Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) Care Guide
Strelitzia, named bird of paradise, can be planted in your garden or a big pot as an indoor plant. It has one of the most spectacular and exotic flowers, which requires right conditions and patience. If potted, you will need a very big pot, as it can grow up to 6 m in height and spread up to 3.5 m. It is evergreen perennial that forms broad and long green and luscious leaves, from a long stem, resembling a banana leaf.
Quick Care Guides
Water and Hardiness
Bird of paradise originates from Southern Africa, enjoys plenty of moisture and does not tolerate harsh cold temperature well. It’s characterized as a tropical plant, so unless you live in warmer areas, it is best to keep it as a house plant during the winter. It is an evergreen plant, but goes through a period of winter dormancy.
During the growing season, it requires optimal 18 - 21 ℃ to grow the healthiest during the day and down to 10 ℃ at night. If it is below 10 ℃ it will likely not flower and temperatures below freezing may even damage the plant. Since it’s a tropical plant with large-surface leaves it evaporates a lot of moisture and thus requires a lot of water in return.
Bird of paradise needs a lot of sunlight to bloom. Most important is to keep in mind that if the plant is kept in the shade, it will not flower or it might significantly slow the process of blooming. You should place your plant on a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily but not if the direct midday sun is too strong. During the summer, you can move your plant outside to increase natural sunlight but again, it needs to be shaded and partially protected if the sun is too strong.
Bird of paradise requires well-drained, rich potting mix soil. It will grow in a variety of soil, but prefers it slightly acidic (pH 6.1-6.5). It will achieve its best growth in fertile soil, enhanced with additional organic matter such as compost. It is also smart to mulch the growing container as this will benefit the plant in many ways. Very important to avoid accumulated water in the soil which may cause its root system to rot.
From five species in the genus, two are grown as house plants; Strelitzia reginae (the Crane Bird plant), which is the smaller one of the two and has orange flowers and the Strelitzia nicolai (the Giant White Bird of Paradise) also called the Wild Banana with the white flowers. Both require similar growing conditions, with the difference that the Crane Bird handles colder temperatures better.
They can be grown from the seeds; however, it might take at least 3-5 years to flower. Furthermore, the fresher the seeds, the sooner it will flower, because the more they get older, the seeds develop a coating which delays germination. Also, the seed is stronger if harvested from the plant which is in its first flowering seasons. Get rid of the orange tufts from the seeds, immerse them in lukewarm water for a day before sowing them in the potting soil. The seed should germinate in 2-3 months.
Only when the seedlings grow 3-5 leaves, transplant them to the individual pots. Do not plant the seed too deep into the soil, because it might delay the flowering process. It is going to require repotting every 2-3 years (springtime is the best time for this), and increase the container size every time you repot.
Bird of paradise is used to the warm and humid tropics, so please be generous and precise when watering them. If the plant is underwatered, the leaves furthest from the stem will turn yellow first. It's ideally to keep the substrate moist, but be sure your pot can be drained from the excess of water, as they do not like to be waterlogged. Water at least once a week, preferably twice, while winter watering can be cut in half. If overwatered, the leaves will turn brown.
Moreover, bird of paradise is used to high humidity climate, so you might need to mist the plant using a spray bottle on occasion, if the air in your home is dry. Rainwater is best, but soft, lukewarm regular water will suffice. During the dormancy period, it needs less watering (as to imitate the conditions of its natural environment).
To speed up the flowering process and give your bird of paradise vigor, additional nourishment should be applied. In nature, bird of paradise receives the extra organic matter from decaying plant litter layer being dissolved by the rainwater. So mulching is a good idea and a great way to provide this.
You can use any organic materials such as leaves, pine needles wood chips or bark to create a 5 - 7 cm deep mulch layer. Just be sure to leave a 6 cm mulch-free zone around the base of the plant.
It is best to use a normally balanced liquid-type fertilizer, with an equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio (N:P:K=1:1:1). Natural manure makes for the perfect organic fertilizing option for your bird of paradise. Apply fertilizer twice a month during the growing season and reduce it to once a month during the winter dormancy. Always follow the manufacturer-recommended dosage, when applying fertilizer.
When performed properly, pruning is very beneficial to your bird of paradise because removing dead or infected leaves and flowers increase the overall health of the plant, reduces the chance of infections and improves the aesthetic appearance. Dead flowers are pretty easy to spot in the bush, as they will start to lose their vibrant colors and turn to brown. It is ok to remove even several dead blooms at once because this will extend the bloom life of the remaining flowers.
It is important to remove all dead leaves as the plant will not shed them by itself. Be sure to cut them as close to the base as possible to prevent any root spread. Just keep in mind that the leaf surfaces can sometimes be ripped even by the slightest touch, but those leaves are healthy and should not be removed until they start to show signs of discoloration or infection. Remember to always wear thick gloves and to disinfect the pruners before you move to the next plant in order to minimize the risks of cross-contamination.
Propagation of bird of paradise is easily done by the division of the plant fleshy root. Propagation should be performed during the early springtime.
Take out the plant from the container and use your hands and a garden hose (not a strong stream) to remove the soil from the fleshy root until all roots are visible. Then carefully pull apart the parts of fleshy root in a way that each part contains a stem. You can also use a sharp knife, if the fleshy root will not break apart, just make sure that the knife has been properly disinfected and make sure you do not cut any roots or stems.
Consider applying some rooting hormone (easily available in most garden stores) before you place each division into a separate container, from which a new plant will sprout.
I’ve noticed the yellowing of some leaves on my bird of paradise, what might be the reason?
If your indoor bird of paradise is showing signs of discoloration, it might be a sign of lacking light. Because these are tropical plants, they are used to having a lot of suns. Try moving your bird of paradise to a brighter spot in the room (possibly where it can receive at least six hours of sunlight) or consider setting up a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb over the plant to increase the lighting. Also, this might be a sign of water deficiency, so be sure to be generous with water, especially during the growing season.
Some leaves are curling on my bird of paradise, why is this happening?
Also, check the temperature in your room, as the plant might be doing this as a protective reaction to cold. Too alkaline or base soil pH can induce leaf curling as well. If the plant is overcrowded, the leaves might also curl, so it may be time to repot. And lastly, this might be a sign of an infestation of certain plant pests or a pathogen, so carefully check every leaf for signs of infestation or feeding damages.
Pests and Diseases
Leaf spots are usually appearing if there is too much moisture present on leaves and stems. They are visible as round patches on leaves, up to 2 cm, usually greyish on the inside and a darker color on the outside. If left untreated, the blight might spread and cause irreparable damage to leaves and even the whole plant. Treat your plant with fungicide spray and remove diseased leaves (cut from the base of the stem). Also, remove any fallen leaves as they might serve as a disease reservoir.
Root Rot caused by a fungus (often from genus Pythium, Phytophthora, Armillaria, Botrytis, etc.) which attacks the cambium tissue of the plant and causes the plant to die of lack of nutrients due to root system failure. Symptoms may include discoloration and wilting of the leaves, stunning growth, darkened root tissue.
In some cases, the fruiting body of the fungus may also appear. this is a very serious fungal disease and if not treated at the beginning of infection, it will result in plant death. Infected roots must be removed using a sharp, clean tools. Cut large portions of the root to ensure that the fungus does not spread. Tools between the cuts as to not cross-contaminate the healthy roots, as well as the plant container.
Aphids feed on the sap of plant stems and leaves. When feeding, they excrete sticky substances that can attract other insects. Aphids can also be a vector of several fungal, bacterial and viral diseases and should not be left untreated. In any case, fungicide spray is always a smart choice.
Other Uncommon Pests or Diseases
Moreover, there are some less-common pests and diseases listed below that need your attention:
- Bacterial Soft Rot
- Leaf Blight
- Bacterial Wilt
- Grey Mold
- Carmine Spider Mites
- White Shield Scales
- Snail and slugs