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Bird of Paradise—How to Grow Strelitzia

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Bird of Paradise—How to Grow Strelitzia

Bird of paradise flowers are instantly recognizable. It takes new plants several years to flower.

Photo © Jon VanZile
Cousin to the banana, the bird of paradise is one of the best known of all the tropical flowers. Who hasn't walked into a swanky hotel or event and seen magnificent table centerpieces built about these remarkable flowers? Surprisingly, birds are easier to grow than many tropical plants. The plant is a vigorous, rapidly growing indoor plant. Birds can be moved outside in the summer, and in warmer climes, will thrive for half the year outside. They typically flower in the late winter or early spring, but under optimal conditions, will flower at various times.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Bright light, even including some direct sunlight, to bloom well. However, only habituated plants can handle direct, midday summer sun.
Water: Keep soil continuously moist throughout the year. High humidity is preferred.
Temperature: Above 60ºF is preferred in the winter. This is not a cold-tolerant plant.
Soil: Rich, well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed in spring with slow-release pellets or weekly during growing season with liquid fertilizer.

Propagation:

By division of underground rhizome during repotting. Can be grown from seed, but division is so easy, why bother?

Repotting:

These are rapid-growing plants that need to reach a certain size before they'll bloom. Repot every spring into a larger pot and make sure to give it room to get big.

Varieties:

There are four strelitzia species, but only one is grown as an indoor plant: S. reginae. This plant grows with upright leaves emerging directly from the soil—there is no trunk. The large leaves range between 12 and 18 inches long and, if exposed to windy conditions or being brushed in a busy hallway, will shred.

Grower's Tips:

S. reginae is a beautiful plant and can be very successfully grown inside. The biggest drawback is typically its size (they grow up to 5 feet) and the fact that plants need 3 to 5 years before they will flower. They work well in massed plantings or as specimen plants, and their flowers will rise above the foliage for an impressive display. The trick to successful growth is providing lots of bright light (with some gentle direct sun), water, warmth and food.
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