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Growing and Containing Heliconias

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I think its pretty safe to say you can drive down any street in Darwin and know there will be at least one garden in the street with Heliconias. They are such a popular tropical plant adding spectacular color, interesting foliage and double up as one of the most sort after cut flowers. The leaves look allot like banana leaves, an interesting fact is the Heliconia flower isn't really a flower at all, its actually a group of colorful leaves  called "bracts" its the tiny flower inside the bracts that is the true flower of the Heliconia plant its here that the pollen and stamen are.

Heliconias are related to the canna, gingers and the banana there is over 100 species  with a large number of these all having all sorts of cultivars and hybrids. 

How do Heliconias grow?

Heliconias grow from a vigourous underground system of rhizomes which looks allot like the root of ginger that you would buy from the market or supermarket.  You can also grow from seed however the most common way is by rhizomes which is quite easy even for the beginner.

How to Grow Heliconias?

Heliconias like the sub tropical and tropical climate areas and thrive in free draining soils that are rich in organic matter.  You can grow these in full sun or partial shade, in my experience I find the ones that get shade tend to grow taller and look a bit fuller than the ones out in full sun. Watering requirements are quite heavy, they will need a good watering during the dry season as well as mulching which will also help produce organic matter into the soil. Fertilising can be done just with a general purpose fertiliser or home made orb2ap3_thumbnail_Rhizome.jpgganic one.

Each stem will only produce one flower, so once you have a gorgeous flower simply cut it then cut the stem out. Cutting the stems out will give air flow through the plant, encourage more flowering and lmprove the overall appearance of the plant. We are often called out to garden cleanups which have masses of Heliconias that havent had any attention, its resulted in dead stems and leaves and looks rather  unattractive.  There is basically two types of growing styles the clumping and spreading so when choosing the right plant for you consider a clumping Heliconia if your restricted on time in the garden. Psittocorums are the small fast growing heliconias that you see flowering all year round.

There is also two flowering styles the erect style and the hanging type flowers which some call pendant flowers.  The most popular and my fav of the hanging Heliconia is the rostrata (hanging lobster claw)  the flowers are large with striking red and yellow.  

When it comes to dividing the Heliconias you need to dig and take a rhizome which is the thick woody horizontal root from which the leaf stems grow up from. This can then be divided into pieces as long as there is eye growth on it, its the eye that the new plant will grow from.  After this stage i like to soak my rhizomes in a lit of liquid fertiliser, i water the fertiliser down so its not to strong. The rhizome will absorb the water and fertiliser and be hydrated to plant out.

Plant out your rhizome with the eye pointing upwards, depth should be roughly the same depth as it came out the ground as a guide. Cover will soil (not to heavy) and water the soil down to remove the from around the rhizome this will help keep fungus away. After this stage you can cover with organic mulch to protect it from the sun. Once you have planted do not disturb as the roots and shoots are quite fragile at this stage. As for time to shoot it could be days or months, never give up watering ive had one take so long to shoot that i was convinced it was dead but out of the blue i saw a shoot and from there it bloomed into one of my best plants yet.

Containing Heliconias

For spreading Heliconias the best way to contain is either plant out in pots or simply use a root barrier its fairly cheap to buy and easy to install.  We like to use root barrier made from 100% recycled plastic at 1mm thickness.

Popular Psittocorums                     Popular Erect                                      Propular Hanging

-Golden Torch                                   - Bihai Claw 2                                        - Sexy Pink

-Red Gold                                         - Bihai Nappy Red                                  - Sexy Orange

-Daintree                                          - Carabea Red                                      - Rostrata

-Red Cross                                        - Bihai Yellow Dancer                             - Collinsiana

-Tropica                                           - Champneiana Maya Blood

b2ap3_thumbnail_red-heliconia.jpg                b2ap3_thumbnail_Heliconia_bihai_Claw_III.jpg                  b2ap3_thumbnail_Heliconia-rostrata-6inch.JPG


©Kylie Stephens
Tagged in: Heliconia Tropical
in Gardening Hits: 313930
  • Guest
    Ground Force garden nursery - Port Vila - Vanuatu Friday, 13 December 2013

    Great info thanks !

  • Guest
    josephine Saturday, 25 October 2014

    I love the pic.
    & info.

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Guest Monday, 18 February 2019