Heliconia are one of the most beautiful tropical ornamental plants for your gardens. Being indigenous to the south and central American countries like Costa Rica and Bolivia, it grows well in warm climates.
There are nearly two hundred species of Heliconias in the world. Generally, these are of two types based on appearance. One has erect flowers while the other has its flowers hanging. In my personal opinion, hanging varieties have a special charm.
Apart from this multitude of species, there are also hundreds of cultivars available for ornamental uses.
The most popular species found in places like India are Heliconia rostrata and H.stricta. The former has hanging flowers and is more beautiful.
Heliconia resembles a banana tree with its soft herbaceous stem and long leaves. They grow around 1.5 meters high.
Under suitable growing conditions, they can easily spread in an area from the rich rhizomes underneath.
The flowers or bracts are the notable characteristics of Heliconia. They can be erect or hanging. In many species, they look like claws attached to a zigzag chord. They can be 1 meter long or more. These often attract hummingbirds in places like Costa Rica.
The flowers occur all round the year.
How to Grow
If you are living closer to the equator, chances are that it is easy for you to grow this plant in your garden.
As a tropical plant that cannot tolerate freezing temperatures, it requires warm climate with good amount of rain. In places like Kerala, it shows no problem even at temperatures above 30 degree Celcius.
It thrives in well-drained soil with great amount of organic matter, dry leaves or manure.
Always remember to plant Heliconia under bright Sunlight. In some cases, lack of sunlight may inhibit flowering. However, it can tolerate a little shade.
Propagation of Heliconia is done by placing the rhizomes under the soil. Preferably, make a slightly raised bed. Then mix it with dry leaves, cow dung powder,
Finally cut the rhizomes and place it a few inches below the soil. The steps are almost similar to that of turmeric, ginger or other rhizome-based plants.
As far as there is adequate water and sunlight, Heliconias does not require much caring.