Heliconia is the only genus in the Heliconiaceae family and it contains 100-200 species. It used to be classified in the Musaceae family. It is native of South America and the isles of the Pacific Ocean to the west of Indonesia.
The leaves measure between 15 cm and 3 m long. They are oblong, with long petioles which are often longer than the leaves themselves.
The inflorescence appears at the top of the peduncle, erect or drooping. The bracts usually have magnificent colors, the flowers are small and insignificant and they appear between the bracts. They attracts birds who feed on their nectar.
The plant shows similarities with related plants like Canna, bananas and Strelitzia. The inflorescence resembles that of Strelitzia and it is sometimes called false bird-of-paradise.
False Bird-of-Paradise, Heliconias, Lobster claws, Wild plantains
USDA Zone 11, 15 °C
3-5 m, even in pot
Tolerates full sun as long as it has enough water. In the shade flowering will be less prolific.
Heliconia needs plenty of water, don’t let the substrate get dry. It prefers non-calcareous and tepid water. In winter waterings may be decreased.
Give universal liquid fertilizer 2 times per month during the growth.
Heliconia are perennials with a large rhizome that are not hardy and prefer a heated greenhouse with a temperature around 24 °C and not below 15 °C, as well as a high atmospheric humidity.
Growth is very rapid the first year and it produces many suckers, which results fairly quickly in a dense clump. The soil must be very nutritious and very well drained.
It may be difficult to overwinter Heliconia indoors because of the low humidity due to heating, even when placed above a cup containing water.