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Plant of the Month

Heleconias are large-leaved exotics with vibrant colored flower bracts reminiscent of 'lobster claws'.  These plants come in hundreds of stunning and ornate forms (there are about 185 species and 500 varieties of Heliconias), below are pictures of only a few of the varieties available.  The species range in height from under 2' to over 18'.  The flower bracts are large showy, erect or hanging and range in fiery colors of reds, yellows and oranges with other tints available.   Some varieties from the Pacific Islands may have colorful foliage as well.  Of the family Heliconiaceae they may be known as Lobster Claw or Parrot Beak Plants. Heleconias do best when conditions in the garden are as close to tropical as possible as they are native to the Tropical Americas and the Pacific Islands.

Heliconia sp.

Heliconia "Golden Torch"

Heliconia rostrata

Heliconia choconiana

Plant Facts:

Common Name:  Lobster Claw or Parrot Beak Plants

Botanical Name:  Heliconia

Family:  Heliconiaceae

Plant Type:  Tropical evergreen bananalike plant with showy flower bracts

Origin: Tropical America and Pacific Islands

Zones: 9 - 12, require warm to very warm temperatures and high humidity to do their best

Height:  2'-18'

Rate of Growth: Fast

Salt Tolerance: None

Soil Requirements:  Fertile, well-drained soil, possibly semi-aquatic

Water Requirements: Water freely, heavily mulch

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly, Top-dress in late winter

Light Requirements: Full sun to deep shade

Form:  Erect and bananalike

Leaves:  Large ovate -- rich green or variegated, colorful bracts surrounding small tubular flowers

Flowers:  Red, Orange, Yellow and other tints.  Flowers appear year round, but more plentiful during warm weather

Fruits: Red Seeds

Pests:  Root borers, few other problems

Uses:  Dramatic show piece, lush screening, border plantings or in containers

Bad Habits: Must be groomed to present most dramatic effect, cut spent flower stalks to the ground, prune foliage as needed to reveal flowers

Cost:  $$ -- reasonable

Propagation:   Clump division or division of single pseudostems with an intact piece of rhizome

Sources:   The Subtropical Garden; Tropical Gardening

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Last updated 06/03/08