AskIFAS Powered by EDIS

Heliconia rostrata Lobster Claw

Edward F. Gilman, Alan Meerow, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


Lobster claw is an herbaceous perennial with leathery, dark green leaves which are borne on long petioles arising directly from the ground. It has 3 to 5feettall 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.

Full Form - Heliconia rostrata: Lobster Claw
Figure 1. Full Form - Heliconia rostrata: Lobster Claw
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Flower - Heliconia rostrata: Lobster Claw
Figure 2. Flower - Heliconia rostrata: Lobster Claw
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Heliconia rostrata

Pronunciation: hel-lick-KOE-nee-uh ros-STRAY-tuh

Common name(s): lobster claw, false bird of paradise

Family: Heliconiaceae

Plant type: herbaceous

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: cut flowers; suitable for growing indoors

Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. 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


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

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

Release Date:October 30, 2023

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
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