Heliconia

A bright flame

Bats and hummingbirds pollinate these plants, and while these flowerpeckers find them a tasty source of food, we also enjoy the brilliant fiery bracts, or lobster claws - however you want to look at them. The small water reservoirs in the leaves also enhance the lives of many mosquitoes and frogs. Luckily this only applies to the outdoor variants. And if you sit out on the balcony or in the garden in the summer, this member of the Zingiberales family will be delighted to keep you company. A great plant companion!

Heliconia - Thejoyofplants.co.ukCopyright: Lidewij Smeur

Colours and shapes

Heliconia looks like a cross between Indian shot, bird of paradise and banana plant. In the wild the plant can grow to a height of 5 m, but before you have your ceiling removed bear in mind that indoors it will only reach about 30 cm. The bracts grow amidst the sturdy, bouncy leaves, turning this unusual plant into a celebration. They have an eye-catching red, round, pointy shape with a hint of green and yellow. Small insignificant red, orange, yellow or pink flowers grow between the bracts. You can opt for upright or hanging habits.

Symbolism

If you want to stay young and beautiful, buy a Heliconia. Or you could go the whole hog and fill your house with the plant. The plant is named after the Greek Mount Helikon, where the Muses lived. They always remained fresh, fruity, beautiful and the young. The mountain is now in the Zagreb range in Boeotia. 

Origin

Heliconia originates from Central and South America and from a number of southern islands in the Pacific Ocean, and was first discovered in 1786. This moodmaker is now planted in the tropics all around the globe. In the past it was a member of the Musaceae family, and is now the only plant in the Heliconiaceae family. But there are 200 species, so it’s not lonely!