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Heliconia for zone  9a?

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Is there any Heliconia that I could grow in Texas without a green house?

Thanks,

Ania

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Heliconia scheideana is supposed to be the hardiest. The only problem is that it usually takes 2 years to flower so if it freezes down, it will have to make it a year without freezing to flower.

I have found H. lingulata to be a strong grower that would be worth trying. We had it freeze down several years ago and it was flowering by June so it didn't need 2 years growth. H. rostrata is another hardy one but usually flowers on 2nd year growth. One other that might make it there is H. vaginalis.

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(Eric in Orlando @ Aug. 10 2007,10:15)

QUOTE
Heliconia scheideana is supposed to be the hardiest. The only problem is that it usually takes 2 years to flower so if it freezes down, it will have to make it a year without freezing to flower.

I have found H. lingulata to be a strong grower that would be worth trying. We had it freeze down several years ago and it was flowering by June so it didn't need 2 years growth. H. rostrata is another hardy one but usually flowers on 2nd year growth. One other that might make it there is H. vaginalis.

I grow the schiedeana and it does indeed take 2 years to flower. They are hardy though.

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I have 3 in the yard (unprotected)... Rostrata, Schiediana and Pedro Ortiz. They come back every year after they go down, and grow well, but don't bloom.

Conversely, I have a stand of H. psitticorum x spathocircinata "Golden Torch" planted in the yard that I cover with a temporary poly hoophouse each winter and heat on the few nights when its going to frost. That one blooms every season.

Just a *****wee***** bit of winter protection, and you can have a blooming heliconia there.

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I'm trialing a lot of the supposedly hardier Heliconia this year, most raised from rhizomes or smaller plants planted this past spring:

H. aemygdiana

H. aurantiaca

H. champneiana 'Maya Blood'

H. collinsiana

H. latispatha 'orange gyro'

H. latispatha 'red-yellow'

H. latispatha 'distans'

H. lingulata 'red tip fan'

H. lingulata 'spiral'

H. richardiana 'Little Richard'

H. rostrata

H. schiediana

H. subulata

and Hybrids:

H. collinseana x bourgeana 'Pedro Ortiz'

H. psitt. x spathocircinata 'Guyana'

and several psittacorum types, but even the relatively hardy 'Andromeda' I don't expect to make it to spring without rotting away. I just use these as annuals, and they're worth it!

Most of these are planted up against the south-facing front of the house, soil amended with heavy amounts of sand and about the best drainage I can provide. Most get good sun but I keep collinsiana under Tetrapanax for a good amount of shade. It's doing pretty well under these conditions.

What I can say so far is that 'Pedro Ortiz' is the most vigorous, from rhizome to 5' in a few months' time. This grows with something approaching the speed of a banana or a canna. I find it hard to believe this won't be capable of blooming in a season. I believe others have said that its rhizome can make it through the winter in the lower Gulf states from about 9a south. H. latispatha 'Orange Gyro' and lingulata are not too far behind in growth-rate. I've been told that full-size latispatha can bloom in a season if given the right conditions...often the size and age of the rhizome-mat determining its ability to do so.

Aemygdiana and 'Little Richard' have been very slow to establish and I've moved them into more shade and they seem to be doing a bit better. I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences?

I don't expect anything other than foliage from rostrata or schiediana, and am just curious whether their roots will survive to provide foliage at the least.

I hold out the most hope for the following, which bloom at relatively small size and are supposedly quite root-hardy in a cool winter:

H. subulata. These are from Argentina, deal with cool winters in their homeland, and bloom continually. Those at Fairchild seem to bloom at about the 7th leaf. Mine have been a bit slow to establish but are starting to speed up now.

H. latispatha 'Distans' - again these bloom at about 7-8 leaves from what I've been able to count. Mine are approaching this size and it's only August, so I have hope!

Eric or someone else perhaps further north, please chip in with any other ideas or experience on the above, or perhaps ideas on species/varieties that might be able to make it through chilly winters and bloom on a single season's growth??? I'm really curious about 'Pedro Ortiz' and whether it may be able to bloom the first season out, or survive in a protected spot through mid-20s to bloom the following spring.

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We don't have the hot humid summers to promote rapid growth of Heliconias here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I am also growing several of the species you list, such as H. latispatha, H. scheideana, H. bourgeana, H. matthiesea, H. aurantiaca.  All of these have done well for me with our cool summers, mild winters, and for sure the H. scheideana is the hardiest to freezing, with it reliably coming back from the roots with killing freezes down to 24F here in my garden, which it saw back in December 1990 and again in 1998.  I would suspect that it can take colder if well mulched and given excellent drainage.

I am intrigued to hear that H. x 'Pedro Ortiz' and 'Golden Torch' may be worth trying in less than year round mild locations, although I suspect they want more heat in summer than we have here, and probably neither push new growth in our normal winters as do all the species that I currently have.  None of my Heliconias seem at all fazed by winter nights down into the high 30'sF with days only warming up into the high 50'sF, which is normal for several months here in Berkeley/Oakland.  All of mine also came through just fine with just some minor foliage burn at temps down to 28F this past January, with the H. latispatha and H. scheideana already in full bloom.

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Has bourgeana bloomed for you in the Bay Area? It's one of the parents of 'Pedro Ortiz' and I'm wondering if the supposed cold-tolerance and vigor of this hybrid comes from bourgeana or collinsiana. Collinsiana seems a much more delicate plant than 'Ortiz' but I wonder if that, too, might be something you could try there. I'm not confident I will ever see blooms on my collinsiana, though it's in a protected spot. It's a possibility if we have a very mild winter, I suppose. You might also try pendula as I understand they're cool-tolerant. Also you might try subulata because it's commonly grown in New Zealand, where it is rated as about the best Heliconia for that relatively chilly climate. Also angusta 'Red Holiday' if you can keep it frost-free, as it blooms in late fall and winter. It's used to relatively cool winters in SE Brazil. I have a large clump that I recently planted out in a protected spot but don't expect ever to see flowers, unless it starts blooming in October.

When I was living in L.A., Don Hodel gave me a small piece of H. lankesteri v. lankesteri, which he said he collected at some ridiculous elevation in Central or northern South America, about 7000' if I recall. The blossom on that variety looks beautiful in photos. Unfortunately I managed to kill mine by rotting the rhizome so I never got a chance to test it. I'd love to get ahold of another plant to try it in this climate. Aurantiaca seems very slow and almost struggling to me here, I'm wondering if it's actually sensitive to the constant warmth here in the summers. I've also seen straggly specimens in Miami at Fairchild.

Here our problems are the chilly, often wet winters, with an average Jan temp of 40/60 --a similar situation to many areas around S.F....but while you stay generally frost-free in air-drained areas close to water, we get those occasional arctic blasts and in fact it's a rarity at least right here to be free of at least one sub-25 night. Very occasionally in the teens or even lower. If Ania is in Houston I think she's probably more like a 9b, about five degrees warmer than we have here, and I think she has a better chance of overwintering some of the two-season bloomers like rostrata, schiediana, etc., at least for several winters per decade. And it sounds like you can generally keep your stems up over winter as well. Though I remember seeing schiediana blasted to the ground at the Oakland Palmetum in the '90 freeze, where I heard it hit 17F (when all the Ficus nitida on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley were killed outright and replaced by some nasty-looking pear trees).

Where I'm located it's a dodgy proposition at best to overwinter stems. We're just barely too cold to get Alpinia zerumbet to winter over except for that occasional warm winter. In Baton Rouge, about two degrees warmer, those often stay up to bloom in protected spots. One fellow on another board claimed to have overwintered 'Pedro Ortiz' in Lake Charles, Louisiana at 24F, where rostrata and schiediana surrounding it were burned to the ground. I find that hard to believe without some sort of protection, but perhaps it' possible. Let's hope so!

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What is the trick to growing H. bourgeana in the SF bay area?  I have a few, from tiny seedlings to a pretty reasonably-sized rhizome, and they don't seem happy.  I'm in the process of losing my last seedling.  I have H. schiediana (a champ) and H. subulata (for a few weeks now).  H. subulata is growing quite well.  I'm hopeful.  

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Jason

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One thing on raising these plants that I've learned, because I had 99% success this spring--but mind you with a good amount of heat and humidity to boot--was to take freshly purchased rhizomes (usually having spent 2-3 days in shipping) and plant them in black nursery pots, in a mixture of about 40% Miracle-Gro Potting Soil (there's lots of peat in that and just enough food to help out) and 60% sand. Kept on concrete in at least half a day's full-strength sun. You'd think this would bake these things but they all grew. Took about a month but they all sprouted. Only latispatha (and especially 'distans)', aemygdiana and richardiana seemed to be happier in partial shade. Richardiana took the longest to sprout, probably two months.

In the Bay Area, I'd say that if you have rhizomes, plant them as above against a south or west-facing wall on concrete, and be very careful with watering them, just to keep them lightly moist, though the sand in the mix saves you from a lot of well-meant excesses in the TLC department. Also, don't mess with them to see if they've rooted. You can break off the delicate young roots by disturbing them. If seedlings, I'd think that putting them in a sphagnum or peat mix in a large ziplock in a warm place would germinate them, and then transfer them to the sand/Miracle-Gro mix in, say a one-gallon can with a makeshift greenhouse (plastic bag) on top once they have a few leaves. But damping off would be a problem with the cool nights, I'd think, except with species that are absolutely used to cool nights in their native climate. I was rarely able to successfully grow Heliconia rhizomes in L.A., probably both because of the cool nights and not realizing that the mix had to be mostly sand to eliminate the rot quotient.

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I must admit that it is much easier to get any of the Heliconias started here in the SF Bay Area if they are bought in Los Angeles in the spring, as all of my plants were.  I have never had any losses of H. bourgeana from actively growing 5 gallon plants, although none have bloomed yet for me, even after 3 years in 15 gallon cans.  I must admit I don't give them the attention they deserve, although H. latispatha and H. scheideana bloom well in containers under the same regimen.  I am not sure what is going on with the H. aurantiaca I have, they are growing alright, but not getting the height to them as I saw them in habitat in the highlands of Veracruz/Oaxaca.  I suspect they like the days warm and the afternoons/eveings basked in fog, as this was the conditions I saw them growing in.  H. collinsiana was also growing in this same general area, as was H. bourgeana, but I know for a fact that H. collinsiana is more demanding of warmer winter lows to do well, and only know of this blooming in warmest parts of Los Angeles, and none here, that I know of.  H. bourgeana seems as hardy to winter lows here as the others, but still has not bloomed for me.  I really should get some of this into the ground for a valid test.

H. angusta'Christmas Cheer' did not do well for me over the winter outdoors; it didn't die, but it failed to thrive for me as the others do, even if they don't always bloom.  It was also entirely too prone to spider mites and mealy bug when grown indoors, so I left it outdoors to finally slowly die.  H. subulata sounds interesting, but I don't know of any California sources.  I think I also did have the other H. lankesteri v. lankesteri bought as a very expensive seedling from that Hollywood retail nursery with the wierdly spelled name, but it died rather quickly once I got it home.

I do have several H. bourgeana that I would be more than willing to trade for subulata or Pedro Ortiz, so let me know.  They are planted currently in 15 gallon size cans, and are about 8 to 9 feet tall.

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Very interesting to hear of your experiences with aurantiaca, collinsiana, etc. Maybe you're right that aurantiaca really does just need lots of mist and humidity to do well, and perhaps with that some shade, at least in warm-summer areas. It does appear that it's fussy! About the worst grower I have here right now, though I started with a very small, weak plant this spring.

I purchased two plants of subulata, one from Phil Bergman at Jungle Music, he is very helpful though the plant was quite expensive...then someone offered one on eBay and I bought it as well, for a much lower price. Both were in excellent condition and are now planted and adjusting quite well. Fairchild really promotes this Heliconia as an everblooming, cold-hardy species, able to withstand occasional light freezes with no damage, and it's odd to me that it seems virtually unobtainable in the U.S., I had never even heard of it in years of research and planting in southern California. Google it and you'll see that it's very popular in New Zealand, some seem to indicate it's hardier than schiediana. I have seen the plants at Fairchild, they have them planted all over the place and indeed they are very attractive, some only about 3' tall, others about 5' and they do seem to always be in bloom.

Unfortunately a very good source, Montoso Gardens in Puerto Rico, doesn't ship to California due to quarantine restrictions. That's a bummer. You might ask them if they could handle getting an inspection for you at extra cost. Very helpful people, prices are good and all rhizomes arrived in excellent condition. They ship by Priority Mail so you'll have them within 3-4 days of shipping. There are some other companies on the internet that offer rhizomes but I haven't really had experience with them.

I see there is a growing plant of 'Pedro Ortiz' currently on auction on eBay, I couldn't find anything saying they can't ship to California so you might try that, but double-check the California quarantine situation before you bid...

I would think you might still be able to get a rhizome and have it root in the warmer and sunnier September/October Bay Area climate.

One thing to remember is that a good number of Heliconias are photoperiod-sensitive for bloom-initiation. This is the case with the angusta 'Holiday' types as well as rostrata, I believe...and that means you need to make sure it's kept out of artificial light at night. That may be a source of difficulty with getting them to bloom if you're keeping them in a lit environment or near bright landscape lighting. I'm not sure if that's an issue with bourgeana or not.

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WoW  :P  Really appreciate the level of experience/expertise on this web site even on non-palm subjects.

Like epicure I planted heliconia [though psittacorum instead of schiedeana] 2 yrs ago with flowering that still look good after 5 months in bloom  :D  Several neighbors have planted heiiconia now. Put in stricta & rostrata this summer; will they flower all year in SoCal?

from that Hollywood retail nursery with the wierdly spelled name

bahia - is that nursery Xotx-Tropico? Will your namesake [Lobster Claw 1 & 2] survive down here?

Mike - thanks for the info  :P

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A lot of rhizatomous plants seem very picky about where they will grow and when (or even IF) they will flower.

Maybe its the depth they are planted or some other factor.

I admit to not yet trying Heliconea but for the last 10/11 years my clump of Heychium coccineum "Tara" has always given a nice display of leaves and never a single flower and it is in a sunny warm position.

Ive tried everything including high Potash to induce flowering but no go.

BTW high potash does appear to work with "shy" flowering Puyas and usually one application is all that is required.

Regardez all

Juan

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Yes, that is the name of the nursery in Hollywood.  I wouldn't know about growing H. rostrata or H. stricta in southern California, but they are certainly not hardy enough to be grown outdoors here year round in northern California, it has been my impression that they prefer their nights above 40F year round, and I think H. collinsiana is the same.  H. collinsiana can take the occasional freeze and return from the roots, where I saw it thriving in gardens in Orizaba at 4000 foot elevation in Veracruz state, it does occasionally freeze or even have snow flurries, but typically the winter season is very short, only 4 to 6 weeks long, and only chilly into low 50's/high 40'sF at night and quickly warming back up into high 60's or 70's during the day, even in January.  So the typical conditions are much more similar to Gulf Coast/south Florida than California.

H. angusta does well enough in Los Angeles as a blooming plant in milder areas, but again, even on a covered porch which tends to moderate the absolute winter lows of a very balmy lagoon/bayside garden in Alameda, this species did not like our winters.  Again, I suspect it doesn't like weeks on end of temps below 40F, which is absolutely normal throughout the SF Bay Area.  Getting it to flower inside in an enclosed sunporch was not a problem, but the plant was very insect prone, and I just don't have the kind of patience to baby an indoor plant continuously to keep it healthy.  So outside it went where it refused to either thrive or die.  I also tried H. rostrata outdoors here, and it was a complete failure to thrive.  H. psittacorum needs much more heat than we ever even get in summer, and this one didn't even do well as in indoor plant for me.

For all these failures, it has made me a little gun shy to try new Heliconia types, especially if they are expensive to begin with, that I suspect need real heat to perform.  I'm waiting to hear that someone is growing and blooming 'Golden Torch' or 'Pedro Ortiz here in the SF Bay Area near the bay, and then you can bet I will jump all over it.  Until then, I will stick with the ones I already have, and grow well for me.  Maybe I will even get some of the recalitrant ones to actually bloom, but they still look nice even without flowers...

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No one grows Heliconia's over here because you can't get them. I managed to get some H psittacorum's from the tropics which flowered for me last summer. I also planted a H rostrata that I grew from imported seed which has grown through winter pushing up new growth from the rhizome in winter. This surprised me. The plant is now multistemmed and up to the gutters of the house, maybe 8-9ft tall. Some have said that this one will grow but not flower in California. Does rostrata put out active growth in winter in California? My plant has not seen below 4.5C this winter and I'm hoping it will flower this summer. It gets watered copiuosly in summer. What are my chances that it flowers?

regards

Tyrone

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Bahia - again thanks for the advice  :D

That West Hollywood nursery has a large/diverse selection of heliconia. Though primarily interested in palms I did purchase & subsequently plant H. stricta ["sharoni"] in partial shade [rostrata was planted earlier this summer.

low 50's/high 40'sF at night and quickly warming back up into high 60's or 70's during the day, even in January.  So the typical conditions are much more similar to Gulf Coast/south Florida than California.

If the above conditions are favorable for more tender heliconia than I should be fine since the average winter minimum's are between 50F-52F & winter maximums 69F-72F [south Florida is warmer by 5-10 degrees.  Because of my hilltop location I don't experience frost [lowest minimum during last January's freeze was 37F.

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I'm not good at heliconias at all, but H. psittacorum has become widely available at the big stores, and grows like a weed.  Well, at least it spreads fast.  I wonder whether, given some mulch, they might make good garden perennials farther north.  

It's taken me four years to get H. collinsiana to flower.  

I'm amazed that Michael Norrell is growing some of these plants in Natchez!  Gotta visit that historic town sometime.

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From what I'm told all the strictas are very demanding in terms of wanting warm nighttime temps year-round. Eric at Leu Gardens has posted that they are very marginal at Orlando, and that's a good deal warmer on average than L.A. is. When I lived in L.A., in Los Feliz, I tried stricta 'Dwarf Jamaican' and it hated the cool summers and failed to thrive. It tanked very early in the winter, perhaps even in late fall. I had the same experience with a large variety of psittacorum types I imported from Hawai'i. They just hate cool nights and chilly temps.

Of those that I tried in California, aside from schiediana, only a small specimen of rostrata grew half-decently, but even that never gained any size and eventually bit the dust, though it was not in an ideal spot. I had purchased a couple of others (I think bourgeana and one more) at the Arboretum plant sale, I think from Desert to Jungle Nurseries, but I had to give them away when I moved. It looks like they've changed their name to World Wide Exotics, but that nursery may be a good source to try.

It just looks like most Heliconias are very sensitive to cool, wet soil, and frost is not the only bully to be found in their court. Unfortunately California specializes in winters characterized by cool, wet soil, those conditions lasting far into spring--and that's why it's best to find high-elevation species that are used to temps in the 40s (or colder) at night on a regular basis. Here in the Gulf states we also have cold, wet winter soils but by March temps are warming up nicely. Coastal California has to wait until June or even July for the soil to warm decently due to the effects of the chilly Pacific.

A Heliconia site in Puerto Rico published a list of high-altitude Heliconia, which you can find here: high altitude Heliconias

Now of course, the difficulty is finding sources for so many of these intriguing species!

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So our Florida steambath has its virtues.  I need to mention that Eric's garden in Orlando is a good place to see heliconias.  

I've got a thriving patch of H. stricta "iris red", but they haven't been challenged by a serious cold snap, yet.  Not to mention that I'm hoping to finally see serious flowering this fall!

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2 years now with H stricta "Bucky" and no flower here in Melbourne Beach,Fl.

The box store psittacorum spread and bloom like crazy, however.....as long as I keep the sand , er, soil amended.... they will "bloom bleached" if I don't.....

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(mnorell @ Aug. 21 2007,13:10)

QUOTE
From what I'm told all the strictas are very demanding in terms of wanting warm nighttime temps year-round. Eric at Leu Gardens has posted that they are very marginal at Orlando, and that's a good deal warmer on average than L.A. is. When I lived in L.A., in Los Feliz, I tried stricta 'Dwarf Jamaican' and it hated the cool summers and failed to thrive. It tanked very early in the winter, perhaps even in late fall. I had the same experience with a large variety of psittacorum types I imported from Hawai'i. They just hate cool nights and chilly temps.

Of those that I tried in California, aside from schiediana, only a small specimen of rostrata grew half-decently, but even that never gained any size and eventually bit the dust, though it was not in an ideal spot. I had purchased a couple of others (I think bourgeana and one more) at the Arboretum plant sale, I think from Desert to Jungle Nurseries, but I had to give them away when I moved. It looks like they've changed their name to World Wide Exotics, but that nursery may be a good source to try.

It just looks like most Heliconias are very sensitive to cool, wet soil, and frost is not the only bully to be found in their court. Unfortunately California specializes in winters characterized by cool, wet soil, those conditions lasting far into spring--and that's why it's best to find high-elevation species that are used to temps in the 40s (or colder) at night on a regular basis. Here in the Gulf states we also have cold, wet winter soils but by March temps are warming up nicely. Coastal California has to wait until June or even July for the soil to warm decently due to the effects of the chilly Pacific.

A Heliconia site in Puerto Rico published a list of high-altitude Heliconia, which you can find here: high altitude Heliconias

Now of course, the difficulty is finding sources for so many of these intriguing species!

Thanks for the encouragement Mike  :laugh:  

I know that it is a slow-go process for tropicals in coastal Cali.  I think last winter's near-total absence of rain produced some interesting displays w/ a nice little forest of flowering psittacorum.  Delonix regia has never flowered for me but look fantastic around San Diego bay this year even after some really cold temps [close to freezing in SD last January  :o

Plants don't often die but remain lethargic especially during winter/spring.  The hillsides/tops stay as warm is it gets in LA but rains followed by weeks of minimums in the 40's cause yellowing on many palms though bananas stay healthy.

Heliconia is located in the most sunny section of my garden.  Any Californios growing stricta/rostrata?

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Sorry, happ, I don't mean to be discouraging! I think we should all try even when people tell us something probably won't make it. You may be able to get your sharonii to do beautifully in the right place, I just meant to say that you might look at some of the other species or hybrids as more likely to succeed in trial than the stricta group. Not that I'm advocating something as extreme as, say, trying Cyrtostachys in San Francisco, but you never know until you try when something unknown or marginal will take hold and thrive. From my own middling experience, I thought rostrata was a fairly poor performer for SoCal until I heard enough stories that people were having some luck with it, at least in the right position...and on that note I'm surprised to hear that Delonix are flowering at San Diego Bay, I did see a photo of one last year during the heatwaves east of downtown SD, that was a shock since we all know they aren't supposed to like those cool evenings, at least not for any bloom.

My personal experience, and I think that of many other people trying out unusual plants, is that finding something with a particular look that is adaptable to your climate can be a challenge, but it often can be done. You may have to look very hard and be patient in finding the plant you want to test, and once you have it try it three (or more) times, changing siting, light, soil mixture, hardier genetics of an individual, etc. before you get one to take for you. And of course that tries the patience of any but us loonies haunting these boards.

Heliconias are just an oddball thing in that they are so showy, and yet few people seem to be interested in growing them, and nurseries don't grow or stock them. And they have going against them that they're slower to put out leaves than ornamental bananas or gingers, they often take two seasons to bloom, and many of them seem particularly susceptible to rot in less-than-Miami winters. And there just appears to be very little literature on their cultivation in extra-tropical regions.

But we can only learn by testing these plants, if we want to get a good idea of how they can adapt, whether it be in Alameda, L.A., Houston, Natchez, New Orleans, Charleston, Orlando, Vero Beach, etc. and places farther afield. From what Tyrone in Perth wrote, it already looks like H. rostrata, which people apparently have to baby a bit in southern California, appears to thrive in Perth, which is only a few degrees warmer than San Diego or L.A. That's useful info indeed from my perspective! After many years of slow trial and error, we now know that schiediana and at least a few others can be happily cultivated into northern California, and by that yardstick there must be others that can be cultivated despite a long, chilly winter...the problem is that all of these little-known species need to be acquired and tested. I hope that a lot of us will keep this thread going and report their experiences with any Heliconia, and in so doing speed up the process of finding what will succeed where!

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Thanks for the thorough feedback, Mike.  It's valuable information particularly since you have gardened in several quite diverse regions [bahai also].  As I wrote before, having people who are interested & knowledgeable in other than just palms is a real plus  :P

Maybe you can also share your experiences with palms.  For example, I grew a healthy areca catechu unprotected in a pot for 2 winters.  Only to totally screw-up the transplantation by severely damaging roots.  From that point on "little bethel nut" just sat - no growth whatsoever for a year.  Finally put it out of its misery  :laugh:  Needed space for a HD fishtail.  

I picked up another A. catechu that was grown locally but not outside [so big deal  ???  It's been in dappled sun for 2 weeks. Should I move it into more sun soon?

What's amazing about California are all the micro-climates at 32-34 N. latitude [Phoenix/Dallas/Atlanta/Santiago/Buenos Aires/Madeira  

Is/Casablanca/Crete/Jerusalem/Baghdad/Kashmir/Sichuan/Nagasaki/Cape Town/Perth/Sydney] Winters provide the only semi-reliable rainfall of the year.  Suppose tender plants don't benefit at all & well-established trees tolerate it better but a series of storms out of the gulf of Alaska can saturate/chill the soil.  It may warm up quickly between these N Pacific systems if hi pressure builds.  But then we contend with strong extremely dry wind.  Thankfully the lower foothills are spared the worse of santa ana effects  :o

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Start a thread under betel nut over in the palm section and I'll pitch in what I can...and about at least one other Areca worth trying. Just to make sure this thread doesn't move away from Heliconias.

As far as climates in the horse latitudes and thereabouts goes, yes, there is great variation and California has its own weirdness, and that certainly does present its own stresses on many tropical plants! At least many of them are quite forgiving as long as they get irrigation in the summer. Most of the lowland Heliconias offer up a lot of challenges since there's no humid, wet summer to really kick in their growth, but at least the high-elevation species seem to feel rather at home in amended soil with sufficient water. At least they can push new growth even in the cool nighttime temps, whereas so many tropical plants just struggle along slowly because I think when they're making new cells, at night, the temps aren't warm enough to support rapid production.

It's amazing for me in my current climate to watch how differently tropical plants grow as compared to the cool coastal California climate. Take as a case in point Senna alata (Candle bush), a tropical American plant that is widely grown throughout the tropics. Years ago I tried to grow it rather unsuccessfully in California, and I really can't ever recall seeing it cultivated there; but here in the humid south it's another story altogether: it can sprout from seed in April, attain 10-12 feet in height by August and be covered in spectacular blooms until it's cut down by frost in November or December. You can almost watch these massive plants grow, they respond so well to heat and humidity. And though they rather refuse to resprout from the roots after anything colder than a 9b winter, they reseed freely, so every year there's a new crop popping up everywhere. It sets the two climates in bold relief for me...and the question begs, aren't there at least some Heliconias that can do that single-season growth-and-flowering thing and still live over (at least the rhizomes) to do it all over again the next year?

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Does anyone know how quickly H. subulata starts to throw up new shoots and when it can be divided?  I think I've passed the "gonna lose this one to rot" phase (the one stem is firmly rooted in the pot of soil) and, before I plant it out, I want to divide it and hand out some divisions just in case it's the real thing.

We're having pretty reliable temps in the mid-80s during the day, mid-50s to 60 deg F as early-morning min.  That should last through at least the first three weeks of Sept.

Jason

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Jason, if all you have is one shoot, I'd strongly advise you to resist the temptation to attempt a division at this early stage in its life, first because there's probably nothing for you to divide yet...and most importantly these are a little slow to get their footing in my short-lived experience with this species, but after a couple of months they start to go great guns, at least with our heat and humidity here. But the original shoots tend to lose their vigor and it's only the new shoots, initiated after the plant has been in its place in the ground a while, that will create a vigorous plant. So by all means just plant what you've got, give it sandy soil with good drainage and some manure and peat mixed in, with lots of sun, and you should be in business! Please do report back here how long they take to bloom and how it does over the winter there...and I will do the same from here. Remember, you can always divide it next year!

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Thanks, Michael.

I'll take your advice!

Jason

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One question I have for anyone from about Orlando northward, and please Eric if you see this, is 1) what is the root-hardiest psittacorum type (I have been believing this to be 'Andromeda') and where is the "line" in Florida where these just don't return in spring in the majority of winters; and 2) what is the relative hardiness and blooming cycle of the many psittacorum x spathocircinata cultivars. From what I've noticed these appear to be a bit bigger (I have 'Guyana' that is making a vigorous clump in the ground, though I don't know whether to expect it to bloom this fall or not) and I don't know anything about the spathocircinata parent and what additional root-hardiness or change in blooming patterns it might have given to the offspring. The psittacorum types seem to take about 2-3 months and about 5-6 leaves before a bloom is initiated, is it similar in these as well? Comments anyone?

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I thought I'd bump this topic along and say that my Heliconia's have made it thru winter looking great except for some snails that have munched on parts of them. My rostrata actually grew thru winter, and on the first day of spring it was sunny, so I watered them. It's 22C tomorrow and 26C on Monday, so hopefully we'll get a good maybe humid summer and I'll have blooms. I will be dosing them with potash soon which I've heard will increase flowers etc.

regards

Tyrone

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I live in New Port Richey, just NW of Tampa on the Gulf Coast (about a mile off beaches). Each winter we regularly go near freezing several times, and usually slightly below (30F/-1C) My latisphata 'Mexican Gold' survives and thrives, blooming each summer and fall in a HUGE clump. Of course, rostrata is great, too, but hirsuta 'Peru' rarely shows damage at 32F and blooms by May. It is a larger clumping type but more like 'Andromeda' in size of flower and growth, perhaps a little larger. 'Andromeda' can become a pest here spreading. Greg in newlt WET New Port Richey (over 2" of rain since Wed)

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Greg, that's interesting about hirsuta 'Peru'...but have you observed it flowering in summer from a foliage-stem that has emerged from the ground that spring? Also with your latispatha, have you seen a flower by fall on a single-season stem? I was told by one person that, at least with older, established clumps, even the tall latispatha types should be capable of throwing flowers in a single season.

Of course you don't have to deal with the almost constant chill we have for three months (Jan avg. about 40/60 vs. yours at about 50/72) and that along with the freezes (on average about 6-8 light frosts/freezes above 28F, and 2 or 3 hard freezes below 27F) and rather wet soil seems to kill all the psittacorum varieties here. I think that holds true throughout the z9a Gulf-state areas. I think even in the 9b areas (New Orleans, Houston, Jacksonville) they aren't dependable at returning, and they're about midway between me and you in terms of average Jan temps. I don't think 'Andromeda' will be a pest here anytime soon! How lucky you are!

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I went outside today and happened to glance toward óne of my Heliconia latispatha 'Distans' and to my complete surprise there is a bloom emerging! This plant was received as a rhizome from Puerto Rico in April, potted in roughly 60/40 sand/Miracle-Gro Potting Soil mix in hot sun, began sprouting and growing the first week of May, and went in the ground about a month ago in a protected south-facing spot with about 4-5 hours of fairly intense sun per day.

So it is exactly four months for this plant from rhizome to flower. I do still have another plant in a shadier bed that hasn't bloomed yet but I'll keep my eye on it...but at least this shows the plant is fully capable of going from a fairly small rhizome to a plant 2-3 feet tall with lots of pups now emerging from the soil, up to 9" away from the center of the mat. That makes it just about a month slower to flower than the quickest-blooming specimens of psittacorum 'Andromeda' I sprouted simultaneously with these 'Distans' rhizomes (though about half of the 'Andromeda' plants have yet to flower). And may I say much more spectacular in flower than any psittacorum as well!

Now the test will be to see if the rhizomes can survive the winter... Here are pix from today of the plant and its just-emerging inflorescence:

IMG_5213.jpg

IMG_5215.jpg

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One particular Heliconia you may want to try is Heliconia Bihai x Marginata "Raulineana"

My experience with this one is that it will bloom every year during May-June here in C. Florida.

That date may be later in the summer if you live in a colder area.

But the thing is, it only seems to bloom on new stalks that grew up after things warmed up post-winter.

Any stalks that I babied through the winter, no matter how big, seem to just decline and get yellowy while new ones will shoot up and grow like gangbusters at the first sign of warmth.

In 2005 we had a late season Hurricane come through- Hurricane Wilma around Oct 25th.

Wilma knocked my clump of Raulineana to the ground, so i chopped all the stalks except for maybe one or two, and left some of the shoots intact.

I figured I wouldn't be seeing blooms the following Spring due to the big setback.

Well, the clump went through the winter with most of it chopped to the ground, but when things warmed up it grew like a rocket to about 8-10 feet and bloomed right on time.

So this might work for those who have colder climates, as I know this doesnt require more than one season to get to bloom.

Good fertilizing and watering can get it to grow faster, and I would recommend that in colder areas. The faster it gets to maturity, the quicker it will bloom.

The rhizomes can be winter-protected by a good thick mulching.

You can see photos of my Raulineana blooms here:

Yard Pics

It is a nice upright variety that doesn't bend over too much.  I've had it bloom around 6-7 feet in full sun.

Here is what the clump looked like in late October after the hurricane:

acc.sized.jpg

and then by May it was doing this:

abv.sized.jpg

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That's a beauty...do you have any more info such as how long it was from planting until it threw the first bloom? It seems that clump-age tends to determine the ability to throw blooms quickly in some cases, is this your experience? I assume this is a REALLY fast grower to be able to come up and bloom by May at 8-10 feet!

I see 'Rauliniana' is supposed to be a natural hybrid between bihai and marginata, and I've heard the the bihai hybrids are sometimes relatively hardy (compared to the species) and also that marginata is both somewhat hardy as well as a semi-aquatic, which perhaps bodes well for surviving wet winter soil in a chillier climate. I'm overwintering a pure marginata this year and next year I think 'Rauliniana' will be the first on my list to try!

Your garden looks beautiful from the photos you linked, I see you're growing that pretty 'flabellata' (apparently this is episcopalis x standleyi)...do you have any experiences you can share on its blooming/growth habits and how it handles at least your brief cool periods in winter down in Central Florida?

Thanks again for this tip and all your cool pix!

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By my experience, most Bihais are pretty tough and do well here. They want a good deal of sun to grow properly.

Put some Marginata in there and it gets really tough :)

It seems anything I've tried with a Marginata cross is a good grower with thick dark green foliage. Nickeriensis is an example.

I've tried to grow Marginata "lutea" but it declined. Could be because I got a bunk rhizome, could be because I planted it too close the the edge of a body of water. I will try again at some point with a better rhizome.

The Flabellata is an interesting one. Not a very fast grower for me, but it moves along. The clump is getting bigger slowly. I have it in a good deal of sun, and no matter how few stalks it has, it always seems to push out a bloom.

So far the blooms have been so-so. Its kindof over before it does anything really interesting.

I suspect the weakness comes from the episc. side, as I've grown Standleyi from seed and it grows like gangbusters so far.

It's not a bad plant however, Its been sticking it out for me- and I may end up with a nice robust clump after another year or two. I wasn't exactly pampering it while it was in a pot for over a year waiting to be planted.

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re: planting time to blooming for Raulineana.. I *think* I got a chunk of it from a local collector during one summer or fall. I suspect this was after the May-June bloom window, as I recall it seemed like about a year until it bloomed.

But I bet what happened was, I missed the bloom window, planted it and it just grew and grew until the next May and thats when it went off.

I just planted a little rhizome grouping in another area last month. Basically just sprouts right now.

I will watch this closely, and I bet that by May 2008 its up and blooming.

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Here are my experiences/notes on the plants is your list above:

H. aurantiaca

Tried this and it declined. Could have been a weak division, too much shade or both.

H. champneiana 'Maya Blood'

Had this decline on me from a growing single rhizome, but I was neglecting it. I cleaned it up, fungicided and I'm trying again- resprouting now, but this moves slow.

I give it a good deal of sun.

H. collinsiana

I'm getting some good blooms with this now. Its a slow one to start, but once it gets going it seems to move geometrically.  It likes a little shade. The white powdery leaves are excellent. so far 2 big red pendants this year, and the clump has only been in the ground about a year, from a ratty looking sun bleached plant.

H. latispatha 'red-yellow'

This grows and flowers well here. Only thing is it tends to lean out alot. I have it in a good deal of sun, but it seems to lean out for more. However, when it gets hot the leaves curl, so who knows. Cut the flowers before they fully open or they get a little browned

H. latispatha 'distans'

Personally, havent had the best of luck with this, but a friend has a nonstop clump that spreads everywhere and blooms like crazy. Once it gets started.. it moves. It likes a sunny spot with only partial shade

H. lingulata 'red tip fan'

I had one sickly looking rhizome of this and just put it in the ground to die. But it didnt die- it got sun and started coming back. Now its on its way to being a full clump. These love sun. Pretty tough. red-tip is the prettiest in my opinion

H. lingulata 'spiral'

Had this in my screen enclosure but somehow lost track of it and its gone now.  It was blooming well for awhile there- I think i just killed it while doing some work or something. I prefer "fan"

and Hybrids:

H. collinseana x bourgeana 'Pedro Ortiz'

This blooms nicely at Leu Gardens, so I assume it will here as well. I just got a nice pot of it from Excelsa. It has nice reddish edges to the foliage. Havent had it bloom yet, I will probably put it next to thye Raulineana in the screen enclosure, as I first tried "hot rio nites" there, and it bloomed, but its moving too slow.  Hot Rio has not been all its cracked up to be for me- kinda shlumpy.  Pedro is a hybrid of collinsiana, so I expect it might do a little better.

H. psitt. x spathocircinata 'Guyana'

Had this is a pot forever.. took a year and a half to bloom, but I think it wanted sun.  Now I have it it a full southern exposure and its blooming nicely so far. The little green tipped flowers make a nice touch. I like this better than say, Tropica.

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"It seems that clump-age tends to determine the ability to throw blooms quickly in some cases, is this your experience?"

Yes, this is true. Many heliconias go through a few "stalk phases" as the clump matures.

There seems to be the "1st phase" of stalks right off the rhizome.. these growup, don't bloom usually, but put off a new generation of stalks

this "2nd phase" of stalks gets the clump alot bigger- and you may even be thinking it might bloom- but often these stalks don't.

Then the winter slows things down, but the next year or so you get 3rd and 4th phase stalks- often these are fatter and tougher and will start blooming. Here and there at first until you get into the 5,6,7th generation stalks, which comes out full size right from the start. You get a big clump of these going and you have plenty of blooms.

Raulineana seems to somehow get itself to this point very quickly.

" share on its blooming/growth habits and how it handles at least your brief cool periods in winter down in Central Florida?"

I gave up trying to winter protect my heliconia. I had a popup greenhouse one year, but it was a pain and I didnt notice it helped much.

So I decided the plant needs to be able to recover from the winter and go on to bloom on its own, or I will replace it with something else.. there are so many heliconia varieties, I don't need to waste room on those that don't perform for me.

Luckily, Bihai and Stricta seem to do well, and they contain most of my favorites.

Over the next few years I will have whittled things down and I'll know what stays and what goes.

I don't mind if a plant looks ratty through the winter.. I just trim it a bit and keep a few leaves until things warm back up. Then I let it make new stalks and when these are going well, I get rid of the old wintered ones, unless they look so good they might actually flower (usually not the case)

My only real protection method is a good layer of mulch during cold months and some canopy. Maybe a systemic fungicide from time to time if I think there may be a problem.

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Wow, thanks for all the rundowns on the varieties and cultural info. This really helps me a lot with my own trials here in this significantly chillier spot than where you are (sounds like you're in something like a 10a area), and to hope they will survive to produce those big mature stalks you talk about. I already have very thick, large robust stems coming from subulata, lingulata, Pedro Ortiz and 'Orange Gyro' latispatha, but I will assume these still represent one of the initial phases you mention and I will be patient with them. These all seem to be very sun-hungry and the lingulata really has responded to the heat. I've noticed the leaf-curling on the latispatha.

My collinsiana is in a good amount of shade, was very slow to start and is now really pushing, getting tall (2-3 stalks, the tallest now 5' or so) with that gorgeous white-powder foliage, but even in my very protected spot I fear it will die down and I may never see a bloom.

Like yours, my 'Guyana' struggled to near-death in a pot for over a year and now that I got the last living remnant of it in the ground, it really loves hot full sun where I have it and has grown into a good clump...but I think I won't see a bloom on this one this year. I also wonder whether the rhizomes on this one can overwinter here.

I'm very surprised my 'distans' so quickly threw a beautiful bloom from the rhizome, now I'm just hoping that it will survive to do it more robustly next year. I'm trying some 'Golden Torch' and will try some of the other smaller spatho. hybrid types to see how they fare. It seems that the chill-hardy types don't like to bloom, and the bloom-happy types don't like to chill!

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I tend to be a leaf-counter when looking for blooms, but I can tell you I saw my first Collinsiana bloom when the stalks were about 7-8 feet tall from ground to tip of the last leaf.

I would imagine that future blooms could be on taller stalks.

Golden Torch should do well for you.

I think the key in colder climates is to give the plant as much sun, food and water as possible to get it to move at top speed while the conditions are right.. then just mulch it up for the cold months..  I try to leave some plant material above ground so it can get some sunlight, but I dont worry too much about appearances until I'm back in the warmth. Then I try and get the sorry stalks out to focus the plant's energy towards new growth.

If you are really concerned about overwintering, you could always grow them in pots and bring them into a warmer spot that still gets plenty of sun.. but I would imagine that south facing locations with plenty of mulch could keep them alive.. just dont want it too wet during the off months

Sometimes a little stress can set the plant into blooming- maybe some drought or a little cold coming in.

Its like the plant says- somethings wrong- I better get these flowers out..

So perhaps the beginning of the cold season will get you some blooms if you've gotten the plant to height by the end of the warmth.

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