degrees for long periods of time. They can tolerate short spells of high temperatures, but some, such as Anthurium rugulosum, may not survive. Many growers of these cool loving species use a high humidity "wet wall" combined with a small air conditioning system to keep the ambient temperature low and the humidity high. Many of these species will do well down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but not much cooler.

    As a general rule, never allow the temperature around most of your Anthurium specimens to drop below 55 degrees F. It is best to keep them well below 90 degrees F which is not particularly difficult if you grow them in some form of shade or filtered light. Some species will tolerate short periods of cold, such as Central Florida. But most won't survive anywhere outdoors north of Zone 9. Zone 10 is best! Many will simply die if exposed to a freeze. And since most show much faster growth when the temperature is in the 70 to 85 degree F range you may find your specimen will appreciate being allowed to live outdoors during the spring and portions of the fall.

    Humidity is extremely important! Do everything you possibly can to keep the humidity high around your Anthurium. These species live in a jungle which can have a humidity level near 100%! If you live in a climate that has a low humidity, like southern California, then you'll need to provide a method of giving the aroid more humidity. In our rain forest the humidity is always high (85% or higher) due to the pond in the center of the room and frequent water! Some growers keep their Anthurium species near a swimming pool to allow for a constantly high humidity. Air circulation is equally important since the air is almost always moving in the rain
    forest. Avoid stagnant air since that may encourage insect predators.

    If you can't give the species rain forest humidity conditions then there is a simple alternative. Buy an attractive shallow dish that can sit beneath the plant's pot. Fill that pan with gravel, preferably one that does not have too much limestone. Fill the pan and gravel with water and then sit your plant and pot on top of this gravel bath in order to create a micro-climate around the Anthurium. Promise, it works! Water will evaporate around the leaves all the time and fool the plant into believing it is living in a humid rain forest environment. And when you water, the excess will simply drain into the gravel pot.

    Why do you want to avoid limestone gravel? If you use the soil mixture we suggest, you've just created a soil mixture with a pH below 7, likely around 6.5. The Anthurium will appreciate that pH level! If you add limestone to the mix, the pH can be raised to above 7 and the Anthurium is not as likely to appreciate that level with the exception of a few species which do live in higher soil pH areas of the tropics.

    Growing Anthurium species is not difficult. Only a few are hard to grow, and most will grow fairly well under a wide variety of conditions. Remember, they often begin on or near the rain forest floor in relatively low light and spend years climbing up to the light level they have been seeking. The keys are allowing the epiphytic forms to climb, giving the spreading types room to spread, fast draining soil that stays damp, rarely dry, a stable temperature, good air circulation, and good light that is relatively bright. It's just that easy!

    Just in case you missed part one and part two, you can find the first part here:
    http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=32905

    My thanks to aroid grower/experts Julius Boos, Leland Miyano and Russ Hammer for their input on this article.

    You can find the original with photos at www.ExoticRainforest.com
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2007
  2. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Re: Anthurium primer, part 3

    My apologies to Neil Carrol for using the name of his published article as a header for this post. It was pointed out to me later that I had used Neil's title and I swear that was unintentional! Neil has been kind to send me information for which I am very grateful. His expertise in the field of Anthurium far outweighs anything I could ever write. So, to any who feel I deliberately took Neil's title, my apologies. The article I wrote with the help of several experts has been posted on my own website for some months. I just adapted that article for use here due to the enormous current interest in Anthurium species. None of the information was purposely borrowed from Neil or anyone else. Sorry Neil! It was not used on purpose.

    http://www.aroid.org/TAP/
     

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