Cold Hardy Heliconias and Gingers

Tropical Gardening in Cold Climates Suggested Heliconias and Gingers Available for Cooler Climates and the basics on growing them.

                                                                        COLD HARDY HELICONIAS AND GINGERS

Picture a lush tropical garden and I bet the image you conjure up will include heliconias and gingers. In coastal Queensland, they are easy to grow if you can keep the water up and have a good microclimate. Some areas like parts of Brisbane can be a challenge and we have written an article for Brisbane and novice Queensland Heliconia growers here. In this article, we are covering more challenging areas. Growing heliconias and gingers in Sydney and Melbourne and cooler coastal areas in between.

Ones of the most important things to understand is that there are other factors that will influence your success rate besides temperature and water. Microclimate is the mini climate created in an area that can increase humidity, protect from wind/frost and increase temperature. Urban Island Heat is another concept that allows some tropical to grow better in cities because of the microclimate buildings create. Amending your soil so it is light fluffy and has lots of organic matter is extremely important in cool climate tropical gardens. Winter rain can also be problematic in cooler climates as most tropical become dormant in cooler temperatures and their roots will rot if drainage is insufficient. Excellent drainage is a MUST for heliconias and gingers in Sydney and Melbourne. You’ll find more information on these concepts here.

Heliconias and Gingers will need more protection from the sun and wind in cooler climates. That means you will need morning sun, part shade or a canopy. Heliconias and Gingers will most likely look scrappy in full sun in your climate.

Now armed with a reasonable amount of knowledge you can get into the meat and potatoes of the subject. Which of the heliconias and gingers here will grow best in cooler climates?

First off, I need to say unless you are growing in a hothouse STAY AWAY FROM TORCH GINGERS ANYWHERE BELOW BRISBANE. Yes, they are gorgeous and I know you want them but they’ll be dead long before they flower. They have no cold hardiness.


 The good news is, in Sydney and on the Central Coast of New South Wales there are a surprising number of heliconias and gingers that will grow well.

Small to Medium Heliconias for Sydney

Papsiana- dark stems, bright red and white bracts, strong consistent Sydney heliconia (1.5 m tall)

Pendula Bright Red- Deep green leaves, pendulous bright red and white flowers, excellent landscaping plant for Sydney (1.5 m tall)

Pendula Red Waxy-  Beautiful Waxy looking foliage makes it a year round stunner, pendulous red flowers, highly recommended for Sydney Tropical Gardens (2 m tall)

Yellow Dancer- Dark stems, Canary Yellow upright flowers, Excellent cutflower and popular heliconia for Sydney (2 m tall)

Chocolate Dancer- Slightly darker stems, unusual chocolate and yellow flowers, another excellent cutflower (2m tall)

Rostrata-   Pendulous red and yellow flowers, striking and a must have for any tropical garden, widely grown dependable, definitely need a bit of shade (2 m tall)

Tropic- Very upright habit small yellow and orange flowers, excellent landscaping plant, good screening heliconia.

Mathaisiae- smallest of the heliconias we sell that is suitable to cooler climates. Red and yellow flowers, flowers well in pots (1 m tall)


Large Growing Heliconias for Sydney

Rauliniana- upright large grower with twisting pendulous red and yellow flowers, excellent screening plant, fast grower (4 m tall)

Collinsiana- More open habit Waxy foliage with frosty orange/yellow toned flowers, can be temperamental (3 m tall)

Latispatha from Panama- The only running heliconia on the list, flowers on first year growth. Orange spiralling flowers with red edge.

Maya Blood- Beautiful upright golden orange flowers with red splashes, has an open habit but doesn’t run (2.5 m tall)

Hot Rio Nites- Always a consistent grower this is highly recommended for tropical gardens in cooler climates. Upright habit, deep red large flowers, great landscaper, great screener (3.5 m tall)

Caribaea Crosses- Kawauchi, Jacquinni, Richmond Red, Black Cherry all do well in Sydney in good conditions. Chunky flowers, good screening plants (3.5 m tall)


Hedychiums- any of the hedychiums we sell will do well in good conditions in Sydney

Beehive Gingers—Do well in Sydney

Alpinia galangal

Alpinia malaccanse

Alpinia henryi

Alpinia “Giant Pink Shell”

Alpinia nutans

Shell Ginger