No Anthurium owner likes to see their beloved houseplant suffering. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell what’s behind your Flamingo Flower’s poor health. Is the plant dehydrated? Infested? Suffering from too much or too little sun? We’ll go over some frequent problems in Anthuriums and explain how you can correct them.
What’s wrong with your Anthurium? The single most common mistake Anthurium owners make is letting the pot get too damp, either by overwatering or using soil with poor drainage. Lighting issues are another common issue – too much direct sun will dehydrate and scorch Anthurium leaves, while too little light can prevent growth and flowering.
Other typical problems include unhealthy temperatures, an excess of fertilizer, and a pot that’s cramping your plant’s growing root system. There are also a number of pests and bacterial infections that can attack Anthuriums. Keep reading to learn how you can recognize what’s plaguing your plant – and what you can do about it.
Overwatering and Root Rot in Anthuriums
Lots of novice Anthurium owners assume that this rainforest plant needs water every day. But Anthuriums typically grow on the sides of trees, where the rain quickly washes away. A container filled with soil holds onto water much longer.
That’s dangerous because Anthurium roots need oxygen to function. Wet, clinging soil will stifle them, and it also lets fungi and bacteria grow out of control. This results in root rot, which is exactly as nasty as it sounds.
Early signs that your Anthurium is getting too much to drink include:
- Slow growth
- Yellowing foliage
- Leaf tips turning brown
These are actually symptoms of dehydration and malnutrition – because the roots aren’t getting enough oxygen, they can’t absorb enough water or nutrients. If your Anthurium appears to be dying of thirst even though the potting mix is damp, you’re probably watering it too much.
It’s possible that root rot has already set in below the surface. This is even more likely if the soil smells foul or musty or if the stems or leaves have developed slimy brown patches. The only sure way to tell is to uproot your Anthurium and check for mushy gray or black areas.
Fixing and Preventing Overwatering in Anthuriums
The first step is to stop watering so much! Let the potting mix dry out, at least to the depth of your first and second knuckle, before you give your Anthurium any more to drink.
If you’re dealing with root rot, you’ll also need to trim away all the infected roots with pruning shears, disinfecting the blades between snips. Throw away the old soil, which is now contaminated, and wipe down the pot with a solution of household bleach diluted to 10% strength. You can also rinse the roots with the same disinfectant. Then repot the plant in fresh potting mix.
Getting the soil mix right is the first step in avoiding overwatering in the future. Anthuriums should be planted in a coarse blend with lots of air pockets. Equal parts coconut coir, coarse perlite, and chunks of pine bark should work well, and you can find more detailed info on pots and growing media for Flamingo Flowers here.
Moving forward, water only when the top layer of the potting mix has dried out. Check on it every week in the summer and every two weeks in the colder months.
Of course, Anthuriums can also suffer from too little water. The symptoms look a lot like the early signs of overwatering: sluggish growth, wilting, and yellowing or browning leaves.
The easiest way to tell the two issues apart is by checking the pot. If the soil is caked and dry, then you’re probably dealing with a thirsty plant rather than a drowning one. The leaves will probably feel crispy, rather than fleshy or limp like those of an overwatered Anthurium.
Dealing with Underwatering in Anthuriums
Underwatering has a straightforward fix: water more. Step up the frequency with which you’re checking the soil so that it’s not drying out for too long between waterings. Remember that Anthuriums will need more water in the spring and summer when they’re actively putting out new growth.
Lighting Problems in Anthuriums
Another aspect of Anthurium care that can be a bit tricky is finding the right amount of light. Like many popular indoor plants, they’re prone to sunburn – prolonged exposure to direct sun will cause their leaves to scorch and wither.
Sun scorch is another problem that shows up as dehydration first – the leaves will develop pale yellow and brown spots and start to shrivel. If these spots are concentrated on the side of the plant that faces a sunny window, your Anthurium is probably sunburned. Blooms that look bleached and faded offer another hint.
Although you shouldn’t let your Anthurium sunbathe, it does need a good amount of light to thrive. But most of that light should be indirect – reflected off of other surfaces or filtered through something partly opaque.
An Anthurium suffering from a lack of sunlight won’t grow or flower much, if at all, and its leaves will turn an especially deep green. If the plant does produce new blooms, they might be green rather than their usual bright red.
Fixing Lighting Issues in Anthuriums
To revive a sunburned Anthurium, move it to a shadier spot for a few weeks – don’t leave it entirely in the dark, but keep it away from all direct light until it begins growing healthy new leaves. In the future, limit any direct sun exposure to the cool hours of the early morning. If you’re going to put the plant near a south or west window, try hanging some sheer curtains to diffuse the light.
An under-lit Anthurium should go somewhere brighter, such as an east-facing sill or a sunny room with a perch five or six feet back from the windows. You can also give it a boost with a handy LED grow light – we offer some recommendations in this article.
Salt Buildup and Fertilizer Burn in Potted Anthuriums
When your Anthurium remains in the same pot for too long, it can start to suffer from deposits of soluble minerals that accumulate in the potting mix. These compounds are left behind by fertilizer, or by “hard” tap water that contains lots of magnesium or calcium. High enough concentrations interfere with the plant’s roots and can even pull water away from the plant.
Can you guess what the typical symptoms of fertilizer burn look like? If you said “wilting, yellowing, browning foliage,” give yourself ten points. Yes, this is another problem that manifests as dehydration. You might also notice a pale crust on the surface of the soil or translucent whitish patches on the surface of the leaves.
Dealing With Salt Buildup in Anthuriums
Flush the plant’s pot with water to sluice out the built-up salts. It’s a good idea to do this every three or four months, even without visible symptoms of fertilizer burn. Place your Anthurium in your shower or sink, or outdoors near a hose, and run a stream of tepid water over it.
Keep going until enough water has run into the top and out the bottom to fill the pot four times over. Then wait until the drainage holes are no longer dripping, and put the plant back in its usual spot.
Temperature and Humidity Problems in Anthuriums
Air that’s too hot or dry can exacerbate issues of sun scorch and underwatering. When the ambient humidity falls below 65-70% or the temperature rises above 90, Anthurium leaves are likely to wither, even if you’ve gotten their soil and sun conditions right. You can often correct for humidity issues by misting your plant every couple of days with lukewarm water from a spray bottle.
These tropical plants are vulnerable to cold, too. If your Anthurium’s leaves abruptly turn yellow and start dropping off, it may be too chilly. Don’t let the temperature in the plant’s room fall below 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pest Problems in Anthuriums
Leaf discoloration that appears as lots of tiny spots instead of large unbroken patches could be damage from sap-sucking pests. The usual suspects for Anthuriums include:
- Spider Mites
If you think your Flamingo Flower has an insect problem, quarantine it away from your other houseplants immediately.
Pest control in Anthuriums is too complex to cover in detail here, but we have a more in-depth article on the subject. One thing that’s worth trying with just about any of the bugs listed above is washing down your Anthurium’s leaves.
Start with a strong blast of water from a showerhead or a hose, then follow it up by spritzing the whole plant with a dilute soap solution. Use mild liquid soap with no degreasing compounds or other harsh additives. Shake up a teaspoon of soap in a liter of warm water, put that in a spray bottle, and mist your Anthurium from top to bottom.
You’ll probably need to repeat this treatment once a week for a few weeks to completely rid your plant of unwanted passengers.
The best way to tell what’s giving your Anthurium’s trouble is to keep a close eye on your own habits as its caregiver. Pay attention to where you’re keeping the plant, how much you’re watering it, and how long it’s been living in the same container. The better you know yourself and your Anthurium, the easier it will be to spot any problems that arise.