Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) flowers are borne atop long thick stems and encapsulated in pointed hard sheaths held at 45-degree angles from the stem. Each sheath contains several pointed flowers of orange, white or blue that appear one at a time in a fan-like display over several days. When they are fully displayed, the flowers resemble the head of an exotic bird with the pointed sheath acting as a beak and the flowers resembling a colorful crest. The bird of paradise is a popular cut flower often purchased closed and may need assistance to open fully.
Remove the bird of paradise flower from the box or container. Bird of paradise flowers are often shipped dry after being refrigerated. Also, remove any rubber bands or netting that was placed over the "beak" or flower sheath to keep it from opening during shipment.
Fill a vase with warm water (between 85 and 100 degrees F). The vase should be tall and wide enough to hold the bird of paradise flower upright because the flowers can be top-heavy once they are hydrated.
Cut at least 1 inch from the bottom of the bird of paradise stem and immediately place the cut end of the stem in the warm water. Allow the bird of paradise stem to hydrate in the warm water for at least two hours.
Pull the "string" or vegetative seal off that covers the slit in the top of the pointed sheath with your fingers. If the seal is not apparent, insert the tip of your forefinger in the middle of the slit at the point nearest the stem and slide it down the slit, splitting the sheath open a little at a time while working toward the pointed end. This should be done very gently. Once the slit is opened, the sheath should open slightly on its own from the pressure of the hydrated flowers inside.
Place your fingers inside the slit and gently force it open. You will see the flowers inside. Be sure the vegetative material holding the sheath closed is completely removed, then reach inside with your thumb and forefinger and very gently pull out the top flower until it appears above the sheath opening.
Allow the flower to continue hydrating for another hour. It should slowly open a little more, but will not completely open.To encourage more flowers to appear after the hydration period, gently reach into the sheath and work another one or two flowers out until they appear above the sheath. Do not expect to fully open the bird of paradise flower by hand. Attempting to pull all the flowers at one time from the sheath will damage the flower resulting in an unattractive display. It will completely open without assistance over the next several days as long as it remains hydrated.