Bird of Paradise (also known as crane flower) is an exotic plant native to South Africa. It usually reaches a height of 4 feet and has thick, glossy leaves shaped like those of a small banana plant. The leaves are attractive–but it is the flowers, which resemble the colorful plumage and beak of a bird, that are especially prized. They emerge from long scapes, or stems, that can grow to 5 feet in height. Each flower consists of three bright orange sepals and three blue petals sitting like a crown atop a long purplish-blue spathe.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Give the plant a location in as much sunlight as possible. One of the main reasons a bird of paradise is not blooming well is because it is not getting enough light.
Keep the soil most all spring and summer. During the fall and winter, allow it to dry out slightly between waterings.
Feed every other week during spring and summer with a complete plant food. No food is required in fall or winter. Don’t overfertilize or it will cause the plant to send out new foliage at the expense of flowers.
Give the plant a daily misting in the dry winter months, if needed. Bird of paradise prefers humidity of about 60 percent. It also prefers a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees during the day and 50 to 55 degrees at night.
Keep the bird of paradise outdoors all the time, if you live in a warm climate. In cold climates, it must be kept indoors in the winter but will enjoy summering outside as long as it is gradually acclimatized to stronger light.
Repot the plant annually in the spring, as long as it is young and actively growing. When it reaches a height of about 3 feet, just replace the soil at the top. Bird of paradise flowers best if left slightly potbound.
Use an all-purpose well-draining potting mix or soil-less potting mix. Don’t plant too deeply, as exposure of the roots’ tops promotes blooming.
Be patient. Bird of paradise plants are slow-growing and don’t start to bloom until they are 4 to 5 years old. Although a mature plant can be divided, dividing will prevent the plant from blooming again for several years.