Wednesday, May 13, 2009
For sheer flamboyance and in-your-face attention grabbing, few flowers can beat Anthuriums (Anthurium andreanum). I think I'm a little prone to drama myself because I love growing these very sophisticated-looking beauties.
Of course, it really helps that they are some of the easiest plants to grow in the tropics. Just give them bright shade (which makes them the perfect indoor plant) and a medium that doesn't choke them to death and they really take off. Here in Mumbai, I grow them potted up in a mix of river sand and broken chunks of brick but I've heard of them being grown tied to trees too... they're epiphytes, after all.
I first saw anthuriums being grown in my childhood home. My grandmother loved plants and the more exotic they were, she would try her best to get hold of at least one to work her magic on. Anthuriums were not really easily available those days but somehow she managed to build up a decent collection which was the pride of the garden and the subject of much oooh-ing and aaah-ing from visitors.
The anthuriums available nowadays seem to be unlimited in colour and size. I've seen them in all colours from brilliant red to bubble-gum pinks (see the photo above), pure whites, vivacious oranges, and even brown, green and yellow. The absolute favourite though, seems to be the bright red anthuriums.
Their brilliant colours make them a favourite among florists. That, and their longevity . The flowers I cut from my garden to brighten up my rooms, easily keep looking their best for at least 2-3 weeks in just plain water and no added floral preservatives. And that's saying a lot!
The very colourful, textured spathes (that's what they are called) are actually modified bracts. If you want to see the actual flowers, you've got to search for them on the spadix (that's the fleshy white part of the 'flower'). See those little bumps on the spadix in the photo above? Those are the flowers.
Hmmm.... you may want to get the magnifying glass out if you want to spot them.
(By the way, ignore those whitish faint splotches you may see on the flowers and leaves, will you? That's from a liberal dose of neem oil applied rather enthusiastically by the guy who helps me with this.)
The spadix can be quite colourful too, changing from yellow to white as the flower matures and then to green as it ages even more.
Somehow I find the white anthuriums very tranquil , unlike its red counterparts which seem to literally vibrate with drama.
If a flower is called the 'sweetheart flower' it has to live up to its name, don't you think?
Sometimes, just sometimes, you find a plant that likes to add a few twists of its own. A couple of my plants sometimes are a little confused whether they want a spathe to become a leaf instead. The result is a large leaf with splotches of colour in them and a spadix which sticks to the crown of the plant.
I have no idea whether this a mutant version but it is definitely interesting. It doesnt seem to be caused by any disease because the plants kept close to it show no such inclination. Sometimes the splotches of colour literally fill the leaf-spathe and it looks like my plant has a spathe which is about a foot long!
Just about the only minus point I can think of in the anthurium is its lack of fragrance (which those prone to allergies may applaud) . But I'm sure the numerous anthurium breeders are working on that. Till they come up with a solution, I'll just enjoy the visual drama.