HeliconiaHeliconias are one of the most showy, distinctively tropical flowers with beautiful, brilliant colorful flowering bracts. Formerly classified in the banana family (Musaceae), the leaves and their general shape do resemble banana and bird of paradise (Strelitziaceae), but the flowers are very different.
Heliconias (commonly known as a lobster claw, lubberland, long horn, Longicorn or Long Horn) are a genus of monocot flowering plants in the Heliconiaceae family. There are about 50 species that grow around the world. They vary from shrubs to perennial herbaceous plants and even some trees. Most produce basal rosettes of leaves and thick, succulent stems. The leaves are large and showy with colors that vary from green to white and purple. The labiate flowers can be very small or grow up to a foot long in some species. They have brightly colored bracts which attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Heliconias have fibrous roots, making them very drought tolerant. They are generally easy to grow in moist but well-drained soils. They can be challenging to grow under dry conditions; however, they make interesting houseplants when watered regularly and will flower year-round. Most heliconias come from tropical areas with mild weather year-round.
Heliconia's are available in many colors, including red, orange, yellow, green, and even bicolors. Some forms have leaves that are variegated with white or silver. They are popular as cut flowers both for their bright colors and long vase life. They are also used in tropical flower arrangements.
Heliconias need plenty of bright light, but filtered sun or shade is best, especially if the plants are indoors. They enjoy warm temperatures and humidity all year long. Outdoor plants prefer some afternoon shade in hotter climates. These plants can be grown from seed or new growth will emerge around the base of a mature plant. If a large, flowering stem is needed, it usually takes several years from seed for a specimen to become established enough to produce flowers.
Heliconias are best propagated from clumps of corms (similar to bulbs) and can be split after flowering, although this will reduce the number of flowers in the year. They produce new corms at their base and can spread rapidly if they are happy where they are growing. You can also propagate heliconias from stem cuttings or new shoots.
They are found predominantly in wet rainforests, growing as understory plants or climbing vines, with only a few species growing like trees. The fruit is a berry, varying in size depending on the species, within which are up to 1,000 very tiny seeds.