KEEP IT TROPICAL
I think the only thing that was enjoying the past months of incredibly hot, humid weather was the tropical plants like heliconias and gingers. It seems that no amount of rain and heat is too much for them to tolerate. Most of the tropical plants we grow come from the steamy jungles of Asia and tropical America, with some also occurring on the Pacific Islands, so warm weather with high rainfall suits them perfectly.
Heliconias can grow anywhere between 0.5m-4-5m tall, depending on the variety. Some will grow in full sun, whereas others prefer shade or at least semi-shade. Most flower through summer and autumn, but a couple, including the beautiful Red Christmas, flower through winter.
Heliconias make great cut flowers. The stems of the larger varieties can be very heavy, so you need a very solid vessel if you are to use them in floral arrangements. A stem will flower only once, so when the flower is finished, it’s best to cut the whole shoot away at ground level to allow new ones to form.
The ginger family is similarly large, and includes several culinary forms such as ginger, galangal and turmeric.
Like heliconias, gingers can range in size from small 30cm tall plants to large spreading clump-forming varieties reaching up to 4m. There are lots of different flowers in the ginger family. Beehive gingers produce a beautiful, very fleshy cone that emerges from the ground and has little flowers that pop out the sides. Spiral gingers (Costus) are named for their distinctively spiralling stems. Most of these hold their flowers on the tops of the spiral stems.
Heliconias and gingers are not lowmaintenance plants, but they are easy to grow and easy to maintain. At the end of the season, you just need to remove the spent stems to keep the plants looking tidy. In cool winters, some of the leaves may turn a bit yellow — you can remove those too. Keep the plants well-mulched and ensure they get enough water. You can feed with a well-balanced organic fertiliser in spring and summer. Even though they enjoy plenty of water, they don’t like to grow in boggy soil, especially when they are semi-dormant in winter.