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How to Grow: Bird of Paradise
Full sun for best flowering. Will grow in part shade but flowering will be reduced.
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Blooms on and off year round, mostly in summer in cooler areas
Mature Height x Spread
4 to 6 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is a tropical evergreen that features colorful flowers reminiscent of tropical birds. They come in a variety of colors. Bird of paradise is a warmth loving plant and is only hardy in USDA zones 9-11. They grow outdoors in warm parts of California, Texas and Florida as well as Hawaii. The plant will suffer whenever temperatures dip below 50F. The tough, leathery, green leaves are similar to bananas and are attractive as well. They withstand salt spray and winds, making this a good seaside plant. Bird of paradise also grows well in containers. In fact, the plant appreciates being a little crowded and will flower well under these conditions. In areas where winters are cool, move the bird of paradise container indoors to a heated, sunny room and then back outdoors in spring.
Bird of Paradise grows best in well-drained, moist soil. Keep the soil well watered in spring and summer, but allow it to dry out slightly in winter. One of the reasons bird of paradise doesn’t grow well is soggy soils or soils that dry out too quickly.
When, Where and How to Plant
Plant purchased bird of paradise plants or divisions from friends or family in a full sun location in spring or early summer. Bird of paradise thrives in a well-drained organic soil. Amend the soil with compost when planting and be sure to plant in an area that is well-drained.
When planting in a container, use a well-drained potting soil and add compost to the mix for fertility. Place the container in a full sun, warm location from spring until fall and then indoors in winter in the sunniest room possible. Bird of paradise likes high humidity so group houseplants together and place them on pebble trays filled with water to increase the humidity in winter in cold areas.
Bird or paradise soil should be kept evenly moist from spring till fall. In winter only water periodically to keep the soil from drying out completely. Overwatering can cause root rot. Fertilize monthly from spring until fall with a balanced organic fertilizer such as 5-5-5.
Although bird of paradise flowers best when a little crowded, if too crowded in the garden or pot, it will stop flowering. Bird of paradise suckers freely, so you can remove these offshoots to make new plants. Divide overcrowded plants in late spring by digging up the clump and separating it into 1- to 2-foot diameter sections. Replant in a similar location as the parent plant.
Prune off old leaves and spent flower stalks as they appear. You may need to do a little more grooming of your bird of paradise in spring after a cold winter outdoors to spruce it up.
Bird of paradise normally doesn’t have many pests, but occasionally they will be infected with aphids, white flies and mealybugs. Control these pests with sprays of insecticidal soap.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant bird of paradise outdoors in a warm climate with taller tropical plants behind it and shorter flowers in front. For taller plants try bougainvillea, Carolina jasmine, and Osmanthus or sweet olive shrub. Plant shorter flowers in the foreground, such as agapanthus, sea holly, red hot poker and alstromeria. Of course, bird of paradise is beautiful in its own container. Since it can spread, planting bird of paradise alone in a container is usually best.
There are many species of bird of paradise. While most grow about 6 feet tall, some can reach 15 feet tall or more when grown well. Strelitzia reginae is the most typical species with bright orange and blue flowers. Strelitzia nicolai is similar with white flowers. Bird of paradise is also the common name used for an unrelated desert dwelling shrub in the Southwest. Many of these plants are in the Caesalpinia pulcherrima species and are called the Mexican bird of paradise. They have very different growth and flowering habits compared to Strelitzia.