Heliconia, False Bird of Paradise, Pendant, Lobster Claw
Heliconia spp., hel-i-KO-nee-a
Individual flowers on an inflorescence can last several days depending on species. Combine this with the fact that there can be about 20 flowers per stalk makes this a reasonably long-lasting cut flower, about two weeks.
With one species, flowers lasted longer if they were harvested when no bracts were open compared to 1-4 bracts open. Some flowers are treated after harvest using various techniques to remove insects prior to shipping. For example, vapor heat (high humidity (90%) and high temperature (115F) for 1 hour has been shown to kill certain insects while not damaging the flowers (Hansen et al., 1992). Some postharvest insecticidal treatments have also been shown to be effective including Safer Soap and/or Mavrik Aquaflow used according to label directions. However, care must be taken to make sure that flowers are not damaged. H. wagneriana was determined to be a short-day plant. With H. psittacorum, various light and fertilizer levels during production did not alter postharvest performance.
Store at 55-65 F (three days or fewer), 53-56 F (more than three days). They are very chill sensitive.
Heliconia refers to Mount Helicon in Greece, home to the Muses, goddesses of the arts and sciences. They are said to be eternally young and beautiful, alluding to the long lasting and attractive Heliconia flowers.
Pendulous species include H. chartacea, H. collinsiana and H. rostrata. Often included in the Musaceae (banana) or Strelitziaceae (bird-of-paradise) family.
Major commercial cut flower production areas are in Central and South America, Hawaii, tropical Africa, Queensland (Australia) and southeast Asia.
Larger diameter and longer stems have greater vase life. Dies prematurely mainly due to poor water uptake.
Check stems and flowers for insects and remove them by hand if found. Ants are sometimes found feeding on plant exudates.
Recent Research Findings:
Criley and Broschat (1992) prepared an excellant summary of heliconias, from production to postharvest. They list specifics on approximately 35 species and 88 cultivars.