You probably have spotted a heart-shaped flower with a tail-like feature emanating from it at a five-star hotel lobby or at a corner in an office.
Chances are you have asked yourself why the plant is so popular that it would be picked for bathroom and kitchen décor alike.
For starters, what you saw is the tailflower, also known as the anthurium and is considered the longest blooming plant.
Just like roses, this houseplant with an estimated 1,000 species is admired for its magnificent foliage and unique flower. The flowering varieties stand out with their multi-coloured spathes and red or yellow tail-like flower spikes.
“While the tailflower is commonly found in red, it also comes in shades of pink, yellow, green and orange,” says Salome Wanjeri, a flower dealer along Riverside Drive in Nairobi.
Originally from Central and South America, the plant which tends to thrive in greenhouses, has been highly hybridised explaining why it is common in garden centres.
Given its multi-coloured foliage, the tail flower can blend well with a variety of themes in a room, which is why it is preferred for indoor décor.
“There’s always a good chance you can find one that already matches other accent colours in your space in the office, living room, bathroom and so on,” said Ms Wanjeri.
In an indoor setting, the tailflower can grow in rich, loose potting soil that should not be drenched, but be kept moist at all times.
While it prefers warm temperatures, it is an enemy to direct sunlight. This is because direct light can burn the leaves.
The plant is also a favourite because of its air purifying capabilities around the room which it does by absorbing toxic substances. As such, you can opt to place one near your copier or printer for a cleaner, safer workspace.
For a setting to appear more intentional, it ought to have a focal point. The focal point is basically a spot an onlooker’s eye lands and is the one thing that sticks on a person’s mind about the entire setting even after they step from it.
“Anthuriums are perfect for decorating high places in a room — like a shelf or tall bookcase, especially since they are toxic when ingested and should be kept out of reach of children and pets,” says Pius Mwambingu, a landscape architect in Nairobi.
In the bathroom, you can create your own mini-oasis by placing this tropical plant at a designated corner in a decorative pebble tray.
Another way of bringing the tropical flair to your bathroom, is by displaying the tailflower on a shelf with fluffy white towels.
The plant is also a great mood-booster if placed as a centrepiece at the kitchen. Just remember not to overwater it since it only needs six ice cubes or half a cup of water once a week.
The plant is susceptible to root rot which can lead to wilting due to lack of oxygen supply. Early signs of wilting is yellowing of the leaves for seemingly unknown reasons.
To best propagate, divide the plant during repotting. Alternatively, you can take cuttings from the tip or stem of a mature plant.
As the plant ages, the foliage develops aerial roots, most of which are exposed and overgrow their pots.
“Exposed roots can be cut off at the soil level and potted into new containers. These will grow stems and eventually leaves will emerge,” said Ms Wanjeri.
She says the correct thing to do is to stick the cuttings in an upright position in a pot containing a loose, well-draining mixture of half sand and half peat.
Within a few weeks, the cuttings will start to develop roots and leaves. Once the small plants are large enough to handle, you can transplant them to larger pots.
Note that while anthurium plants can tolerate all levels of indirect light, varieties growing in low light will have fewer flowers and will grow slower. These plants grow best in bright, indirect light.
For best blooms, use a fertiliser that has a higher phosphorus number (the middle number) four times a year.
Proper care for an anthurium is not hard. As long as you have the plant in the right soil and the right location, with simple watering, the plant will smile back at you.
An anthurium growing in your garden or home will reward you with wonderful, long lasting flowers.