Giants and Dwarfs- A Tale of Heliconias, Part 3
The "Mediums"

H. caribea 'Yellow'

H. pendula
 As with so many plant groups, there is a wide range of sizes to choose from when planning a garden or selecting a plant for the landscape. This is especially true in Heliconias, where there are species as small as 2 feet, and as tall as 50 feet. In South Florida, we can grow a great many varieties of Heliconias, primarily limited by their tolerances to cold weather and windstorms. There are 2 basic growth types in the genus: running-rhizome and clumping-rhizome.

In this medium-size, non-running group, often comprised of the H. caribea and H.bihai  hybrid lineage, there are dozens and dozens of plants available which grow comfortably in the 7-14 foot height range. I would arbitrarily call these the "medium" height group, as opposed to the "giants", from 14 to 30 feet. 

This group is fairly easy to grow, the clumps of stems stay tight together without spreading too much, and the flowers are quite flashy. The group has both upright and pendant flowers, although the pendant-flower plants tend to grow more erect and taller than the upright-flower types. They like a lot of strong light, and will grow nicely in all-day sunlight, if there is ample water and protection from strong wind, especially in the winter. 

One of the biggest keys to success is to keep the plants well fertilized. A well grown clump of Heliconia will require more fertilizer than almost any plant in your garden, and equaled only by bananas as gluttons for food. In our area, we install a new plant with several pounds of controlled-release fertilizer in the planting soil, along with an equal amount of organic fertilizer such as compost, activated sludge, or rose fertilizer. The plants grow into their new homes quickly, but we still maintain a quarterly liquid fertilizer program heavy on magnesium and potassium, 2 components that Heliconias really need. 

H. rostrata 'Mishualli'
can grow to 15 feet
To reiterate the basic needs to grow this genus successfully, be prepared to water and fertilize the larger species often, give them plenty of space, abundant mulch and organic material, and some occasional removal of old stems. Once they are well established, this genus will put on a show of flowers unrivaled in the landscape world. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

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