The heliconia belongs to the Caribbean, like white dream beaches and parrots. With their unique splendor of flowers, the enchanting species transform living spaces and conservatories into a heavenly oasis of well-being. The most beautiful varieties are waiting to be discovered by you here. The exotic ranking is led by the Heliconia psittacorum, also known as the lobster claw or parrot flower. Although at first glance the common origin with the popular Strelizia cannot be denied, the cultivation of a heliconia takes place under modified conditions. You can find out how to properly care for this tropical beauty here.


  • Plant family of the heliconia family (Heliconiaceae)
  • Genus: Heliconia (Helikonia)
  • 225 species known to date, 180 of which are described in detail
  • Native to tropical regions, mostly on the Caribbean islands
  • Evergreen perennial with pseudostem
  • Growth height 60 to 200 cm
  • Stiffly upright or drooping growth
  • Brilliantly colored bracts with keeled bracts
  • Flowering time from April to July/August
  • Common names: lobster claw, false bird of paradise flower, parrot lobster claw

Selection of beautiful varieties

The only genus within the heliconia family comes up with colorful magnificent specimens that are not only suitable for distinctive houseplants. The parrot plants provide long-lasting cut flowers for imaginative bouquets or creative arrangements. Above all, the Heliconia psittacorum is recommended for pot culture. Immerse yourself in a selection of magnificent varieties:

Heliconia psittacorum ‘Andromeda’
The tautly upright growing variety spoils the eye with rich red flowers and orange colored bracts. From a distance, the flowers actually look like a lobster’s claws, growing to a height of 80 cm to 180 cm

Heliconia psittacorum ‘Golden Torch Sunshine’
With this hybrid, the sun rises in the living room and conservatory. The bright yellow bracts gather in small clusters of five on the inflorescence, creating a surprising appearance. The graceful, evergreen foliage harmonises wonderfully with this, growth height 60 cm to 150 cm

Heliconia psittacorum ‘Lady Di’
With this floral treasure, the breeder’s guide bows to the legendary princess. The multi-faceted colored bracts shine in red, yellow, green and orange above the filigree, evergreen foliage, growth height 20 cm to 30 cm

Heliconia psittacorum ‘Sassy’
Unsurpassed elegance characterizes this pink variety, which perfectly complements the delicate green of the leaves. If the gardener’s heart beats for subtle colors, ‘Sassy’ is an excellent choice, growth height 60 cm to 120 cm

Heliconia psittacorum ‘Strawberries and Cream’
This heliconia variety offers a play of colors in a class of its own. Even cerebral office workers won’t be able to resist the magic mix of pink, violet, yellow and cream, growth height 80 to 180 cm

Heliconia schiediana
Probably the most cold-tolerant species within the genus, because it tolerates 0 degrees Celsius for a short time. With orange-red and yellow marbled flowers appear from April until well into midsummer, growth height: 80 cm to 200 cm

Heliconia caribaea ‘Purpurea’
A magnificent specimen with dark purple bracts shaped like small ships. Since the bizarre flowers settle at particularly small intervals on the pseudostem, the result is an outstandingly lush appearance, growth height: 60 cm to 150 cm

Heliconia caribaea ‘Yellow Cream’
This enchanting hybrid is not dominated by the red tones, as is the case with most Heliconia species. Instead, the variety impresses with bright yellow, reddish-tinged flower boats, which creates a two-dimensional look, growth height: 80 cm to 200 cm


Wherever a heliconia is in the limelight, the observer assumes that it is being cared for with many years of horticultural experience. As the following care instructions show, the demands of a bird of paradise flower can be managed by newcomers.


If you keep an eye out for a heliconia during your Caribbean vacation, you will not discover the floral jewel in the blazing sunshine. Although the flower needs plenty of light to unfold its colorful splendor, it deliberately seeks a place in the shelter of mighty treetops or lush shrubs. As a result, this location for domestic cultivation:

  • Bright location, preferably with sun in the morning or evening
  • Preferably in light shade with protection from the blazing midday sun
  • Year-round temperatures of more than 18 degrees Celsius
  • High humidity of 60 percent and higher

A Heliconia psittacorum and its conspecifics show their most beautiful side in the warm, light-flooded conservatory. Alternatively, place the lobster claw on the west or east window.

Tip: Spraying a heliconia every day only raises the local humidity to the desired level for a short time. Although the flower will happily accept a gentle mist, keep bowls filled with water, a humidifier, or an aquarium nearby.

watering and fertilizing

Constant soil moisture contributes significantly to vitality and flowering. Always water when the surface of the substrate has dried. To test, press your finger into the ground. If the upper 2 cm feel dry, it is watered. As soon as the first water runs out of the bottom opening, the need is covered. Under no circumstances should moisture accumulate in the root area. The coaster will be poured out after 10 to 15 minutes. Resourceful hobby gardeners fill the saucer with pebbles and leave the excess water in it. The rising water vapor makes a valuable contribution to the locally increased humidity.

Use mostly soft water to water and spray a heliconia. Collected and filtered rainwater corresponds perfectly with the ideal conditions at the tropical natural site. Alternatively, hard tap water is descaled or should at least stand for a few days.

From April to September, fertilize heliconia plants every 14 days with a liquid preparation for exotic flowering plants. Optionally, water-soluble fertilizer powders or sticks can be used. As experience shows, long-term fertilizers are unsuitable for the lobster claw. An even distribution of the nutrients is not always guaranteed in the thick root network, which can lead to local overdoses.

To cut

Only cut wilted flowers and leaves when they are completely withered and yellowed. Until then, the mighty rhizomes withdraw all remaining nutrients from the above-ground parts of the plant in order to create reserves for the next budding. To cut a parrot flower as a vase decoration, proceed as follows:

  • Using a sharp, disinfected knife, cut about 2 cm from the end of the stem
  • Make the cut at a slight angle
  • Place in a vase with lukewarm, decalcified water

You can enjoy the flower as a vase decoration for two weeks or longer in a warm, humid location.


A lovingly cared for heliconia develops a fleshy, powerful rhizome from which numerous shoots sprout. Thus, within a year, the previous bucket was full of tightness. Therefore, in the spring, repot into a planter that is 3-5 cm larger so that growth can continue unhindered. It’s so easy:

  • Lay some potsherds over the bottom opening as drainage
  • Enrich loose potting soil with a low peat content with lava granules
  • Fill in a layer of this substrate over the drainage
  • Repot the bird of paradise flower to plant it while maintaining the previous planting depth

Press the substrate all around with a small stick, as cavities could impede further rooting. Finally, the repotted plant gets a good sip of water and returns to its original place.

Tip: New clay flower pots are submerged in water for 10 minutes before use. Otherwise, the material will draw too much water from the substrate after repotting, which the stressed roots will then lack.


Repotting is the ideal opportunity to propagate a heliconia. To do this, place the rhizome on a firm surface. Using a bread knife or saw, split the root ball into two or more segments. As long as a section has at least two shoots, it will continue to grow as an independent plant. To do this, place the rhizome piece in loose potting soil that has been optimized with sand or lava gravel. It is important to note that each tapered segment is planted as deep in the soil as before.

Hobby gardeners with little experience are not doomed to only admire a heliconia from afar. As this care guide shows, the tropical lobster claw is less capricious than its appearance might suggest. A bright location with warm temperatures all year round, combined with tropical humidity, set the course for healthy growth. Moderate watering with soft water and fortnightly fertilizing from April to September complete the compact care program.

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