Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae), also known as crane flowers, is one of the most beautiful of all exotic flowers. This native of South Africa derives its name from the unusual flowers, which resemble brightly colored birds in flight.
Appearance of Bird of Paradise Plant
The leaves of a bird of paradise plant are bluish-green with a red midrib. This thick, evergreen foliage resembles small banana leaves, attached to a long stalk. In contrast to the banana, however, bird of paradise plants are trunkless.
Emerging from the green and pink boat-shaped bracts in spring is the long-stemmed bird of paradise flower. The bird of paradise flower has petals of brilliant orange set off by its intense blue arrow-shaped tongue. The blooming will continue in a succession over some time. In fact, when grown in greenhouse-like conditions, bird of paradise plants may even bloom year-round.
The bird of paradise makes a very attractive ornamental specimen, as its height usually reaches anywhere from 4 to 5 feet tall with a 2- or 3-foot spread.
The bird of paradise plant requires full sun, but it will tolerate lightly shaded positions if kept warm, though its flowering may be diminished. The plant does best when grown in rich, loamy soil with good drainage. The bird of paradise can also be grown near the ocean in seaside gardens, as the leathery leaves withstand the salt breeze.
Bird of paradise plants can be given fertilizer, such as compost, before new growth begins in spring. The plant will also benefit from regular feedings, so fertilize about every three months during the growing season.
The success or failure of this plant usually depends on whether or not it receives adequate moisture. Soggy soil with poor drainage and insufficient watering will cause its leaves to yellow, and the plant will eventually die.
When growing bird of paradise, you should follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Watering can be reduced after the plant has established itself; however, it will require moist conditions throughout its growing season. Although the soil must be kept moist throughout spring and summer, the plant should be allowed to dry out slightly between watering during fall and winter. However, during the dry winter months, regular misting of the plant may be needed to produce the humid conditions it enjoys.
Temperatures for the Bird of Paradise
As the bird of paradise plant is accustomed to warm temperatures, anything below 50 F. (10 C.) should be avoided. In fact, the bird of paradise prefers temperatures of around 65-70 degrees F. (18-21 C.) throughout the day and no less than 50 F. (10 C.) at night. In warmer climates, where there is no threat of frost, the bird of paradise can be planted outdoors.
Mulch can be placed around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture, stabilize root temperature, and reduce weeds. Organic mulch such as leaves, pine needles, bark, or wood chips are good choices, but inorganic materials like gravel and crushed stone are suitable as well.
To ensure its survival, consider growing this beautiful plant in a container where it can be left outdoors during warm months and brought inside once cooler weather returns for over wintering. Elsewhere, however, the plant should be grown strictly indoors or within a greenhouse.
The bird of paradise plant is normally unaffected by problems; however, this can occasionally occur. Root rot is the most common affliction most often due to over watering.
Note: Dogs also enjoy nibbling on these plants, but the seeds are toxic, causing abdominal pain and vomiting so beware of this if you have pets.