In its native habitat, Anthurium scherzerianum, or Flamingo Flower, grows happily in the high rainforests of Costa Rica. But you won’t find its aristocratic child, ‘Rothschildianum’ there. This manageable, beautiful variety can, however, grow happily in your conservatory if you give it the easy care it needs. And don’t worry, it only needs a moment or two a day. The fascinating, long-lasting flowers—heart-shaped, white and red-mottled spathe with corkscrew spadix—are well-worth it, while its wide, lance-like leaves will remain attractively architectural.
‘Rothschildianum’, like most other anthuriums, is generally an epiphyte, meaning it uses its roots to cling to trees and rocks, sucking moisture and nutrients from the air and any debris which falls on them. It thrives best in orchid bark and other loose, organic mixes. Pumice, lava rock, or large perlite pieces are important added-ingredients for holding moisture. The plant can also be trained to cling to a large piece of bark or wood, or even lava rock. A display can be very creative and employ all sorts of décor styles.
While it loves a warm, temperate environment, the important secret to its happiness is humidity. A conservatory, unlike a tropical greenhouse, isn’t kept at 85% humidity, so you have to create a microenvironment. This is best achieved by placing the plant on a gravel-filled tray (at least 2” wider than the pot, rock, or wood) kept topped-up with water. It also prefers bright, filtered light—not direct sunlight. It can actually get sun-burned!
A daily misting (twice in summer) with a once-a-week light feeding will be especially appreciated. I recommend distilled, rain, or soft water (low/neutral pH) in the mister and feed water, as chlorine and alkaline water can cause crisping of leaf edges. The thing to remember is never let the roots stay wet. Just moist is great, but the plant quickly rots from being too moist. Conversely, if you feel your environment is just too dry, you can always try a ‘Wardian case’, or miniature greenhouse. Attractive, tabletop greenhouses can be found easily now.
With success will come the eventual ‘up-growing’ of your ‘Rothschildianum’. You can then wrap the stem/ arial roots in moist moss to encourage growth, then cut the plant at the base and repot or reattach. Then you can enjoy your elegant piece of the cloud forest for years to come!
By Dea Schofield