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Bird of Paradise: Plant Care and Growing Guide

Strelitzia, Crane Flower, Bird of Paradise Flower, Strelitzia reginae, Strelitzia nicolai, Strelitzia alba, Strelitzia juncea

Strelitzia, Bird of Paradise, Orange Bird of Paradise, White Bird of Paradise, Giant Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae, Strelitzia nicolai
Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae
Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae

Adding a tropical aesthetic and a spectacular floral display to the garden or in a sunny interior room, Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is an evergreen perennial native to South Africa. Highly prized and cultivated worldwide as an ornamental for its exotic flowers and cool foliage, it is grown outdoors in warm climates and as a houseplant elsewhere.

In South Africa, the Bird of Paradise plant is commonly known as a crane flower and is featured on the reverse of the 50-cent coin. It also is the official flower of the city of Los Angeles and the national flower of Madeira.

All you need to know about the Bird of Paradise plant

Species: Strelitzia is a member of the Strelitziaceae family and includes five species native to the subtropical coastal areas of southern Africa: Strelitzia alba (White Bird of Paradise), Strelitzia caudata (Mountain Strelitzia), Strelitzia nicolai (Giant Bird of Paradise), Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise) and Strelitzia juncea (Narrow-Leafed Bird of Paradise). 3 strelitzia species (reginae, juncea, and nicolai) are widely used to create a dramatic impact in the garden. 2 species (reginae and nicolai) are frequently treated as houseplants.

Hardiness: Most Strelitzia species are hardy in Zones 10-12, where temperatures do not dip below 50-54°F or 10-12°C. Strelitzia juncea is hardy in Zones 9.

Plant type: Strelitzia are evergreen perennials forming dense clumps of magnificent, glossy, deep green, blue-green, to gray-green, banana-like leaves that emerge from an underground stem (rhizome). An exception is the Narrow-Leafed Bird of Paradise, which has leaves like pointed spikes on mature plants.

Plant size: Strelizia typically grows 4-6 ft. tall (120-180 cm), with the exception of Giant Bird of Paradise, which can reach 20-30ft. in height (6-9 m). White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia alba), which is the rarest of the three large banana-like Strelitzia species, can reach 15 ft. (450 cm).

Flowers: The flowers of Bird of Paradise plants are truly spectacular: set atop long stalks, they have a complex and interesting structure with a hard, beak-like sheath (spathe) that opens along its top edge to reveal the flower petals and sepals. Two petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. The blossoms can be brilliant orange and vivid blue, bright yellow and electric blue, blue and white, or white only. Streliztia nicolai produces the largest flowers, which can reach 20 in. in length (50 cm).

Blooming season: The flowers are produced in succession, typically from late fall to late spring, depending on the species, latitude, and climate. In the right conditions, they can bloom year-round. A healthy, mature Bird of Paradise plant can produce up to 36 flower spikes per year. They make excellent cut flowers with a long vase life (up to 2 weeks).

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia, Crane Flower, Bird of Paradise Flower, Canna-leaved Strelitzia

Pollination: Strelitzia species lack natural insect pollinators. They are pollinated by birds that seek out the nectar found in the nectary at the base of the flower, where two petals join together. When a bird sits on the smaller, lower petal, the petals open to cover its feet in pollen.

Uses: Bird of Paradise plants have widespread use in tropical and Mediterranean landscapes around the world. They can also be grown in containers, bringing color and drama to patios and decks, or treated as houseplants. Flowers are a staple for florists in creating exotic bouquets, not only for their looks but also because they are long-lasting.

Air-purifying: The bird of paradise plant is also known for its air-purifying properties, making it a popular choice for indoor spaces.

Deer/rabbits: Bird of paradise is deer and rabbit resistant. It is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Guide Information

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Strelitzia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Salt
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Coastal Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Strelitzia nicolai (Giant Bird of Paradise)
Strelitzia reginae ‘Mandela’s Gold’ (Bird of Paradise)
Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise)

How to Grow a Bird of Paradise Plant

The bird of paradise plant is fairly easy to grow as long as it gets warmth, bright light, and a humid atmosphere.

Temperature and Humidity

Most Strelitzia species are hardy in USDA Zones 10-12, where temperatures do not dip below 50-54°F or 10-12°C. Strelitzia juncea is hardy in Zones 9. Bird of Paradise plants are not cold-tolerant and do not withstand frost. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.

Ideally, Strelizia should be located where the daytime temperature remains between 70-90ºF (21-32ºC) and nighttime temperature between 65-55°F (13-18°C).

Bird of Paradise plants prefer a humid atmosphere and rarely perform well as houseplants if the atmosphere tends to be too dry. To keep the atmosphere humid, place your potted plant on a tray of pebbles and water or mist frequently.

If the indoor temperature rises above 70 ºF (21 ºC), provide good ventilation or place your potted plant outside for the summer.

Light

Bird of Paradise performs well in full sun to partial shade in the garden.

In warm areas, where temperatures rise above 70 ºF (21 ºC), provide some afternoon shade to prevent the flowers from burning.

Indoors: the plant requires very bright light to bloom well. Choose an east or west-facing window. A south-facing window would also work, provided some shielding is provided from the direct midday summer sun, which can burn the leaves of young plants.

Soil and Drainage

Bird of Paradise does well in fertile, light, free-draining.

If grown in a container, use any good potting medium. Make sure the pot has drainage holes so excess water can drain away easily.

Where to Grow Bird of Paradise?

Bird of paradise, or Strelitzia reginae, is a unique and eye-catching plant that can add a touch of the tropics to any garden. Here are some ideas on how to use bird of paradise in your garden:

Focal point: The striking flowers make it a great choice for a focal point in the garden. Plant it as a stand-alone specimen plant or in a group to create a stunning visual display.

Borders: Use it to create a border or edge along a walkway or garden bed. Pair it with other tropical plants or complementary colors for a cohesive look.

Container gardening: Bird of paradise can also be grown in containers, which makes it a great choice for adding a tropical touch to a patio, deck, or balcony. Use a large container to give the plant room to grow, and pair it with other tropical plants or decorative elements for a complete look.

Poolside planting: The bird of paradise’s tropical look makes it a great choice for planting around a pool or other water features. Its large, banana-like leaves can create a lush, jungle-like feel.

Accent plant: Use it to accent other tropical plants in your garden. Its unique shape and bright colors can provide a contrast to other plants and help them stand out.

Houseplant: Bird of paradise can make a beautiful and exotic houseplant with the right care and growing conditions. With bright, indirect light, warm temperatures, and regular watering and fertilizing, it can thrive and add a touch of the tropics to your indoor space.

Make sure you select a sheltered location, away from draughts. In a windy site, the leaves will become shredded and tatty.

Caring for a Bird of Paradise Plant

Water and Moisture

  • Bird of Paradise should be watered regularly during spring and summer. The soil should be moist, but not waterlogged.
  • Throughout the fall and winter, allow the soil to almost dry out between waterings.

Fertilizer

  • Bird of Paradise will benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season.
  • If grown outdoors, provide fertilizer or compost every three months.
  • If grown indoors, feed it every two weeks with liquid fertilizer throughout the spring and summer.

Pruning

  • Bird of Paradise does not require pruning.
  • cut off old damaged leaves in the spring. These should be cut right down to the base with a sharp pair of secateurs.

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia, Crane Flower, Bird of Paradise Flower, Canna-leaved Strelitzia

Propagating

Strelitzia can be propagated from seeds or by division. Division is easier and faster than growing new plants from seed.

Propagation by division

  • Divide mature plants (at least 3 years old) or remove rooted suckers and offsets in late winter or early spring.

Propagation from seed

  • 2 weeks before sowing, remove the orange tufts from the seed and place them in a plastic bag with a hand full of fresh compost. Keep in the fridge for two weeks.
  • Soak seeds in room-temperature water for a few hours before planting.
  • Nick, with a knife or sandpaper, the seed coat to further speed up germination.
  • Plant the seed 1 inch apart (2.5 cm) in a well-draining potting mix.
  • Place in a warm, indirect sun location at temperatures of 65-70°F (18-21°C).
  • Water to keep the soil just moist but not soggy.
  • It should take about 4 to 8 weeks for the seeds to germinate.
  • Once the seedling produces two to three leaves, transplant them to a 6-inch pot (15 cm) using a free-draining potting medium.
  • Flowering may take up to 10 years.

Potting and Repotting

  • Bird of Paradise tends to bloom more profusely when slightly pot-bound.
  • When roots appear at the top of the compost (about every 2 years or so), repot into a slightly larger container in early spring. Make sure not to overly damage the fleshy roots.
  • In the meantime, you can remove and replace the top layer of compost with fresh potting media every spring.

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia, Crane Flower, Bird of Paradise Flower, Canna-leaved Strelitzia

Pest and Diseases

Bird of paradise is a relatively pest and disease-resistant plant, but it is important to monitor it regularly for signs of infestation or disease. By taking proactive measures to prevent and treat these issues, you can keep your bird of paradise healthy and thriving for years to come.

Mealybugs: These insects are small, white, cottony-looking bugs that suck the sap from the plant, causing it to wilt and become discolored. They can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Scale: Scale insects are small, immobile insects that attach themselves to the leaves and stems of the plant. They can be treated with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.

Spider mites: These tiny mites are difficult to see with the naked eye but can cause webbing and yellowing of the leaves. They can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Root rot: This is a fungal disease that can affect bird of paradise if the soil is too wet or poorly drained. To prevent root rot, be sure to plant the bird of paradise in well-draining soil and water sparingly.

Leaf spot: Leaf spot is a fungal disease that can cause yellow or brown spots on the leaves. It can be treated with a fungicide.

Main Problems – Tips

No flowers
– Only mature plants (4-5 years old) can produce flowers.
– To bloom well, your plant needs bright light (at least 6 hours of full sunlight or bright light) and plant food.
– It will flower better if slightly pot-bound and if the soil is kept evenly moist throughout the growing season.

Curling leaves
– The plant is underwatered and lacks moisture.
– Not enough humidity.

Wilting or browning leaves
– The plant is overwatered and the soil is soggy. This leads to root rot.
– Too much fertilizer.

Yellowing leaves
– Yellow leaves could just be old leaves dying back. This is normal.
– Lack of humidity.
– Lack of nutrients.
– Too little watering.

Companion Plants for Bird of Paradise Plants

Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paw)
Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)
Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican Daisy)
Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina Jessamine)
Osmanthus fragrans ‘Conger Yellow’ (Fragrant Olive)
Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass)
Trachelospermum asiaticum (Asiatic Jasmine)
Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic)
Agapanthus (African Lily)
Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily)
Eryngium planum (Flat Sea Holly)
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Compare All Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Strelitzia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Salt
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Coastal Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)
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