Heliconia have large luxurious leaves that are easily damaged from strong winds. A few species naturally have divided leaves including, H. chartacea, H. platystachys, and H. spissa. For other species, split leaves caused by wind are unsightly and can negatively affect a plants health. Protecting your Heliconia from wind damage is possible with well positioned windbreaks (trees, hedges, fences, walls, etc.). However, windbreaks are not always practical and exceptional winds can cause damage nonetheless. If your Heliconia suffers occasionally from strong currents, there are several steps you can take to promote a quick recovery.
(1) Remove the most damaged leaves
Heliconia leaves preform the vital function of photosynthesis. This process contributes to the growth and repair of the plant. Although parts of the plant may be irreparable, energy will continue to be allocated to repairing these areas. We recommend removing the most damaged leaves. This will allow the limited energy a plant produces to be better utilized by focusing on new growth. To remove damaged leaves cut at the base of the petiole. If a stem has damaged leaves and no signs of new growth (i.e. unfurled leaves) then it is okay to remove the entire stalk by cutting at the base of the stem. The removed leaves can then be placed at the base of the clump and act as a weed mat or used as mulch. If all leaves were equally damaged then remove about 50% of shredded leaves.
Remove bent and shredded leaves (red).
Save intact and unfurled leaves (green).
(2) Fertilize and Water
In addition to chlorophyll within leaves, carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water are also needed for photosynthesis. We recommend watering your Heliconia every to every other day. If your soil is well draining (as suggested on our Growing Tips page) you do not need to worry about over watering your clump. The plant will consume all the water it requires and the excess will leach. Increasing your fertilizer regime is also recommended to provide the needed macronutrients and encourage faster growth. We suggest using 16-16-16 or the like. Although less effective, chicken manure can also be used for those that prefer an organic approach.
(3) Wait and prune over time
Wait until new foliage unfurls and prune the clump again by removing damaged leaves. Within a couple of weeks Heliconia will produce a fair amount of new foliage. Continue this process and in one to two months’ you will have removed all damaged material and your Heliconia will have fully recover.
Before - Heliconia regalis damage by strong wind.
After - Heliconia regalis after pruning.