Heliconia – Making Your Landscape Tropical

heliconia rostrata a pendulous lobster claw

If you want to add tropical to your landscape, Heliconia is the right plant for the job. This genus of flowering plants includes one to two hundred different species. These originated in the tropics of the Americas through the Pacific islands and west towards Indonesia.

The Heliconia has flowers that are not only unusual but also will take your breath away. The flowers sprout up from the group of leaves that are quite similar to that of a banana plant.

The Heliconia’s flowering bracts can range in color depending on the variety and in shapes. Some shapes are called pleated fan, bird’s beak, or lobster claw.

The height of Heliconia range from 2 feet to 25 feet this all depends on the variety of this plant.

These plants are grown from rhizomes and should be potted in a soil mix that is well draining. Place the rhizome in the soil in such a way as only the tip is uncovered. Then water completely and then allow the soil to dry some before watering again. The rhizomes will rot if kept to moist.

The recommended prime growing temperature is at least 60 degrees F. There are some hardier varieties, which can take a bit cooler than that though.

Heliconia do need light that is bright and they need to be fertilized often with a good all around fertilizer.

Some of Heliconia varieties are:

  • Heliconia Angusta – other names for this variety is Red Holiday or Red Christmas due to the fact that it blooms at that time of the year. It had reddish pink bracts with white and green tinted sepals. This plant is one of the smaller varieties growing to only 2 to 4 feet. This plant needs up to 80% shade. These also grow well in containers.
  • Heliconia Bourgaena (also called Peterson) – this has bracts that are pink, crimson, and red and a black distal lip. The main stalk and shoot are deep purple in color. These reach heights of 4 feet – 18 feet and require full sun to about 50 percent shade. This one is very bold in its quality and known to be rare.
  • Heliconia Bihai (or Yellow Dancer) – this variety is a bit showy with its golden yellow bracts that are shaped like a lobster claw and green keel. This species is known to be a vigorous one and usually reaches heights of 5 feet to 14 feet.
  • Heliconia Caribaea (also known as Purpurea) – This has a large bract in fact one of the largest in the Heliconias. These bracts are vibrant yellow, red, and green on their distal lip. The leaves are like that of a banana plant. The stems the surfaces of lower leaves have a waxy white coating. It grows to a height of 7 feet all the way to 20 feet. Can tolerate full sun all the way to about 60 percent shade. It blooms from February through November.

These are just a few of the wonderful varieties of Heliconia. It is easy to see why so many choose to add tropical to their landscape with this plant.

Another interesting fact about Heliconias is that the forest hummingbirds use them as a food source, also the Rufous-breasted Hermit nest in the plants.

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