Friday 23 March 2018

Flight of fancy with flamingo flower

House plant favourite Anthurium is resilient and puts on a glorious show
House plant favourite Anthurium is resilient and puts on a glorious show

Gerry Daly

The lovely flamingo flower, or anthurium, has spectacular heart-shaped flowers that are very eye-catching, but also very resilient. It is quite a common house plant and increasing in popularity all the time because it is so reliable. The red flowers have a glossy, wax-like surface and have a central white or cream spike that arches up from the flower, which usually faces upwards.

The spike is actually the true flower, the red part is a leaf-like bract. This explains why the flowers can last for up to six months, a remarkably long time. There are pink and white or creamy forms available but the strong red is the most popular.

The flamingo flower looks exotic, and it is, because originally it came from wooded parts of Central America, where it revels in warm conditions and light shade. It flowers on and off all through the year but often produces its best show in late winter or spring. Even plants that are quite badly pot-bound still manage to flower, although the flowers tend to be small.

Anthurium thrives best in a window with low light, facing north, but a window facing east or west can also be good. The flamingo flower does not tolerate well a position in a window facing south where the sun can beat down on the leaves resulting in scorch and dead patches on the beautiful and decorative foliage. When the plant is not happy, it will sacrifice some of the older leaves to survive and, if this occurs, simply move it to a less sunny place.

It is quite happy at room temperature throughout the year. Dry air near a heat source, or cold draughts, can cause the leaves to dry out and wither.

Feed flamingo flower about once a month between April and September with a liquid house plant fertiliser. Its waxy leaves reduce water loss but the plant is so persistent that it may lose all of its leaves but still recover from the roots when watered again, which makes it very easy to care for. But keep it nicely moist during the growing season, allowing it to dry out a little on the surface between waterings. Keep it slightly dry in winter, never standing in water, which can cause the roots to rot.

A plant can be grown on strongly and potted up to make a large clump with masses of flowers, a dozen or more at once. Pot it up in rich compost with some soil mixed and lots of humus and then feed it well to make it grow large.

The pointed broad leaves are decorative in their own right and they will normally have some accompanying flowers.

Q Several years ago, we transplanted an apple tree. Most of it died but part of it recovered and grew new shoots producing apples. Another part of the tree grew new shoots producing apples also. We removed this part and replanted it and put rooting powder on the roots. Will it grow again? A McLoughlin, Kildare

A Apple trees often die back when moved as a mature tree, the plant adjusting its top growth to match lost roots. The part of the tree you have separated may take root if not too badly damaged. The rooting powder is unlikely to have any effect but apple trees are tenacious, as you already know.

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