Lobster claw plant - Heliconia rostrata 

Commonly known as the Lobster claw plants, Heliconia species are amongst the most exotic of all tropical flowering plants, and so long as you can replicate its native habitat they are surprisingly easy to grow.

Native to tropical South America they are very sensitive to cold weather, so much so that they will suffer damage if temperatures fall below 13 degrees Celsius! Put simply, Heliconia rostrata need it to be warm and humid which is why they are often seen in the tropical greenhouses of most botanical gardens. Position them in full sun to partial shade, although you will find they will tend to grow taller if they grown in shadier areas.

Heliconia rostrata prefer humus rich, free-draining soils with high organic matter. It will also require plenty of fertilizer and lots of water, particularly over the growing season. To prevent root damage through water-logging they are best grown on slopes or raised beds for good drainage.

If you are growing the Heliconia rostrata outside then heavy mulching is recommended to protect the soil from drying out around the roots. Heliconias are very drought intolerant, so you may need to provide additional irrigation in areas which suffer from low rainfall. They can even endure some soil flooding, but too much will again result in root damage.

The only significant pests of the Heliconia are grasshoppers, scale and mealybugs. Fungal diseases are rare although if the roots become too wet over the winter they can become susceptible to rots.

You should not prune Heliconias, as the stems are made up of rolled leaf bases from which the flowers emerge at the top. Each stem will only flower once, so after flowering you can remove it. This is recommended anyway to encourage more flowering, it will also increase airflow in between the stems reducing the incidence of fungal infection.

As with most of the Heliconias, it will be necessary to dig up the root-ball, divide it and replant. This is because flowering can be inhibited on established or root-bound specimens. Do not fertilize until you have good new growth, and do not water too much until you see the new growth emerge.

For related articles click onto the following articles:
HELICONIA ROSTRATA - The Lobster Claw Plant

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