Bird of Paradise Flower (Strelitzia): Types, How to Grow and Plant Care

If you’re a little underwhelmed when it comes to plants that you can grow indoors, it may be that you’re just looking in the wrong places. 

There are plenty of fantastic plants to choose from, and one of the most unique plants that should be on your list is the bird of paradise.

Here’s everything you need to know.

At a Glance: What You Should Know About the Bird of Paradise Plant

The bird of paradise plant is famous for its banana-like foliage, and some of the most beautiful flowers available. 

In a single flower, it provides an explosion of orange and blue, resembling a bird of paradise, (see also Bird Of Paradise Flower Meaning) hence the name.

The bird of paradise plant is a perennial, and the foliage is evergreen, provided that you keep it somewhere warm enough. 

You’ll also see it labeled under its genus name, Strelitzia, though the individual scientific name depends on the species.

There are a few things to bear in mind, if you want to grow this stunning beauty. It’s very particular about its position, temperature, and humidity. 

The flowers only appear on a mature plant (which could take a maximum of ten years for a plant to bloom), and they rarely appear on a plant that lives inside all year round.

In other words, it’s not a plant for beginners, but it should be on your must-have plant list at some point. 

Types of Bird of Paradise Plants You Can Grow

There are five species in the Strelitzia plant genus, which all bird of paradise plants belong to. 

Out of the five, you’ll most likely encounter Strelitzia reginae, or the yellow and blue bird of paradise or crane lily. 

In the US, the most commonly grown types are Strelitzia alba, Strelitzia nicolai, and Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia alba ‘White Bird of Paradise’

One of the most challenging types to grow, the Strelitzia alba ‘White Bird of Paradise’ is unique for its completely white flowers, lacking the characteristic blue and yellow that is so recognizable in a bird of paradise flower.

In its native South Africa, it can get to an impressive height of 10 meters. 

Strelitzia caudata ‘Mountain Bird of Paradise’

A bird of paradise which also produces white flowers, this type has unusually shaped sepals, which look like they have been cut up, and ‘caudata’ translates to ‘chopped’. 

Strelitzia nicolai ‘Giant Bird of Paradise’

Also known as the white bird of paradise, confusingly, Strelitzia nicolai can reach 6 meters high. 

In terms of the flowers, this type produces white sepals, deep blue bracts, and a blue ‘tongue’. The whole flower can be 45cm long, which makes for a stunning show.

Strelitzia reginae ‘Bird of Paradise’

This is the type most people picture when they think of a bird of paradise, boasting gorgeous orange and blue blooms. 

It can reach 2 meters tall, each leaf capable of reaching 70cm long in the right conditions, and the flowers appear above the foliage. It’s grown all over the world both as an ornamental garden plant, and as a houseplant in colder areas.

Strelitzia juncea ‘Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise’

This is a threatened type of bird of paradise, notable both for its striking flowers and rush-like leaves. It’s illegal to remove it from its natural habitat, and it’s both drought and frost resistant.

How to Grow a Bird of Paradise

Can You Grow a Bird of Paradise From Seed or By Division?

From Seed

You can grow a bird of paradise plant from seed, but this is the more difficult method of propagation. The seeds have a very thick coating, so you could be waiting much longer than you bargained for.

You’ll need to sow seeds in March to April, but you’ll need to prepare the seeds first. Before sowing, put the seeds into a freezer bag with a small amount of compost, and keep it in the fridge for about a fortnight.

When you’re ready to sow the seeds, take them out of the bag, soak them in water for a few hours, and make a hole in the coating of the seed. 

Grab a heated propagator, and sow the seeds into a tray of seed compost, about 2cm apart. Keep the soil moist, and you should see germination within eight weeks.

From Division

You can grow a bird of paradise from a cutting, as such, but not from a stem or leaf, as there’s not the right kind of tissue to make an entirely new plant. Instead, you need part of the rhizome.

In other words, you need to divide the plant at its base. For this, you need a healthy bird of paradise plant to begin with, one you don’t mind dividing. 

Some rhizomes of the plant may have already separated naturally, in which case, you should be able to separate them from the rest of the plant fairly easily. 

Or, the rhizomes may be tightly packed together. In which case, you’ll have to be very careful when it comes to dividing the plant. You may need to use a sharp knife to cut them apart. 

Make sure to take a good-sized clump, potting it into its own container with well-draining, rich soil. It may not look pretty for a good few weeks until it recovers, but you’ll soon have a new plant.

Sunlight and Position

You can grow a bird of paradise indoors, or outdoors. Growing it outdoors does require a warmer climate, as the bird of paradise is sensitive to colder temperatures. 

You can always grow it outdoors in the summer months, and bring it indoors when the temperature dips.

Birds of paradise love humidity, so greenhouses or conservatories are the perfect place. You can grow them elsewhere, like a bathroom or a kitchen, but you do need to ensure that the atmosphere isn’t too dry. 

Bird of paradise plants require a lot of light for as long as possible, and this is essential for growing them inside or out.

They do need a fairly warm position, with a minimum temperature of 50-54°F (10-12°C) at night. Anything above 68°F (20°C) will require better ventilation, to avoid disease.

Birds of paradise plants need rich, well-draining soil in order to grow properly.

Watering and Feeding a Bird of Paradise

Bird of paradise plants need a consistently moist soil, but one which isn’t completely soaked. This is a difficult balance, but it is necessary to keep your plant healthy. 

You’ll need to reduce this amount in the autumn, and allow the plant to rest in winter, letting it mostly dry out in between watering. 

You should feed your bird of paradise plant during the growing season, which will help give it a boost, and keep the growth as vigorous as possible. 

Use a fertilizer formulated for houseplants, and apply it every two weeks or so, making sure you water it at the same time. 

Do You Need to Prune a Bird of Paradise?

No. You don’t need to prune a bird of paradise plant, but it helps to take off tattered, diseased, or dying leaves during spring. 

Cut the stems of these leaves to the base, leaving the plant energy to produce fresh leaves.

How to Repot a Bird of Paradise

You’ll need to repot a bird of paradise roughly every two years or so. In between these, make sure to remove the top 2 inches of soil, and replace it with fresh compost, as this will help refresh the nutrients in the soil.

It’s worth noting that repotting a bird of paradise plant can disrupt its flowering season, so bear this in mind. 

Gently remove the plant from the soil (you may need an extra person if your plant has gotten taller than you!), discarding some of the old soil. Be careful not to damage the roots.

Place it in a slightly bigger pot, filled with fresh, well-draining compost. Gently firm it in, and water it to settle in the roots.

Pests and Disease to Look Out For

It can be tricky to check for pests and disease on a bird of paradise plant, as there are quite a few places that they can hide. 

You’ll need to check the crown of the plant, and the undersides of the leaves, as well as the top of the soil.

Depending on whether you keep your bird of paradise plant inside or outside, there are different problems that can take hold.

Pests

Mealybugs and scale are the most common pests to watch out for. Signs of scale include tiny brown patches appearing on the undersides of the leaves and stems, while mealybugs produce honeydew, a sticky substance that coats the plant.

An infestation of mealybugs can also lead to fungal diseases, so the sooner you treat the bird of paradise, the better. 

You can use a dilution of neem oil, or insecticide, but make sure you follow the instructions carefully, as it can be dangerous. 

Outdoors, snails, grasshoppers, aphids and caterpillars may be a concern. Keeping your garden full of diverse plants can help control pest populations, as it attracts the predators of these insects. 

With caterpillars and snails, you can pick these straight off the plant.

Diseases

The bird of paradise plant is fairly robust, but there are a few diseases which can decimate the plant if left unchecked. 

Root rot is the biggest killer, so only watering the plant when absolutely necessary will help prevent this disease.

Leaf blight can also be a big problem. You’ll notice white spots appearing on the leaves, and these are surrounded by a green ring. To treat it, use a fungicide on the soil, and make sure you cut off these leaves, disposing of them properly.

Bird of Paradise Plant: Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the Leaves Curling on my Bird of Paradise?

If the foliage on your bird of paradise plant is curling, the plant is telling you that the conditions you’re growing it in are wrong. 

The biggest reason for leaf curl on a bird of paradise is that there’s not enough humidity. The surrounding atmosphere is too dry for the plant.

You either need to move it somewhere else, or improve the surrounding humidity by grouping it with other plants, putting a tray of gravel and water underneath the leaves, or getting a plant humidifier if you’re growing it inside.

Leaf curl is a sign of stress. If you’re not watering the plant enough, or the temperature is too cold, the plant may also curl its leaves. It may even be a sign that there are some pests or diseases that need taking care of, or it needs repotting.

To help figure out which one is the problem, try changing one thing, and only one, like the level of humidity. If the leaves are still curling within a week, you need to try changing another condition.

Why are the Leaves Shredding on my Bird of Paradise?

If you’re growing your bird of paradise plant outdoors, and the leaves are shredding, don’t worry. This is a natural process, where your plant is adapting to a windy environment.

The splits in the leaves help the wind to pass through the plant without tipping it over, otherwise the foliage could act as a sail! 

If you do notice that there are lots of splits appearing, and they form quickly, something may be wrong. It may be that the plant is too exposed to drafts or wind, or the light or watering needs aren’t being met.

How Do I Get a Bird of Paradise to Flower?

It’s worth knowing that the bird of paradise plant doesn’t bloom until it is mature. This may take anywhere from 4 years to 10 years, depending on the age of the plant when you get it, and the conditions you grow it in.

The plant requires a lot of light in order to produce flowers, as they require a lot of energy to produce these gorgeous displays of color.

If you keep your bird of paradise in a pot, they like to be slightly pot-bound, and this will help encourage flowers. Keep the plant well watered and well-fed.

If you have divided your bird of paradise plant or repotted it recently, it most likely won’t flower for a little while, until it recovers.

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