How To Grow Heliconias (Lobster Claw Plants)

Growing tips for Lobster Claw plants

Heliconias are stunning, brightly colored plants that are perfect for tropical gardens.

They can be grown directly in the garden or dwarf varieties can be planted in large containers for a spectacular display.

Growing Heliconias is fairly easy, even for beginner gardeners and with these tips you’ll be able to have these gorgeous plants blooming in your garden.

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Lobster claw plants

Heliconias (Heliconia rostrata) are native to Central and South America and there are more than 500 different varieties.

They’re related to banana trees, ginger and Bird of Paradise. [1]

The flowers are actually bracts (modified leaves) and come in beautiful bright colors including red, yellow, pink and orange.

The real flower is short lived and can be found inside the bract.


Best Soil for Heliconias

Heliconias like rich, moist and well-drained soil.

Before planting add some organic matter to the soil and mulch around the plants to reduce moisture loss.

Add some organic plant food every couple of weeks during the growing season. 

Growing Heliconia plants

How much sunlight do Heliconias need?

Most varieties will grow well in full sun or partial shade but some varieties prefer a position that is mostly shady.

Heliconias grown in partial shade usually grow taller and flower better than those grown in full sun.

They prefer warm, humid conditions, similar to what you’d find in a tropical rainforest.

Heliconias are susceptible to wind damage so it’s best to plant them in a position that is protected from strong winds.

When do Heliconias bloom?

Heliconia plants flower from summer to fall.

The flowers are great for attracting hummingbirds to your yard and the plants provide a good hiding place for small birds.

They’re also good cut flowers and make a long lasting and spectacular display.

How tall do Heliconias grow?

There are many different varieties of Heliconias that range from 3.5 feet (1 metre) to 15 feet (5 metres) tall.

Grow Heliconia plant

Growing Heliconias from Rhizome Cuttings

Heliconias grow from rhizomes, which means that the roots and shoots form from a horizontal underground stem.

To propagate Heliconias from rhizome cuttings, take a section of the rhizome and divide it into pieces. Each piece needs to have an eye on it.

The rhizomes can be soaked in water with a small amount of fertilizer added before planting in the garden.

Allow enough space for spreading. Heliconias will spread out quite quickly.

You can usually expect to see flowers within six months of propagation from rhizome cuttings.

Growing Heliconias from Seeds

Heliconia plants produce small fruits that turn blue when they’re ripe.

Each fruit holds between one to three seeds.

The seeds have a very hard coat that is difficult to pierce and if you try to manually pierce the seed it usually damages the seed.

Heliconia seeds can take up to a year to germinate so the easiest way to propagate them is from rhizome cuttings.

Heleconia varieties to plant in your garden

Heliconia flower

Watering Heliconias

Heliconias need regular watering, especially during hot weather.

The soil should be moist at all times, but not waterlogged.

It’s a good idea to add a layer of mulch to help with moisture retention.

Pests & Diseases

Heliconias are fairly pest resistant but they can be affected by fungal diseases if there isn’t enough air circulation.

They can also be affected by birds, ants, rats and soil pathogens.

Regular maintenance will help to reduce damage to the plants.

Pruning Heliconias

Heliconia flower stalks only bloom once, so the whole stalk can be cut back to ground level when it has finished flowering.

Any leaves that are yellowed or dead can be removed and used as mulch around the base of the plants.

Companion Planting for Heliconias

Heliconias can be grown alongside other tropical plants including palms, Bird of Paradise or Hawaiian Ti plants.

Lobster claw plant

Common questions about growing Lobster Claw plants

Can Heliconias be grown in containers or pots?

Small varieties of Heliconia can be grown in large containers with well-drained, rich potting soil.

Are Heliconias Frost Tolerant?

Heliconias are best suited to tropical regions and they’re not frost tolerant at all.

If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures it’s not a good idea to plant Heliconias outdoors.

Freezing temperatures can kill or damage the underground rhizomes of the plant.

Heliconia plants

Heliconias are stunning perennial flowers that will make your garden stand out.

If you live in a tropical climate and you’re looking some something a bit different for your garden, these plants are ideal.

Just be sure to keep the soil moist and trim back the old flower stalks and you’ll be able to enjoy their gorgeous flowers all summer and into fall.


Have you tried growing Heliconias in your garden? Let me know in the comments below.

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How to grow Heliconias

How to grow Lobster Claw plants

Kelly Taylor

Hi, I'm Kelly Taylor. I'm passionate about gardening and horticulture and I love growing just about everything including herbs, vegetables, flowers, succulents and indoor plants. I've been gardening most of my life and I created this blog to inspire beginner gardeners to create their own urban garden. Read more