Native to South Africa, the bird of paradise is a flowering shrub with no central stalk but rather a series of grouped leaves. According to the University of Florida, the bird of paradise is closely related to a banana plant. This plant is named for its unusual flowers that resemble the head of a bird. The leaves are long and thick, growing about 18 inches long and 6 inches wide. The bird of paradise can grow to 5 feet tall and wide. This plant is evergreen but is not cold-hardy, growing better in areas with very mild winters. In mild to tropical climates, the bird of paradise will bloom year round; otherwise, it blooms from September to May.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Select a location for your bird of paradise where it will receive full to partial sun. Bird of paradise plants benefit from protection from intense heat in warmer climates.
Loosen the soil to 18 inches deep and amend heavily with compost. Bird of paradise should have well-drained moist and organic rich soils.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball with a shovel and plant at the same depth the bird of paradise was growing in its previous container. Cover with the amended soil and water well to collapse any air pockets.
Water your bird of paradise frequently, especially the first year as the plant is developing a good root system. This plant prefers moist but not wet soils. Do not over water; soggy soils will cause your bird of paradise’s leaves to yellow.
Spread a thick layer of mulch around your bird of paradise to conserve the soil moisture and regulate the temperature of the soil around the roots. Keep the mulch away from the stems of the plants to avoid rot.
Fertilize your bird of paradise every three months with a balanced, general purpose fertilizer during the growing season, following the package instructions.
Remove any dead foliage or stalks immediately with sharp garden shears to improve the appearance of your plant and to discourage fungus from growing.
Inspect your bird of paradise for insects or fungus. Although the plant is relatively insect resistant, caterpillars, snails or even leaf borers may attack it. Fungus may grow around the roots or along dead plant tissue if the dead stalks were not removed. According to the University of Florida, none of these usually threatens the life of the plant.
The bird of paradise flower makes an excellent cut flower, lasting up to two weeks in a bouquet.
Wear gloves and eye protection when handling this plant. The beak’s of the flowers are sharp and can puncture skin.