Heliconia rostrata growing herbaceous rhizome of the genus Heliconia also known as Balisier, Heliconia rostrata perennial evergreen used as ornamental plant, grow in tropics climate and growing in hardiness zone 12b+.

Leaves color green in oval, the size can be 0.5-2 m.

Heliconia rostrata flowers

Flower color yellow-green the flowers small and insignificants bracts can be: red with edges yellow and green, bracts grow on the spikes in a shape of triangle to tear shape, the bracts full of water and attracts hummingbird.

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Heliconia rostrataGrowing Heliconia rostrataHeliconia rostrata planting seasonHeliconia rostrata flowersHeliconia rostrata flowers seasonHeliconia rostrata blooming season

How to grow Heliconia rostrata growing and care:

Well-drained, rich soil

What is the best way to start growing?
Plant / Seed /Vegetative Reproduction

Is it necessary to graft or use vegetative reproduction?
Yes (to get the color that you want

Difficulties or problems when growing:

Planting season:
Spring, summer, autumn

Pests and diseases:

Pruning season:
All year

How to prune:
Dead leaves and flower spikes

Size of the plant?
1.5-5 m, 5-15 feet

Growth speed in optimal condition:
Fast growing

Water requirement:
Average amount of water / Big amount of water

Light conditions in optimal condition for growing:
Full Sun / Half Shade

Is it possible to grow as houseplant?

Growing is also possible in a planter /flowerpot / containers:

Blooming information

Bloom season:

General information about the flower
Yellow-green flower, the flowers small and insignificants bracts can be: red with edges yellow and green, bracts grow on the spikes in a shape of triangle to tear shape, the bracts full of water and attracts hummingbird

Scientific name:

Heliconia rostrata

Blooming Seasons

  • Summer flowers

Flower Colors

  • Green flower
  • Red flower
  • Yellow flower


  • Tropics Climate

Ornamental parts

  • Ornamental flower
  • Ornamental leaves
  • Ornamental plant

Plant growing speed

  • Fast growing plants

Plant life-form

  • Evergreen
  • Geophyte
  • Herbaceous
  • Perennial plant

Plant uses

  • Floristry
  • Ornamental plants

Planting season

  • Autumn Planting
  • Spring Planting
  • Summer planting

Plants sun exposure

  • Full sun Plants
  • Part shade Plants

Watering plants

  • Big amount of water
  • Regularly water

Hardiness zone

  • Hardiness zone 12
  • Hardiness zone 13

Lobster claw, false bird-of-paradise

Few plants combine the colorful and bizarre as well as these natives of tropical Central and South America and the southwest Pacific. Members of this large group feature big clusters of showy bracts containing small, true flowers. In some, the clusters look like lobster claws; in others, they remind you of bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia) blossoms. Bract colors include red, orange, yellow, pink, lavender, and green. Plants form sizable clumps of large leaves and range in size from 3 feet-tall patio plants (excellent in containers) to giants reaching upwards of 15 feet Clumps expand with age, so provide sufficient room. Potted plants can bloom any time; those in the ground flower in spring and summer. Deer don’t seem to care for them.

Heliconias are excellent cut flowers. To extend the bloom’s life, cut off the bottom 12 inches of the stem; then submerge the flowers and foliage in tepid water for an hour prior to display.

heliconia angusta

  • To 410 feet tall, with leaves to 3 feet long.
  • Erect flower clusters to 212 feet long.
  • Yellow or orange to vermilion or scarlet bracts; white or yellow-tipped green flowers.

heliconia bihai

  • To 615 feet tall, with 2- to 6 feet-long leaves.
  • Erect blossom clusters 112312 feet long.
  • Reddish orange bracts with green margins; white to pale green flowers.

wild plantain

heliconia caribaea

  • To 1220 feet tall, with 5 feet-long leaves and erect flower clusters to 112 feet Bracts are red or yellow, often marked with contrasting colors; flowers are white with green tips.

heliconia latispatha

  • Can reach 10 feet tall, with leaves to 5 feet long.
  • Erect flower clusters to 112 feet tall, with spirally set orange, red, or yellow bracts and green-tipped yellow flowers.

heliconia pendula

  • To 8 feet tall; 2- to 3 feet-long leaves.
  • Pendulous, 2 feet inflorescence with spirally arranged red bracts, white flowers.
  • Sometimes sold as Heliconia collinsiana.

parrot heliconia

heliconia psittacorum

  • Highly variable species; more vigorous than other heliconias.
  • Grows 48 feet tall, with leaves to 20 inches long, blossom clusters to 7 inches long.
  • Bracts spread upward at a 45 angle.
  • They vary in color; may be red, sometimes shading to cream or orange, and are often multicolored.
  • Flowers are yellow, orange, or red, usually tipped in dark green or white.
  • Many named selections are available.

heliconia rostrata

  • To 46 feet tall, with 2- to 4 feet-long leaves.
  • Hanging inflorescences to 12 feet long contain red bracts shading to yellow at the tip; flowers are greenish yellow.

heliconia schiedeana

  • Grows to 610 feet tall, with leaves to 5 feet long.
  • Upright, 112 feet-long blossom clusters feature red or orange-red, spiraling bracts that enclose yellow-green flowers.
  • Fire and Ice is compact, at 45 feet high; more cold hardy than the species.

heliconia stricta

  • Variable growth to 212 feet tall.
  • Dark green, maroon-stalked leaves to 5 feet long.
  • Upright, foot-tall flower stalks hold green, white-tipped flowers in red or orange bracts with green tips and yellow edges.
  • Dwarf Jamaican grows 1123 feet tall, with peachy red bracts.
  • Firebird, to 4 feet tall, has brilliant red bracts.
  • Sharonii, to 35 feet., has orange and yellow bracts.

Heliconias grow best with rich soil, heavy feeding, and plenty of water. They prefer acid soil; chlorosis (yellow leaves with green veins) is common in alkaline soil. During periods of active growth, give plants plenty of water and feed frequently with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Stems that have flowered should be cut away to make room for new growth. Reduce watering in cool weather. Frost will kill plants to the ground, but they will resprout from rhizomes if the cold spell is short. Where winters are cold for long periods, take potted plants indoors until spring. Smaller types can be easily stored in a garage without water or light; they will turn brown but will green up when taken outdoors once winter is over.

How to Care for Heliconia

Tropical gardening is all about statement plants. Some plants announce their presence with their bright, bold colors. Others make a name for themselves flaunting their imposing size or interesting shapes. Then there’s a select few that check off all of the boxes. Meet the Heliconia, and learn why this plant should be included in your landscape design.

Bats, birds, butterflies, frogs, and humans all benefit from this gorgeous plant! I’ve never encountered a Heliconia that I didn’t like, but I have certainly met a few that didn’t particularly care for me! Yes, I’ve killed a few in my day, before coming to the realization that its care guidelines are non-negotiable. It’s important to understand that growing Heliconia isn’t difficult, but it’s certainly not a plant it and forget it sort of houseplant, either. With forethought and five minutes of your time every couple of days, you can keep one of these flamboyant gems to be the summertime envy of literally everyone on your block.


Heliconias are part of the Heliconiaceae family. They’re similar to both the tropical Ginger and the Bird of Paradise. There are nearly 200 species of Heliconia, and all come from tropical forest areas, with the large majority coming from the tropical Americas. You’ll most often hear them referred to as Lobster-Claw, False Bird of Paradise, Parrot Beak, and Toucan Beak; all names that make for an adequate description of this interesting plant. They can be as tiny as almost two feet tall, and as gigantic as nearly 30 feet tall in their native habitat! Characterized by paddle-shaped leaves and bizarre flower inflorescence consisting of waxy bracts that can either be erect or pendulous and smaller ‘true’ flowers within the bracts, the Heliconia is one of the most widely sought after tropical plants. A few varieties can handle Zones 9 and 10, but most are better equipped for Zone 11 plus. They bloom once to three times per year, and flowers take two-years to show on new plants, so patience is a virtue when growing this tropical beauty.

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Sun and Water

Heliconias like it hot and humid, just like I do! They are best suited in full-sun in more northern areas and part-sun in the south. They won’t bloom without enough sun, which is easy enough to remedy by keeping them in a pot and moving it around until finding the perfect spot. Indoors, keep the Heliconia in the brightest and warmest place available. While the plant can survive in dry conditions, it won’t perform well. Heliconias prefer consistently moist soil, never boggy, but never allowed to completely dry out. This is a much easier feat in the heat of the summer where you’d naturally be watering potted plants almost daily. Indoors, take precaution to not overwater, as this will cause the roots to rot. Always hold back the water a bit in the wintertime, and this rings true with all plants that see their growth in the spring and summer.

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Soil and Food

Use a slow-release fertilizer to feed your Heliconia, every two months during the spring and summer growing season. They’ll also benefit from Black Cow being mixed in the soil, and as I always recommend, occasional dosing of Fish Emulsion (in lieu of traditional fertilizer, not in addition to). Yes, manure and fish guts are the way to go for happy plants, and I swear by both of them. Pay particularly close attention to the type of soil used, making sure that it’s well-draining and acidic. Aside from that, Heliconias benefit from peat moss being added into their soil, as well as other organic matter like bark chips. If you spend a little extra time preparing an organic, well-draining soil with good moisture retention, your Lobster-Claw will reward you with glossy foliage and bountiful yearly blooms. Generally speaking, most Heliconias are considered heavy feeders.

Growing Conditions

The Lobster-Claw dislikes cold conditions, and anything under 50 degrees is too chilly. It’s equally important to keep your plant in a sheltered location out of the way of strong winds or violent downpour. Additionally, it’s extremely important to provide constant humidity. This can be achieved in several ways. For my plants, I keep them indoors in groups. I place their plant in a saucer filled with pebbles, that I keep water in at all times. During the coldest months when the heater is really drying out the air, I also mist them with a spray bottle. It’s also possible to use a humidifier and to keep the plants close by.

Related Content: Fake It Until You Make It Tropical Gardening – The Hibiscus

Pruning and Propagation

Always remove spent leaves on the Lobster-Claw. That’s the only pruning necessary. Heliconias spread via underground rhizome, so propagation is as simple as dividing the clump. Just make sure to leave a complete rhizome with eye intact. Always cut back shoots to six-twelve inches before planting a new Heliconia. Plant with the eye side up, near the surface of the soil. Like the Bird of Paradise, Heliconias often grow better when a bit pot bound. It’s possible to plant Heliconia from seed, as well. I’ve managed to germinate them successfully a couple of times, but have never managed to keep the tender seedling alive for very long.


For anyone outside of the tropics, I highly recommend growing Heliconia in a pot year round. It makes it much simpler for finding that perfect sunny, hot, humid, but sheltered location outside during the summer, and then that bright, warm location inside during the winter. Digging and storing the rhizomes in cold storage isn’t a feasible option for Heliconia. Instead, you must treat it as a houseplant overwinter and mimic its outside care by providing light (sunny window or grow lamp), heat, and humidity.

Pests and Disease

While I personally have never encountered any pest or disease, it’s said that Heliconias can suffer from fungus problems. Always ensure there’s good airflow between plantings to minimize the opportunity for fungus to grow. If you are unfortunate enough to run into this issue, use a chemical fungicide. Aphids and slugs are also a possibility. While outdoors, spray the leaves down with water ever so often to knock off any unwanted critters. This is also helpful in providing humidity outdoors during the dry, arid part of summer. Raid House and Garden has worked wonders for me in the past, in dealing with bugs.

Where to Buy

Lowe’s often carries Heliconia during the summer months. Additionally, Amazon, Plant Delights, Etsy, Glasshouse Works, and Aloha Tropicals all sell Heliconia, with the latter two offering the largest selection.

Commonly Grown Varieties

There are tons of varieties of Heliconia, especially considering all of the hybrids. Below are the most commonly grown, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s important to point out that hardiness is relative when talking about Heliconia. Micro-climates, exceptionally mild winters, effort, and gardening expertise allow many people to grow blooming Heliconias year round, even in growing Zones as low as 7. As such, one gardener might suggest you try X form because it comes back reliably for him each year, while another gardener might suggest you try form XX. In the end, to stay on the safe side, remember that there are no hardy Heliconia. Zip, zilch, nada. Since I’m a lazy gardener, I try and not recommend trying things that take an enormous amount of effort. If you desire to overwinter Heliconia outdoors, do so with the understanding that the odds aren’t really in your favor. Who knows? You might get lucky!

Heliconia rostrata

Rostrata stays about 5 feet tall when grown in a pot, but can get 15 foot tall in its native environment! It flowers year round.

Heliconia psittacorum

Psittacorum stays a tidy 3 feet tall in pots, under most circumstances. Outside of the tropics, it will most likely only bloom during spring and summer, although it’s possible that it could bloom year round with an ideal indoor location.

Heliconia bourgaeana

Bourgaeana grows nearly eight feet tall, but probably will top out at five when potted. Like psittacorum, it’ll most likely bloom during the growing season only, but can possibly bloom year round.

Heliconia wagneriana

Wagneriana grows between six to eight feet tall under perfect conditions. This is one of the largest, even for pots. Wagneriana blooms year round.

As you can see, there are so many beautiful Lobster-Claw plants to choose from! Add height and tropical appeal to your garden design by incorporating a couple different varieties of Heliconia. Even when not in bloom, these are interesting architectural plants that’ll impress. Make sure you’re following us for more tropical gardening posts plus much more!

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In Southern California this plant, with its bright, bold and easily recognizable flowers, is ubiquitous. It’s found growing alongside sidewalks and the streets, by the sea, poolside, in parking strips, in container plantings as well as in lots and lots of gardens. It’s common but loved nonetheless so much so that it’s the official flower of the city of Los Angeles.

Bird of Paradise, also known as Strelitzia reginae, plant care tips:

The unique flowers of this plant distinguish it & make it oh so popular.


This is not really a care tip but well worth a mention. This sub tropical/tropical clumping evergreen perennial can reach 6′ tall by 6′ wide. It’s the size of a shrub!


The Bird Of Paradise grows the best & blooms the most in full sun. It does okay in part shade & actually prefers this in blazing hot climates.

Here are a couple of Birds growing in shade in Santa Barbara. As you can see, the plant is less dense with longer stems as well as smaller foliage & flowers.


The crested orange & blue flowers are what this plant is grown for, both in the landscape & commercially. The flowers are long lasting on the plant as well as in arrangements. When you plant a young Bird Of Paradise don’t be surprised if it doesn’t flower for the 1st few years.

As the plant ages, more flowers will appear. Don’t rush to divide it because it blooms better when crowded. It blooms the heaviest, in Southern California anyway, fall through spring & then intermittently in summer.


The Bird Of Paradise looks & does the best with regular water – not too wet & not too dry. And not a few little splashes every now & then but a deep watering every couple of weeks in the hotter months. Because of the drought in Southern California, the foliage of this plant is not looking like it did pre-drier times.

The leaf edges turn brown, curl & split in response to not enough water. Another reason for the split, torn leaves is wind.


The Bird Of Paradise isn’t too fussy as to soil which is evidenced by the wide variety of places it grows in. It does prefer a loamy, somewhat rich mix however & needs good drainage.


It’s hardy to 25-30 degrees F. The Bird Of Paradise grows in USDA zones 10-12 & also in zone 9 with protection from prolonged freezes. You can grow it outdoors in the warmer months & move it indoors when the temps drop.


Not much if any is necessary. The majority of the ones which grow around Santa Barbara don’t get any. It would benefit from a generous top dressing of organic compost which would not only feed it but help to conserve moisture as well.

It’s not uncommon at all to see “double Birds” – that’s what I call them anyway! What happens is a 2nd smaller flower emerges out of & above the 1st flower.


I’ve only seen them with mealy bugs but have read that they can be susceptible to scale & spider mites as well. A good blast with the garden hose will send those pests flying. Just be sure to get the undersides of the leaves & in the nodes as well. A homemade spray with a mild, natural dish soap & water will help as well.


Bird Of Paradise don’t require much pruning at all. You’ll want to remove the dead flowers & any unsightly foliage. Just be sure to take the stems all the way down as close to the base of the plant as you can.

Here’s the picture I said that I’d try to find in the video. This is what the neighbors down the street did to the 2 Birds of Paradise on either side of their front steps. This “mohawking” is NOT the way to prune these plants! They eventually came back just fine but believe me, it didn’t happen overnight.

How to care for Bird of Paradise indoors:

–> High light is the key. Give the Bird Of Paradise as much natural light as you can – it needs this for foliage & flower production. Be sure to rotate your plant (unless it gets light from all sides) so it grows evenly.

–> Just like outdoors, it likes to grow crowded so don’t rush to do any transplanting. By keeping it slightly potbound you’ll get much better blooms.

–> You want to give keep it slightly moist by giving it regular water. In the cooler, darker months be sure to back off on the watering allowing it to dry out before doing it again. This plant is susceptible to root rot so don’t keep it “mushy”.

–> Our homes tend to be dry so you can increase the humidity with a saucer filled with pebbles & water. Set the pot on top making sure that no roots are staying soaked. Or, you can mist it a couple of times a weeks.

–> You want to plant it in a nice, rich potting mix. A few handfuls of coco coir added in would be greatly appreciated.

–> In terms of feeding, you can give your Bird Of Paradise a drink with a balanced organic liquid houseplant fertilizer in the spring. If it looks like it needs a little boost mid-summer, then do it again. You can also apply a 2″ layer of organic compost &/or worm castings in the spring. This works slower but the effects last longer.

–> The leaves would greatly appreciate a good cleaning every now & then. If you can’t put it in the shower or put it outside in the rain, then wipe the foliage with a wet cloth every now & then.

This plant is really easy to care for outdoors (it’s 1 tough puppy) but is a little more of a challenge indoors. If you like bold tropical foliage and big bright blooms then it’s so well worth the effort!

Happy gardening,

I’m including this because the flowers were regular sized but the plants themselves were only 1 to 1 -1/2′ tall. I had to sit down on the sidewalk to take the pic!

If you liked this Bird Paradise Plant Care blog you should also check the one I did on the Giant Bird Of Paradise.

Gardening in South Africa

Heliconia pogonantha var pogonantha. Picture courtesy Peter RichardsonHeliconia is a single genus with approximately 350 species; mainly from Central and South America. A small group of about 6 species have evolved separately in the South Pacific, and these are typically characterized by having green inflorescences. In the wild they can be found growing in humid tropical rainforests; in clearings in the forest floor where the sunlight can penetrate, and along river banks. Helicon are close relatives of gingers, bananas, birds-of-paradise and the traveler’s palm. The common name false bird-of-paradise refers to their close similarity to the bird-of-paradise flowers (Strelitzia). Forest hummingirds and butterflies like to drink the sweet nectar from the flowers; and the Honduran White Bat lives in tents it makes from the leaves; the purplish-blue fruits are primarily dispersed by birds. Some species of Heliconia last well in a vase and are grown commercially for the florist’s trade.

Heliconia Caribaea. Picture courtesy Karl gercens. Visit his flickr photostreamHeliconias command attention with their brightly coloured waxy bracts which can be orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, green, or a combination of these. The small true flowers peep out from the bracts, and depending on the species, can be hues of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. Blooms can take the form of stiff and upright lobster claws, or hanging spirals of colourful bracts; appearing in summer and autumn. The growth habit and leaves of heliconia is similar to canna, strelitzia, and bananas, to which they are related. The many species range in height from +-15cm to over 6m tall, they are herbaceous or non-woody plants that spread by rhizomes, with each stem only flowering once, before drying up and collapsing.

Heliconia carabea ‘Cream’ Picture courtesy Peter RichardsonHeliconia form the centrepiece of so many tropical landscapes all around the world; and a single well-established colony of Heliconia immediately adds a sense of elegance and class to any garden large or small. Smaller growing cultivars will thrive in pots while rewarding the grower with an unending supply of magnificent blooms.

Understanding the native growing conditions of Heliconia should aid in providing the appropriate conditions for growing them. This plant grows best in humid sub-tropical regions like Kwa-Zulu Natal, and in other regions they can only be grown in heated glass-houses. In the rainforests they thrive in the leaf litter of the forest floor where the soil is well-drained but very rich in decaying organic material; in the garden a good compost enriched with dry leaf matter and a dressing of bonemeal would be ideal. If your soil does not drain well washed river sand can be incorporated. Heliconias also grow in bright clearings in the forest and most species require at least 6 hours of Heliconia pogonantha var pogonantha. Picture courtesy Peter Richardsondirect sunlight a day, or full morning sun, to flower profusely. Plants grown in too much shade usually grow taller, with lush foliage and fewer flowers. Heliconia pendula and Heliconia stricta ‘Carli’s Sharonii’ are two exceptions who enjoy shade. Established clumps thrive on frequent tropical showers, and in the garden the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely; some species such as Heliconia standleyi and Heliconia densiflora ‘Fireflash’ can even be adapted to grow completely in water. Feed with bonemeal and a balanced slow release fertiliser; replenish the organic mulch around your plants regularly and your plants should thrive. To keep the clumps neat it is necessary to remove the spent flowering stems regularly by chopping them off close to the ground.

Heliconia angustaHeliconia are often sold in the form of rhizome segments, these should be dipped in a diluted fungicide solution before being planted in free-draining soil; or in a ‘soil-free’ mixture of perlite, vermiculite and sterilized potting compost. Make sure that the rhizome is not planted too deep, but at the same level at which the plant was originally growing in soil, which can be determined by markings on the rhizome itself. After planting, the tip of the stalks where the pseudostems were chopped from should be wrapped in plastic and secured with a rubber band, to make sure that water does not enter it and cause rotting. This also helps to seal moisture within the rhizome.

Seeds can be difficult to germinate, with a long germination period ranging from a month to a year, and unpredictable germination rates. Because the seed coat is thick, the seeds should be scarified with sandpaper till the endosperm is just reached before planting, this allows water to enter the seed more quickly, thus shortening the germination period.

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