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Growing Heliconias

Heliconia, derived from the Greek word Ἑλικώνιος (helikṓnios), is a genus of flowering plants in the monotypic family Heliconiaceae. Most of the 194 known species are native to the tropical Americas, but a few are indigenous to certain islands of the western Pacific and Maluku.

Growing Heliconia’s in your garden creates a tropical cool feeling all year round.

Selecting plants for location in your garden

Choosing the right heliconia for the right location.  Heliconia plants can range in sizes from 50cm the smallest plant to the largest plant 10 meters tall. Most varieties of Heliconia will grow well in full sun and part shade. Plants grown in full shade tend to grow taller. Heliconia plants also need to be planted in a protected area away from strong winds.

Soil

Heliconia plants prefer humidity, light and freely draining soils with high organic matter, with a soil PH between 5-6.5. Mulching is very important, Heliconia plants love high organic matter. Best types of mulch is hay or cane mulch. This protects the soil from drying out, and enhances the soil’s micro-organisms.

Fertilisers and Watering

Heliconia plants are heavy feeders, fertilizing them in the growing season with a complete fertilizer every 6 to 8 weeks and watering 10mls a day when plants are established will get the best results of plant growth and flowers. You can add extra potash when plants are flowering.

Pest and Disease

The only significant pests for gardeners are grasshoppers. Diseases are rare but wet feet, especially in winter from over watering, can cause rot  root, Phytophora. In the cooler months, plants can get leaf spot a fungal disease.

Maintenance of established plants

Pruning your Heliconia, as the ‘stem’ is actually made up of rolled leaf bases. Each stem will only flower once, so after flowering you can cut that stem out. Cut out any leaf damage.

This is recommended, to encourage more new growth for more flowers, and to increase airflow in between the stems of your plant, and also to generally tidy it up and improve the appearance. If plants grow outside the designated area cut to 30 cm then dig them out. Most Heliconia plants are shallow rooted to about 40 cm.

Propagation

Most Heliconia plants prefer temperature’s above 20C.

The best propagation times for Heliconia is between September-February

The colourful bracts, are in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink and green, which protect the true flowers that lies inside the bract.

The size and weight of Heliconia rhizomes varies depending on the species or variety. Smaller species, such as psittacorum rhizomes, may weigh only 50 to 70g. Rhizomes of large Heliconia like Caribaea varieties may weigh 300g to 700g and more. The rhizome should have growing ‘buds’ or new shoots.

Planting instructions

Rhizomes are sent free of dirt and properly disinfected according to set standards. Your rhizome is carefully packed in damp newspaper and plastic bag so that it won’t get damaged during shipment.

growing heliconia 2

When you receive your rhizome you need to plant it as soon as possible.  Notice the line in the photo.  Plant the rhizome in earth or pot up to this line so that you don’t bury it too deeply. Keep the soil or pot mulched and free of weeds. Water the plants weekly with a week Seaweed solution until plants establish themselves. Then use a complete fertilizer product every 6 to 8 weeks throughout the growing season. It’s important that you don’t over water new plants as it may cause root rot.

It is best not to interrupt the rhizomes while they are growing, as the roots and new shoots that develop at the base of the rhizome are delicate. It is normal for the old stem to decay and die, and a new shoot will emerge from the base of the rhizome. Some rhizomes will shoot within days, others can take months. Do not give up if nothing appears to be happening – it can take time.

If you have planted into a pot you will need to have a free draining medium, if the medium is too dense or wet plants will die.

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Growing Ginger

Beehive, Alpinia, Costas and Torch are all part of the Ginger family. They are extremely unique flowers from the regions of Hawaii, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. These curious flowers are in all sizes, shapes and colours. They are extremely popular for both cut flower arrangements and home gardens.
The Gingers unusual appearance and vivid colours certainly make for conversation whenever they are spotted in a garden.

 Selecting Plants for Location in you garden

When looking to plant gingers in your garden, things to consider, is the type of ginger and the room you need to plant, where the flower is on the plant, so it can make an impact in your garden.
Alipina gingers- flowers are at the end of the stem.
Beehive gingers- flowers are under the plants canopy up to 50 cm of the ground.
Costas- flowers are at the end of the stem as well as the bottom.
Torch gingers- flowers are in the middle of the plant under the canopy.
Plants can grow in full sun but I have found them to be better in Flited light of 30% to 40%.
Gingers can grow from 50mm to 4 meters. Ginger plants have a fantastic structure that has a good architecture look for landscaping.

Soil

Ginger plants prefer humid soils, light and freely draining soils with high organic matter, but some Torch gingers will grow in some very swampy areas. Ginger plants like sweeter soils with a soil PH between 6 -6.5. Mulching is very important, ginger plants love high organic matter. Best types of mulch is hay or cane mulch. This protect the soil from drying out, and enhances the soil’s micro-organisms.

Fertilisers and Watering

Ginger plants like to be fertilized in the growing season with a complete fertilizer every 10 weeks and watered 10mls every 2nd day when plants are established. This will get the best results of plant growth and flowers. You can add exter potash when plants are flowering.

Pest and Disease

The only significant pests for gardeners are grasshoppers and nematodes. Diseases is rare but wet feet, especially in winter from over watering, can cause rot the root Phytophora. In the cooler months, plants can get leaf spot a fungal disease.

Maintenance of established plants

Pruning your Ginger.
Alipina and Torch gingers will need to have old flowers cut out to keep the plant tidy, and to encourage more new growth for more flowers, and to increase airflow in between the stems of your plant.
Beehive gingers on the other hand are self-cleaning, their old foliage stems will die and rot into the ground as the new stems emerge. You can just pull them out to tidy the plant.
If Plants grow outside the designated area cut to 30 cm then dig them out. All Ginger plants are shallow rooted to about 40 cm.

Propagation

Ginger are very hardy plants and can grow right down the eastern coast of Queensland and into northern parts of New South Wales as well as the Top End of Northern Territory and Western Australia. There are some plants that will grow all the way down the NSW coast line like the Costas plant. Others plants can grow if planted in the right conditions will grow in Sydney. But most ginger plants prefer humid conditions.
The best propagation times for gingers is between September-February.
Gingers come in a range of colors.
Beehives – greens, chocolate, lemon, and Apricot.
Torch and Alipina gingers- white, shades of pink and shades of red.
Costas- light and dark reds.
The size and weight of ginger rhizomes varies depending on the species you chose. All rhizomes should have growing ‘buds’ or new shoots.

Planting instructions

Rhizomes are sent free of dirt and properly disinfected according to set standards. Your rhizome is carefully packed in damp newspaper and plastic bag so that it won’t get damaged during shipment.
When you receive your rhizome you need to plant it as soon as possible. Plant the rhizome in earth or pot up, you don’t bury it too deeply.
Keep the soil or pot mulched and free of weeds. Water the plants lightly at first with a week Seaweed solution until plants establish themselves. Then use a complete fertilizer product every 10 weeks though out the growing season. It’s important that you don’t over water new plants as it may course root rot.
It is best not to interrupt the rhizomes while they are growing, as the roots and new shoots that develop at the base of the rhizome are delicate. It is normal for the old stem to decay and die, and a new shoot will emerge from the base of the rhizome. Some rhizomes will shoot within days, others can take months. Do not give up if nothing appears to be happening – it can take time.
If you have planted into a pot you will need to have a free draining medium, if the medium is too dense or wet plants will die.