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How to Grow Strelitzia — Bird of Paradise

Bird of paradise, Strelitzia
Bird of paradise, Strelitzia

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
Bird of paradise flower, Strelitzia reginae
Bird of paradise flower, Strelitzia reginae

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.

Strelitzia Care

  • 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 Propagation

  • 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.

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