All About Araceae: A Guide to Growing and Caring for Indoor Aroids
Aroid fever: you've either already got it, or soon will after discovering the diverse array of beautiful foliage (and flowers) in this precious plant family. Even if you haven’t heard the word before, you’re likely well acquainted with common aroids and maybe even already have a few in your collection, as many of them are our most classic houseplants. Heartleaf Philodendron? That’s an aroid. Peace Lily? Aroid. Golden Pothos? Aroid, too!
Here is a little homage to these beloved plants and our recommendations for how to grow and care for indoor aroids. Take it from us – we know once you adopt one your space will soon be filled to the brim with these beauties.
Growing and Caring for Indoor Aroids
What is an Aroid?
What do we mean when we say "aroid"? Simply put, aroids are flowering plants in the family Araceae. This plant family is quite impressive, with 114 genera and approximately 3,700 species (we would love to be invited to ALL their family reunions!). Araceae are rhizomatous or tuberous monocots with a distinctive inflorescence (flower) known as a spadix. A common example of this flower is that of Anthurium andraenum hybrids. Aroids are found on every continent in the world with the exception of Antarctica. Typically, they reside in the understory of many of the world’s forests.
Anthurium hybrid inflorescence
A Very Clever Family
Aroids have made some smart evolutionary adaptations. They contain oxalate crystals in a milky sap inside their foliage, which is toxic to animals. This keeps them from getting munched on in their natural habitats, but means that when grown indoors they should be kept away from pets and small children.
Some members of the Araceae family are even thermogenic, meaning that they have the ability to generate their own heat from stored energy tucked away in their roots. Botanists are not completely sure why they do this but most believe it has to do with increasing pollination success in colder temperature seasons.
The Aroid Family Members
Some of our favorite genera belong to the aroid family. For example, Monstera, Scindapsus and Rhaphidophora. Here’s an overview of a few of the key players in the aroid family that you’re likely to encounter in local nurseries
From the classic Heartleaf Philodendron to rare and unusual hybrids like Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’, this genus has a ton of diversity. “Philo” means love and “dendron” means tree, which makes sense considering that many of these plants grow epiphytically, vining and climbing high in trees.
Native to the Americas and West Indies, Philodendrons are easy to grow and propagate. For vining types, you can encourage larger leaves by providing something to climb up like moss pole, and keeping the humidity high.
Native to the Caribbean and South and Central America, these epiphytic aroids grow some of our very favorite foliage. We especially love velvety varieties, like Anthurium clarinervium and Anthurium magnificum. For a detailed write-up on these special plants and their care, check out our Introduction to Anthuriums!
Thes Rhizomatous or tuberous flowering perennials are native to tropical and subtropical Asia and Australia. They’re finicky plants and often drop leaves or go dormant, requiring lots of heat and humidity to grow happily indoors. But their foliage is amazing! Often nicknamed Elephant Ears, some grow massive leaves. We’re particularly fond of a small subset of the genus nicknamed Jewel Alocasias.
Caring for Indoor Aroids
- Light: bright indirect light is best, though some types will tolerate low or medium light
- Water: allow the soil to feel dry to the touch within the first 1-2 inches in your soil before giving them a drink
- Soil: use a potting mix that has good aeration with components like orchid bark and perlite
- Fertilizer: use a diluted organic fertilizer in the growing season, fertilize minimally, as aroid roots can burn easily
- Temperature/Humidity: aroids prefer warm and wet conditions. Higher levels of humidity are ideal and temperatures should never drop below 60 degrees F.
Common Aroid Issues
Root rotAs understory plants, aroids naturally have lots of organic material in their soil and are susceptible to rotting if they are sitting in water for prolonged amounts of time. Check soil moisture levels and use a chunky soil mixture when potting these plants.
Leaf curling/ Yellowing leaves
Yellowing leaves and leaf curling is most likely a sign of over or under-watering, if you notice these signs of stress check to make sure your soil is drying out properly before watering and that your plant has enough sunlight.
Browning leaf tips or edges
Browning leaf tips and edges are typically a sign that your aroid is not getting enough humidity. Consider getting a mister or humidifier, or use a pebble tray to get some more moisture in your air.
The more you learn about caring for indoor aroids, the more you’ll want to grow your collection. What aroids currently enchant you? Whether they are grown for their foliage or long-lasting flowers, aroids make lovely and relatively easy-going companions for our indoor spaces.
By: Bee Oxford