Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum Linden ex. André.) is a tropical ornamental species of considerable beauty, which is cultivated for both the cut flower and potted plant markets. In its natural habitat, anthurium is considered an epiphytic or lithophytic species (Hull and Henny, 1995) and is usually found in habitats characterized by low light levels and low nutrient supply, typically in shaded conditions and on the trunks of trees, where the roots have no contact with the soil (Zotz and Hietz, 2001). Nutrients supply and availability, particularly N, have been reported to be key factors for anthurium growth, flower number, and quality/marketability (Chang et al., 2010).
Nitrogen is a major element in determining final quality of anthurium plants (Conover and Henny, 1995). In some species of anthurium, including Anthurium acaule and Anthurium cordatum, similar N concentrations to that of terrestrial species have been reported, 1.87% and 2.33%, respectively (Zotz and Hietz, 2001). Li and Zhang (2002) reported high quality and maximum dry weight of anthurium plants fed with N concentrations ranging from 10 to 40 mg·L−1, with 20 mg·L−1 N producing the highest quality.
Nonetheless, the interaction of N with other nutrients must also be considered when developing a feasible fertility program as N may affect the availability and uptake of other ions. For example, it has been reported that high quality in A. andraeanum is obtained when fertilized at low N (1.85 g per 15-cm pot per year) and high potassium (K) (1.39–3.07 g per 15-cm pot per year) rates; conversely, plants fertilized with high N and K rates resulted in poor growth and marketability (Conover and Henny, 1995). Similarly, rapid growth was reported in anthurium when N and K were supplied at 8.9 and 3.2 mmol·L−1, respectively; however, when Ca was reduced from 2.3 to 1.2 mmol·L−1, a decrease in the length of the vegetative phase was observed along with an increase in flower production (Dufour and Guérin, 2005).
Therefore, the total nutrient concentration and the proportion of the ions dissolved in the nutrient solution have to be considered (Steiner, 1968) when defining an optimum program of fertilization. The mutual ion relations are also important for plant growth as an unbalanced combination may result in decreased biomass and yield because of the antagonistic relationships (Ding et al., 2006; Jakobsen, 1993). There is limited information as to the effect of the nutrient proportions and interactions on the growth and marketability of anthurium; thus, the present study had the objective of determining the response of container-grown plants to varying proportions of anions [nitrate (NO3−), phosphate (H2PO4−), and sulphate (SO42−)] in the nutrient solution.
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