I finally acquired some heliconia schiedeana seeds from Whatcom Seed Company and was very impressed with the great service! They not only shipped them out right away, but also included a great little guide for germinating heliconia seeds, along with padded seed packets complete with a photo of the plant! (The third photo on the instructions is what I ordered)
Many of you in the tropics have access to heliconia seeds, so why not give it a shot?
Due to the hard seed coats, I'm here to say that heliconias are notoriously difficult to grow from seed, requiring hardcore scarification (that sounds worse than it is), long soaks in tepid water and a wait ranging from a month to a year! I have already succeeded in germinating seeds of ensete ventricosum and canna edulis, so I figured that it wouldn't be a stretch to sprout something in the same family...
Here's a summary of what the instructional packet and other sources online recommend for a successful heliconia sprout:
How to Germinate Heliconia Seeds
1. Scarify the seed coating
By sanding away the seed coat, you're letting water reach the embryo faster, shortening your wait. You can use sandpaper or a nail file, but make sure you don't sand all the way through the coat or you risk damaging the embryo.
2. Soak in tepid water
Immerse the seeds in hot water for a few days, replacing the water periodically. This not only speeds up the process by softening the seed coating, but also helps to sanitize the seed and reduces potential problems.
3. Plant in sanitized sphagnum mossI ordered mine with the seeds! You can use bags, trays or individual containers, but be sure to cover your container with plastic to keep it moist and sterile. The medium should be moist but not soggy. It supposedly helps if the white tip is pointing up, and providing a warm and dark environment is ideal. I'm planting mine in a tupperware container, putting it in my shelf on my shady balcony and covering it with a small towel to help moderate the temperature.
4. Keep an eye on themJust keep checking to make sure that everything's going okay. If you see a little mold you can either replace some of the medium or sprinkle dry sphagnum on top. When seeds germinate, transplant them to clean potting soil and watch them grow!