A perfect plant gift for the Christmas season

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 18, 2020

Various types of plants are popular as gifts during the holiday season – poinsettias, cyclamen, orchids, and Christmas cacti all have their supporters.

As many of you know, however, I’m a contrarian and would like to suggest another plant that is equally lovely and will last far longer.

Way back in February, a friend gave me an anthurium, and it has continued to bloom ever since. The anthurium is a tough, durable plant native to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Indeed, with its wild child leaves, which can be solid green, bicolored, or even pleated, and bright neon, heart-shaped blooms, it fairly screams odd ball, tropical eccentric. What’s not to like about that?

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Now about those blooms, the brightly-colored, heart-shaped part is a spathe or modified leaf. The tiny true flowers are arranged on the long tail or spadix that emerges from the center of the spathe. Altogether, they form one of the longest lasting blooms in the plant world.

The anthurium isn’t hard to care for in the typical home. It needs bright, indirect light. Too much direct light and the leaves will burn. Too little light and the plant will sulk. The anthurium also prefers warm temperatures – roughly 70 to 80 degrees – along with humidity. In many homes, then, the best location is in a bathroom where the shower is used regularly. Misting the leaves periodically also helps improve humidity.

Ongoing regular maintenance isn’t complicated. The anthurium needs to be repotted when roots start poking out of the soil or about every two to three years. Choose a pot that is 2 inches larger than the one the plant is currently in, and use a potting mix that drains freely. A standard orchid mix works well. It’s time to water the anthurium when the top inch of soil is dry. Apply a quarter strength solution of fertilizer every three or four months. Remove spent blooms and leaves when they appear, and that’s all that needs to be done.

There are pink, white and red anthurium available at local garden centers. Choose one for your best friend and another for yourself. It will reward you with month after month of elegant blooms. My friend chose the perfect gift.

DR. CYNTHIA WOOD is a master gardener. Her email address is cynthia.crewe23930@gmail.com.