The Q&A Archives: Heliconia

Question: I just purchased a Heliconia, which resembles a bird of paradise. I was going to container it in a big bean pot. Is there anything I should do special to transplant it? It's in a 10" pot now. When should I fertilize and with what? I asked the young person at home depot about root stimulator and he said no, that it may shock it. What is your opinion?

Answer: Heliconia indica bears large pink leaves and H. illustrus aureostraiata is even more striking - each green leaf is covered with narrow yellow streaks at right angles to the main vein. For all its attractiveness Heliconia is not easy to grow!

Provide warmth (minimum 65F), bright light (morning sun is acceptable), copious amounts of water spring through autumn, but no water in winter, and mist the leaves daily during the growing season. It's not a heavy feeder but you can keep it healthy with monthly feedings of a diluted liquid fertilizer. Plants are best divided and transplanted in the spring.

If the container you plan to use has adequate drainage, you can use anything from a bean pot to a half-barrel. Use regular potting soil and moisten it before you transplant. Begin by watering your plant well the night before you plan to move it. In the morning gently slide it out of its pot and transplant immediately into your prepared container. Water well to eliminate any air pockets around the roots, and try to protect it from direct sunshine for a few days after transplanting.

Root stimulator probably isn't necessary. Your plant will have to become established in its new home before it begins to grow new roots. I'd just let it grow at its own pace.

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