Bird Of Paradise Plant Care: Indoor And Outdoor Birds Of Paradise


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

One of the most spectacular and impactful flowering plants for tropical to semi-tropical zones is Strelitzia bird of paradise. The growing conditions for bird of paradise, particularly the temperature range, are very specific. However, northern gardeners don’t despair. The plant can be grown in a container. If you want bird of paradise flowers, continue reading for tips on growing these unique beauties.

Growing Conditions for Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae, also known as crane flower, is native to South Africa and derives its name from the unusual flowers, which resemble brightly colored birds in flight. The plant needs warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine to produce the characteristic blooms. They are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11, but cooler regions can use them in containers outdoors in summer and move them inside as cooler temps arrive.

Bird of paradise care is not difficult, but the plants do need certain cultural conditions. Strelitzia bird of paradise needs rich soil that is well draining. It blooms most profusely when in full sun, but indoor plants should be slightly away from southern windows to avoid burning. Also, plants grown outdoors in desert climates should be planted in a partial shade situation.

During the growing season, optimal temperatures are 65-70 Fahrenheit (18-21 C.) during the day and 50 F. (10 C.) at night. The plants can be heavily damaged when temperatures dip below 24 Fahrenheit (-4 C.).

There are several species of Strelizia, many of which are monster plants, so check the mature size and leave plenty of room for it to grow.

Bird of Paradise in Containers

Plant in a good potting soil that drains well. Water until the soil is saturated and then not again until it is dry to the touch. Reduce watering by half in winter.

Bird of paradise flowers need a lot of food to develop. Feed the plant in early spring every 2 weeks and once per month in summer with a soluble plant food.

Do not plant bird of paradise too deeply in the pot. It is said that some root exposure promotes flowers. Also, a pot bound plant will produce more blooms. When it is time to repot, about every 3 years in spring, only increase the pot size if the roots are extremely cramped.

Put container plants outside in summer but bring them indoors when fall arrives.

Bird of Paradise Care

Divide in-ground plants every 5 years. Remove any broken or dead leaves as they occur. Remove spent flowers as they appear. Bird of paradise can also be propagated from seed; however, blooming will not begin for at least five years.

Container and in-ground plants have the same pest and disease issues. Mealybugs, scale and spider mites are the most common problems with bird of paradise plants. Use a horticultural oil spray or systemic insecticide. Wipe or hose off the leaves to remove dust.

The most common diseases are fungus based. Water under the leaves or when the foliage can dry before nightfall. Avoid overwatering, which can cause several root rots.

Note: Dogs also enjoy nibbling on these plants, but the seeds are toxic, causing abdominal pain and vomiting so beware of this if you have pets.

With a little care, even cool region gardeners can enjoy the eye-popping blooms and tropical foliage of this plant.

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What Are the Different Types of Bird of Paradise Plants?

With their tufted heads and uncanny beaks, all the different types of bird of paradise flowers (Strelitzia spp.) are showstoppers in their own right.

Even when they’re not flowering, the silky evergreen foliage is attractive and adds texture and interest year-round.

Since these plants originated in South Africa, they thrive in warm, humid regions and are popular in tropical and subtropical locations around the globe.

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All species thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12, and sometimes in parts of Zone 9 if you keep them warm in the winter months. You can grow them in colder zones as indoor plants, or as outdoor plants in the summer, and indoors in the winter.

But there are some meaningful differences between bird of paradise plants that you should be aware of before choosing one (or three) to plant indoors or out.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know so that you don’t accidentally plant a 30-foot plant inside your 1,500 square foot home.

Here’s what you’ll discover:


Strelitzia spp.

If you are looking for a plant with large, show-stopping blooms, look no further than the bird of paradise.

With its orange, blue, and white flowers that look like a bird in flight, this plant just cannot be ignored.

And this South African native will grow happily year-round throughout warmer parts of the US.

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Ready to get started? I’ll explain everything you need to know to grow vigorous bird of paradise plants in your own garden in Zones 9-12.


How should I care for a bird of paradise plant?

Although this is a tropical plant, it actually prefers to remain a little more on the dry side. Water only when the pot gets about halfway dry. These are sold in larger pots (not really tabletop pots), so it can be difficult to tell when it needs watered because you typically can’t jab a finger way into the pot like you can with other houseplants. So, get a moisture meter or start out by watering every couple of weeks, suggests Tackoor. You'll eventually get a feel for how often it needs a drink. Because it’s native to arid regions with dry air, it’s pretty forgiving if you forget to water. Just don’t overwater and keep it sopping wet, which is a sure way to kill it!

These plants are moderate growers, so in a few years, you may see the roots of a mature plant start to push out the bottom or bulge the nursery pot. You can repot up one size, or slip it out of the pot and prune the roots to keep it under control. It sounds scary, but it actually reinvigorates this plant, says Tackoor. In the wild, it can grow to 20 feet tall. But indoors, it will top out at 10 feet tall after many years.


Will my Bird of Paradise Bloom Indoors?

There is a common misconception that Bird of Paradise plants doesn’t bloom indoors. The truth is that they take around 5 years to be mature enough to be capable of flowering. Many people, opting for what they see to be a low-priced, bargain plant, unknowingly bring home a juvenile plant. They then become disappointed when it doesn’t flower.

Given perfect conditions, a Bird of Paradise plant can flower intermittently throughout the year. Although, the more common flowering period is late winter into early spring.

Bird of Paradise flowers are good for cutting and will usually last around a week in a vase. The flowers, along with the large glaucous leaves, are an excellent choice for use in exotic floral displays.


Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)

Bird of Paradise, also known as Strelitzia, is a much-loved plant in Australian gardens. Their common name comes from their striking flowers – bright, plumed blooms perched on long stems that look like the crests of tropical birds peeking through the leaves.

They’ve far more to offer than just looks, though. Native to South Africa, Strelitzias are tough plants. They’ll withstand drought, salty coastal conditions, light frost and general neglect. They’re perfect for beginner gardeners as they don’t ask very much once established, and are fantastic at bouncing back from just about any gardening mishap.

Planting, Care and Maintenance

The most important thing you can do for your Strelitzia is to plant it somewhere that suits its needs, and the plant will generally take care of the rest. That means a sunny position, at worst part shade, with free-draining soil. They can cope with either very little water or lots – provided that the water is running through the soil and away from the plant. If they are left to sit in boggy soil, the fleshy roots will slowly rot, killing your plant.

Fertilise your Strelitzia in spring and autumn with a general-purpose fertiliser like Amgrow Ferticote. Those gorgeous flowers will appear in spring, summer and if you’re lucky winter too, so either cut them to enjoy inside in a vase, or trim them off when the flower has finished to help the plant conserve energy. Leaving finished flowers on the plant will discourage it from producing more.

Varieties

There are three main varieties of Strelitzia:

Strelitzia Reginaeis the most recognisable and popular variety, with striking orange and blue flowers amongst broad, tropical-looking leaves. In lush environments with plenty of water, the leaves will be a deep green, while in drier environments they take on a touch of pretty silvery-grey. Growing to 1.5 metres high by one metre wide, the plant keeps a dense, clumping habit.

Strelitzia Nicolaiis a more dramatic choice in the garden, growing to 4 or 6 metres tall. There are fewer leaves, but they are much larger. The flowers are the same shape as Reginae, but in moody tones of dark blue and white. Try them as a lovely tropical screen.

Strelitzia Junceasets itself apart from Nicolai and Reginae with the absence of those broad, tropical leaves. While a similar size and shape to Reginae, the leaves grow long and straight like tubes or grass. When dotted with the trademark orange and blue flowers, they look like a burst of fireworks. They are slower-growing than other Strelitzias, but their architectural shape makes them a great choice for those that don’t like the tropical look – particularly in modern gardens.

Pests and Diseases

Thankfully, Strelitzias are not prone to any serious problems in Australia. The most common are:

  • Root Rot: Caused by inadequate drainage. Water builds up around the fleshy roots, causing them to slowly rot. It can be hard to identify early, as the plant slowly wilts and looks generally miserable. Digging into the soil reveals slimy and sometimes dark roots. Try raising the garden bed, or in clay soils, adding gypsum to help improve the soil structure. Not sure what kind of soil you have? This quick test will help you work it out.
  • Mealy Bug or Scale: These tiny insects can be a problem throughout the garden. Either spray them off with a jet of water and squash them or, for big infestations, consider a spray with an insecticide.
  • Leaf Blight: Usually identified by white spots on the leaves with a ring of green around them. This is a fungal issue, and is treated with a spray of a fungicide.


Watch the video: How to care for your Bird of Paradise


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