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The term "flamingo flower" is a common name for plants in the anthurium family. This plant is known for its waxy, colorful spathe with an erect or gently curving spiky flower stalk rising from the center. Other common names are the boy flower and the flamingo lily. There generally are considered to be 600 to 800 species in the anthurium family, though some sources suggest that there are as many as 1,000 or more.
Anthuriums come from the tropical jungles of Central America and South America. Most species in this family are epiphytes. They attach to the limbs of trees and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air through aerial roots. Terrestrial flamingo flowers are rare; these are found growing in the soil of the jungle forest floor. Accustomed to the dim, filtered light of the rainforest, anthuriums will perish in full, bright sunlight.
The spathe is similar in function and appearance to a flower petal. With bright colors and a smooth, flat surface, it is both an attractor and a landing pad for visiting pollinators. The spathe ranges in color from bright red to white, salmon, pink, lavender, brown or green, with numerous shade variations. The single flower spike is called a spadix; it grows from the center of the spathe.
The foliage of the flamingo flower is most commonly dark green and waxy-looking. The leaves are heart-shaped and vary from ridged and fleshy to drooping. Some varieties have bright, colorful foliage but these are rare and are difficult to grow outside of their natural habitat. Most rare varieties of the flamingo flower require humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent, an environment difficult to reproduce in most modern homes.
Several varieties of the flamingo flower make exotic novelty houseplants, but most grow poorly without the heat and humidity of the tropical jungle. Anthurium andraeanum and Anthurium scherzerianum are two varieties that are particularly adaptable to life as potted houseplants. These varieties are commonly found at garden stores and flower shops outside of the tropics. Flamingo flowers have a long vase life as cut flowers, lasting up to two months.
Potted flamingo flower plants require a soil-less medium of peat moss, coconut husks, composted leaves, sand or a mixture of these materials. The primary concern is proper drainage and a sterile environment. As tree-dwelling epiphytes, most anthurium roots are not adapted to soil conditions. Dim filtered light is required on all but the dullest winter days, and the temperature must remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) for the plant to survive.