Anthurium Birds Nest
The prehistoric Anthurium Superbum has become a beloved part of plant collections worldwide, in no small part due to its interesting backstory. In 1967, a revival of botanical field expeditions was taking place in the neotropical regions of South America.
Carefully making his way through the stagnant humidity of Ecuador’s lush landscape, American botanist C.H. Dodson and his team arrived at the banks of the Rio Napo. Where their attentions were captured by the beauty and diversity of life growing around them.
Position Bright, indirect light
Watering When top 1” of soil is dry
Size Maximum size 3-5’ tall, 3’ in width
Climate 65-70°F, Humidity 60%
Propagate Rootstock or offshoot division
Seasonality Winter dormant
Toxicity Poisonous when ingested by Pets and Humans
It is the increased levels of light, oxygen, and rainfall that allow the beauty that is Anthurium Superbum to grow to such staggering proportions. The explorers that discovered them back in the mid-1960s must have felt as though they had traveled back into time to the paleolithic period. This time-altering species sparked the imagination with its long, elliptical leaves feathered with delicate furrows reaching out from a primary vein.
With maturity, these sculptural leaves form a rosette pattern. Perfect for birds to build nests in thus, the nickname Anthurium Birds Nest and Ironclad Birds Nest. It is this sculptural foliage that serves as an ingenious mechanism for catching leaves, twigs, and seeds from surrounding plants and thus benefitting from the nutrients that decaying biomatter provides.
These lovely tropical plants will also produce unusual looking flowers. Blooming in various colors, they radiate just enough scent and visual interest to attract pollinators.
Anthurium Superbum Care
Thankfully you won’t necessarily need an Ecuadorian climate to successfully grow Anthurium Birds Nest indoors. Providing you adhere to a few simple rules, you’ll have a thriving showstopper of a tropical houseplant to add to your collection. All you need is space and a little know-how. Read on to find out all you need to know.
Similar to Philodendron and Monstera, the exquisite Anthurium Superbum can’t tolerate intense, direct sunlight. It has adapted to thrive in dappled sunlight, streaming through a foliar canopy. In our homes, this can be replicated by positioning it in a sunny room with plenty of indirect sunlight. As the light shifts over time, you may need to move the pot to maintain adequate light exposure.
Anthurium plants, in general, tend to require a certain level of humidity (approx 60%) in order to thrive. Without the proper amount of humidity, leaves will begin to brown and the plant may fail. The Anthurium Bird’s Nest is happiest in rooms where the humidity is naturally higher. I currently have one in our master bathroom, where it loves all that steam. If you do keep yours in a bathroom, make sure the window is large enough to let in enough natural light.
Of course, the temperature is a big part of maintaining adequate humidity. Wherever you choose to position your anthurium, make sure that interior temps stay between 65-70F. Any lower and the plant may sustain permanent damage.
Anthurium Superbum Height & Spread
As previously mentioned, Anthurium Superbum can grow to astounding sizes in the wild. However, in your home, you have some control over that. As the plant’s growth rate will be dictated by its interior environment and pot size. With proper care, you can expect your bird’s Nest to grow to a maximum size of 3-5 ft tall and 3 ft in width, with proper care. With each leaf growing in proportionate size to the overall plant.
A consistent watering regimen is vital to the health and well-being of all plants and the Anthurium Bird’s Nest is no different. Watering on a specific day of the week may make things super convenient but these beauties can be sensitive to over and underwatering. And because conditions in our homes fluctuate, there is one simple way that I use to tell if mine are thirsty.
Every few days, I test the top 1” of soil with my finger. If it’s somewhere between 80-90% dry, I water it. If it’s still pretty moist, I wait. Watering is typically more frequent in warmer months than in cooler due to moisture evaporation rates. For a slightly more high-tech approach to testing moisture levels, you could invest in a soil test kit. This method just removes any element of guesswork if you have a tendency to be a little overzealous with the watering can.
Signs of inconsistent or inadequate watering include:
- Root rot
- Pest infestation
- Discoloration of leaves
Where this type of Anthurium differs from others in its aroid class, is a preference that stems from the natural adaptations of its architecture. In the wild, this genus doesn’t grow directly from the jungle substrate. It actually prefers to nestle its roots right into the decaying matter that falls into its rosette form from the trees above, rather than into the ground.
The best potting soil for these unique growers will be one that mimics what it prefers. Possessing excellent drainage and airflow properties and will only loosely surround the roots of your Anthurium Bird’s Nest.
What Is The Right Soil For Anthurium Plants?
One option is a half and half mix of standard potting soil and orchid soil. Another is to make your own by mixing mossy material, perlite, or small bark chips into potting soil you already have. These combinations will allow for enough airflow and drainage while retaining water long enough for your plant to absorb it.
Thicker compounds like clay-based soils or sand should be avoided as these tend to get compacted around the roots fairly quickly and all but strangle your plant.
Under the right conditions, Anthurium Superbum has been known to bloom year-round. With each flower specifically designed to attract the maximum number of pollinators, they can last for up to three months.
Each bloom consists of a single white or pink spadix (which can grow to 6” in length and look like a tail) that is cupped by a dark, burgundy petal. Which is surprisingly just a different type of leaf. Anthurium Bird’s Nest will be slower to produce these blooms when grown in lower light and inconsistent watering may result in them being deformed in shape as they emerge.
If you have all the necessary factors in place though, your Superbum could reward you with these intriguing flowers up to six times per year.
How to Fertilize Anthurium Superbum
This particular genus of Anthurium can be quite sensitive to fertilizing and not much is needed. If you choose to feed it at all, know that Superbum will benefit from a higher level of phosphorus than nitrogen or potassium. So make sure the NPK in the feed you choose has a higher 3rd number (example: x-x-X) and is devoid of a lot of heavy salts. These tend to build up in the plant’s system and can cause it to fail.
There are two types on the market that work well. One is an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer with the recommended NPK. This should be applied in the exact amount prescribed on the label and only every 6-8 weeks during its active growing season. The second is a specifically designed feed for orchids, as the two have similar needs.
I love the EarthPods range of products and their Premium Orchid Plant Food is great for use on orchids as well as my Anthurium plants.
These are all-natural fertilizer spikes that are mess-free and offer a milder formula than many chemical-based fertilizer products.
Whilst this eco-friendly company consciously doesn’t advertise their products’ N-P-K, I happen to know that the level for these fertilizer spikes is 2-2-4. Making it a perfectly gentle formula for all varieties of Anthurium.
My top tip is to insert the spikes as carefully as possible into the substrate. You really need to avoid getting close to the roots as this may cause tissue burn.
Again, this one should be used in the amount prescribed and applied every 3-6 weeks. Any more and the plant may fail due to root burn. To further prevent tissue burn, apply your liquid feed at least 6 inches away from the base of the plant.
Based on growth rate and behavior, pruning your Anthurium Superbum may not be needed all that often. The only time you may need to is:
- when maintaining the plant’s overall look, as preferred
- when removing yellowed or withered leaves
- when removing off-shoots or “suckers”.
The first two should be done with a clean, sterilized pruning tool as this will prevent any microscopic bacteria from being transferred to your tender Anthurium. And always remove leaves and stalks from the base where the stalk attaches to it. Cutting any higher may expose the plant to infection.
It’s important to note the reason for removing suckers. While giving us an opportunity for propagation, if left on the plant, these suckers will siphon nutrients away from the main plant. So, for the health and well-being of your Anthurium, these should be removed with the same sterilized cutting tool and either replanted or discarded.
The growth rate of your Anthurium Bird’s Nest will be consistent but not terribly fast making the need for repotting rather infrequent. However, if you start to see it outgrowing the pot, choose a new one no bigger than 1-2 inches larger than the previous one. Otherwise, water will drain out through the excess soil without ever reaching the roots and hinder healthy root formation.
If you find your plant becoming overly root bound, simply make a few vertical cuts in the root ball before replanting. This will encourage new root formation that will spread into the new pot. And remember to use soil rich in material that will promote ample drainage. The happier your plant is in its soil, the larger and healthier it will grow for you. Most importantly, always wear gloves when transplanting any anthurium. Skin exposure to the plant’s sap can cause skin irritation and rashing.
How to Propagate Anthurium Superbum
Propagating may seem a daunting task. But, it’s actually quite easy when specific steps are followed. This plant can not be rooted by stem cuttings. So, the most successful way is by off-shoot separation or division of the main plant.
PRO TIP – Propagating is even easier when repotting your plant. The roots and off-shoots will already be exposed, making for easy access and separation.
Following these simple steps will increase your chances of successful propagation:
- Remove the plant from its pot and gently remove any soil still attached with your fingers.
- With a clean, sterilized cutting tool, separate parts of the plant’s main base where new leaves have grown on their own new base and have enough aerial roots of their own.
- Cut at the point where the “new base” attaches to the old one and immediately plant this cutting in its own potting medium. Water thoroughly, but avoid fertilizing for at least 6 weeks as this may result in tissue burn.
- Suckers or offshoots can be removed the same way, provided that they have already formed their own aerial roots.
Common problems with Anthurium Superbum
As with most houseplants, care is simple with just a few considerations. However, there can be a few issues to be aware of to keep our plants thriving and ourselves and loved ones safe.
Browning Leaves – this is a common reaction to a number of undesirable conditions. Such as over-exposure to sunlight, a nutrient deficiency or some kind of fungal/bacterial infection (thus, the importance of using a sterile tool when pruning or propagating).
Spider Mites – tiny dots on the underside of leaves. While yellowing leaves can indicate a watering issue, these can also be a sign of an infestation. They’re attracted to overly dry soil where they’ll lay their eggs. You do want to let the soil dry out a bit in between waterings but if left too long these mites may appear. Consistent watering deters these pests.
Mealy Bugs – tiny, white insects that prefer consistently wet and heavily fertilized plants. Because they can lay up to 600 eggs in one go, make sure your anthurium Bird’s Nest is consistently watered but with enough time in between to allow for drying out. As well as ensuring that it’s not being overfed.
Toxic to Pets – Anthuriums are beautiful to look at, but they are considered poisonous. If ingested, calcium oxalate crystals are released that can get logged in the mouth and GI tract causing inflammation and an inability to breath or swallow. This reaction can be fatal if not treated right away, so it’s best to keep these plants out of your pet’s reach.
Toxic to Humans – The above warning applies to people, as well. The same reaction can occur if this plant is ingested. In addition, gloves should be worn when pruning or propagating as the plant’s sap can cause skin rashes and burning of the eyes. Caution is advised when growing any anthurium in a household with small children. If ingestion occurs, seek medical attention immediately.