Strelitzia–commonly called bird-of-paradise–is a subtropical perennial with large, erect leaves and bright flowers that emerge from a boatlike bract. The flowers resemble an exotic bird taking flight.
Strelitzia has large, long-stalked oblong to lance-shaped leaves. The flowers are produced intermittently from the leaf axils. Flowers emerge from usually horizontal, waxy, stiff, boat-shaped spathes; the flowers arise sequentially from the spathes crest-like in contrasting colors–oranges, yellow, and blues.
Strelitzia is usually grown as a specimen in tropical regions, sometimes in clumps of three to five plants. Where Strelitzia is not hardy it can be grown in a greenhouse or as a houseplant. In tropical regions, it can grow from 15 to 30 feet (5-10m) tall. Indoors in a pot, it will grow much smaller.
Strelitzia is a genus of about 5 species of clump-forming, evergreen perennials. Strelitzia is native to riverbanks and glades in South Africa.
Get to Know Strelitzia
- Plant type: Tropical evergreen perennial
- Growing zones and range: Zones 11-15
- Hardiness: Tender
- Height and width: Up to 30 feet (10m) tall, 10 feet (3m) wide
- Foliage: Large, long-stalked, mostly oblong to lance-shaped leaves with woody bases forming a trunk
- Flowers: Horizontal, waxy, stiff, boat-shaped spathes, from the top crest-like flowers rise in contrasting colors; spathes are 10 to 12 inches (25-30cm) long
- Bloom time: Winter to spring
- Uses: Specimen plant outdoors, houseplant
- Common name: Bird of paradise
- Botanical name: Strelitzia
- Family name: Strelitziaceae
- Origin: South Africa
Where to Plant Strelitzia
- Light outdoors: Plant Strelitzia in full sun or partial shade; shelter Strelitzia from wind.
- Light indoors: Provide full light with shade from hot sun; air circulation is important when tempeatures are greater than 68°F (20°C)
- Soil outdoors: Grow Strelitzia outdoors in fertile, moist but well-drained soil.
- Soil indoors: Grow Strelitzia in a soil-based potting mix.
When to Plant Strelitzia
- Set container-grown Strelitzia outdoors in spring.
Planting and Spacing Strelitzia
- Space Strelitzia 10 feet (3m) or more apart.
How to Water and Feed Strelitzia
- Water Strelitizia freely during the growing season; water sparingly in winter.
- Fertilize Strelitzia with a balanced liquid fertilizer montly.
- Shelter Strelitzia from wind; wind can shred leaves.
Growing Strelitzia as a Houseplant
- Grow Strelitizia in a room where the temperature is average, light is direct, and humidity is medium to high.
- Grow Strelitzia in a soilless, well-drained medium that is allowed to dry out slightly between waterings in winter and is kept barely moist the rest of the year.
- Fertilize Strelitzia every two weeks during spring and summer.
- Repot Strelitzia every second year.
Strelitzia Pests and Diseases
- Strelitia is susceptible to attack by scale insects and mealybugs.
- Root rot can occur.
- Strelitzia can be propagted by division, from suckers, and by seed.
- Plant grown from seed take several years to flower.
Strelitzia Varieties to Grow
- Strelitzia nicolai, tree bird of paradise. Grows to 30 feet tall; oblong leaf blades on leaf stalks to 6 feet long; brownish red spathes to 18 inches long and white flowers with light purplish blue corollas.
- S. reginae, bird of paraduse. Grows 3 to 6 feet tall; blue-green leaves are 12 to 18 inches long, stiff, oblong, leather and pointed; leaves may have a yellow or red midrib; flowers have orange or yellow petals and a deep blue tongue that emerges from the bract; bract is edged purplel or red.