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How to Grow Bird of Paradise — Strelitzia

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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.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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