Anthuriums do a lot to make your home a more pleasant place, from improving the air quality to adding a touch of tropical beauty. It’s only fair to put some thought into making the plant’s own home as welcoming as possible. So what kind of container and potting mix will help your Anthurium live its best life?
The most important quality in ideal Anthurium soil is good drainage, so use a coarse, loose growing medium for your Anthurium. Store-bought orchid potting mix works well for Flamingo Flowers, but you may want to enhance the drainage by adding some chunky ingredients like pumice, charcoal, or coconut husks. Anthuriums are acid-loving plants, so keep the soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Choose your Anthurium’s container based on your watering habits – if you tend to overwater, a moisture-wicking terracotta pot will work best, whereas forgetful owners may be better off with more water-retentive plastic or ceramic. Above all, make sure the pot has drainage holes to prevent water from pooling in the base and causing root rot.
What Is The Best Potting Soil For Anthuriums?
The best kind of soil for Anthuriums is no soil at all. No, that’s not a zen riddle – it’s just good gardening advice. Like many types of orchids and bromeliads, Anthuriums are epiphytes, plants adapted to climb along cliffs and branches. Their roots often dangle in the open air or extend into the moss and leaf litter that builds up in the crevices of trees.
Epiphytes aren’t well-suited to a dense medium like soil. Their roots need more oxygen, so they prefer a looser substrate with lots of large air pockets. The fine particles in ordinary soil also tend to trap and retain water, especially inside a restricted space like the inside of a pot. That might sound like a good thing – plants need water to live, right?
But Anthuriums are adapted to absorb water from damp bark or moss, or to breathe it in from the air itself. They don’t like their roots to sit in sludgy, clinging dirt.
Waterlogged soil can lead to the buildup of opportunistic microbes that can cause root rot. This is one of the most common ways that houseplants die, and the fleshy roots of Anthuriums are especially susceptible to this condition.
So stay away from garden soil. And even a standard soilless houseplant potting mix – typically a blend of peat moss, fertilizer, and fragments of absorbent minerals like perlite and vermiculite – doesn’t drain fast enough or provide enough air for Anthurium roots.
Instead, look for a potting mix intended for Phalaenopsis orchids, which are epiphytes just like Anthuriums. These blends are usually made from chips of conifer bark mixed with some slightly spongier ingredients like sphagnum peat moss and perlite.
The big chunks of bark leave plenty of room for air and water to flow through the pot. They’re also slightly acidic, so they’ll help to maintain the right pH for your Anthurium.
The other ingredients are there to soak up excess water and parcel it out slowly. They help to keep the interior of the pot slightly damp but not completely soaked – perfect for Anthurium roots.
Creating Your Own Anthurium Potting Mix
Not all Anthurium lovers are content with a store-bought orchid mix. Many prefer to take matters into their own hands and create their own home-brewed blend.
There are a lot of reasons you might want to make your own potting mix for an Anthurium:
- Better drainage. Commercial orchid media drains fairly well, but you can amend the mix to make it even coarser if you’re really worried about root rot.
- Environmental impact. Peat moss, a standard ingredient in most premade potting blends, is a non-renewable resource that takes hundreds of years to form in the bogs where it’s harvested. Many people prefer to use more sustainable alternatives.
- Experimentation. Maybe you’re naturally inclined to tinker, or you want to test different mixtures and find the perfect one for your home and your plants. That’s great! Experimenting will only make your thumb greener in the long run.
Soil Amendments For Anthuriums
So what kinds of ingredients might you want to add to your Anthurium’s potting mix? We’ll take a look at a few common options and talk about their benefits and drawbacks.
- Perlite. These crumbles of bright white volcanic glass appear in most commercial potting soil for a reason. Perlite has moisture-wicking qualities similar to peat moss, and you can buy it in coarse or super coarse grades that help to aerate and improve drainage.
- Hardwood charcoal. Similar to perlite, but lighter, chunkier, and arguably more sustainable. Don’t try to use the briquettes sold for grilling!
- Compost. Most Anthurium growers like to provide a little bit of nutrition to enhance growth and flowering, and compost makes a good alternative to synthetic fertilizers. It can also take the place of peat moss, though it’s a little denser, so you should use a higher fraction of coarse materials like bark and pumice if you’re using compost as a substitute.
- Pumice. This chunky, porous rock is great for aerating and boosting drainage. Crushed lava rock has similar properties, though it’s usually heavier.
- Coconut coir. Also known as cocopeat, this is one of the most popular replacements for peat moss. It’s made from the dried and ground-up shells of coconuts. It turns what used to be considered a waste product into a loose, fluffy growing medium that’s great for epiphytes.
- Coconut husk. The fibrous outer layer of coconut shells makes a decent substitute for fir or pine bark when chopped up, although it’s not as acidic.
How To Make Anthurium Potting Mix
Finding the right potting blend for your Anthurium is somewhere between art and science. But here are a few tips to get you started.
You can break your ingredients down into three broad categories:
- Coarse, woody materials like pine bark, fibrous coconut husks, and horticultural charcoal.
- Porous minerals like perlite and pumice.
- Spongy organic elements like peat moss, compost, and cocopeat.
A mix that includes these three types of ingredients in roughly equal proportions will work well for Anthuriums. For example, a blend of equal parts pine bark, perlite, and cocopeat should be just about perfect for Anthuriums.
As we noted earlier, compost isn’t an exact substitute for peat moss, and if you’re using it in your potting mix, you should bump up the total fraction of spongy elements to compensate. Consider a blend of 20% vermicompost, 20% cocopeat, 30% medium grade pumice, and 30% pine bark.
Regular Potting Mix For Anthuriums
Though ordinary potting soil by itself doesn’t work well for Anthuriums, you can include it as an ingredient in a coarser mix. One reason to do this would be to get some nutrients into the blend, as commercial potting soil usually incorporates some fertilizer.
Putting Together Your Anthurium Potting Mix
Throw on some gardening gloves and mix all the components thoroughly. It’s often a good idea to blend it in a larger container, like a big plastic storage tub, before transferring it to your Anthurium’s pot. This will give you a little more freedom of movement when stirring.
Some older guides on blending potting mix recommend layering ingredients by size, with a base of rocks or pebbles on the bottom and finer materials on top; however, this won’t help with drainage, because the finer ingredients will filter down to fill in the gaps anyway.
In fact, this layering method can actually increase the risk of root rot. Since there’s not as much soil in the very base of the pot, there’s nothing to absorb any water that trickles down to that level. The result is a pool of standing water directly beneath your Anthurium’s roots. In other words, the perfect environment for a fungal infection.
However, spreading a thin coating of sphagnum moss over the top can help the pot retain moisture. This can be handy in dry climates where your Anthurium struggles due to the low humidity.
One other word of caution: If you’re using perlite, make sure you’re blending your ingredients in a well-ventilated space, and consider some kind of face mask. Perlite is notorious for producing big dust clouds when you pour it out of the bag.
Choosing The Best Pot For an Anthurium
So you’ve mixed up the perfect growing medium for your Anthurium – now where do you put it? Anthuriums will thrive in just about any kind of container as long as there’s a decent-sized drainage hole at the base to prevent water from building up.
Some people swear by terracotta, while others prefer clear plastic pots that let them keep an eye on the roots. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for your plant care style.
An unglazed terracotta pot has one major advantage for Anthurium owners: the baked clay material is porous, letting the pot release moisture through evaporation. That means less chance of a soggy potting mix and therefore less risk of root rot.
However, maybe you’re not a fan of the plain, earthy style of terracotta. Or maybe you’re the kind of plant parent who only remembers to water once a month. In that case, you may want a less breathable material.
Glazed ceramics will seal more moisture into the soil than bare clay, and they’re available in a wide range of colors and patterns that can complement your home’s decor.
Plastic and fiberglass are the least porous materials for a plant container. These pots are good choices if you’re really afraid of underwatering your Anthurium. They’re also very lightweight, and they’re available in all kinds of fun shapes and colors.
Pots made of metal or stone are less common indoors, but they can make for great decorative pieces. In terms of moisture retention, they’re similar to glazed ceramic.
Pots Without Drainage Holes
Let’s say you’ve found a container that would look incredible in your apartment, but when you pick it up to inspect it, you find that the bottom is solid – there’s no hole to let water escape.
You remember everything we’ve said about how important drainage is when choosing containers for Anthuriums. But this pot is everything you’ve ever wanted from a pot. It’s your muse, your houseplant-holding soulmate. It gets you in a way no container has ever gotten you before. Do you really have to let it go? Not necessarily. There are a couple of workarounds you can try.
First, if the pot is made of plastic, you can easily add a few holes to the base with a power drill. This is possible with glazed ceramics too, but you’ll need a special type of drill bit. Metal and stone will probably have to stay as they are.
However, if you can’t or don’t want to drill holes in your container, you can use it as a cachepot. Just plant your Anthurium in a slightly smaller container with better drainage, then tuck it inside the larger, prettier one.
To make sure your Anthurium doesn’t get waterlogged, make sure to check and empty the cachepot shortly after every watering. You can also just take the plant out of the cachepot before giving it a drink, then wait until it’s fully drained before putting it back.
Repotting Anthurium – What Size Pot To Use?
How do you know when it’s time to move your Anthurium to a new pot? And how much do you need to scale up from the old container? Anthuriums aren’t very fast growers, especially in temperate regions where they go dormant in the winter. You can probably go two to three years before switching yours to a new home.
A good sign that your Flamingo Flower is beginning to outgrow its pot is that it’s pushed itself up out of the soil on a woody-looking central stalk. This is normal behavior for an Anthurium – it’s looking for a larger structure to climb up, just as it would in the rainforest.
You might also see some roots pushing up from the potting mix. This is also part of the plant’s attempt to spread out and look for new footholds.
Because the plant won’t outgrow its new container very quickly, you don’t need to increase the size much. Give it a new pot roughly 20% larger than the old one, or one that’s an extra 1-2 inches in diameter.
When it’s time to repot, use fresh potting mix – don’t blend the old stuff with the new. Any organic nutrients in it will have long since been depleted. And if you’ve been adding synthetic fertilizer, it may have left residues of mineral salts, which can hurt your Anthurium when they build up over time.
Do Anthuriums Like To Be Root Bound?
There’s a common bit of folk wisdom among houseplant growers that some flowering plants actually “prefer” to be root bound. You often hear this about Anthuriums, with some guides claiming that the plant is more likely to flower in this condition.
The truth is that no plant is better off root bound. Anthuriums can tolerate a tighter space than some plants, but there is a limit. If their roots get too crowded, their health will suffer.
As we said above, when you see that your Anthurium has begun to send roots up above the ground, that’s a good indicator that it needs more space.
The idea that Anthuriums like to be pot-bound probably arose from the fact that repotting in a much larger container can stress them out, since the mix will tend to retain more water. This can cause the roots to rot or suffocate. Stick with our earlier advice and only increase the pot size by about 20%.
Can You Grow Anthuriums In Water?
It’s become popular to raise some tropical houseplants in jars or vases of water, with no potting mix at all. This method is certainly photogenic. But is it right for your Flamingo Flower?
If done right, you can keep an Anthurium alive in water alone. It’s unlikely to thrive as heartily as it will in the right potting mix, but it will survive and even flower with proper care.
There are both advantages and drawbacks to growing Anthuriums hydroponically.
- Less dirt can mean less mess
- A glass container lets you keep an eye on the roots
- No risk of overwatering
- Delayed growth
- All nutrients must be supplied via liquid fertilizer
- Requires regular cleaning to avoid algae growth
For more on growing Anthuriums in water, you can read our article on the subject.
The most important thing when choosing a pot and potting mix for your Anthurium is to enable excellent drainage. A blend of coarse, porous, and spongy materials will help the environment in the container stay damp yet breathable. And always use a pot with a hole for excess water.
With that advice in mind, feel free to play around with different pots and growing media. That’s the best way to find the combo that will suit your habits and habitat.