"What an amazing flower!" Which heliconia is really right for your project
Updated: May 17
Have you ever been to far north Queensland in Winter? It's not cold. Most Heliconia love that warm, humid weather. So, when you're choosing a heliconia for a park or garden project in Brisbane or Sydney you need to choose carefully to find the one that will perform well, not just the one with the most striking flowers, after all I've never found a heliconia flower I didn't love.
Height and width
From Jamaican Dwarf at 50cm to Criswick at 5m tall we have heliconia in a huge range of sizes.
Most of the psittacorums, like Sassy, Petra and Daintree, finish at 1 to 1.5m, there are some mid-height plants like Golden Torch and Tropics at 2 to 2.5m, some tall heliconia like Hot Rio Nights and Rauliniana and some extra tall ones like Criswick, Big Bud and Richmond Red which all exceed 4m.
Use the taller heliconia on sites that aren't windy. Some of the mid height and smaller plants can tolerate occasional windy days, but none love constant wind.
Expect that plants won't look their best over winter in cold areas, but you can cut them back and still get an excellent display from late Spring and through Summer.
Plants we've found to be good in cooler areas like Sydney include Hot Rio Nights, Rauliniana, and Tropics as well as some of the psittacorums like Sassy. Heliconia mathiasiae 'Mildred' also performs well in Sydney Summers and can be cut back over winter. Some of the gorgeous pendulous varieties like Heliconia chartacea 'Sexy Pink' don't like being cold and are better left to the tropics.
Sunshine or shade?
Most heliconias perform well in positions that get a mix of Sun and Shade at different times of the day. If your site is very sunny there are some to avoid, like Stricta Jamaican Dwarf or Angusta Red Christmas as these both prefer some shade. Equally, if your site is very shady we've found that plants like Hot Rio Nights won't reach their potential. Fortunately most are very forgiving.... we grow Claw I and Claw II in dense shade and they flower reliably even though ideally they should get more sun.
We'll leave the colour selection up to you and there are plenty to choose from. Another consideration is how many flowers and what type? The psittacorums are know for profuse displays of flowers where as some of the taller plants produce larger but fewer inflorescences. You'll notice that some varieties display their flowers above the foliage whilst others surprise you with blooms hidden behind lush leaves. The larger varieties of heliconia may not flower the first year in the ground but they will all produce beautiful foliage.
Heliconias that produce long runners, like psittacorum Daintree, look fabulous in garden beds with defined, solid edging. They fill the bed with flowers and foliage and stop at the edge. In contrast, varieties like Rauliniana will form tidy upright clumps that gradually increase in width and pose no risk of invading neighbouring garden beds or lawn areas.
Our heliconia are at their best from February to April. Some varieties sell out quickly. You can pre-order prior to February or check our current availability list to know what's ready now.
There's a few things to consider and we're happy to help.