The unique bird of paradise strelitzia is a low-maintenance plant that can beautify your home. A native plant from South Africa, it is one of the most popular tropical plants to date.
This tropical plant boasts of its large and beautiful foliage and bright orange flowers resembling a bird. Let’s delve deeper into the amazing bird of paradise that is also related to banana houseplant through this article.
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Unique Features and Characteristics of the Bird of Paradise Plant
One of the most recognizable characteristics of the birds of paradise is its massive size. If you grow them outdoors, these plants can reach up to 20 ft. tall. If indoors, you can expect it to grow at around 3.5 to 6 ft. – with a few reaching to around 8 ft. provided they live in appropriate conditions.
Here are its other unique features:
The flower that it blooms usually sits on top of a long stalk, which is around 2 to 5 ft.. You will also immediately notice its flower coming out in groups of 3 to 5, mainly composing of upright yellow or orange sepals found in a boat-shaped, 6-inch bract. It also comes with 2 to 3 horizontal and dark blue petals.
The flowering usually happens during the late winter or the early spring. Every time birds sit atop the plant to take nectar, it is highly likely for the petals to open. This can then result in the release of pollen.
The bird of paradise boasts of evergreen foliage composed of small leaves with long petioles, resembling those of a banana. The foliage also fans out as a means of forming a waxy, glossy, and thick green crown.
You will also notice individual leaves emerging from the soil. These are oblong-shaped and are around 12 to 18 inches long.
The leaves that form part of the plant’s foliage vary in color. Some are glossy and deep green while others are blue-green. There are also those that grow muted gray-green leaves. Attached to an upright and long stalk, the leaf has a paddle or oblong shape, similar to the ones in a banana, which is why it is related to the fruit.
The orange bird of paradise, which is the most popular variety, can grow around 3 and ½ to 6 ft. upon maturity. You can also find the bird of paradise in white. It is a bigger version that can grow a max of 18 ft. and has leaves that grow to 18 to 24 inches.
One thing to note about the bird of paradise plant is that it kind of grows slowly. This means that you should be patient enough when planning to grow these houseplants.
Expect the first flowers of this tropical plant to come out 3 to 5 years after you initially planted it. You will also notice its foliage growing in clumps by that time.
The bird of paradise often thrives in humid and hot climates. It is a perennial but only in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12.
Bird of Paradise Species and Varieties You Can Grow
If you are interested in growing and cultivating birds of paradise at home, then you have to choose the right species or varieties to grow. Basically, there are five species of the birds of paradise plant, but only two of these plants are often grown and cultivated as indoor houseplants – the Strelitzia Nicolai and the Strelitzia Reginae.
Strelitzia Nicolai – Also called the giant bird of paradise, the S. Nicolai is recognized for being the white variety of this plant. It is a large plant with emerald green leaf color and midnight blue and white flowers.
Bird of Paradise Strelitzia Reginae – This species is recognized as the orange bird of paradise. It is smaller than the S. Nicolai and boasts of its lovely orange and crane-like flowers.
Growing and Caring for Your Birds of Paradise
Undoubtedly, the bird of paradise is a great plant that you can successfully grow inside. One reminder, though, is that its size could be a drawback when it comes to growing it indoors. It can grow up to 6 ft., sometimes even 8, and it often takes at least three years for it to produce flowers.
You have to consider all those before you decide to add these plants to cart and make them part of your indoor plant collection. Also, note that it tends to survive well if you do massed plantings outdoors.
It also seems to work well as a specimen plant grown in warm climates as this allows their flowers to showcase an amazing display by rising over the foliage.
To guarantee successful indoor cultivation during its growing season, ensure that you cover the following for proper bird of paradise plant care:
One thing to remember about the bird of paradise is that it requires bright light. It needs some direct sunlight for it to produce successful blooms. Note, though, that it also needs a shield from the direct heat of the midday summer sun as it tends to burn its leaves when it is still young.
If possible, put it in a room that has Eastern-facing or Western-facing windows. Avoid rooms that only come with a North-facing window as it may not be enough to give the houseplants the sunlight it needs.
You also need to supply the bird of paradise with sufficient water as part of its plant care. The goal is to ensure that the soil remains moist the entire year. You should prevent it from becoming waterlogged, though.
Water it every day during the summer and spring as those are the times when the plant loses moisture due to its huge leaves. A wise tip is to water the plant until you notice that the water drains from the drainage holes.
Ensure that the plant does not sit in a huge amount of water, though. You still have to be extra careful since if the plant is overwatered, it is greatly possible for its leaves to become crunchy brown, which is unnatural.
In terms of soil requirements, the one you need would be a well-drained and rich potting mix primarily designed for potted plants. You may also use a compost mix.
If you plan to use a pot, then ensure that it features adequate drainage holes. This allows the water to flow out easily and smoothly from the pot and through the soil.
Just like other houseplants, the bird of paradise prefers temperatures that are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is even more necessary to adhere to such a temperature during the winter season.
Also, note that it is not cold-tolerant. The reason is that it can’t recover that easily and quickly from frost damage. That said, it should not stay in a spot that goes below the required temperature of 60 degrees F.
The bird of paradise can actually survive with normal room humidity. However, it tends to grow more favorably and healthily if the humidity level is high. It is the reason why you should try boosting the level of humidity indoors with the help of a humidifier or a fine-mist mister.
The bird of paradise is also known for being a heavy feeder. You have to feed it every couple of weeks when the spring and fall season comes. It is because those are the plant’s active growing seasons.
The best fertilizer that you can use for this houseplant is a balanced and water-soluble one. Follow the instructions stated on the package regarding its use. When the winter comes, fertilize the plant only once every month.
It is also crucial for you to find the most appropriate place for your bird of paradise. The best location for it is one that is away from drafts and air vents. This area should also be able to give the plant a minimum of 4-hour Western, Eastern, or Southern exposure.
You can also further increase the survival rate of these plants by growing them in a pot or container, which you can easily move outside during the warm summer months. You should then bring the container inside once the winter season comes.
With the thick and tuberous roots developed by these plants, there is a great chance for their roots to fill up all the available spaces in a pot quickly. Those that you decided to grow in nursery pots will most likely consume the entire space.
That said, you should add to cart and buy a pot or container that has a bigger interior diameter compared to the grow pot’s size. In that case, you may want to check out low planters as they seem to make the plant look their best while showing off their foliage.
Alternatively, you can use higher tapered planters capable of showing off the height of the plant. Large planters with removable drain plugs, as well as plant saucers, are also highly recommended.
Apart from adhering to the mentioned requirements, make sure to follow these simple routine maintenance and plant care tips to make it thrive during the growing season:
Assess the actual watering requirements of the plant
Before you add this plant to cart if you decide to purchase one, make sure to determine its water requirements first. Also, check the soil’s moisture level prior to watering the plant. Ensure that it is not moist right below the surface.
In this case, you may want to use a soil probe. It is a handy tool that you can use to check the depth of soil moisture in the planter. You can also use it in aerating soil that is overly wet.
Let it dry a bit between each watering session
Remind yourself that while this plant is fond of moist soil, you should still prevent it from becoming too soggy. This means that you should let it dry out a bit between each watering.
Do not let the soil dry out completely, though. A rule of thumb is to let around two to three inches of the top soil get dry before you water it. Anything below that has to remain moist.
Rotate it periodically
Your bird of paradise will also thank you if you rotate it periodically. Doing so can guarantee even growth on every side. If there are broken or discolored leaves, do not hesitate to prune them.
Dust the leaves often
Make dusting each leaf of this tropical plant a regular part of its maintenance. Do it often as it can help in ensuring that the plant photosynthesizes efficiently. What you should do is to get a microfiber cloth and a mister.
Use the cloth to wipe each leaf down. It is also a chance for you to examine the foliage’s undersides and determine if there are pests there.
The flowers of the bird of paradise tend to last for around three weeks before their petals drop and die. In this case, you should remove damaged or old plant matter, which is an effective way of thinning the leaves. You can also pull off the leaves to remove them or seek the help of sharp-cutting instruments.
It is also important for you to have the implements sterilized in between various plants. If you notice that most parts of a leaf are healthy, then leaving it intact is greatly beneficial for it.
In case the plant grew extremely large, requiring you to cut it down significantly, then you may want to use a pruning saw, hand pruners, or loppers during the early spring.
Avoid using hedge trimmers as they may only result in rugged cuts. Cut down all stems and leaves to above the ground.
It is also advisable to utilize pruners with long handles. In case the plant gets overly crowded, use such pruners to remove the chosen leaves and stems.
Bird of Paradise Plants Propagation
There are actually two methods of propagating the bird of paradise plant, namely division, and sowing or growing from seeds. Some say that division is quicker and easier to do than the latter. In this method, using mature plants that have already bloomed previously for a minimum of three years is highly recommended.
Follow these steps when propagating this plant through division:
Depending on how big your bird of paradise is, as well as its underground root structure or rhizome, larger instruments, including a saw and shovel may be needed – These instruments are specifically necessary for large and in-ground plants. If the plant is smaller, then a sharp knife will do.
Prepare a potting mix that drains well and a new pot if you wish to pot the division.
Another tip is to remove offshoots or new growth at the plant’s base with a minimum of three leaves – After that, use a saw, knife, or shovel to divide the rhizome beneath the ground.
Use a potting mix that drains well when repotting in a new container.
Potting and Repotting
One unique fact about the bird of paradise is that it is required to get into a specific size before it will start blooming. If it grows to around 3 to 4 ft. , then you may need a 10-inch pot when it is time to repot it. If it reaches 5 to 6 ft., then a 14-inch pot is what you need.
It can greatly benefit the plant if you do the repotting every spring. Upon reaching maturity, let the bird of paradise remain pot-bound, so it can continue to grow flower. Divide it at least once upon maturity or when it blooms, though, you still have to do it infrequently.
The reason is that crowded clumps tend to bring out the highest amounts of growth. The repotting process may disrupt this blooming cycle.
Common Problems When Growing the Bird of Paradise
While the bird of paradise is an easy-going plant, it is still not immune to issues. There are still times when it is vulnerable to root rot and insect and pest infestation. These issues may happen if you do not do something to meet the plant’s optimal conditions and requirements.
Here are the most common issues you may have to deal with when growing this plant:
Browning or wilting leaves
Root rot is a common disease that tends to affect the bird of paradise plants. One sign is when its leaves wilt or turn brown. If its roots sit in excessive amounts of water for a long time, or its soil becomes soggy, a fungus may overtake the plant, leading to root rot.
You can prevent this from happening by ensuring that the soil is dry enough before watering. You should also watch out for signs of root rot, including a rotting smell. It is possible to save the plant if you detect this problem early.
Fixing root rot involves pulling the root ball up then cutting the rhizome’s moldy and blackened components. Apply the fungicide you decide to use based on the instructions. After that, you can repot the plant using fresh and well-draining soil as well as a sterilized container.
Are the leaves of your bird of paradise starting to become yellow? Then note that this could mean a few things. If the leaf only occasionally yellows and the plant is already mature, then it is safe to say that it is the leaf’s normal life cycle.
However, if you notice several of them yellowing, then note that it indicates that the plant is no longer receiving enough nutrients or humidity. Another potential problem is that the plant did not receive enough water.
Try increasing every mentioned factor one at a time, so you will know which one actually triggers the yellowing.
This problem indicates that the plant is underwatered. Avoid it by ensuring that your bird of paradise receives just enough water. Ensure that the water freely runs from the pot or container’s bottom.
Thorough watering can give you an assurance that all roots of the plant can easily access water without ending up being overwatered.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much light does a bird of paradise need?
The bird of paradise plants can live well if you provide it with a minimum of four hours of bright light daily. You may want to put it close to a window facing the West, East, or South so it can receive sufficient light for its healthy growth and survival.
Can birds of paradise plants take full sun?
The bird of paradise is actually heat-loving plants, which means that they can thrive well under the full sun or light. However, you can still choose to grow it under a shade. By growing your bird of paradise plant in shade, it is highly likely that they will grow taller, yet fewer stems and larger flowers.
Is bird of paradise hard to grow?
No, the bird of paradise plants are not that difficult to grow. As a matter of fact, it is a low-maintenance plant that you can easily grow at home. However, you still have to adhere to its specific conditions and requirements for healthy growth, including warmth, humid atmosphere, and bright light.
A room, bathroom, or conservatory that faces the Southern direction is the ideal place for it. Also, note that you need to provide the plant with a lot of room since it has a leaf that can grow up to 2 meters tall.
What part of the bird of paradise is poisonous?
The leaves and seeds of the bird of paradise plants are toxic for pets and animals, including dogs, cats, and horses. The poisonous/toxic components in the mentioned parts are tannins that may be found in the flower seeds and hydrocyanic acid, which can be in the plant’s leaves.
How to deal with pest infestation?
Just like other tropical plants that require adequate light, your bird of paradise is also prone to being infested with pests, including scale and spider mites. While they are difficult pests to eliminate, there are still quick solutions for them. One is neem oil, a natural essential oil capable of fighting pests on plants.
Jut spray it on each infested leaf and at the bottom. Do this daily for one or two weeks and you will notice your bird of paradise setting free from the pest infestation.
The bird of paradise is a lovely tropical plant that you will surely fall in love with. The fact that it is low-maintenance while still having the ability to produce great-looking blooms and nice structure makes it fun and satisfying to grow and include in your houseplant collection and family.