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Bird of Paradise Care Guide

June 08, 2022 4 min read

birds of paradise

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) are celebrated for their spiky orange and blue flowers, which resemble the tail plumes on exotic birds. Its spectacular flowers  are actually designed to lure sunbirds, their primary pollinator, to the nectar inside.

Although the flowers are its main attraction, the banana tree-like leaves are also very beautiful. As they mature, the leaves split along its sides to form a fetching fringe. In the wild, this adaptation lest high winds pass freely through the slits without damaging the plant structurally.

Sabina Bajracharya https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strelitzia_reginae-184210.jpg

Western science first encountered the Bird of Paradise in 1773 when Scottish botanist Francis Masson collected it during a South African plant prospecting expedition. Joseph Banks - the most renowned British botanist-explorer of the 18th century - gave it a Latin name in honor of England's Queen Charlotte. Strelitzia was a reference to the Queen's native German duchy, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, while 'reginae' is from the Latin for Queen. Banks must've seen that the plant’s glamorous looks would be a fitting homage to a royal who was both an artistic patron and a keen amateur botanist.

This charismatic plant is sure to become a decorative focal point in your living space. Bear in mind however that its care can be a challenge. To keep this plant alive, you need to provide the levels of warmth, humidity, and sunlight it would receive in its native South Africa, where it grows along riverbanks and coastal scrub clearings.

Temperature, position, and lighting

Cliff https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bird-of paradise_(Strelitzia_reginae)_(2666179454).jpg

Before getting a Bird of Paradise, make sure your living space offers an ideal spot that is warm and brightly lit. Without this, your plant’s leaves will brown and stop growing.

The Bird of Paradise needs bright light for at least six hours a day. However, never put your plant in strong, direct sunlight - for example, right next to a south-facing window without net curtains or overhanging trees. This will scorch its leaves and leave brown marks.

The temperature range for Bird of Paradise is between 65°F and 85°F. Never let temperatures go below 60°F (15°C). You should only plant your Bird of Paradise outdoors if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12.

The large leaves will collect dust very easily which disrupts transpiration (water evaporation) by blogging the pores. You should wipe them down with a wet sponge from time to time.  A good way to keep leaves dust-free is with Southside Plant’s very own unscented houseplant wipes.

Watering

During the growing season, you should keep the soil always slightly moist but not waterlogged. If the soil is soggy, you are giving too much water and this will eventually kill the plant. 

Only water your Bird of Paradise when the top two inches of the soil is starting to dry out.  When you do water, make sure you're drenching the entire root system. You can do this by running your plant under a hose or tap for 30 seconds until the water gushes out from the bottom of the pot. Place your pot aside on a dry surface for the excess moisture to leave the pot completely.

In the fall and winter, cut back on watering. This is when your plant stops growing. The lower temperatures and sunlight will mean that the soil will dry out far less quickly.

Humidity

 

Forest and Kim Star https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starr-060615-8171-Strelitzia_reginae-leaves-Makawao-Maui_(24567959950).jpg

Although your plant will tolerate normal indoor humidity levels of around 50 percent, it will be far healthier at higher levels. For this reason, the Bird of Paradise will do well in a greenhouse. If you can’t provide one, here are three strategies for increasing air humidity in your home:

  1. Place a group of plants on a tray of pebbles with water halfway up the depth of the pebbles. Make sure the bottom of the pot doesn't touch the water as this will make the soil too soggy. The idea behind the pebble tray is that the pebbles give a larger surface area for water to evaporate off of. Grouping plants together also increases humidity in their immediate surroundings.
  2. Mist with a bottle spray several times a day. If you have a busy schedule and are likely to forget, opt for the pebble tray.
  3. Get a humidifier. This is one of the most effective ways of raising air humidity, especially if you have a large number of humid-loving plants indoors.

Potting mix

Your Bird of Paradise needs a slightly acidic potting mixture. You can achieve this with a mixture of two parts peat moss, one part perlite, one park bark fines, and one part compost. The peat moss will add the acidity while the perlite will let the soil drain excess moisture easily.

Fertilizer

Like many georgeous tropical plants, the Bird of Paradise are heavy feeders. During its first couple of years when it won’t flower, use a balanced fertilizerwith equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. After its third year, begin to use a phosphorus fertilizer. This will help the plant to produce flowers.

Flowering

Bird of Paradise is prized for its spectacular florals. The Bird of Paradise's flowering period is between late winter to early spring, but don't expect your new plant to flower in its first season. They will only start blooming after they are 3-4 years old. Until this time, you will have to rest content with its beautiful glossy leaves. Keep the plant at peak health each season to maximize its chances of flowering once mature.

If your plant is older than three years, it might be ready to bloom. You can increase the chances of flowering by exposing your plant to as much bright (but indirect) light for as many hours as possible in the lead up to the flowering period. Bird of Paradise are much more likely to flower in greenhouses and in suitable outdoor climates than they are inside. If you live in warm climates (USA Hardiness Zones 10-12) you can help your plant along by placing it outdoors as soon as temperatures are constantly above 65°F.

For flowers to appear, all the elements of a perfect plant environment must be in place. You should a strict watering regimen as detailed above - not too much nor too little. Do the same for fertilizer.

 

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