Strelitzia reginae
Common Name: bird of paradise
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Strelitziaceae
Native Range: South Africa
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 3.50 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Orange/blue
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to zones 10 to 12, Strelitzia reginae is an easy plant to grow in the garden. Plants do well in full sun to semi-shade, love a rich loamy soil and plenty of water throughout the year. They respond well to regular feeding with a slow release fertilizer and compost. They are, however, very tolerant plants and will thrive in most soils and can survive with very little water once established. The plants are also wind resistant and grow well in coastal gardens. Strelitzias are sensitive to cold and would need a sheltered position in areas with frost, as the flowers and leaves are often damaged by frost. In cold climates, it is better to grow them in pots that can be moved indoors when freezing temperatures are expected.

To grow indoors, pick a well-lit, sunny spot. In the summer months screen against the very bright direct sun. Water plants freely and fertilize regularly in spring and summer. Keep drier in winter months and use a well-drained soil. Bird of paradise need moderate temperatures 55 to 65F at night. When temperatures rise above 70F. outside, place your plant in a semi-shaded location with good air circulation. Remove dead leaves and flowers as they occur.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Strelitzia reginae, called bird of paradise, is probably one of the most well-known plants in the world. It is a bold structural plant, which forms large evergreen clumps of stiff leaves growing up from the base. The grey-green banana-like leaves grow about 3 ½ to 4 feet in height and the flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. The structure and pollination of the flowers are rather interesting. The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges, is called the spathe. This is placed at right angles to the stem, which gives it the appearance of a bird’s head. The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of 3 brilliant orange sepals and 3 bright blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When the birds sit to have a drink of nectar, the petals open to cover their feet with pollen.

Genus name honors Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), who in 1761 became Queen to George III.

Specific epithet means of the queen.

Problems

None serious, but watch for mealybug and scale. For more information see: Problems Common to Many Indoor Plants

Garden Uses

The fascinating blooms are sold as cut flowers by the million and used in floral arrangements. Bird of paradise make an excellent container plant for atriums, sunrooms and greenhouses. If you have space to overwinter the large plants, they do well moving from indoors to outdoors for the summer and back inside in the fall. In warmer climates, they are used as street plantings and urban landscapes.