AskIFAS Powered by EDIS

Heliconia rostrata Lobster Claw

Edward F. Gilman and Alan Meerow


Lobster claw is an herbaceous perennial with leathery, dark green leaves which are borne on long petioles arising directly from the ground (Figure 1). It has 3- to 5-feet-tall stems terminated by a drooping inflorescence. The flowers hang in showy clusters that emerge from second year stalks. They are enclosed by scarlet and yellow colored bracts that are 6 to 8 inches long. This unique plant is used as a specimen for tropical gardens. The inflorescence may be cut for indoor decoration where they last for several weeks.

Figure 1. Lobster claw.
Figure 1.  Lobster claw.


General Information

Scientific name: Heliconia rostrata
Pronunciation: hel-lick-KOE-nee-uh ros-STRAY-tuh
Common name(s): lobster claw
Family: Heliconiaceae
Plant type: herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: cut flowers; suitable for growing indoors
Availablity: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant
Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.



Height: 5 to 6 feet
Spread: 3 to 6 feet
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: open
Growth rate: fast
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristic: spring flowering; summer flowering
Figure 3. Flower of lobster claw.
Figure 3.  Flower of lobster claw.



Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: unknown
Fruit cover: unknown
Fruit color: blue
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: thick


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: moderate
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: very sensitive to one or more pests or diseases which can affect plant health or aesthetics

Use and Management

Lobster claw will prosper in locations that receive full or partial sun. It grows and flowers best in fertile, moist soil. Fertilize this plant regularly during the growing season.

Propagation is by division of the matted clumps.

Pests and Diseases

None are usually serious. This plant may be bothered by Cercospora and Helminthosporum leaf spots. Scales and nematodes may also cause problems.

Publication #FPS248

Date: 5/27/2015


    • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
    Organism ID

    About this Publication

    This document is FPS248, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

    About the Authors

    Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Alan Meerow, former assoicate professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


    • Gail Hansen de Chapman