How to Grow Heliconias

Updated on April 22, 2019
Rangoon House profile image

I am an idealist, an optimist, a romantic, often a traditionalist. My writing mostly revolves around the beauty in our lives.

Heliconia rostrata.
Heliconia rostrata.

A tropical garden is an eden of vibrant colour and exotic scents, shapes and textures, but it is only complete with an abundance of colourful heliconias.

Heliconia flowers can be red, orange, pink, yellow or green. Though not officially regarded as the diva of the tropical garden, it adds such drama and vibrancy that it is unrivaled as the lead role on the tropical stage.

The plant ranges in size from half a metre to six metres tall. They thrive in the alternating blend of tropical sun and rain and will perform best in a rich, well-drained, fertilised soil. They are easy to grow in these conditions, to the extent that they will demand dedicated tending to actually keep them from overtaking and dominating the garden.

Heliconia psittacorum.
Heliconia psittacorum. | Source

How to Prepare a Healthy, Growing Environment for Heliconias

  • Heliconias love moist, hot, humid conditions.
  • Some heliconias grow in full sun and others prefer filtered sun or shade. So check which conditions will suit your chosen variety of heliconia, and prepare the most suitable garden position accordingly.
  • Allow good drainage—roots can get too wet and will rot if the soil is too dense.
  • Allow space for spreading. There are clumping and spreading heliconias, but all types will multiply quite quickly.
  • Spread chicken pellet fertiliser into the soil before planting.
  • Have organic mulch on standby to cover the soil (about 5 centimetres deep) once heliconias are planted. This will continually enrich the soil and prevent weed growth.

Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame".
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame". | Source

How to Choose the Best Growing Position for Heliconias

  • Some heliconias can grow as tall as 6 metres high. So be careful and fully understand what you are planting and where, in order to achieve the greatest growing success and aesthetic appeal in your garden.
  • Heliconias tend to grow taller in the shade.
  • Some will only tolerate sun-filtered or shaded conditions, whilst others demand full sun.
  • Some flowers will head straight for the sun, whilst others will droop in a pendant style.
  • There are over 100 species of heliconia. So you will have many choices and will need to research and select what is best for your garden.

Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame".
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame". | Source

Why You Should Plant Heliconia Rhizomes Instead of Seeds

  • Rhizomes are the running roots with sprouting nodules showing slightly above ground.
  • Rhizome propagation is the easiest and most common method.
  • Heliconias grow quicker from rhizome than seed. So if you are as impatient a gardener as I am, this will deliver quicker results and quicker flowers.
  • Rhizomes usually sprout within two months of planting.
  • Smaller species heliconias will usually flower within six months of propagation from rhizome.
  • New plants need lots of water, but then only need more as the soil begins to dry out.
  • Established heliconias require volumes of water!
  • Use chicken pellet fertiliser or slow-release fertiliser at planting time.
  • Cover the ground with up to 5 centimetres of good organic mulch after planting to protect the roots from burning in the hot sun, to maintain moisture levels of the soil, and to prevent weed growth.
  • Mulch will enrich the soil as it breaks down and is best to be topped up at least every six months.

Heliconias at The Legian Bali hotel.
Heliconias at The Legian Bali hotel. | Source

Heliconias Make Spectacular Indoor Flower Arrangements

You can look forward to displaying magnificent heliconia arrangements in your home year-round once your garden is up and growing. I can have multiple vases of heliconias in my house and outdoor living areas at any one time. Sometimes I cheat with bunches purchased from the local markets to augment my own, but most of them are fresh straight from my garden to the vase!

Display heliconias in tall glass vases, Chinese porcelain vases, or earthenware type vases. Just as they are in the garden, they are tall, flashy flowers that will demand to be the centre of attention in your home. You can show off heliconias on their own, or add fronds and leaves from your tropical garden to bulk up the arrangement. Either way, they will add immediate flair to your home.

I cannot claim this beautiful arrangement (pictured above) as mine, but I was privileged to admire and photograph it in a hotel foyer on a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia.

A Collection of Beautiful Heliconias and Tropical Flowers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Heliconia caribaea.Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame".Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Golden Torch".Heliconia psittacorum "Pinky".Heliconia psittacorum "Golden Torch".Heliconia psittacorum "Pearl".Heliconia rostrata.
Heliconia caribaea.
Heliconia caribaea. | Source
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame".
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Flame". | Source
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Golden Torch".
Heliconia psittacorum x Spathocircinata "Golden Torch". | Source
Heliconia psittacorum "Pinky".
Heliconia psittacorum "Pinky". | Source
Heliconia psittacorum "Golden Torch".
Heliconia psittacorum "Golden Torch". | Source
Heliconia psittacorum "Pearl".
Heliconia psittacorum "Pearl". | Source
Heliconia rostrata.
Heliconia rostrata. | Source

Quick Facts About Heliconias

  • They are native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific islands.
  • They are related to the canna, strelitzia, ginger and banana plants.
  • They generally flower during the tropical wet season.
  • They need plenty of water, sunlight and rich soil.

Where Do Heliconias Grow?

Heliconias will grow easily in these red tropical regions. I live in Cairns, in the tiny red tip of northeastern Australia on this map, where there are perfect conditions for growing heliconias and all tropical plants.
Heliconias will grow easily in these red tropical regions. I live in Cairns, in the tiny red tip of northeastern Australia on this map, where there are perfect conditions for growing heliconias and all tropical plants. | Source

The Tropical Gardener's Bible for Growing Heliconias

Heliconia an Identification Guide
Heliconia an Identification Guide
I have this book in my library, with many a dog-eared page and a few garden soil smudged pages as well. I cannot imagine there is anything you need to know or would want to know about heliconias that cannot be found in this book. It truly is the heliconia lover's bible. The book is filled with colour photographs to identify the different types of heliconias and their different features, including their preferred growing conditions. If you are interested in more detailed information about growing heliconias than I offer in this article, then this is your must-have reference book.

The Heliconia Rostrata Is One of My Favourite Flowers

I think the Heliconia rostrata is the most magnificent flower of all. That doesn't mean it is my favourite—the Oriental Tiger Lily is my favourite flower—but the rostrata is definitely the most impressive tropical flower, which is why I have adopted it as the icon for my Rangoon House profile. Wherever you see this photograph online, there is a good chance I am lurking close by.

Helliconia rostrata is my "Rangoon House" icon.
Helliconia rostrata is my "Rangoon House" icon.

Are You a Fake Plant or Real Plant Person?

See results

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.

— Mitch Hedberg

© 2014 AJ

Would You Like To Grow Heliconias In Your Garden?

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    • Rangoon House profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks so much for visiting teaches12345. There is a heliconia for everybody - so glad you have a favourite.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This flower species has a large variety of types and colors. I love the vibrant red photo pictured here but my favorite is the delicate pearl. What a beautiful flower!

    • Rangoon House profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Australia

      The introduction was my pleasure Maria. Heliconias make exquisite floral arrangements, so I wish you well in your floral shop search.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Thanks for introducing me to this exquisite flower - I'll have to be on the lookout for it in our floral shops.

    • Rangoon House profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Australia

      Thank you so much for visiting Dolores. These are probably my favourite flowers - in the garden as well as in tall vases in my house. I think I know the heliconias you would have seen - the common name is Sexy Pink and it is absolutely stunning.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Your pictures are so beautiful. I once saw a hanging heliconia in a class I was taking on floral design. Wow. Such awesome flowers!

    • Rangoon House profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Australia

      Hi Elsie. Heliconias are a tropical plant and love the heat and humidity, so I would be surprised if they are even in Auckland - I am thinking that the closest looking plant would be the strelitzia, which I have seen in Tasmania, so you might be familiar with that. Thank you for admiring.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful. I don't think we have these plants in New Zealand, if we do I haven't seen them, maybe in Auckland where it is warmer.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Rangoon House profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Australia

      Thank you so much for admiring these beauties, and especially for sharing them in your social media. Lovely to have you visit.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      These are so beautiful. I've never heard of them, but would love having them in my garden. Pinning this for future.


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