The Lobster Claw
This is my site Written by Wayne on February 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

My wife’s favorite tropical flower is the Heliconia bihai, better known as the ‘Lobster Claw’ which she first saw at the Allerton National Botanical Gardens on the island of Kauai during our 2005 trip to Ha-waii. This widely cultivated variety grows from 5 to 16 feet high in full sun to light shade. The ones we saw had 4 to 5 banana-like leaves up to 6 feet long, with beautiful, long lasting inflorescences composed of showy bracts which contain the true flowers.

The inflorescence consists of 7 to 12 bracts which are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top. The Lobster Claw is at its best from April to December when it is in full bloom. Individual inflo-rescences last for many weeks, even when cut, making them important for the floral trade. Within the flowers are the pollen-producing stamens and the pollen-receptive stigma on a long style. The pollina-tion is done by hummingbirds and bats, shinny violet seeds form in the bracts.

While hardy to only zones 9-11 they can be grown inside in large containers in colder climates. Being a tropical plant it needs high humidity and a temperature range from 70-85 degrees. Heliconia are an ex-cellent choice for plants that are grown indoors in the Winter and moved outdoors for the Spring and Summer. They do require a well drained growing medium such as a cactus mix. The usual way to propagate is to plant rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems, in a well draining soil with the very tip protruding out of the soil. Water thoroughly and let dry out somewhat be-tween watering. If kept too wet, there is a good chance they may rot.
Spent flower canes should be cut to the ground. Every few years when the growth slows down, dig the clump out, and divide it. This is also a good time to amend the soil before replanting. They are heavy feeders, feed regularly with palm fertilizer. Except for the fact that they are much more tropical, Helico-nias behave much like Cannas. Once we have mastered growing Sago Palms, Plumairas, and Taro we are going to give the Lobster Claw a try.


Tips of the Month

Heliconia rhizome planting instructions:

  1. Upon receipt of rhizome or bare root plant, carefully unpack, plant quickly not to let rhizomes or roots dry out. Soak bottom 2/3 of rhizome or roots if visible for ½ hour at room temperature.
  2. Plant your rhizome as soon as you receive it using a well draining soil mixture. Do not use soil from your back yard as heavy, dense soils will hold too much water and cause the rhizome to rot. It is very important that your soil is well draining.
  3. After your first time watering we would not water in the future until we find that the surface soil is dry to the touch. It is very important that you do not keep the soil wet.
  4. Heliconia like warm temperatures and bright light to grow strong. An ideal temperature would be 75 degrees with humidity over 50 percent.
  5. The amount of light to provide full sun to 30 percent shade.
  6. Fertilize at least once a month during growing season.
  7. Daily misting of plants is beneficial if grown inside or in dry outdoor environment.


Flower of the Month

Lobster Claw

Lobster Claw

Heliconia bihai “Lobster claw” can be found abundantly in the tropical rain-forest of Hawaii growing to 16 feet tall and has up to five lancelet leaves, 6 feet long each. The bracts are light-to dark red with a yellow edge and a green top.


Web Site

The Allerton Estate and National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai, Hawaii is a garden paradise extending over an area of more than 100 acres. The grounds were the mid-1800s summer cottage of Queen Emma, wife of King Kame-hameha IV, and the former home of Robert & John Allerton. They have been returned to their former glory, as have the surrounding stately gardens. The Allerton Estate is managed by the adjoining National Tropical Botanical Garden, a non-profit organization that conducts guided tours of the estate.


National Tropical Botanical Garden

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Modified: March 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm GMT-0800

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