How to Grow Exotic Heliconias

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Whether you live in New York or Hawaii, heliconias are a tropical beauty that you can grow for their beautiful foliage and exotic flowers. A member of the banana family, the many varieties of heliconia are native to tropical regions such as Central America. They do well indoors in cooler climates if you grow them in large pots. And if you live in a more southern climate, they are a stunning addition to your outdoor landscaping.

Things You'll Need

  • Heliconia plant(s), purchased at a nursery or through a plant catalog.
  • Large flowerpot(s)
  • Compost
  • Rich potting mix with plenty of peat moss and sand or other aggregate material

How to Start Your Heliconia

  • If you ordered your plant(s) from a catalog, they will arrive as rhizomes packed in soil or peat moss to keep them moist and fresh. Unpack your plant and soak it in room temperature water for about half an hour before you plant it.

  • Prepare your potting mixture: select a well-draining purchased potting mix and add one third peat moss and one third sand.

  • Fill your pot about half full of your potting mix. If you're planting your heliconia outdoors, dig a hole slightly larger than the rootball and add in sand and peat moss.

  • Place your plant in the pot or hole you have dug, making certain that the tip of the rhizome will stick out the top of the soil.

  • Fill your pot or hole with the potting mix you have prepared with peat moss and sand.

  • Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist but not soggy.

  • Fertilize at least once a month with an all-purpose fertilizer. If you're growing your heliconia indoors or in a low humidity climate outdoors, it's helpful if you mist your plant every day .

Tips & Warnings

  • One variety of heliconia does especially well in pots that you can keep outdoors in the summer months and bring indoors in the cooler months of the year. It's the "parrot's beak" helicona, and although the flowers are smaller than some of the other varieties, they are very pretty and easy to grow.
  • Heliconias grow best when the temperature is 70 degrees and above. They like bright light and require regular applications of any well balanced fertilizer.
  • To promote blooming, choose a low nitrogen fertilizer ("blossom booster") and use it at least twice each year.
  • If you live in a tropical climate and grow your heliconias outdoors, they can quickly spread, so be sure to plant them in an area where there is plenty of room for them to roam and not choke out other plants in your garden.
  • If the base of your heliconia should become softened or discolored, it might be getting too much water. if this happens, let it dry out until you see healthy new growth starting to appear.

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