Anthuriums often prove to be tricky houseplants for beginners, but many of their most common problems can be avoided by getting the basics right. In this article, we’ll talk about how to satisfy your Flamingo Flower’s water and moisture requirements. Proper watering habits and humidity levels will go a long way toward helping your Anthurium thrive.
So how should you water your Anthurium? The most important thing is to respond to your plant’s needs rather than trying to keep it on your schedule – instead of watering at regular intervals, test the soil periodically and water only when the top inch or so has dried out. When it’s time to water, give your Anthurium enough that it drips out of the hole at the base.
Overwatering is more dangerous than underwatering, so err on the side of stinginess. On the other hand, these plants like moist air much more than soggy soil, so misting the leaves frequently or adding a humidifier is often a good idea. We’ll delve into proper watering for Anthuriums in more detail below, along with tips on solving the problems that can arise if you water too much.
How Often Should You Water Your Anthurium?
New Anthurium owners often assume that there’s a fixed schedule of watering that will keep their plant happy. But the amount of water a plant needs can vary dramatically depending on ambient humidity and temperature, among many other variables.
Those factors shift from day to day and week to week – and so does your Flamingo Flower’s thirst. If you provide more water than your Anthurium can drink, the excess will simply sit in the soil, creating a marshy, waterlogged environment that will make your plant very unhappy.
In the wild, Anthuriums cling to the sides of trees and sip much of their moisture directly from the air around them. That doesn’t mean that you can’t grow them in pots, but it does mean that they aren’t well-suited to having their roots swamped with watery muck. Their ideal soil environment is slightly damp but not sopping wet, like your fluffy bath towel after you finish dying off.
You should water your Anthurium only when it’s thirsty. Until we figure out how to speak Plant, the best way to find out whether it needs a drink is by checking its potting mix. This can be as simple as sticking your index finger into the dirt and seeing whether it feels damp.
When the top 1-2 inches are dry – for most people, that’s about the distance from the fingertip to the first or second knuckle – it’s time to give your Anthurium another drink. The lower levels should still be damp enough for the plant’s comfort but not so wet that it’s unable to take up more water.
If you want extra precision, you can use a moisture meter – a handheld probe that you insert all the way into the base of the pot to get a reading on how damp the soil is near the roots. These nifty tools are inexpensive and easy to find online.
As we’ve mentioned, temperature and humidity can vary day by day, but it’s possible to make some educated guesses about how often you’ll need to check the soil in your Anthurium’s container.
During the hot summer months, when the plant is putting out new growth and losing more water to evaporation, you should probably test once a week to ensure it’s not underwatered.
In the winter, when the plant is more dormant, its water needs are reduced. You can get away with checking every two weeks during the colder season.
What Happens When You Overwater Anthuriums
So why is it so dangerous to overwater your Flamingo Flower? First of all, despite being underground, your Anthurium’s roots need to breathe. Fertile soil is generally fairly loose and fluffy, containing lots of little air pockets that let the plant take up oxygen.
But when the ground stays too wet for too long, the excess moisture fills in those gaps and turns the soil into a suffocating sludge. Your Anthurium will effectively begin to drown in slow motion. And since the roots aren’t functioning correctly, the plant may also suffer from thirst despite having a glut of water.
Worse, an Anthurium that sits in marshy soil for too long can succumb to root rot. The dark, wet conditions of overwatered soil allow bacteria and fungi to breed rapidly, and they can quickly colonize the roots of the plant.
This condition isn’t always easy to spot from the surface – at least not before it’s so advanced that it’s begun to kill off large portions of your Anthurium’s tissues.
Possible signs of root rot include:
Slow growth. When an Anthurium is no longer putting out new growth, it could be due to damaged roots.
Discolored leaves. If your Anthurium’s leaves are turning yellow or brown, it may be a sign that its roots are suffering.
Foul-smelling soil. Musty or sour smells coming from your plant’s pot often indicate that root rot is underway.
Mushy or slimy stems. Once the lower portions of your Anthurium become squishy and swollen, the disease is fairly advanced, though the plant may still be salvageable if you act fast.
Some of these symptoms can have other causes, but it’s always a good idea to check for root rot early – waiting too long to treat it will be fatal for your plant.
If you suspect that your Anthurium is suffering from this condition, take it out of its container and inspect the roots directly. Healthy roots are white and crisp, so mushy, squishy roots with brown or black discoloration have been infected.
You’ll have to cut away all the rotting tissue and change out the soil completely to have any chance at saving your Anthurium.
How To Water Anthurium Plants
All right, you’re good and scared about the dangers of overwatering. But once you’ve checked the soil and confirmed that your Anthurium really does need a drink, what’s the best way to actually water it? Short answer: thoroughly.
Although you shouldn’t water a Flamingo Flower too often, you want to make sure it’s well and truly satisfied when you do. Approach it like a strength trainer trying to build muscle mass: high weight, low reps.
Pour a steady trickle of water until you see about twenty percent of what you put in emerging from the pot’s base into the drip tray.
This way, you know you’re moistening the potting mix to its full depth. This ensures that none of the roots are left out of the fun – all of them, from the shallowest to the deepest, get a drink. That lets the plant absorb as much as possible.
What Kind Of Water Is Best For Anthuriums?
Ordinary tap water is probably fine, although some houseplant owners like to fill up a watering can and let it sit out overnight before use. This gives time for some of the chlorine and other additives in tap water to evaporate, making for a slightly gentler way to quench your Anthurium’s thirst.
Distilled water is even purer, though it lacks any nutrients or electrolytes, so you should make sure the plant is getting enough from the soil.
If you can collect rainwater, this is even better due to the small amounts of nutrients it absorbs in its journey from earth to sky to bucket. Of course, if you’re in a heavily polluted area, your rainwater might have some things in it you’d prefer not to feed your plant!
However you’re sourcing your water, it’s best if you serve it close to room temperature. Remember that Anthuriums are tropical plants, used to relatively warm rainwater.
Some guides recommend watering by putting ice cubes in the container and letting them melt, but unless you keep your home quite toasty, this could stress your plant out.
Keeping Your Anthurium Well Drained
As we stressed above, it’s essential not to marinate your Anthurium’s roots in squelchy soil. But avoiding overeager watering is only half the battle.
You also need to make sure that any excess water can escape the pot once your plant has drunk its fill. Proper drainage is a crucial part of preventing overwatering.
The most important step is to make sure that water has a way to exit your Anthurium’s container. That means one or more drainage holes in the base (the actual number doesn’t matter very much). If the bottom of your pot is solid, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that liquid will pool in the bottom and greatly increase the risk of root rot.
Most houseplant pots you buy at the store will already have at least one good-sized hole in the bottom, which will work just fine. But handmade containers, or repurposed vessels like bowls, paint cans, or mugs, will probably need to be modified.
Plastic containers are the easiest to adapt, since you can just add a couple of holes using a drill with a wide bit. Ceramic presents more of a challenge. However, there are specialized drill bits that you can use on ceramics without cracking them, as long as you’re careful. Glass is probably best avoided unless it’s a specialty item with drainage holes included.
Drainage and Potting Mix For Anthuriums
You also need to make sure that the growing medium that fills the pot won’t retain a lot of moisture. A coarse mix will be best, because fine particles in soil tend to trap and hold water.
There are two reasons for this. First, tiny particles have a relatively high surface area compared to their volume. That means lots of places for water molecules to stick to them through electrostatic attraction. Second, smaller molecules can squish closer together, leaving small gaps where water can cling to both sides, creating lots of tiny reservoirs. So maximize drainage by growing your Anthurium in a medium that contains lots of coarse material.
We’ve been using the word “soil” as a catchall term, but actual garden soil is a relatively poor environment for Anthuriums. You’re much better off with a potting mix that contains lots of chunky additives to keep it light and loose.
If you decide to use a store-bought mix that’s fortified with nutrients, look for one that’s high in phosphorus and has good drainage. Orchid mixes (like this one) are often a good choice.
You can enhance your Anthurium mix with small amounts of additives like:
Charcoal. This can absorb toxic chemicals and slow bacterial growth, and it doesn’t retain water. It also helps keep the mix acidic, which Anthuriums like.
Gravel. Small chunks of rock are excellent for spacing out a potting mix.
Crushed lava rock. All the benefits of gravel, plus a hefty dose of mineral micronutrients.
Sphagnum moss. This can help aerate your mix, though you should use it sparingly because too much can actually trap moisture in the pot.
Compost. Loose, crumbly, and rich in the nutrients that plants crave – what’s not to love about compost?
Coco coir. This byproduct of coconut farming is fluffy and airy, improving drainage. It’s also more eco-friendly than non-renewable peat moss.
Anthuriums And Humidity
We’ve established that Anthuriums don’t enjoy wet feet. But these tropical beauties do like to feel moist air on their faces. The ideal environment for a Flamingo Flower is one that mimics the high humidity levels of the jungle overstory for which they’re adapted. However, this can be difficult to pull off in a modern home heated by dry central air.
One simple way to help keep your Anthurium nice and moist is by placing it in a room with high humidity. For most homes, that means the kitchen or the bathroom. As an added bonus, these also tend to be some of the warmest parts of the house! Since Anthuriums are happiest between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll usually appreciate being kept someplace cozy. On the flip side, try not to place the plant right next to a heater, which will usually mean very dry air.
A pebble tray can be a stylish and straightforward way to boost the humidity around your Anthurium. This is pretty much just what it sounds like – a tray full of pebbles and water that you place underneath your plant’s pot.
The idea is that the water will evaporate gradually, increasing the moisture content of the air. Meanwhile, the pebbles elevate the container to keep the liquid from soaking into the area around the roots.
There’s not much of a trick to it, other than to use rocks that are big enough to keep the pot out of the water – and similar enough in size that the container stays fairly level. The exact pebbles you pick will have more to do with your fashion sense than your plant’s health.
The moisturizing benefits of a pebble tray aren’t enormous, especially in the winter. An electric humidifier provides a much more significant boost to your Anthurium’s humidity. So if you’re serious about increasing the humidity around your Anthurium, consider purchasing a humidifier like this one. If you want to learn more about humidifiers, click here to read about the best humidifiers for houseplants.
Should You Mist Your Anthurium?
One other way to compensate for low ambient humidity is by regularly misting the leaves of your Anthurium. A simple spray bottle filled with lukewarm water will do the trick – you can leave it right next to the plant as a reminder to spritz it every so often.
But there is a bit of controversy around this method. Some houseplant growers warn that it can spread disease between different parts of the plant or that water pooling on leaves will lead to fungal infections.
However, there’s a simple way to mitigate these risks: Pay attention to your plant! If you notice signs of disease on your Anthurium’s leaves, hold off on misting until you’ve pruned the infected parts away. If you see water beading and pooling on the leaves, wait until they’ve dried off to give it another blast.
This is basically the same advice that we gave about watering – only it’s even more straightforward since you can look right at the leaves instead of having to feel around in the dirt.
Advice varies about how often you should mist, ranging from daily to weekly. The actual answer will depend on your Anthurium’s environment. The dry winter months, for example, call for more frequent moisturizing, while more humid homes can wait longer between doses.
Proper Watering For Anthuriums: Putting It All Together
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but the most important message to take away is that you should keep an eye on your Anthurium and respond to its needs.
Water only when the soil is beginning to dry out. Bolster the humidity if the room is getting too arid. Make sure the pot and soil are draining properly. If you follow these simple strategies and keep an eye on your Anthurium for developing problems, your plant should have all the water it needs to grow and bloom.