Friday, November 9, 2007

Heliconia Harvest

A florescence bract of heliconia latispatha, palnted "wildly" next to an oil palm tree.
A spray of " sassy pink" as cut flowers to thrill any unsuspecting visitors to our cottage.
While clearing Zone D this morning, I stumbled upon masses of heliconia plants. There must have been about five varieties just at one location. Next to the oil palm tree I was tending my eyes were caught by a small clump of heliconia latispatha ( having tiny green flowers) . And since the weather was very perfect for working this morning, I decided to have a heliconia harvest. I got hold of a few long stalks of pink heliconias , commonly named " sassy pink ". I placed them inside a big jar outside the cottage door as cut flowers, ready to thrill my visitors.
Heliconias are said to have originated from this part of the world ( South East Asia) besides tropical America and some Pacific Islands. I my eco-farm, there are planted as exotics. I particularly admire its dramatic large leaves and spikes of colourful bracts. The actual flowers are tiny and insignificant. The inflorescence bracts are usually bright red, yellow or both but some may have greenish tints or pink. At present , I have six varieties of heliconia plants here at the farm. There are grown here "wildly", replicating its natural growth conditions. Best grown under shade or semi-shade, though some species prefer too the direct sun.
Heliconias are very easy to grow. They love humus- rich and well-drained soil. They are easily propagated by division of the root stock or suckers. They bloom all year round. Heliconias are excellent for ornamental planting especially the heliconia humilis( lobster claw), heliconia psittacorum, heliconia latispatha and heliconia rostrata ( fire crackers). For landscapers , heliconias are preferably planted in a group or en masse planting composition.
Nowadays it makes commercial sense to grow heliconias because the demand for them as tropical exotics are great in Europe and the US, used primarily as flower arrangements. A check online, I found that there is a Heliconia Society International founded in 1985 and a website address at
For a considerable time, heliconias have been variously associated with the banana family or the bird-of - paradise family, but are now placed in their own family, i.e. heliconiacae, in the order of zingiberrales. There are more than 100 evergreen perennial species in this genus and hybrids are created now and then.
Be ever prepared to stumble upon newer heliconia hybrids the next time you visit a plant nursery.

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