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Heliconia, Parrot Flower

Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


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.

Quality Indices

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 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.

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 10-12.5°C. Flowers may be stored in moist shredded newsprint, or in water at 12.5°C.


Heliconias are normally packed in horizontal fiberboard box.

Special Considerations

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.


October 2004

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Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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