Heliconias

This page has information about growing heliconia at home in the Northern Territory (NT).

Heliconia Heliconia claw

About heliconia

Names: heliconia, heliconia spp. (heliconiaceae).

Origin: Central and South America and the South Pacific.

Distribution: tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Australian distribution: heliconias are grown in the Darwin region of the NT and in northern Queensland.

Description

Heliconia is a tropical herbaceous plant. It is part of the zingiberales family, which also includes bananas, ginger, bird of paradise and cannas. 

Heliconias have extensive rhizomatous growth, meaning roots and shoots form off a horizontal underground stem.

Each shoot has a stem and leaves, usually ending with a group of flowers. Stem lengths can vary from less than a metre to over 5m depending on the species.

Preferred climate and soil

Most heliconia species thrive in a warm and humid climate. They do not tolerate cold. Some varieties grow well in full sun, while others need some shade. 

Heliconias prefer free-draining soils with lots of organic matter. 

Varieties

There are many varieties of heliconia, including smaller heliconia psittacorum types, and other 'clumping' types that grow in a cluster. 

Popular psittacorum types include golden torch, petra and halloween. Claw II is the most common clumping heliconia in NT. 

Propagation

Heliconias are usually grown by dividing the rhizomes - the main part of the roots. 

Seeds are inconsistent and take longer to grow.

Pests and disease

Pests and diseases that affect heliconias include ants, birds, rats, fungal diseases and soil pathogens. 

Regular looking after will help reduce plant loss and damage. 

Flowering

Psittacorums flower most of the year, with a down period between May and July.  

Claw II flowers most of the year. Other large clumping types are seasonal.

Harvest

Smaller varieties are usually cut at ground level to encourage side shoots and let light into the beds. 

Larger varieties are cut to the desired length. Pick early in the morning and place flowers in water as soon as possible.

Last updated: 27 June 2017