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How to Grow and Care for Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia spp.)

Bird of Paradise plants (Strelitzia species) are stunning tropical plants that can bring a touch of paradise to any garden. Here's how to grow and care for it.

Birds of Paradise (Strelitzia species) are stunning tropical plants that can bring a touch of paradise to any garden. With their vibrant blooms and unique foliage, they are often considered a showstopper. They’re also great as houseplants indoors which makes them incredibly versatile.

Bird of Paradise plants are native to South Africa, but they have become associated with tropical sceneries around the world and are frequently used as landscape plants in warmer regions of the United States, such as Hawaii, southern California, or Florida. In fact, they are the official flower of the city of Los Angeles!

They can be grown indoors as an attractive and quite large houseplant in colder climates. Place them in a sunny area of the house and bring them outside during the warmer months, but make sure to acclimate them to the stronger sunlight or their foliage will burn.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of planting, growing, and caring for Birds of Paradise as a master gardener, unraveling their beauty, and unlocking their full potential.

Bird of paradise plant in full bloom at tropical garden

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Botanical Name: Strelitzia

Common Name: Birds of Paradise

Family: Strelitziaceae

Plant Type: Perennial

Hardiness Zones: 9-11 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Well-drained, fertile soil

Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (pH 6.0-7.5)

Bloom Time: Spring and summer

Flower Color: Orange, yellow, blue, or white

Native Area: South Africa

Birds of Paradise Plant Care

Birds of Paradise, also known as Strelitzia, are stunning tropical plants that are prized for their vibrant and exotic blooms. Native to South Africa, these plants require specific care to thrive and reach their full potential.

Here are some tips and tricks to care for them from my years as a master gardener:

Light

Proper lighting plays a crucial role in the successful growth of Birds of Paradise. These plants thrive in bright indirect light. Placing them near east or west-facing windows is ideal, as they will receive the required amount of light without being exposed to harsh afternoon sun. The filtered light will create the perfect environment for the plant to photosynthesize and produce energy.

If grown indoors, consider placing them under grow lights to mimic natural sunlight. This is especially important if you don’t have access to sufficient natural light. Grow lights provide a full spectrum of light that closely resembles the sun’s rays, ensuring that your Birds of Paradise receive the necessary light energy for healthy growth and blooming.

 

Soil

When it comes to the soil, Birds of Paradise prefer a well-draining potting mix. A mix containing equal parts peat moss, perlite, and a quality garden soil will provide the necessary drainage, preventing waterlogged roots. This way, the roots will stay healthy, reducing the risk of root rot.

Additionally, adding organic matter such as compost or aged manure to the soil mix can improve its fertility and water-holding capacity. This will ensure that your Birds of Paradise receive the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

Water

Gardener watering Birds of Paradise plant using a hose sprayer

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Proper watering is essential for the overall health of Birds of Paradise. In general, it is best to keep the soil consistently moist but not overly saturated. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. This will prevent the roots from sitting in water for extended periods, which can lead to root rot.

During the growing season, increase the frequency of watering and ensure that the plant receives enough humidity. Mist the leaves regularly to replicate their native tropical environment. This will not only provide moisture to the foliage but also help prevent pests and dust from accumulating on the leaves.

However, caution must be exercised not to overwater the plant, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. Always check the moisture level of the soil before watering. One way to do this is by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water.

Mature plants are more drought-tolerant and may not need to be watered at all during the winter months if your region receives enough rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

Birds of Paradise thrive in warm climates, with temperatures ranging between 60°F (15°C) and 72°F (22°C). They are not cold-hardy and can suffer damage when exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C). If you live in a region with colder winters, it is best to grow them indoors or provide proper protection during the colder months.

In terms of humidity, these plants prefer high humidity levels. Mist the leaves regularly or use a humidifier to ensure an optimal growing environment, especially during drier seasons. High humidity levels will help prevent the leaves from drying out and promote healthy growth.

Giant white bird of paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai) is grown in greenhouses in huge pots

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Fertilizer

Regular fertilizing is vital to ensure healthy growth and vibrant blooms. During the growing season, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Look for a fertilizer specifically formulated for flowering plants, as it will contain the necessary nutrients to support blooming.

Follow the instructions on the package, as over-fertilizing can damage the plant. It’s always better to under-fertilize than to overdo it. If you notice any signs of nutrient deficiency, such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth, consider adjusting your fertilization routine.

During the dormant season, reduce or stop fertilization altogether. Birds of Paradise naturally go through a period of rest, and excessive fertilization during this time can disrupt their natural growth cycle.

Remember, an ample supply of nutrients will promote strong growth and abundant blooms, making your Birds of Paradise the envy of the neighborhood. With proper care and attention, these stunning plants will reward you with their majestic beauty for years to come.

Types of Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise encompass several species, each possessing its unique characteristics and charm. Here are five common types that will captivate your garden:

  • Strelitzia Reginae: Also known as the Orange Bird of Paradise or Crane Flower, this is the most popular variety with its striking orange and blue blooms. Each flower has 3 orange sepals and 3 blue petals. This variety is known for its ability to attract pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies, making it a delightful addition to any nature lover’s garden.
Orange Bird of Paradise or Crane Flower (Strelitzia reginae)

Orange Bird of Paradise(Strelitzia reginae) – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Strelitzia Nicolai: Often referred to as the Giant White Bird of Paradise or Giant Bird of Paradise, it showcases large white flowers amidst its large banana-like foliage. Its large white flowers, resembling the plumage of a bird in flight, stand out against its lush, banana-like foliage. This variety creates a tropical oasis in any garden, transporting you to a lush, exotic paradise.
Giant White Bird of Paradise or Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai)

Giant White Bird of Paradise(Strelitzia Nicolai) – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Strelitzia Mandela Gold: Named after the iconic Nelson Mandela, this variety boasts golden-yellow flowers that symbolize hope and positive transformation. These flowers represent hope, resilience, and positive transformation, making it a perfect choice for gardens that seek to inspire and uplift. The vibrant blooms of Strelitzia Mandela Gold are a testament to the enduring spirit of change and progress.
Strelitzia Mandela Gold is a rare yellow form of the well-known crane flower.

Strelitzia Mandela Gold – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Strelitzia Juncea: Known for its cylindrical, reed-like leaves and lack of typical broad foliage, this species offers a unique and modern aesthetic. Strelitzia Juncea is a species of Birds of Paradise that stands out for its unique and modern aesthetic. Unlike other varieties, Strelitzia Juncea features cylindrical, reed-like leaves instead of the typical broad foliage. This distinctive characteristic gives it a sleek and contemporary look, making it a popular choice for those who want to add a touch of architectural elegance to their garden.
Strelitzia Juncea or rush-leaved strelitzia with reed-like leaves

Strelitzia Juncea – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Strelitzia Alba: This elegant variety features creamy-white flowers and requires partial shade, making it perfect for gardens with a bit more shade. Unlike its vibrant orange and golden counterparts, Strelitzia Alba thrives in partial shade, making it an excellent choice for gardens that receive less direct sunlight. Its delicate blooms bring a touch of grace and tranquility to any garden, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.
Close-up photo of Strelitzia Alba in a botanical garden

Strelitzia Alba – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The selection of these different types of Birds of Paradise allows you to introduce a touch of diversity and visual interest to your garden. Choose the ones that resonate with your personal style and garden aesthetics.

How to Propagate Birds of Paradise

When choosing a plant to propagate, it’s essential to select a mature and healthy specimen. Look for a plant with multiple stems or clumps, as this will increase your chances of successful division.

Additionally, ensure that the plant is well-watered before starting the propagation process. Moist soil will make it easier to separate the clumps without causing any damage.

To begin the division process, carefully remove the plant from its container or dig around the base if it’s planted in the ground. Take your time and handle the plant with care to avoid any injuries.

Once the plant is out of its container, gently separate the clumps by pulling them apart. If the clumps are tightly packed, you may need to use a sterilized knife or shears to divide them.

After dividing the clumps, it’s time to plant them in separate pots or prepared garden beds. Make sure the pots or beds have well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.

Place the newly divided plants in a warm and humid environment with bright, indirect light. This will provide them with the optimal conditions for growth and establishment.

Watering is a crucial aspect of successful propagation. While it’s essential to keep the soil consistently moist, avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.

Regularly check the moisture level of the soil and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. As the plants acclimate to their new environment, they will start to produce new growth, indicating that the propagation process was successful.

By following these steps, you can not only expand your Birds of Paradise collection but also share their beauty with fellow gardening enthusiasts. For best results, I recommend dividing during late spring or early summer.

Potting and Repotting Birds of Paradise

Pots of Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) in garden center

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Proper potting is crucial for the healthy growth of Birds of Paradise. When selecting a container, it’s important to choose one that allows excess water to drain freely. This prevents waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot.

Additionally, opting for a pot that is slightly larger than the current one allows room for the plant’s roots to grow and expand.

To further improve drainage, it’s recommended to add a layer of small stones or broken pottery at the bottom of the pot. This layer acts as a barrier, preventing the drainage holes from becoming clogged with soil and promoting efficient water flow.

When filling the pot with potting mix, a well-draining mixture is essential. Combining peat moss, perlite, and garden soil creates an ideal medium that allows excess water to escape while retaining enough moisture for the plant’s roots.

When it comes to repotting Birds of Paradise, timing is crucial. Repotting is typically required when the plant outgrows its current pot or when the soil becomes compacted. It’s recommended to repot every 2-3 years during the spring, as this allows the plant to adjust to its new environment and promotes healthy growth.

During the repotting process, it’s important to handle the plant with care. Gently removing the plant from its current pot and loosening the roots helps prevent damage and ensures the plant’s overall well-being.

Once the plant is placed in the new pot, it’s essential to fill the remaining space around the roots with the potting mix. This provides stability and support, ensuring that the plant stands upright and can continue to grow without any hindrance.

After repotting, watering the plant thoroughly is crucial. This helps settle the soil and ensures that the plant’s roots are properly hydrated. However, it’s important to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. It’s best to water Birds of Paradise when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

Remember, a well-potted Birds of Paradise will have room to thrive and display its true magnificence. By following these potting and repotting guidelines, you can provide the ideal conditions for your Birds of Paradise to flourish and bring beauty to your space.

Bird of paradise flower and leaves by wooden wall

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Common Pests, Plant Diseases, and Plant Problems for Birds of Paradise

While Birds of Paradise are relatively resilient plants, they are not entirely immune to pests, diseases, and other plant problems. Here are a few common issues to look out for:

  • Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects can suck the sap from the leaves, causing deformities and stunted growth. Monitor your plants regularly and wash off aphids with a strong jet of water or use insecticidal soap if needed.
  • Scale Insects: These tiny, immobile pests appear as small bumps on the leaves or stems. Use a soft brush or cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove them.
  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease can occur in high humidity or when the plant is overcrowded. Ensure proper air circulation and avoid overhead watering to prevent powdery mildew. Treat affected areas with a fungicide if necessary.
  • Leaf Spot Diseases: Fungal infections can cause dark spots on the leaves. Remove and destroy affected leaves and ensure good airflow around the plant to prevent further infection.
  • Root Rot: Excessive moisture in the soil can lead to root rot, a condition where the roots become mushy and black. To prevent root rot, ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering. If root rot occurs, remove the affected parts and repot the plant in fresh, well-draining soil.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny pests can be identified by the fine webbing they produce on the leaves. They feed on the plant’s sap, causing yellowing and wilting. Use a strong jet of water to wash off spider mites or apply an appropriate insecticide.

Vigilance and regular inspections are key to catching and treating any issues early. Maintaining a clean and healthy environment will minimize the chances of these problems affecting your Birds of Paradise.

Woman wiping off large green leaves of Strelitzia nicolai (Bird of Paradise) to get rid of pests

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

In addition to the common pests and diseases mentioned above, Birds of Paradise may also face challenges such as nutrient deficiencies, particularly in indoor settings. Lack of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can result in stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and poor flowering. To ensure optimal growth, it is important to provide a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for tropical plants.

Furthermore, extreme temperature fluctuations can also pose a threat to Birds of Paradise. While they thrive in warm climates, they may suffer damage if exposed to frost or prolonged cold spells. It is advisable to protect the plants during winter by covering them or moving them indoors to a well-lit area.

By following the guidelines provided, you can ensure the successful growth and proper care of your Birds of Paradise (Strelitzia species). These beautiful plants are a true gem in any garden, captivating both the eyes and the heart. Embrace their exquisite beauty, and let them bring a touch of paradise to your life.

Other Flower Guides from Planet Natural:

FULL GUIDE: White Bird of Paradise Care (Strelitzia Nicolai) + FAQ

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