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Plant type Perennials, Subtropicals
Plant Uses Border

Best uses

Best used in subtropical gardens to brighten up a border. Great for sheltered courtyards.

Physical characteristics

This is a tall, evergreen, tropical plant that grows up to 3m tall.

Flowers and foliage

Stunning yellow flowers held in red bracts bloom during summer and early autumn when the temperatures are still reasonable. Leaves are large and tropical looking.
NB: Photos in Auckland Botanic Gardens files have red flowers in yellow bracts not yellow in red bracts as stated in -- (Auckland Botanic Gardens advisory leaflets / Perrenials for the Subtropical Garden 'B14')

Preferred site

Prefers fertile moist soils in a sheltered spot in your garden. Will not tolerate frost or cold temperatures unless well sheltered.

Preparation for planting

Many Auckland soils have a high clay content and are poorly drained. Plant in spring into a layer of mulch to help overcome this problem. Mulching with organic materials will also help improve soil structure, aid in the development of feeding roots, conserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth. Layer upon layer of mulch should be spread annually amongst the plants to simulate tropical forest conditions. Alternatively, a dry subtropical effect can be created using mulches of crushed rock and stones.

Always choose healthy, well-grown plants. Before planting, ensure that the root ball is saturated and remove planter pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots or branches and plant at the same level as in the container. Long term, slow-release fertilisers may be added at this stage. As soil is placed in the prepared hole, tread firmly to bring soil in close contact with the root ball. Water thoroughly, making sure that moisture penetrates to the depth of the root ball.

Maintenance tips

In spring or autumn, apply organic fertiliser such as sheep pellets, or apply a fortnightly seaweed-based foliar feed in the early morning or evening, but not during the heat of the day.

Throughout the flowering season, deadhead to encourage further flowering. Old leaves may need trimming off throughout summer. Ordinarily, heliconia should be cut back in autumn, ready for winter. If they are in a cooler position, this is probably best left until spring so the plant has more protection from the cold.

Dividing is a great way to rejuvenate and get more plants. In autumn, large plants can be lifted and divided. This can be achieved by placing two garden forks back-to-back in the middle of the lifted plant and then pushing the clump apart. In some case, the plant may be able to be pulled apart by hand. Plants need to be divided every 2 to 3 years. If they aren't, they will eventually lose vigour and not produce many flowers. Clumps can be separated to around 10cm in diameter if necessary.

This plant may require annual staking to hold up tall growth. In spring, insert four stakes in a square or rectangle around the plant. Tightly stretch soft netting over the stakes at a reasonably low level. As the plant grows taller, add another layer of netting as required. As the plant grows, this netting will become hidden.

Avoid wet and cold overwintering conditions.

Pests and diseases

Relatively free of pests and diseases.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Palm Garden

Interesting facts and tips

The use of tropical and subtropical plants to create tropical-like landscapes was first used in the 1930s by Roberto Burle Marx a Brazilian by birth and one of the finest landscape and garden architects of the 20th century. His designs were revolutionary at that time with vast sweeping drifts of tropical foliage plants combined with his wonderful artistic approach.