The elegant Anthurium andraeanum is better known as the flamingo flower or painter’s palette. It’s a perennial evergreen plant native to South America (mostly Colombia and Ecuador) and famed for its striking waxy spathes. It’s durable and rather easy to care for, especially if you’re well-versed in other tropical plants.
Your Anthurium andraeanum can be kept indoors or outdoors, though you’ll bring it inside for part of the year if you live in an area with distinct seasons or cooler temperatures. Once you cultivate the right environment, the flamingo flower can be enjoyed year-round. Keep reading to get all the information for its care so you can enjoy this gorgeous plant in your home. They’re not as long-lived as many other houseplants, but you’ll have about five years with your original Anthurium andraeanum, not counting any new, propagated plants.
It’s worth noting that Anthurium andraeanum is toxic to both humans and pets, so if there are curious animals or small children in your home, keep it well out of reach. It’s best to wash your hands after coming into contact with the sap, too, to avoid any irritation.
|Flamingo Flower, Painter’s Palette
|South America – Colombia, Ecuador
|6+ hours of bright, indirect light
|Red, white, pink
|Temperature & Humidity
|70-90°F, 60%-70% humidity
|Up to 18” tall
|USDA zones 11 and 12
It’s easy to mistake the Anthurium andraeanum’s spathes for its flowers, but the cream, white, or yellow spadix in the middle of the spathe houses them instead. It’s densely covered with the plant’s true, tiny flowers, but you’ll have to look closely to see them. The spathes have shapes reminiscent of arrows, hearts, or artist palettes (hence one of their nicknames) and come in a variety of color options, including a few variegated ones. They can grow as large as 6”, making for an impressive sight or burst of color. Commonly, you’ll see:
Its foliage is dark green with the same waxy, shiny feel as its spathes. They’re large, growing to around 8”-12” long, and are shaped similarly to the spathes. These plants grow fairly tall overall, too, typically stopping somewhere between 12” and 18” inches in height.
Flamingo flowers aren’t overly fussy plants. They require similar care to many tropical houseplants, so be prepared to maintain certain humidity levels before bringing one home. Otherwise, establishing a good routine and looking for the telling signs of distress should be plenty to keep your plant healthy and thriving.
While it seems intuitive that tropical plants crave sunlight, many species (including Anthurium andraeanum) do poorly with too much direct sun. Instead, find a spot that receives an abundance of bright, indirect light. Aim to provide around six hours of indirect light per day for maximum benefit.
Too much sunlight will burn and damage the leaves, while too little light will slow growth and disrupt flowering. If you see signs of browning or dull color, there’s something wrong with the lighting situation.
Anthurium andraeanum needs water fairly frequently, and its needs increase if it spends a lot of time in warmer temperatures. Water your plant thoroughly once the top few inches of soil are dry. Once you see water coming out of the drainage holes, you can stop. While this is a thirsty plant, take care not to overwater and cause root rot. Anthurium andraeanum is susceptible to it, so if you’re unsure whether it’s time to water, give the plant an extra day instead.
Flamingo plants let you know if they’re too low on water, too. The leaves will begin to wilt or droop, but try not to put the plant through too much stress. Maintain a regular watering schedule instead, especially during summer. Once winter comes and the growing season is over, you can ease off and water less frequently.
As a tropical plant, count on Anthurium andraeanum needing high humidity levels. 60%-70% humidity is ideal. If the area is 50% or less humidity, take steps to increase it. Place a humidifier near the plant, mist it with room-temperature water, or use a pebble tray with water to increase the humidity levels. If you have multiple plants with similar humidity requirements, place them close by to maintain the levels.
Flamingo flowers like it warm, just like their native environments. Optimal temperatures are between 70°F-90°F and ideally don’t dip below 65°F. Anything below 50°F will halt plant growth, so keep these plants away from cold winter drafts and certainly bring them indoors during cooler months (if you keep them partially outside).
As epiphytes, these plants don’t grow in soil naturally. In their native environments, you’re more likely to find them growing on other plants, trees, or branches. They get their nutrients from the environment and not necessarily soil. When it comes to keeping them as houseplants, make sure any soil mixture is well-draining. Mix potting soil with a cactus soil mixture or add drainage aids like perlite, wood chips, or pumice. The goal is to avoid root rot, so ensure your flamingo flower isn’t sitting in soggy soil, regardless of which mix you choose.
Anthurium andraeanum doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer. Fertilize every four weeks or so during the growing season and opt for a fertilizer rich in phosphorus. Dilute it to around ¼ strength and don’t over-fertilize.
Fortunately, Anthurium andraeanum makes it easy to see when it requires pruning. Dead, discolored, and browning leaves should be removed. Otherwise, the plant will pour energy into trying to revive them when it could be better spent elsewhere. Remove any dull or fading flowers, too. You can use shears or pruners if necessary, but many dead leaves can be easily plucked away. Be careful not to take too many – leave at least a handful of leaves intact.
Because the sap of this plant is an irritant, pruning is best done with gloves.
Evidenced by its drooping leaves when it needs water and the discolored leaves and flowers when it requires pruning, the flamingo flower is a communicative plant. If you’re looking for signs that you should propagate – it sends them! It sends out air roots from one of the stems. You can cut off the air roots with clean shears or pruning scissors. Alternatively, take a stem cutting of about six inches long.
Once you have your cutting, place the cut end a few inches deep into your soil. Water it thoroughly and keep it moist. In a few weeks, the roots will take hold and you’ll see new growth.
Air roots are also a sign that it’s time to repot. These plants don’t grow quickly, but they’ll need repotting every couple of years. Remove any dead or dying leaves and repot your plant in a container around two inches larger than the previous one. After repotting, water it thoroughly. If you catch roots forming on the surface of the new soil, you can lightly pack more soil on top of it if you leave additional space.
Repotting is also a great opportunity to propagate new plants, as you can separate off appropriate sections and put them in containers of their own. If you’re not interested in propagating, trim away any air roots.
Delaying repotting for too long can stunt plant growth. While some plants enjoy being rootbound, it can weaken your Anthurium andraeanum. Don’t miss the cues it sends when it needs a larger home.
Pests and Insects
Pests do a lot of damage to your plant, and flamingo flowers are no exception. They’re prone to the same types of infestations as other houseplants, so always look for signs of pests or insects. If you see any trace of them, like damaged leaves or yellowing, move the plant away from any others and treat it.
The most common insects to look for are
- Spider mites
Overly moist soil attracts many types of insects, giving yet another reason not to overwater your plant. Rot and decay will draw them in and cause even further damage. If you do spot signs of pests, treat them with plant-safe horticultural soaps or oils (like Neem oil). Because the Anthurium andraeanum has such waxy leaves, they’re more prone to pests that drain sap instead of those that chew.
The Anthurium andraeanum is a lovely addition to any home. Its distinct, eye-catching appearance makes it the perfect centerpiece of a room, but it’s equally at home with a collection of its fellow tropical plants. As long as you have a warm space with high humidity, it’s sure to thrive. These plants are easy to propagate, simple to care for, and beautiful to behold. Don’t be intimidated to bring one home and set up a care routine. The reward is worth it!