Can Anthurium species be grown in water?

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by photopro, Sep 21, 2007.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    For some odd reason a lot of people are typing some form of the question "can Anthurium be grown in water" into search engines. I receive email all the time asking this odd question. As a result, I've been attempting to learn where this notion may have originated. I believe it is from one of three sources. One seller of plants advertised, at least for a while, the species from Peru Anthurium regale should be grown in water. I believe they have since revised their ad. The Anthurium craze has hit southeast Asia with a vengeance and many growers there are trying to learn how to best grow the species. It appears someone has started advising they should be grown in water. And of course, you can buy Anthurium hybrids on eBay attached to volcanic rock and the rock should be kept sitting in water according to the sellers.

    The notion Anthurium regale "should" be grown in water came from a misunderstanding of how noted grower Mardy Darian was growing his Anthurium regale seeds. I have spoken to Dr. Darian at least four different times. The good doctor starts his seeds in high quality sphagnum moss and places the moss in a pot which is then placed in about 1/2 inch of water. The moss acts as a "wick" and draws the water up to the seeds. When the plant develops it is not in water, it is in damp moss! As a result, the plants grow very well.... for a while. However, almost every grower who has bought one of these plants after it leaves Dr. Darian has later learned to keep the plant healthy they must place it in a very loose soil which drains quickly. The plant will not survive well in super wet conditions.

    The volcanic rock idea has also lead people to believe Anthurium species can be grown in water. They can't! There is no such thing as an aquatic Anthurium. They do love damp, humid conditions, but they don't grow in water. I have confirmed this with noted botanist Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Dr. Croat is recognized as the world authority on Anthurium species.

    What is happening with the volcanic rock is the rock itself is capable of holding water. When you sit the rock in shallow water, with the Anthurium attached on the top of the rock, the rock acts as a wick and draws water from the water basin up to the roots. The roots then draw water from the inside of the rock just as they do in nature while attached to a tree. Many orchid growers use the same technique and for some years crushed volcanic rock was the craze as a "perfect" orchid media. But if you sit the entire rock with the roots in water the plant will eventually die.

    In nature, the majority of Anthurium species are epiphytic and are attached to a tree limb well up in the rain forest canopy. Most do not even grow in soil, although the majority will grow in soil. Some species do grow in the soil, but they are the minority. Most Anthurium species capture their moisture from the frequent rain in the tropical rain forest and draw some from the high humidity of the forest. (see the photo attached of an Anthurium growing in the canopy). This plant is easily 40 feet (13 meters) off the ground. You can see the root system is simply hanging from the branch. There is no soil. The red berries in the photo are the berries containing seeds of the specimen. Normally, there are two seeds per berry. Birds eat the berries then leave their droppings on other tree branches. Those bird droppings contain just the right amount of moisture and nutrients to cause the seed to germinate and grow another Anthurium on another tree branch.

    But Anthurium species do not live in water! These are no aquatic species. And by the way, for some reason, many who search for information on Anthurium species are spelling it "anthirium" with an "i" instead of a "u". The correct spelling is I have it at the top of this page.

    Here's some slightly more detailed information on how Anthurium species grow and reproduce in the wild. This information was prepared with the help of several of the world's best known aroid experts:

    http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Grow or Growing Anthurium species.html

    Promise, if you are determined to try to grow an Anthurium in water you will, in time, kill the plant!
     

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    Last edited: Sep 21, 2007
  2. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    As a result of this post I received a note from a lady who says I'm wrong on this one. She indicated she has been growing her Anthurium in a jar of water for three months now and the plant appears to be healthy. She didn't say what species, but I'd guess it is one of the common hybrid variations. I wished her well.

    Dr. Croat has told me repeatedly "anything is possible". And I'm sure her plant is alive in the jar. My question is this.......... If nature had intended Anthurium species to grow in water why can't we find a single species in nature growing that way? Sure, her plant may appear healthy for now, but what about in another three months? Or longer? Eventually, the plant is going to survive out of its element as long as it possibly can exist. I personally hate throwing out perfectly good plants.

    I've seen people grow Anthurium in direct sunlight. They burn and look awful, but they still live. Does that make growing them in direct burning sunlight the best way to grow them? I don't think Mother Nature would agree with that premise. "Anything is possible". But is it best for the plant?

    A very knowledgeable Anthurium grower and hybridizer on this board, LariAnn Garner, once wrote me a note thanking me for the advice to get her Anthurium regale into soil. When I saw her last weekend she said the plant was growing quite well now. People love to try all sorts of things....... but is it best for the plant?

    Well, I guess you'll just have to decide that one for yourself!
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  3. LariAnn

    LariAnn Active Member

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    I concur with photopro about this; in my experience, the culture of Anthurium species is not too far different from the culture of Orchids! I find it better for them to get dry than for them to be too wet. I've lost a few "easy" ones due to soil medium being too wet, so I certainly don't recommend growing them in water unless you don't mind losing them in the final reel.

    IMHO, growers are far better off treating Anthurium plants like Orchids that like just a little more moisture, than treating them like terrestrial or swamp-growing Alocasias!

    We joke here about the fact that "aroids" are "air-oids", meaning, they like air! I have a hybrid McColley Philodendron growing as a complete epiphyte on my variegated Schefflera tree! The only part of the plant touching soil is the pendant roots!! And, I did not place it there on purpose like one does with Orchids; it just crept up there and the base rotted away, leaving the plant suspended in air! I've also seen a Meconostigma type Philodendron growing as a complete epiphyte as well at a local nursery, with just roots touching the ground, and it was plenty healthy.

    Hope this helps!

    LariAnn
    Aroidia Research
     
  4. Delton

    Delton New Member

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    I have been growing a red anthurium in a glass bowl with just tap water for over three years. Grows and blooms very well indeed. So, it can be done.
     

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