Heliconia are one of the most popular plants in the aquarium hobby. They have been used for centuries as food and medicine. There are many different species with various names, but they all share similar characteristics: they grow from tiny seeds that float around in water or soil; they produce sticky mucus when touched; and their leaves contain a toxic substance called helix which causes skin irritation if ingested.

The main reason why heliconia are so popular is because they are easy to grow and require little attention. Most people don’t realize that there are other types of plants that can provide similar benefits without causing problems such as poisoning or allergic reactions. A few years ago I was told by a friend that she had grown heliconia in her home aquarium, but I didn’t believe it at first since I thought the plant must be poisonous. However, after reading some of the internet information I realized that heliconia are not poisonous and can even be beneficial to fish. So I decided to try growing them in my aquarium.

Growing Heliconia

There are several ways to grow heliconia. You could use a light fixture, a filter basket filled with peat moss or sand, or you could simply place your plants into a large pot full of water and leave them alone until they get big enough for your liking. If you want to use a light fixture your options become numerous. You could use metal halide, compact fluorescent, high-output fluorescent, or even standard incandescent lights. Each type of lighting will require a different amount of Watts per liter of water and will produce various wavelengths, color temperatures, and amounts of heat.

Because the plants are growing in water they do not get “fuzzy” due to the heat like they would if they were growing in the air. While this is a good thing for the plants, it does mean that you will need to use more electricity and possibly buy a bigger light fixture.

Another option is to use a filter basket filled with peat moss or sand. This is what I do and it has worked very well for me. There are several reasons why I chose to do this. First of all I don’t have to worry about adjusting the lights every day. Second of all I am using a filter anyway and it only makes sense to save electricity and use the same container to perform two tasks.

And finally, it is much easier to move the plants around when they are small if you are using a container with small particles instead of sand or peat. One word of caution however: DO NOT place the plants in a spot where water will pool. I learned this the hard way when I first placed them in the tank. The water pooled around the plants and eventually killed them (even though I was using a fertilizer tab as a buffer between the plants and the water).

Using a large container with peat, sand, or anything similar does have its advantages over using a filter. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about replacing the carbon in your canister if you choose to use an undergravel filter. Also, it makes transportation of the plants far simpler. The only real disadvantage is that you are limited to using submersible lights since placing anything on top of the water would be a bad idea. Also, it may be more difficult to control algae growth if you are not using anything to cover the top of the tank.

When growing your own plants one of the most important factors is going to be lighting. Without adequate lighting the plants will not survive. You can get by with less light if you are willing to give the plants a lot of time to grow. This may work if you have lots of time to fiddle with them, but it’s not going to be easy.

As I said before, one of the best ways to light your plants is through the use of a submersible light. The most common lights for this purpose are compact fluorescent bulbs. It is very easy to find these lights at the local hardware or department store. One of these lights uses only 40 Watts yet puts out the light of a 200 Watt incandescent bulb. This saves a great deal of energy and heat is barely an issue since the light is enclosed in a plastic case.

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It is also possible to get the bulbs in various color temperatures ranging from cool white (6500K) to natural white (4000K) to warm white (3000K).

There are also metal halide and high-output fluorescents lights which put out more light at 10,000 Kelvin, but may require special ballasts and fixtures. I would not recommend using these unless you are planning to grow relatively large plants that need a lot of light such as African violets or other tropical plants.

Note: One of the best things about using a compact fluorescent bulb is that you can fit a reflector around it to increase the amount of light hitting your plants! Even if you do not use the enclosed fixture that usually comes with the bulb, be sure to place the bulb no more that three inches away from the top of the plants. Placing it any further away will make it less effective due to ‘light-starvation’.

Make sure to change the bulbs every six months or so since they do lose their intensity over time. I have always been able to find my plants growing faster and healthier when using a submersible light rather than just relying on the natural lighting indoors. You may want to use various reflectors around the plants to direct more light towards them; this may help if you are growing your plants in a small area.

Note: If you are using a compact fluorescent light you will have to add a small amount of nitrogen to the water since this type of lighting uses far less energy. This is only necessary if the plants seem to be getting a pale or whitish appearance. To do this, simply add half an ounce of NH 4 NO 3 (Ammonium Nitrate) to every ten gallons of water.

It is also vital that you have an underwater filter in the tank. Without one the water is going to quickly become murky and will stunt the growth of the plants. I highly recommend getting an Under Gravel Filter (UGF). These allow for the efficient removal of waste while providing a sheltered area for beneficial bacteria to grow. Bacteria helps to break down waste into a more usable form for the plants and helps to keep ammonia from becoming toxic.

If you do not have a UGF, then make sure to vacuum the bottom of the tank at least once a week. It is also beneficial to place a layer of coarse sand, marbles, or small pebbles at the bottom of the tank before adding water. Not only will this provide an ideal area for beneficial bacteria to grow, but any large debris that sinks to the bottom will become trapped in the gap between the wall and the pebbles. This will prevent the water pump from sucking them up where they could potentially clog it.

HOw TO GROW FROM SEED:

A lot of people have asked me how to grow these plants from seed. It is not too difficult, but it definitely requires some patience!

You will need to prepare your growing medium (soil, oasis, etc) and autoclave (or otherwise sanitize) your containers since potting soil often contains disease or weed seeds.

Before you start, be sure that you have enough containers since not all of the seeds are going to germinate. You can usually expect around a 50% success rate as long as you are sanitizing everything.

Fill your containers with soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top for the seeds and add water. After the soil settles, add more water until you have a good mix that is effectively wet throughout but not sopping wet. Place several (I usually do around 6 or so) seeds approximately 1/4 inch into the soil. Gently rub the seed with your finger to help lightly cover it with soil.

Place the containers in a location that is around 75-100 degrees Fahrenheit. A germination heat mat may help speed up the process, but is not necessary. Simply keeping the soil in a warm location will work as well. If you do use a mat or other heating device, be careful that the soil does not get too hot or it could kill your seeds! You can also use a clear container rather than a dark one, this will help prevent the soil from overheating.

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In addition, a clear container also lets you see when the seeds begin to sprout which is really cool to watch!

After 2-3 weeks, check to see if the seeds have germinated. If they have, they should look like little seedlings about an inch or so high with a small root coming out the bottom and a tiny green sprout coming out of the top. Once they get to this point, they are good to transplant into your aquaponic system! If you are only growing one plant, then transplant it into your aquaponic system right away. If you want to grow multiple plants, then put the remaining seeds back in their containers and place them back in a warm location.

If you like, you can also start another batch of seeds while your little seedlings are growing. Just make sure that the new batch does not come in contact with the old batch since cross-contamination (in this case, of seed varieties) can occur and change the outcome of your results.

When it comes time to transplant your seedlings, you will need to do the following:

Get a smaller container that will fit inside your larger container but still leave several inches of space at the top for water. If your large container is a five-gallon bucket, for example, you will want to get a smaller two-gallon bucket to cut the bottom out of.

Make sure the small bucket will fit inside the larger bucket so that it is supported and will not fall over.

Cut out the bottom of the smaller bucket and make several slits in the sides. This will allow water to seep through into the bottom of the larger bucket.

Make sure the bottom of the smaller bucket is sitting on top of some sort of container that can hold the water that seeps through. Since you are using a small bucket, you will probably need to change the water daily or it will evaporate too quickly.

The lid on top of the larger bucket is there to prevent your plants from growing too large and falling over into your aquaponic system. As the plants grow, you will uncover more and more of the bucket to allow more light in.

When it comes time to change the water in your aquaponic system, you will probably want to change out the water in the smaller container as well. You may have to replace it completely every once in awhile, depending on how much water seeps through and how big your plants are. You can use a moisture gauge to see if you need to change all of the water in the system. The gauge will turn red if it detects water and green if it does not.

Once your plants have grown large enough, you can start using a pump to spray water on them and increase the amount of oxygen. This will cause them to grow even faster!

If you would like to add fish to the aquaponic system, you will need to set up a hydroponic tank first. You can then transfer some of the water from your aquaponic tank into the hydroponic tank to provide the fish with water.

To make a hydroponic tank, start with another container (maybe even one that has a top this time) and drill lots of little holes in it. The more holes, the better but if you make them too big, stuff might fall through into the tank below.

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This one is pretty self-explanatory, though you will need to replace the water on both tanks fairly frequently.

If you are using a hydroponic system and an aquaponic system, you will need to transfer water between them fairly often. This is especially true if you are growing large plants in your aquaponic system, since the water can only sit there for so long before it becomes stale and stagnant.

Water can get pretty heavy so make sure you do not overfill your containers!

You can easily transfer the water from one tank to another using a small hose. If you are transferring a lot of water, it is best to use as large of a hose as you can (within reason) since this will cut down on the amount of time it takes.

Choose a hose that is the right size for your tank openings. If one opening is larger than the other, you will need to get a hose that will fit into both. If your tanks have different shapes, you may be able to use one hose on both openings by partially inflating it.

PVC and rubber hosing can sometimeskink when you bend it so it is best to straighten it out before you try to insert it into the tank openings. If you need to make a sharp turn, hold the hose next to the opening and twist it before you try to insert it. This will prevent any kinks from forming.

Hoses can be cut shorter with scissors if they are too long.

Make sure that your hoses fit into the openings on your tanks before you start moving water around!

You may want to have someone else help you since buckets full of water are pretty heavy. The person on the other end of the hose (who isn’t moving their arms) can help to stabilize it.

Water gallons are usually heavier than you think they are going to be so take this into consideration when moving water from one place to another. It is probably a good idea not to move too much water at once since you don’t want to hurt your back!

The longer the path that the water has to travel, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. This may mean that your friend on the other end of the hose needs to move their arm back and forth a lot. If this happens, you can try to minimize arm movement by laying the hose out on the floor and attaching one end of it to a table or chair so that it forms a big “S” shape.

You may want to use a funnel to fill up the tank on top since it will make the water go in faster, and it is more likely to completely fill up the tank if there aren’t any air pockets in it.

If your hose doesn’t reach all the way to the bottom of the tank, you can put an upside down bucket or some kind of container on the bottom to help fill it up more.

When your tank is full, the water will start to overflow out of the top. This is normal and a good thing since it keeps the water from going stagnant.

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Always make sure that you have securely tightened all of your hoses before moving water around!

Make sure that the outside of all of your containers are completely dry before you go to add water to them again. If they aren’t dry, bacteria can start growing in them and this can make your fish sick.

If any of your containers develop a leak, you can try to fix it by tightening the hose clamp on them but make sure that you dry it out completely first since standing water is not good for your tank.

It is best to find and fix the problem as soon as possible since even a small drop of water falling into your tank can quickly become a major disaster.

Everything that enters your tank should be treated before adding it to the tank. This includes water from the hose, fish and plants.

If you get any kind of medication for your fish or medicine for any illness that you might get, make sure that none of it ends up getting into your tank by accident since this can be toxic to your fish and plants.

The best way to keep your filter from clogging up is to take the time to do maintenance on it on a regular basis.

Add water to your tank at least once a week, more often in the hot months.

Always check to see that all of the connections on your equipment are on tight.

Make sure that there are no rocks, toys or ornaments that have fallen into your filter or anywhere else in the tank that might clog it up.

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If you have any plastic plants in your tank, make sure that they are tightly secured since they can sometimes fall over and get stuck in your filter.

Always check under and behind any decorations in your tank to make sure that there aren’t any toys or ornaments stuck under them that might be blocking the flow of water.

As your tank starts to mature, the growth of plants will help to block the light from the front of your tank so you may need to rearrange everything once in awhile to make sure that your plants get enough light.

Heliconias are some of the easiest plants to grow. Under the right conditions, they pretty much take care of themselves.

A. Lighting

Heliconia’s need a lot of light to thrive. They do best in direct sunlight but grow fairly well under high-intensity discharge lights as well. They can and have been known to grow under normal fluorescent lighting but it takes longer for them to reach their maximum size and the color of their flowers is not as rich.

As with most plants, they need a certain number of hours of light each day in order to grow. Heliconias can grow and thrive in normal room lighting but it usually isn’t enough to promote their best growth so if you intend to grow them, be prepared to give them as much light as possible.

The high-intensity discharge lights are the best kind of lights to use if you want your plants to really thrive because they produce far more light than normal fluorescent tubes do.

They also don’t get as hot as the incandescent lights do which reduces the need for excess cooling.

However, any light that you can provide your heliconias with will help them grow to some degree. Even normal room lighting helps but it just takes a little longer for them to reach their maximum size and flower production.

As with most plants, heliconias need six to eight hours of good lighting each day for healthy growth and flowering. If you are going to let them flower, the flowers do not appear until the plant has been grown in strong lighting for at least six weeks.

If you want to get your plants to flower, provide at least six weeks of uninterrupted strong lighting before giving them any light at all within twelve hours of darkness. This can be as simple as shutting off the lights in their room each night or moving your plants under a covered porch or another area that receives no direct light.

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Heliconias are not picky about the temperature that they are grown in but they do need to be able to reach their maximum size and flower if they are going to.

The best temperature for them is normal room temperature which is around seventy degrees Fahrenheit. However, they can grow at temperatures as low as sixty degrees and still flower.

You should prevent the temperature from getting any lower than fifty degrees though or you run the risk of damaging or even killing your plants. If this should happen, you can try to save them by putting them in a container with a little water and bringing them inside where it is warmer. Keep them in the container with just a little water for a couple of weeks and then try transplanting them again when the temperatures begin to rise.

As long as you follow these directions and take good care of your plants, they should thrive and produce flowers for many years. They even make excellent housewarming gifts and are enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you want to try to force your heliconias to flower, then all you have to do is provide as much light as possible for at least six weeks before going back to normal conditions. This will cause them to put off their flowers in as little time as possible.

As I mentioned earlier, the flowers themselves do not produce any fragrance but some people find their smell to be a cross between a radish and rhubarb. They are also edible and are good in a salad when they are young, gradually becoming woodier and stronger tasting as they grow.

If you want to try eating your heliconia flowers, pick them while they are still under natural light conditions before they open up all the way and then eat them raw or cooked.

In closing, I hope this information helps you enjoy your heliconias to their fullest extent. They are a versatile and beautiful plant that has been enjoyed by people for hundreds of years and probably will continue to be enjoyed for hundreds more.

As a final note, If you live in an apartment or other location where you are not able to keep your plants outside, try growing them in large pots. You can then bring them inside during the winter months and put them back outside again when spring arrives.

Heliconias are one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings, so you will not have any problems getting new ones if you want to try several different types.

If you follow these directions and care for your plants properly, they should thrive for many years to come. They will bring you maximum enjoyment and beauty and will prove to be a welcome addition to your household.

Thanks again for downloading this book, I hope you find it useful and wish you the best of luck with your heliconias!

Table of Contents

Heliconia Lobster Claw Plants: Heliconia Growing Conditions And Care on igrowplants.net

Introduction

Description of the Heliconia Flower

How to Grow the Heliconia Plant

Pests and Other Problems

Caring for Your Heliconia Plant

Heliconia Flowers and Their Seeds

Common Types of the Heliconia

Heliconia Growing in Arrangements and Displays

Heliconia Growing as Houseplants

Common Problems with Your Heliconia and Their Solutions

Common Types of the Heliconia Lobster Claw

How to Care for a Heliconia Lobster Claw

Heliconia Lobster Claw Plants: Heliconia Growing Conditions And Care on igrowplants.net

Heliconia Lobster Claw in Arrangements and Displays

On Common Diseases that the Heliconia Plants are Prone To and How to Prevent Them

Good Companion Plants for the Heliconia

Heliconia Growing as Garden or Landscape Plants

Heliconia Growing as Bonsai Plants

Heliconia Growing for Bait, Fishing and Hunting Reserves

What to Do with Your Heliconia Flower Once it has Completed its Life Cycle

Distribution of the Heliconia throughout the World

Glossary

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Sources & references used in this article:

Acclimatization of micropropagated Heliconia bihai (Heliconiaceae) plants by PHV Rodrigues, AMLP Lima, GMB Ambrosano… – Scientia …, 2005 – SciELO Brasil

Storage of cut Heliconia bihai (L.) cv. Lobster Claw flowers at low temperatures by AS Costa, LC Nogueira, VF Santos… – Revista Brasileira de …, 2011 – SciELO Brasil

Construction and evaluation of prototype subsurface flow wetland planted with Heliconia angusta for the treatment of synthetic greywater by S Saumya, S Akansha, J Rinaldo, MA Jayasri… – Journal of cleaner …, 2015 – Elsevier

Somaclonal variation in micropropagated Heliconia bihai cv. Lobster Claw I plantlets (Heliconiaceae) by PHV Rodrigues – Scientia Agricola, 2008 – SciELO Brasil

Characterization of symptoms of senescence and chilling injury on inflorescences of Heliconia bihai (L.) cv. Lobster Claw and cv. Halloween by AS Costa, LC Nogueira, VF dos Santos… – Postharvest biology and …, 2011 – Elsevier

DEVELOPMENT OF HELICONIA AND ALPINIA IN HAWAII: CULTIVAR SELECTION AND CULTURE. by RA Criley – … Symposium on Protected Cultivation of Ornamentals in …, 1988 – actahort.org

In vitro establishment of Heliconia rauliniana (Heliconiaceae) by PC Today – 2019

Slow-grown in vitro conservation of Heliconia champneiana cv. Splash under different light spectra by PHV Rodrigues – Scientia Agricola, 2005 – SciELO Brasil

Micropropagation of Heliconia rostrata and Heliconia bihai from mature zygotic embryos by PHV Rodrigues, F Arruda, VA Forti – Scientia Agricola, 2018 – SciELO Brasil

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