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Heliconia spp. (hel-i-KO-nee-a)

Lobster claw, False bird-of-paradise, Parrot flower

Heliconias are grown for their brilliant, unusual flower heads (bracts), which rise from clusters of bananalike leaves. Heliconias’ size and height vary greatly depending on the species. Some are as short as 2 feet tall, and some grow to 25 feet in height. The colorful bracts may be erect, pendulous or spiraling.

Most Heliconias have more than one color in the blossoms. The colors include hues of red, pink, yellow, orange, green and white.

Consumers can enjoy Heliconia flowers for up to three weeks, depending on variety and the care and handling the flowers receive.

Heliconias are available year-round.

PROCESSING TIPS Do not submerge Heliconias in water, as is often done with gingers and Anthuriums. To remove the white powder that often covers the flower heads, stems and leaves, sponge the areas with a room-temperature solution of soap that contains a few drops of cooking oil, rinse with fresh water and allow to dry. Plant shine products also can be used; follow label instructions.
REFRIGERATION Heliconias are sensitive to low temperatures, which can cause them to turn a bluish or gray color, so never expose them to temperatures below 55 F.
WATER Check the water level daily, and add warm flower-food solution as needed. Recut the stems every two to three days to ensure effective water uptake. Misting frequently will assist in bud development and opening.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Heliconias’ sensitivity to ethylene is low.

BLOOMS Heliconia blossoms need to be harvested and chosen at their peak of maturity because they do not develop after they are cut. Look for blossoms that have high gloss and vivid color. Avoid blossoms that are creased or marred. Don’t purchase Heliconias too far in advance.

DESIGN TIPS Heliconias are perfect for nearly every floral need, from tropical-themed weddings to everyday home and commercial designs. Their long vase lives make them a good choice for designs that are expected to last a long time, and their unusual shapes make them suitable focal points for contemporary designs.
CONSUMER CARE TIPS Advise customers to display Heliconias away from direct sunlight and heat sources, and to mist them for longer enjoyment.

MEANING “Heliconia” refers to Mount Helicon in Greece, home to the Muses, goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. The Muses were said to be eternally young and beautiful, thus the name “Heliconia” refers to the flowers’ long-lasting and attractive qualities.
FAMILY Heliconias are the only genus in the Heliconiaceae family. The genus has about 200
to 250 species and many cultivars. Heliconias were once grouped in the Musaceae (banana) family and the Strelitziaceae (bird-of-paradise) family, giving it one of its common names, “false bird-of-paradise.”
ORIGINS Heliconias are native to South America, Central America, the Southwest Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia.
ON THE WEB The Web site of The Heliconia Society of Puerto Rico, Inc.,, has photos of many of the species of Heliconia that are in production. sfr

Some information provided by:
The Chain of Life Network,
SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual
The Heliconia Society of Puerto Rico, Inc.,

You may reach “Cut Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

Photos courtesy of Asocolflores, The Colombian Association of Flower Exporters; Blue Ribbon Blossoms; and Hawaii Tropical Flower Council

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