Lobster Claw and Parrot Beak Plants
Heliconia or Tropical Ginger Plants are commonly called Lobster Claw Gingers or Parrots Beak. They are found in Indonesia, the Pacific Islands and Central American nations and are grown for the flowers as well as the foliage. And now they are a popular garden plant from the sunshine coast northwards, and as a cut flower, all over Australia
Many varieties make great garden specimens and are also much sought after by the florist industry as they are most suitable as cut flowers. Heliconias are a tropical plant so cool climate gardeners miss out on such beauties as H. psittacorum, H. rostrata, and the giant H. caribaea.
Most species are really a tropical plant and require these conditions to thrive. They have leaves similar to those of the banana or strelitzia. These are a group of plants that are prized for their showy inflorescences which hold the true flowers. (see picture right)
The ginger family actually contains a wide range of plants including Ziniber, Hedichium, Curcuma and Alpinia
Heliconias or ‘Ginger Plant’ Profile, Care and Growing Notes
Most species may be grown in pots or in the ground, they do have a vigorous root system so consider using a root barrier when planting in the open if this is a concern.
A deep moist humus rich soil is best. In the tropics plant them just before the wet season commences for best results. They may die back in winter but will flower from summer through autumn.
Best suited to Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and further North.
Popular Heliconia Varieties include
- Heleconia wagneriana is the ‘Lobster Claw Plant’
- Heliconia psittacorum (Parrot’s Beak, or Parrot’s Flower)
- Heleconia india rubra is grown for the foliage
- H. zanthovillosa
- H. Sexy Pink
- Heliconia rostrata (Parrots Beak or Hanging lobster claw)
- Heliconia caribaea (Giant heliconia)
- Heliconia champneiana
Heliconia Schiedeana is perhaps one of the better species for cooler climates, it originally comes from lower mountain regions of South America. Perhaps not as spectacular as some of its relatives, but the red and yellow flowers which appear in early summer are long lasting.
At the end of winter these wonders can be cut back hard, removing only the old flowering shoots from the previous season, but not the new ones, ready for a new spurt of growth. This one will still need a frost free position and no cold winds.
Heliconia for cooler climates
Some varieties will grow well in cooler climates, limited to the warmer coastal areas as far south as Sydney, these include
- Heliconia latispatha ‘Distans’
- Heliconia bihai x caribaea
- H. bihai x caribaea ‘Hot Rio Nights’
- H. bihai x marginata ‘Rauliniana’
- H.bihai x marginata ‘Rauliniana’
- H. champneiana ‘Maya BloodAll best grown in containers in a warm sheltered position.
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Heleconias or Ginger Plants are available for sale from the following nurseries
PO BOX 150 El Arish Qld 4855
Largest online selection of tropical exotic plants in Australia. Heliconias, gingers, cordylines and brugmansias. Retail center open by appointment only.
52 Rodd St Canowindra NSW 2804
An online nursery specialising in drought and frost tolerant perennials and fragrant, edible and herbs.
Australia's finest bamboo display gardens. Non-invasive clumping varieties at competitive prices for screens, windbreaks, garden ornamentals, timber and shoots. Small suburban garden right up to the commercial growers. Can ship to anywhere in Australia. Hervey Bay, QLD. OPEN 7 DAYS