Alphabetical Plant Listing

Bird of Paradise: Plant Care and Growing Guide

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


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

  • Strelitzia is a member of the Strelitziaceae family and includes 5 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.
     
  • 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.
     
  • 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.
     
  • 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).
     
  • 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).
     
  • 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.
     
  • 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).
     
  • Bird of Paradise plants perform best in warm, sheltered, humid locations, in full sun to partial shade. They are salt-tolerant and drought-tolerant, though they require regular watering during spring and summer.
     
  • Bird of Paradise plants have widespread use in tropical and Mediterranean landscapes around the world. They make a ravishing accent or specimen plant look great in massed plantings and can also be grown in containers, bringing color and drama to patios and decks. 2 species (reginae and nicolai) are frequently 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. 
     
  • Bird of Paradise is fairly easy to grow but has a few requirements.
     
  • Strelizia is mildly toxic to cats and dogs. The flowers contain the toxin tannin which is known to be a gastrointestinal irritant causing mild nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.
     
  • Bird of Paradise plants have no serious pest or disease issues. Keep an eye out for scale insects, glasshouse red spider mites, and mealybugs when grown indoors.

Guide Information

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
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 Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles Coastal Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise Guides with Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise

Ron Cogswell, Joel, Flickr, Artem Avetisyan, Julia Dresch, Maria Ana Moreno, Shutterstock

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
Plant Family Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
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 Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles Coastal Garden, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise Guides with Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise

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