Jul 20, 2008

Heliconias For Brisbane

I've just added a section on our website called "Heliconias for Brisbane" It is specifically meant for Brisbane growers that are either new to growing heliconias or have less than perfect conditions for heliconias. In a previous article we discussed conditions that heliconias like, in this article I'd like to expand on that a bit for Brisbane gardeners.

Most people are aware that the majority of heliconias are from Central and South America. However, the range of climates they come from can greatly vary. Some like the Caribaeas are from mountainous areas with great drainage and cool nights.These varieties grow well in Northern NSW but find summer heat in Brisbane hard to handle. Others like Sexy Pink are from the Amazon Basin, with constant high humidity and little temperature variation between summer and winter. These varieties may love the humidity but won't tolerate Brisbane's Westerly Winds or sharp temperature drops in winter.
At best Brisbane represents the extremes of the heliconia world. It can be tough on the cooler climate heliconias in summer (too hot) and tough in the warm climate heliconias in winter (too cold) and strong Westerlies can sometimes seal the coffin so to speak.

So how does someone in Brisbane know which heliconias will grow SUCCESSFULLY ?Lush, thriving plants producing lots of flowers, not sulking sadly making your garden look like crap.
The first step is a realistic assessment of your garden. If you can create a protected microclimate it'll help with Westerlies, if your soil is poor or filled with builder's rubble you can bring in quality top soil or add copious amounts of organic matter to correct it. Heavy layers of mulch and a drip irrigation system are the most waterwise way of delivering moisture to your plants. You may not be able to "fix" every problem you have, but a good microclimate will increase the number of varieties you can grow successfully. Lets face it! No heliconia's natural habitat is a small bed filled with builder's rubble on a hot concrete path on the way to the BBQ. But lots of heliconias will grow well in Brisbane even in less than perfect conditions.

If you are looking for smaller heliconias Tropifleur and Guadalope are two gorgeous psitt crosses that do well in Brisbane. Tropifleur is particularly renowned in the heliconia world for it's ability to deal with strong wind. Guadalope has a slightly runny habit but the striking flowers make it well worth growing.
If you are looking for gorgeous pendulous heliconias suitable for Brisbane look no further than H.pendula "Waxy Red" and Rostrata (needs a bit of shade for foliage to look it's best). Rauliniana is another semi pendulous variety that does well in Brisbane.
Any of the Caribaea crosses will do well in Brisbane as does Hot Rio Nites. In addition Yellow Dancer, Papsiana, Maya Blood, Chocolate Dancer, Lingulata Fan, Claw 1&2 are all easy growers in Brisbane.
The Orthotricas will grow in most areas in Brisbane and are certainly well worth growing; but maybe tough to grow in some areas. Given optimal conditions there are many other heliconias that will grow in Brisbane. But I suggest you get your feet wet these varieties if you haven't grown heliconias before.
All these plants are available in the Heliconias For Brisbane section of our online plant store.
If you have any information about growing heliconias in Brisbane please leave a comment. The more information we share the better!
Happy Gardening!!! Ann


Dean Whitby said...

The Bihai Caribaea crosses are the best heliconias for Brisbane. Most are sturdy, robust growers that are cold hardy and stand up to wind and dry periods well. Rostrata is popular in Brisbane but the thin leaves shred easily in wind and it needs lots of room as it forms a very open clump. Orthotricas will grow and flower in Brisbane but even mild winters are hard on them resulting in the need to cut them back to the ground at the end of winter. I have found Psittacorums frustrating - if we get a good summer wet season they become invasive and weedy, but suffer badly in dry conditions or tough winters - IMO the result is not worth the effort for the garden space they occupy. But I do know gardeners who persist with them for the cut flowers.

shekong said...

Thanks Dean! The more info from individual gardeners in Brissie the better! I appreciate you commenting.

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Louisa Kassianos said...

Hello, I'm interested in what mulch you recommend for a garden bed with heliconia, gingers and cordylines? Thanks!!