Strelitzia spp.

If you are looking for a plant with large, stunning flowers, Bird of Paradise is the place for you.

A close vertical image of the unusual flowers of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden surrounded by foliage on a soft focus green background. There is text printed in green and white in the center and at the bottom of the frame.

With its orange, blue, and white flowers that look like a flying bird, this plant simply cannot be ignored. And this native South African will grow happily in warmer parts of the US year round.

Ready to start? I'll tell you everything you need to know to grow vigorous Bird of Paradise plants in your own garden in zones 9-12.

The following is just around the corner:

What is a bird of paradise?

This herbaceous perennial is rare in northern climates, but in gardens and along roadsides USDA hardiness zones 10-12 and sometimes in warmer areas of zone 9.

A close horizontal image of Strelitzia reginae flowers blooming in the garden surrounded by dark green foliage, shown on a soft focus background.

Named for its stunning flowers, the plant slowly grows in clumps as its underground stem divides as the foliage fan-out resembles banana leaves.

Flowers are produced in groups of one to three on long stems.

Bird of paradise plants are also known as crane flowers, a more detailed description of the shape of their flowers.

Orange sepals and blue petals are created from a modified leaf known as the bract. Two of the blue petals combine to form nectar – an organ that secrete nectar.

The plants bloom all year round in suitable climates.

Mature, healthy plants can produce up to 36 flower stalks per year, which will take weeks.

Native to southern Africa, there are five species in the genus Strelizia. The most commonly grown species in the United States are S. reginae, S. nicolai, and S. alba.

If you live in the Southwestern United States, you may be familiar with other plants known by the same common name.

The birds of paradise that grow so well in this region are an entirely different species in the legume family, Caesalpinia.

A close horizontal image of Caesalpinia gilliesii growing in the garden shown on a soft focus background.Caesalpinia gilliesii

The three most commonly seen are the red C. pulcherrima, the yellow C. gilliesii (reclassified as Poinciana gilliesii), and the Mexican bird of paradise C. mexicana.

Cultivation and history

Formerly considered part of the banana family, these plants have escaped that low fate and now have their own family – the Strelitziaceae.

A close vertical image of Strelitzia reginae growing indoors, shown on a black background.

Bird of Paradise flowers are so famous that they were awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the UK's Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

They are as wonderful as cut flowers and are sold millions of times Use in flower arrangements.

These plants require little maintenance, which makes them valuable for urban design. They often grow on traffic islands and in gardens in apartment complexes in California.

Their tendency to remain seated is even better. Unlike tree roots, which eventually lift sidewalks, the Bird of Paradise's roots don't thicken as the plants age.

Bird of paradise plants were introduced to Europe in 1773 when Francis Masson, plant collector, brought specimens from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew.

The genus Strelitzia was named after Queen Charlotte Sophie von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of the then ruling monarch King George III.

Even the scientific name of the bird of paradise S. reginae is royal, with the Latin word reginae meaning queen in English.

A close horizontal image of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden, shown on a soft focus background.

Bird of paradise plants were introduced to California in 1853 by Colonel Warren, editor of California Farmer magazine, and were for sale in Montecito, a wealthy enclave of Santa Barbara, in the 1870s.

These plants became such emblems of Southern California that Mayor Fletcher Bowron made them the official flower of the city of Los Angeles in 1952.

In their native South Africa, the flower is so popular that it is featured on the coat of arms of the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

It also adorns the emblem of a high South African honor – the order of Ikhamanga. The President of South Africa has the power to bestow this honor on its citizens for achievements in the fields of literature, culture, art, journalism, music and sport.

Birds of paradise grow wild among other shrubs along the riverbanks in many parts of South Africa and are important sources of nectar for birds.

Multiplication

Birds of Paradise plants can take three to ten years to grow from seeds, but propagation by division produces new plants much faster.

According to departments

You can dig up mature clumps in late spring or early summer and divide them into single or multi-stem sections with four to five or more shoots.

A close horizontal image of a clump of Strelitzia reginae growing outside a tennis court with a chain link fence in the background.

Depending on the size of the lump, you'll need to mark an 8 to 12 inch radius from the base of the plant and dig to a depth of 10 to 24 inches. Pull the plant up and cleanly cut the root ball with a garden knife or shovel.

If the plant is growing in a container, lift it out of the pot and cut the root ball with a sharp knife. Make sure there is at least one stem attached to each section.

Plant each division in the ground at the same depth as the root ball section or in a pot that is 8 to 12 inches wide and deep – or larger – depending on the size of your department.

Keep the soil moist for at least three months until the roots have formed. If desired, you can then fertilize them as described below.

You should have mature flowering plants in one to three years.

Another option is to remove young cuttings from mature plants.

Learn more about how to divide perennials in this guide.

From seeds

If you are patient, you can grow these plants from seeds. Your plants should start to flower in three to five years.

A close horizontal image of the dramatic flowers of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden, shown in filtered sunshine with shrubs in soft focus in the background.

However, some sources claim that it can take up to 10 years for plants to start from seed to flowering.

Saving your own seeds from mature plants is an option, but when the plants are hybrids, the seeds will not faithfully produce.

If you hand pollinate the flowers, you should see seed pods about five months later. Each pod contains 60-80 seeds.

When the flower has withered and died, you can collect the pods and cut them open to remove the seeds inside.

The seeds are black with orange tufts and are the size of pea kernels.

A close horizontal image of a Strelitzia reginae seed coat containing black and orange seeds placed on a wooden surface.

Plant the seeds as soon as possible after harvest, before the seed coat hardens.

If you cannot sow them right away, it is recommended that you plant them within six months of harvesting to ensure viability.

If you need to store the seeds, put them in a cool, well-ventilated room until the seeds are completely dry – usually a week to ten days – and then place them in a paper envelope and store them in a cool, dry place until you are done planting.

If the seed coat is hard, whether you saved or purchased your own seeds, you can shorten the germination time by soaking the seeds in lukewarm water for a day or two, then notching the seed coat with a small file or knife . This process is known as scarification.

After soaking the seeds, remove the bright orange tuft of hair.

Plant the seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep in a pot or planter tray in moist seed starting medium that is loose and clean. Place a plastic bag or moisture dome over it to ensure a humid environment.

Providing a 75-90 ° F soil warmth allows them to germinate, although it is not required.

Scarified seeds should germinate in one to three months if kept moist.

According to Sydney Park Brown and Robert J. Black, professors in the Department of Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida IFAS extensionYou may be able to speed up the germination time by placing the seeds in a plastic bag and refrigerating at 40-45 ° F for two weeks. Then scarify them.

The seedlings can be transplanted into 6-inch pots when they have three to four true leaves.

Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaked, until the seedlings are six to eight inches before transplanting them into the garden as described below.

How do i breed

While this plant originates from the subtropical coasts of South Africa, it grows in the warmer climates of zones 9-12.

A close horizontal image of a red Strelitzia reginae flower blooming in the garden, presented on a soft focus background.

Birds of Paradise should be planted in a location with full sun, although they can thrive in partial shade in subtropical climates like Florida.

The properties of the plants differ depending on the amount of light.

Plants that grow in full sun are smaller and have shorter flower stems, while plants that grow in partial shade are larger and can have slightly larger flowers.

A close horizontal image of a Strelitzia reginae flower presented on a soft focus background.

Since the plants produce more flowers on the outside of the plant, a distance of at least two meters provides enough space for the flowers to develop.

To transplant in the garden, dig a hole two to three times the diameter of the root ball and as deep as the height of the root ball. Water the plant thoroughly before carefully removing it from the container.

Be careful not to disturb the roots as these can be easily damaged on young plants.

Place the plant in the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is evenly aligned with the surface of the soil. Fill up well with soil and water.

If the bird of paradise is planted too deep, it can delay flowering.

You can create a basin around the plant like a saucer to help it hold water until it drains to the roots.

Make sure you water the plant regularly for the first six months after planting. Water deeply when the surface of the soil feels dry.

Soil and climate needs

Bird of paradise plants are quite forgiving and grow in a number of soil types.

However, they grow best in organically rich, loamy soils that drain well with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5.

A close vertical image of a clump of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden with various other tropical specimens in the background.

The plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 24 ° F for short periods, although freezing temperatures damage the development of flowers and buds.

If you live in a freeze-prone area, either cover your plants when a severe frost is forecast or bring pots in when the weather turns cold.

We cover the growing bird of paradise indoors as a houseplant and how to overwinter your plants in separate items (soon!).

Watering and mulching

If this type of plant receives too much or too little moisture, the leaves will turn yellow and eventually die.

A close-up of a clump of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden with orange and blue flowers shown on a soft focus background.

Mature plants are generally drought tolerant and will need watering when the top three inches of the soil are dry. They cannot tolerate wet feet and soaked soil can cause root rot.

If there is enough rain during the winter months, you may not need to add additional watering.

Place one two to three inches deep Layer of mulch around the base of the plant. This helps conserve moisture, reduce weed infestation, and provide micronutrients.

Don't add mulch too close to the stem. Keeping a circular area two to three inches around your plants free of mulch will protect it from stem rot.

Organic mulches such as wood chips, bark, pine needles or leaves are just as suitable as crushed stone or gravel in areas where lighter materials can blow away.

fertilization

While these plants can live in the garden without additional fertilization, adding a balanced fertilizer will ensure the best growth and flowering.

A close horizontal image of a blue and orange Strelitzia reginae flower depicted in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

The best types of fertilizers are organic fertilizers such as well-rotten manure. Worm castingsor blood meal or a controlled release product like Osmocote, available from Amazonor granular landscape fertilizers.

Apply to a fully grown lump every three months during the growing season according to the directions in the package.

If you are growing your plants in containers, you can fertilize them with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks or apply slow-release pellets every two to three months.

Growth tips

  • Plant in a location with full sun or partial shade.
  • Provide organically rich, well-drained soil.
  • Water mature plants deeply when the soil is dry to a depth of three inches.

Pruning and maintenance

These systems are relatively low-maintenance.

The most important thing to do for maintenance is to remove the dead leaves and old flower stalks so that fungi do not build up in them.

A close horizontal image of Strelitzia reginae growing in the garden before flowering, shown on a soft focus background.

Used flower stalks can be cut off at the base of the plant as close to the soil line as possible. Dead or dying foliage should be cut where the leaf meets the stem.

If you don't cut them off, they will stick to the plant indefinitely.

For large clumps, you can thin the foliage from the center of the clump to allow for increased airflow.

The giant bird of paradise S. nicolai produces dense offshoots that should be thinned out occasionally.

Types and varieties to choose

You can usually find birds of paradise for sale at local garden centers and nurseries in areas where they thrive.

Common bird of paradise

Known and loved by so many people around the world, the orange and blue flowers of S. reginae are a dramatic addition to your landscape.

Bird of Paradise, S. reginae

You can find plants one to two feet tall in one-gallon containers available from Amazon.

Plants Express will also supply systems of various sizes to customers in their delivery areas across California.

giant

S. nicolai is common in south and central Florida. It is also known as the giant white bird of paradise or African wild banana, thanks to its large leaves.

A close horizontal image of Strelitzia nicolai with white flowers growing in the garden with a house in soft focus in the background.

This species can grow up to 30 feet tall and five to six feet wide. So don't confuse them with the common bird of paradise and plant them in front of a window!

A close square image of a white bird of paradise plant in a black pot depicted on a white background.

Giant bird of paradise, S. nicolai

Plants are in 9 1/4 inch pots Available from Costa Farms through Home Depot.

Narrow sheet

The narrow leaf bird of paradise, S. juncea, has orange and blue flowers that are slightly smaller than those of S. reginae.

Originally considered a variety of S. reginae, it was discovered in 1974 after genetic research by Dr. Hendrik Albertus van de Venter of the University of Pretoria in South Africa classified as S. juncea.

A vertical close-up image of Strelitzia juncea growing in the garden with narrow leaves depicted on a soft focus background.

This species is known for its narrow, sword-like leaves. Plants grow to a mature height of four to five feet tall, with flower stalks up to six feet tall.

Mandela's gold

As you can probably guess from the name, "Mandela & # 39; s Gold" is a South African variety of S. reginae. It was produced by John Winter on Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town and published in 1994.

A close horizontal image of the yellow and blue flower of Strelitzia reginae & # 39; Mandelas Gold & # 39; growing in the garden, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Originally marketed as "Kirstenbosch Gold", the name was changed in 1996 in honor of Nelson Mandela.

The flowers have bright yellow petals and a blue tongue. Plants grow to a mature height of four to five feet, with a similar spread.

In this guide, you will learn more about the different types of bird of paradise plants. (soon!)

Dealing with pests and diseases

Bird of paradise plants are usually pest and disease free, but unfortunately there are exceptions.

Pests and pathogens can affect individual flowers or leaves, but generally do not endanger the general health of the plant.

insects

But insects are rarely a problem Aphids, Scale, Snails, Grasshoppers and caterpillars can occasionally graze on the plants. You can fight them with systemic insecticides or snail bait.

Mealybugs and spider mites can attack the leaves. Just wipe them with a soft cloth. You also have the option of using organic insecticides like neem oil to control an infestation.

A few additional species in particular can cause problems for your plants:

Opogona Crown Borers

Opogona omoscopa moth larvae burrowed into the crowns of the plants, causing the foliage to turn yellow, wither, and die. Experts believe that these are secondary pests that are attracted to rotting tissue.

You can prevent this type of infestation by providing good cultural care. Remove dead or dying plant debris that attract the moths and avoid over watering.

Whiteflies

While there are a number of species of whitefly that infest plants, the giant whitefly (Aleurodicus dugesii) is a particular pest of the bird of paradise.

In addition to sucking vital nutrients out of the plant, this pest also secretes a sugary substance called honeydew that can ingest it in abundance Ants.

Early detection is important in combating this pest. If you catch it early enough, you can spray it on the plants Water from the hose to remove the white flies.

If your plants have severe infestation, remove any infected leaves.

illness

Various types of fungi and a common bacterial pathogen can occasionally infest bird of paradise plants.

Armillaria Root Red

This devastating disease can affect any member of the Strelitzia genus.

Discolored leaves are a symptom of armillaria. Finally, telltale clusters of so-called "honey mushrooms" grow at the base of the plant.

There is no cure and fungal colonies can live for thousands of years. You will need to remove your plant if it becomes infected with this disease.

Prevention includes proper drainage, good watering, and proper care.

Bacterial wilt

The common bacterium Pseudomonas solanacearum can live in the soil for more than six years and infect bird of paradise plants through their roots.

It can also be transmitted through infected garden tools, plant debris, soil, insects, and water.

The first signs of infection are wilting and yellowing of the leaves. Then the base of the plant begins to turn black or brown at the bottom line.

If your plant is infected, you should remove and destroy it to prevent the disease from spreading.

Mushroom leaf spot

For a nice change of pace, this type of infection – caused by a variety of fungal pathogens – is usually not a serious problem for bird of paradise plants.

Infected leaves develop black, brown, brown, or yellow spots or spots. They can wither and drop the plant.

A close-up vertical image of a Strelitzia reginae leaf suffering from a fungal disease.Photo by Helga George.

Most bird of paradise plants can handle this disease. In fact, the picture of this infection you see above shows an otherwise healthy plant.

Good cultural grooming and hygiene usually help control fungal leaf spot infection. If necessary, you can spray plants with neem oil every 10-14 days.

Gray shape

Gray mold, also known as botrytis disease and caused by Botrytis cinerea, can infect a number of plants and is known to be the cause of rot in strawberries.

Infected flowers and leaves have a gray film over them, which gives the disease its common name. Eventually the leaves will wither, decay, and fall off the plant.

Prevention includes removing fallen and decaying debris and dying plant tissues. Also, avoid overhead watering.

Fungicides are sometimes effective, but this fungus is notorious for Develop resistance to them – sometimes during the first season of use.

In some cases, a biofungicide like Cease can control this disease. This product contains a strain of Bacillus subtilis and is available from Arbico Organics.

Spray your plants once a week, but if you have a severe infection, you can spray every three days.

Root rot

Bird of Paradise seeds may contain a fungal pathogen that causes root rot, also known as Attenuation off.

You can prevent this by soaking the seeds at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain and soak the seeds in 135 ° F water for 30 minutes.

Let them cool and dry, then plant them in clean starting medium.

Best use

You have likely seen these flowers in florists.

The plants make a nice focal point in a garden or a wonderful houseplant in cooler regions, especially if you have a winter garden.

A close horizontal image of a Strelitzia reginae flower depicted in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

As if one large perennial with stunning flowers in your garden wasn't enough, these types of plants have some unusual advantages.

Bird of paradise leaves are evergreen and stick to the plant. This makes them an excellent choice for adding decorative interest near swimming pools, where leaf shedding can create a maintenance problem.

A close horizontal picture of Strelitzia reginae growing in a border in the garden with a light gray wall in the background.

They go well with other evergreen perennials such as Agave vilmoriniana, Senecio mandraliscae and Pittosporum tobira "Nanum", which have similar cultural requirements.

A close horizontal image of a flowering Strelitzia reginae plant growing against a soft focus water feature in the background.

They also serve as beautiful cut flowers, and with a little care and something fresh flower food can last up to two weeks in a vase.

Learn more about In this guide you will learn how to make your fresh flowers last longer.

Quick guide growth guide

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Plant type: Flowering perennial Flower / foliage color: Orange, blue and white / gray-green, yellow / green
Native: South Africa Maintenance: Low
Winter hardiness (USDA zone): 9-12 Soil type: Rich clay, chalk, sand
Flowering time / season: Almost all year round Soil pH: 5.5-7.5
Exposure: Full sun, partial shade Soil drainage: Well permeable
Distance: 6 feet Attracts: Birds, hummingbirds
Planting depth: Depth of root ball, 1 / 2-1 in. (Seed) Companion planting:
Height: 3-30 feet depending on the type Uses: Border, hedges, cut flowers, roadside plantings to pools
Spread: 4-6 feet Order: Zingiberals
Time to maturity: 1-3 years of departments; 3-10 years from seed Family: Strelitziaceae
Water requirement: Low to Moderate Genus: Strelitzia
Tolerance: Drought (once detected) Species: Juncea, Nicolai, Reginae
Pests & Diseases: Aphids, caterpillars, glassy-winged snipers, grasshoppers, meal bugs, Opogona crownworms, scales, spider mites, whiteflies; Armillaria, bacterial wilt, fungal leaf spot, gray mold, root rot

A carefree noble flower

Perhaps you bought a bird of paradise flower for a loved one or even for yourself.

You may not realize that this stunning plant was once an exciting novelty from a strange land. Now it's an easy-care device in places with warm climates like Southern California and Florida.

A close horizontal image of a Strelitzia reginae flower growing in the garden, shown on a soft focus background.

The plants are popular for both landscaping and growing as indoor plants. With proper care, they will thrive and produce up to three dozen flowers a year.

Who says you can't have a royal garden of your own?

Do you grow bird of paradise plants? Tell us about your experience and share your tips in the comments section below.

And for more information on how you can grow other unique ones blooming plantsNext, take a look at these guides:

Photo by Helga George © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. For more information, please see our Terms of Use. Product photos via 9EzTropical, Costa Farms and Plants Express. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu and Clare Groom.

About Helga George, PhD

One of Helga George's greatest childhood joys was reading about rare greenhouse plants that wouldn't grow in Delaware. Now that she lives near Santa Barbara, California, she's excited to see many of them growing right outside your door! Fascinated by childhood discovery that plants produce chemicals in order to defend themselves, Helga embarked on further academic studies and earned two degrees majoring in plant diseases as a plant pathology. She holds a BS in Agriculture from Cornell University and an MS from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Helga then returned to Cornell to do her doctorate and study one of the model systems of plant defense. She switched to full-time writing in 2009.