Heliconia, Parrot flower

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Infobox on Heliconia, Parrot flower
Example of Heliconia, Parrot flower
Origin -
Stowage factor (in m3/t) -
Humidity / moisture -
Ventilation -
Risk factors See text

Heliconia, Parrot flower

Description / Shipment / Storage / Risk factors

Scientific Name and Introduction

Heliconia humilis, Heliconia psittacorum. The varied and fantastic forms and rich colours of the different species of Heliconia make them an important florist item, particularly prized for large and signature arrangements. Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. Like their god Apollo, the Muses supposedly remained young and beautiful forever like the long-lasting and elegant flowers of Heliconia. Lobster claw and Crab's claw are additional common names for flowers in this genus.

Quality Characteristics and Criteria

Heliconia are normally harvested fully mature - the flowers will not open past the stage at which they are harvested. While flowers last longer if the bracts are less open compared to more open, they generally do not open further after harvest and that may reduce their visual appeal. Therefore, the openness of the flower at purchase often is the most it ever will open. Consumer life varies greatly among species and cultivars, thus, learn species and cultivar differences.

Grading and Bunching

Quality flowers of Heliconia are fully mature, free of defects (damage or discoloration) on the flowers, and have good quality foliage (when present). Both the smaller, hanging species and the larger, more upright species are packed individually by stem.

Ethylene Sensitivity

There is no evidence of any deleterious effects of ethylene exposure on the vase-life of Heliconias.


No pretreatments have proved beneficial for Heliconias. Some species may benefit from the flowers being dipped in an anti-transpirant, such as those sold in garden centres for use on woody plants. However, no anti-transpirant product is presently sold for this use.

Storage Conditions

Heliconias are native to the tropical Americas, and are therefore very sensitive to chilling injury. They should never be held at temperatures below 10°C to 12,5 ºC. Flowers may be stored in moist shredded newsprint, or in water at 12,5ºC.


Heliconias are normally packed in horizontal fibreboard boxes.

Special Considerations

Heliconias most often die early due to poor water uptake. They can last for up to 2 weeks in plain tap water if the water is free of micro-organisms. Larger diameter and longer stemmed specimens last longer. Since insects sometimes make the trip from grower to retailer, make sure flowers are inspected and any insects removed.

Sources used
BMT Consolidated Manual on (Dutch) Flower Bulbs, cut flowers/greens and potted plants.