Anthuriums make amazing decorative plants thanks to their distinctive foliage and their long-lasting, colorful blooms. You might be wondering if you can make it even more of a showstopper by raising it in a water-filled vase to let it show off its roots. But can Anthuriums grow solely in water?
It is possible to keep your Anthurium alive in water alone, although if you want it to survive for long, you’ll need to supplement it with fertilizer. A hydroponically grown Flamingo Flower probably won’t get as large as one planted in potting mix, but it can still survive, grow, and bloom. Remember to change out the water periodically to keep it from getting anoxic and stagnant.
Another popular method offers a bit of a middle ground: you can grow your Anthurium on a porous non-soil substrate like expanded clay or volcanic rock. Known as semi-hydro, this is actually closer to how Anthuriums live in nature. We delve into this in more detail below, along with the pros, cons, and best practices of growing Anthuriums in water.
Can Anthuriums Really Live in Just Water?
For houseplant owners aware of the dangers of overwatering, cultivating an Anthurium hydroponically – meaning with its roots immersed in water – might sound bizarre. But strange as it seems, it can be done.
Many plants have a neat trick that lets them adapt when they find their lower halves completely submerged: they put out specialized roots to draw oxygen right from the water. They’re called – drumroll, please – water roots.
Despite the unimaginative name, this is a pretty impressive talent – it’s like I was dunked underwater and simply switched out my lungs for gills. Most plants, Anthuriums included, aren’t really evolved to live this way for long stretches of time. In nature, Flamingo Flowers usually grow up along the trunks of larger plants, far from both soil and standing water.
The Pros & Cons of Growing an Anthurium in Water
In a hydroponic setting, your plant won’t grow as fast as traditionally grown Anthuriums, and they probably won’t ever reach their full size. But there are still some perks to growing Flamingo Flowers hydroponically. And of course, there are a few downsides.
Advantage 1: Fewer Watering Headaches
One of the biggest worries for Anthurium owners is overwatering, because sludgy potting mix is the favored environment of the fungi and bacteria that cause root rot. But these types of parasites don’t thrive in a purely aquatic environment.
As a bonus, if you’re growing your Anthurium in a clear vessel, you’ll be able to see right away if the roots show signs of infection. And as long as the water level doesn’t dip too low, your plant should never get thirsty.
Advantage 2: Easier to Transplant
A hydroponic Anthurium will take a lot longer to outgrow its container, if it ever does at all. But if you do want to move it to a new vessel, you can simply lift it out, rinse it off, and place it in its new home.
Compared to the mess and effort of repotting a soil-grown plant, this is a breeze. You’ll also have less mess if your kids or pets knock the jar off its perch – no dirt to vacuum up!
Advantage 3: It’s Pretty!
One of the big attractions of growing plants in water is that it just plain looks cool. You can see the elaborate root system twining through the water and accent it with nice-looking rocks or glass beads.
Drawback 1: Frequent Cleaning
Though you don’t water a hydroponic Anthurium in the traditional sense, you do need to change out the water every few weeks. Little bits of the plant will occasionally drop into the container, and over time it will begin to look murky and gross.
More importantly, changing out the water helps to keep it aerated, which is important for root health. And standing water will tend to grow algae, which is both unsightly and unhealthy for the plant.
On top of that, when you change the water, you can’t just dump the container out and refill it. You’ll need to give the roots a thorough rinse to clear off any scum that may have built up.
Drawback 2: Limited Growth
We touched on this above, but it’s worth restating: Anthuriums are not adapted to watery environments. Though you can grow them this way, it’s a bit of a mad-science approach. It requires you to supply everything that the plant would usually get from the soil.
That means fertilizer – either chemical nutrients or some kind of natural supplement like fish emulsion. The plant will survive for a while without fertilizer, but it won’t grow or flower as vigorously.
How To Grow Your Anthurium in Water
Assuming you’ve decided on an aquatic parenting style for your Anthurium, how can you set it up for success?
First, choose a vessel that will help the plant stay upright – it won’t have the soil to weigh down its roots. The best container will be one with a narrow neck but a wide base that leaves room for the roots to spread out.
Take your Anthurium out of its pot and clear away the soil from its roots. We recommend rinsing them under lukewarm water and maybe even gently scrubbing with a toothbrush to remove any stubborn clods. Use a light touch – tugging too hard on the roots can damage them. That said, this is an excellent opportunity to check for signs of damage or disease in the root system and clear away the unhealthy parts.
Set your Anthurium in its new container, and fill the water to roughly where the soil topped out in the original pot. You may want to use rainwater or mineral water to provide a little supplemental nutrition.
Change the water out every 1 to 3 weeks, depending on how quickly it gets dirty. Gently rinse the roots again each time you do this. If you notice algae growth, scrub out the vessel and any decorative rocks or beads you’ve placed inside before refilling.
Fertilize sparingly – a few drops of liquid houseplant fertilizer added to the water once or twice a month is probably enough. More than this might make any algae in the jar happy but won’t do much for your Anthurium.
All other growing conditions should be the same as for soil-rooted Anthuriums:
Bright, indirect light
Temperature within 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit
Humid air – you can supplement by misting the leaves if it’s too dry.
Semi-Hydro Growing Options For Anthuriums
Another way to grow Anthuriums without soil is the semi-hydroponic method. This involves rooting the plant on an absorbent substrate that keeps it elevated above the water level. The moisture wicks up through the stone or clay to hydrate the plant.
Since Anthuriums are natural climbers that often draw water right from the air, this is more like how they would grow in the wild. The technique is pretty similar to the full hydroponic method, except that you keep the water level low enough that your Anthurium’s roots remain above it. As a result, you’ll probably need to refresh the water more often.
Some popular options for the substrate include:
LECA. These small spheres of baked clay soak up water and let your Anthurium drink as much or as little as it needs.
Perlite. Though they’re often found as potting mix amendments, you can grow your plant with nothing but water, fertilizer, and these little chunks of spongy rock.
Lava rock. This porous volcanic stone works a lot like perlite when you get it in crushed form. You can also grow an Anthurium on top of a single chunk of rock for a striking tropical look.
Growing in water isn’t exactly natural for Anthuriums, but then, neither is rooting them in potting mix in your apartment. If you’re okay with slower growth, and with the hassle of periodic rinsing and refilling, this can be a fun and attractive way to raise your Flamingo Flower.
Remember to keep its water fresh, watch out for algae, and fertilize occasionally. If you do, your hydroponic Anthurium will stick around and look fabulous for years to come.