Heliconia, also popularly known as lobster-claw, wild plantain or false bird-of-paradise, is a beautiful flower with multi-color bracts and varied flower structure. Heliconias are native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. Heliconia, formerly included in the family Musaceae, is now the only genus under Heliconiaceae.
Heliconias are grown for their beautiful, brilliant colorful flowering bracts. Breathtaking and unusual flower heads (bracts) rise from clumps of banana like leaves, sometimes very large or slender.
Heliconia flowers are actually highly modified leaves and bracts. The flowering stems are mostly pendulous. A bract is a leaf structure at the base of a flower. Heliconia flowers are produced on long, erect or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly colored waxy bracts, with small true flowers inside the bracts. Bracts which can be orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, green, or their combinations.
Facts about Heliconia
- Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology.
- The Heliconia's bracts are so large and colorful that they almost hide the flowers altogether. This keeps the flower's sweet nectar from other birds so that only specialized birds can get to it.
- Heliconia has oblong leaves growing opposite one another on non-woody stems, often forming large clumps with age.
- Heliconias are grown as landscape plants.
- Heliconias grow to a height of 3-30 feet in height.
- There are some species of Heliconia which have upright facing flowers.
- Some Heliconia flowers droop down from the main stem and are called hanging Heliconia.
- Some of the commonly grown Heliconia species include garden species include Heliconia Augusta, Heliconia bihai, Heliconia brasiliensis, Heliconia caribaea, Heliconia latispatha, Heliconia pendula, Heliconia psittacorum, Heliconia rostrata, Heliconia schiediana, and Heliconia wagneriana.
- Heliconias should be planted in a draining soil with the top sticking out of the ground. Heliconias flourish well in loamy soils rich in humus.
- Heliconias need sunlight, with temperatures that do not go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Plant rhizomes which may or may not have a young shoot.
- Cut back the old shoot to about 6 inches before planting.
- The eyes or buds, present in the Heliconia rhizome helps to grow new shoots in about four weeks, while roots grow from the rhizome.
- Heliconias need an abundance of water.
- Since Heliconias are heavy feeders, a soluble balanced or granular time-release fertilizer can be used.
- Heliconia's blooming season is once to several times a year.
Heliconias Plant Care
- Heliconias need a lot of sun and heat, so put under the sun or in a brightly lit area or keep them under a sun lamp for extended periods.
- Remove any dead leaves and stems.
- Mulching is necessary as it retains moisture around the root zone, and controls the weeds.
- Place a slow release fertilizer directly into the planting hole.
- Overwatering may cause the roots to rot.