Birds of Paradise Plant Care
The bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae) has a beautiful and distinct appearance and makes an attractive houseplant. It is native to South Africa and is related to the banana. Being a tropical plant, it does have special requirements that you’ll need to consider when deciding whether to bring one home.
- Birds of paradise are dramatic plants. Their leaves are thick and grow 6 inches wide and 18 inches long in a clump with no central trunk. The flowers grow one to three blooms on a stalk and resemble birds in flight, giving the plant its name. A bird of paradise plant will reach a height of about 5 feet and its foliage will spread to about 5 feet wide.
- The easiest way to get new birds of paradise is to divide the stems at their underground portion. This is best done in the early spring before new growth begins. Carefully lift the plant out of its pot and cut so each plant section has a fan shape, with roots attached. Plant each of these sections in a small pot, water them, and place them in a warm area with indirect, bright light for at least eight weeks, to allow new root growth. Once the plant is established, you can move it to an area with bright sun. A bird of paradise plant started this way will bloom in about two to three years.
You can also grow a bird of paradise from seed, but it is more challenging and you won’t get blooms for four to 10 years after planting. The bird of paradise’s seed coat is very tough, so scratch the outside with a file or fine sand paper to break the coat before planting. Cover the seed pot with plastic to maintain high humidity and keep it in indirect light. If possible, keep the bottom temperature at around 75 to 90 degrees F for best germination. Your seedlings will sprout in about six to 12 weeks.
- The bird of paradise grows best in full sun, but the lower light level of a southern window will be sufficient for an indoor plant. The optimal temperature for this plant is 65 to 70 degrees F during the day and 50 to 55 degrees at night.
Keep the relative humidity around 60 percent; in the winter months you can mist the bird of paradise to adjust for dry air.
- When watering your bird of paradise, thoroughly wet the soil and allow it to dry a bit between waterings. During the active growing season in spring and summer you will need to water more frequently than in the winter, when the plant will not be adding new growth.
- Use caution when fertilizing; over-fertilization of a bird of paradise will result in a lot of foliage and few or no blooms. During the spring, fertilize every two weeks; in the summer, which is the most active growing season for a bird of paradise, fertilize weekly. You will not need to fertilize at all during the fall or winter months.