Botanically speaking, several of our favorite houseplants all belong to the same family, but in many ways look different from one another. Plants included in this large family are Philodendrons, Pothos, Peace Lilies, Monsteras, and ZZ Plants, to name a few. Collectively, they are referred to as Aroids, meaning they belong to the Arum family. All Aroids share a primitive flower style called a spadix, which is protected by a fleshy, false leaf called a spathe; a Peace Lily flower is a perfect example of this.
Aroids are utterly amazing and incredibly diverse! Consider our northwest native Aroid— Symplocarpus foetidus (Skunk Cabbage) which can generate heat in its spadix warm enough to melt snow… or the tropical Monstera deliciosa which can grow up the trunk of a tall tree and reach heights of 60 feet or more with aerial roots embedding into the ground for support. At home, Monsteras benefit from being turned regularly to keep them growing in a balanced, symmetrical form, and they love to climb up a support structure such as a wooden stake or a moss pole to replicate their native environment.
Not only are they intellectually appealing, they’re matched with diverse aesthetic qualities. For example, the fascinating holey look of Monsteras is an adaptation to maximize photosynthesis in order to grow and climb on trees towards the canopy tops. Theories as to why their leaves develop “holes” (called leaf fenestrations) include to reduce wind resistance as the leaf size increases or to allow rainwater to pass through the dense foliage canopy to the roots below.
Many Aroids are understory plants that receive dappled sunlight—Aglaonema, ZZ Plants, and Spathiphyllum (Peace Lilies) are sold for their low light tolerable qualities, but in fact, most houseplants prefer moderate to bright indirect light for best growth.
Members of the Arum family have similar needs and can be easily cared for with these tips. Place in moderate to bright, indirect light; avoid prolonged hours of direct sunshine. They’re best kept between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a nutrient-rich and well-draining soil mixture when repotting. Equal parts Malibu Biodynamic Potting Soil, perlite, and fine orchid bark is a staff favorite!
While water schedules will be dependent on variety and light, most aroids prefer to be on the drier side. Root rot is a common disease that forms from overwatering or using a moisture-retaining soil. Signs include yellowing and blackened stems or black spots occurring sporadically on leaves.
The good news is that aroids can be propagated in water. Whether you’re saving or sharing your plant, simply cut beneath a node and place in filtered water near bright, indirect light. Roots will appear between 2 and 3 weeks!
Pests commonly associated with Aroid medical history are scale and mealy bugs. Treat with insecticidal soap and protect against pests with a neem wipe at least once a month. An added bonus is the leaves will be shiny and dust free.
Look around your indoor jungle to see how many members of this large family you have, and if you are considering adding a new houseplant soon, chances are good that it will be a type of Aroid as well. That’s the great thing about large families—everyone is welcome and there is always room for one more!