Anthurium: how to plant & care for flamingo flowers


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

The flamingo plant comes in many varieties. Here is everything you need to know about cultivating an anthurium at home.

Flamingo plant with red bracts
The flamingo plant has stunning bracts that can be white, pink or red [Photo: jkcDesign/]

With strikingly vivid flowers and eye-catching leaves, the flamingo plant is extremely popular. Both Anthurium scherzerianum and Anthurium andreanum, as well as their hybrids, are known as the flamingo plant, flamingo flower and anthurium lily. As houseplants, they grow well in soil and water, and, with a little care, will make a great addition to any room. Here is what you need to know to care for and propagate the anthurium.

Anthurium: origin and characteristics

Flamingo plants belong to the Arum family (Araceae) and originate from the tropics of Central and South America. As far as researchers know, the genus includes about 1000 different species. The species most commonly found in homes are Anthurium scherzerianum and Anthurium andreanum, or their cross-species.

Anthuriums are evergreen and often covered in striking, sheath-like, white, pink or red bracts (or spathas). The actual flowers of the anthurium, which are surrounded by the bracts, look like corn-on-the-cobs and are rather unremarkable. The decorative leaves of the Anthurium andreanum are heart-shaped and shiny and can grow up to 40 centimetres long. The Anthurium scherzerianum has elongated, matte leaves that can reach 30 centimetres in length. This species is often more colourful than the Anthurium andreanum.

Flamingo flower with red spatha
The spatha, or coloured bracts, encloses the unspectacular flower of the anthurium [Photo: Lpchart/]

Planting anthurium

Anthuriums can be planted in soil, but also grow well hydroponically. They will need a bit of care, but you will be rewarded with year-round and abundant blossom.

The right place for anthuriums

Flamingo flowers, given their tropical origin, prefer warm and humid conditions. Anthurium feels most comfortable in a sunny or semi-shaded location with no direct sunlight. Drafts should be avoided, and temperatures kept between 20 and 25°C in summer, and 16 to 18°C in winter. These low temperatures, act as a cold stimulus, and promote flowering in spring. This is especially true for the Anthurium scherzerianum.

The right soil for anthurium plants

It is vital that anthuriums grow in a loose, permeable substrate, with a high humus content. The flamingo flower does not tolerate lime and prefers acidic to moderately acidic soil – somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 pH. An all-purpose soil will work well here. You could also mix one third sand with one third leaf compost and one third peat, but peat is not environmentally friendly. One sustainable alternative is Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. It is peat-free and mixed with acidic grape pomace.

Flamingo plant next to a bright window
Flamingo plants like bright conditions, but not too sunny [Photo: Irina Kvyatkovskaya/]

Planting anthurium in a pot

When growing anthurium in a pot, it is important that there is a drainage hole at the bottom. Layer clay shards or stones over the hole and water will easily drain away, preventing a waterlog. To plant: place your flamingo flower on top of this drainage layer and add a suitable growing medium. It is a good idea to wear gloves when planting your anthurium, because the plant is an irritant. Finally, you may wish to cover your soil with moss so that it, and the plant’s roots do not dry out.

Growing anthurium in water

It is also possible to grow anthurium in water. Most flamingo plants easily adapt to this form of cultivation, but will grow a little slower than in soil. But watch out! If the leaves turn yellow, put the plant back into some soil.

To grow anthurium plants hydroponically, rinse the roots of the plant with lukewarm water, to remove all remnants of soil. Then place the flamingo plant in a container, and add some water so that the roots are just covered. If you place the flamingo plant in a glass, you will be able to watch the roots grow! It is important to use water that is low in lime, such as rainwater. And be sure to change the water and clean the container every three weeks. To provide the flamingo flower with enough nutrients, add a little plant food or a drop of fertiliser to the water every now and then.

In the long run, it is best to grow your plant in a real hydroculture system or in soil, rather than a glass. For a true hydroculture system, you will need a waterproof container filled with water and a special nutrient solution, as well as a water level indicator. Place the plant in a pot, and support it with pebbles or expanded clay. This will allow enough oxygen to reach the roots. If the water level drops below the minimum line, add some more. One of the benefits of hydroponic cultivation is that the humidity is permanently high – perfect for a tropical plant, and less watering for you!

Hydroponic vs. hydroculture:

Hydroponic system:

  • Hydroponic cultivation in a glass looks aesthetically pleasing.
  • Roots are completely covered with nutrient solution (which can lead to oxygen deficiency and over-fertilisation).
  • Water needs to be changed regularly.

Hydroculture system:

  • Use of a growing medium (such as expanded clay) to provide support and oxygen to the plant.
  • Water less often with a water level indicator (also enables watering in advance).
  • The plant absorbs everything it needs from the nutrient solution through its roots (less risk of over-fertilisation).
Flamingo plant in a hydroponic system
The flamingo plant can also be kept in just water for a limited time [Photo: Wheatfieldstock/]

Anthurium care

To successfully cultivate a flamingo plant, there are only a few things you need to bear in mind. And with a little practice, you will quickly enjoy a beautiful, healthy plant!

Watering anthurium correctly

It is important that the soil never dries out and the plant is never waterlogged. As such, water little and often, removing any excess water from the planter or saucer as you see fit. Flamingo plants do not tolerate lime. Use decalcified or rain water that has been sitting at room temperature for a while.

Flamingo plant being sprayed with water
To increase humidity, you can also occasionally spray the anthurium with water [Photo: Andre Boukreev/]

Fertilising anthurium plants correctly

Every so often, your flamingo flower will need fertilising. It is best to do this regularly, but sparingly. That means every two weeks in summer, and about every two months in winter, with only half the recommended concentration in each case. Since anthurium is sensitive to salt, we recommend using a plant-based fertiliser. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food is a great choice. It provides the flamingo flower with all the nutrients it needs, and is packed with beneficial microorganisms that stimulate root growth and improve nutrient availability.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

Tip: If your flamingo flower is kept in water, do not use normal fertiliser: reach for special, hydroponic fertiliser.

Pruning anthurium

Flamingo flowers do not need to be pruned. Only brown and withered leaves should be cut off at the base with a sharp knife. However, if you do want to trim back your anthurium, feel free. You could even display the cuttings in a vase.

Transplanting anthuriums

Young anthuriums should be repotted every spring, once the growing season begins. For older plants, you need only replace the top layer of soil, or repot them every three to four years. Since anthurium can be an irritant, it is a good idea to wear gloves when repotting your plant. Simply remove any rotten roots you find, and place your flamingo flower in a pot large enough to hold its root mass.

Two transplanted flamingo plants
When transplanting, the flamingo plant is easy to propagate vegetatively [Photo: Ika Hilal/]

Brown leaves on your anthurium?

There are a number of reasons why the leaves of a flamingo plant turn brown. But in any case, brown and dried leaves should be removed so that the plant does not expend any further energy on them. Some possible causes of leaf discolouration include:

  • Too much direct sunlight: Anthurium should be placed in a location without direct sunlight.
  • Too much or too little water: Here, it can help to change the water supply over time and observe how the plant develops.
  • Low humidity: This may also cause the leaves to curl. Spray your plant with low-lime water occasionally.

Tip: The most common mistakes gardeners make when cultivating a flamingo flower are: using water that is too rich in lime, and placing the plant in a room that is too cold or dry.

Flamingo plant is not flowering?

There are several reasons why your anthurium may not flower. These include:

  • Too little light: The flamingo plant does not tolerate direct sunlight. But that doesn’t mean it will thrive in a dark room!
  • Too little fertiliser: Without sufficient nutrients, anthurium cannot form flowers.
  • Incorrect nutrient ratio: To flower, your plant will need more potassium and a little less nitrogen. Nitrogen tends to promote leaf and stem growth.
Flamingo plant with no flowers
Your anthurium has not flowered? This can be for a variety of reasons [Photo: Ilie Raluca/]

Tip: For Anthurium scherzerianum, a cold stimulus is especially useful in stimulating flower growth. Maintain your flamingo flower at 16 to 18°C for about six weeks in winter, water it a little less and avoid fertiliser. As soon as it returns to warmer temperatures and is cared for, you can delight in some wonderful flowers!

Propagating anthurium plants

The easiest way to propagate your anthurium is to divide mature mother plants, which often actually produce rooted side shoots. This can be done when transplanting in the spring. The flamingo plant can then be divided at the root ball. It is important that all parts have plenty of roots and at least one leaf. The daughter plants are then planted in their own pots and placed in a bright and warm location. If the flamingo plants are still quite small, it may help to increase the humidity. One way of doing this is by placing a plastic bag over the plant and pot. This must be removed regularly to prevent mold. Also, when propagating anthurium, you should make sure to wear gloves for safety.

Another method is propagation from cuttings. To do this, cut off a few stems with a sharp knife at the base and remove all the leaves except for the upper ones. The cutting can later form roots in these places. It is then placed in a glass of water in a bright, warm place. You should change the water regularly. It may take a few weeks before the anthurium has formed enough roots and can then be planted.

Anthurium in a pot with rubber gloves
Gloves should be worn for safety when transplanting and propagating [Photo: Ilie Raluca/]

Propagating your flamingo flower from seed is only possible if the plant has been pollinated. Flamingo plants prefer cross-pollination, so you will need several plants of the same species to harvest their seeds. If you do manage to successfully pollinate your anthurium, colourful fruits will gradually form within a year. So don’t remove any of the stalks too soon! 

Once they are ripe, you can harvest the berries and extract their seeds. You will need to wash and use the seeds as soon as possible; within 24 hours things will get very difficult. Simply place the seeds over an acidic, nutrient-poor substrate and lightly press down. However, do not cover the seeds in soil. Instead, keep them moist. It may help to stretch cling film over your pot, puncturing it with some air holes, as this will increase the humidity. Germination should begin after two weeks.

Flamingo plant spadix
If the flamingo plant has been pollinated, the seeds can be used for propagation [Photo: Parichat Srisuphan/]

Wintering anthurium

Wintering your flamingo plant is not difficult and can even lead to improved flowering. To do this:

  • Your plant should be cooler than it was in summer. Preferably, 16-18°C, but no less.
  • Water less. Though the root ball should never dry out.
  • Fertilise your anthurium only every six to eight weeks, as the growth phase will not begin again until spring.

Common pests and diseases

The flamingo plant can sometimes suffer from pests. The most common pests are:

  • Spider mites: Produce a fine web and cause brown leaf discolouration.
  • Mealybugs: Slow-moving aphids that leave light-coloured spots on the leaves.
  • Leaf spot disease: In rare cases, leaf spot disease can also cause patchy discolouration and wilted leaves.
Flamingo plant leaf with brown spot
Brown spots can be a sign of pests or incorrect care [Photo: matunka/]

Is the flamingo plant poisonous?

Like most plants in the Arum family, the flamingo flower is slightly toxic to humans and animals. Touching it may cause skin irritation, so wear gloves when transplanting or propagating the plant. And never bring your anthurium into contact with mucous membranes or eyes. 

Consumption may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Thankfully, the leathery leaves tend to discourage animals from eating the plant. 

One colourful flamingo plant isn’t enough? Discover many more flowering houseplants for your home.