Heliconia, Parrot Flower:
Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality
Produce Facts in English > Heliconia
Michael S. Reid
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis
Heliconia humilis, Heliconia psittacorum. The varied and fantastic forms and rich colors 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.
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.
There is no evidence of any deleterious effects of ethylene exposure on the vase life of Heliconias.
No pretreatments have proved to be beneficial for Heliconias. Some species may benefit from the flowers being dipped in an antitranspirant, such as those sold in garden centers for use on woody plants. However, no antitranspirant product is presently sold in the floral industry for this use.
Heliconias are native to the tropical Americas, and are therefore very sensitive to chilling injury. They should never be held at temperatures below 10-12.5ºC. Flowers may be stored in moist shredded newsprint, or in water at 12.5ºC.
Heliconias are normally packed in horizontal fiberboard box.
Heliconias most often die early due to poor water uptake. They can last for up to two weeks in plain tap water if the water is free of microorganisms. 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.
First published on this website: October 2004