The bird-of-paradise plant is a tropical plant native to South Africa. The bird-of-paradise gets its common name from its flowers, which resemble the head of a bird with a tuft of feathers on top. Another common name for this plant is crane flower. Its leaves are long and leathery. The plant is often grown as the focal point of a garden, although mass plantings create an even more striking display.
Strelitzia reginae is named after the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In addition to the flower resembling a bird’s head, Strelitzia reginae is an attractive evergreen foliage plant, with blue-green, paddle-shaped leaves. It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and just as wide. According to the University of Florida Extension, the best growth occurs in California and Hawaii, but the plant is often grown in Florida because a fair amount of flowers are produced in that climate. Strelitzia reginae grows in coastal and southern California and in southern Florida.
Strelitzia parvifolia has narrow, rod-like leaves, but in all other respects is very similar to Strelitzia reginae. The Juncea variety is known as the reed or rush Strelitzia, because of the foliage’s resemblance to those plants. "Juncea" is the Latin word for rush. Juncea has a white and yellow form, both of which are very difficult to obtain, according to the Sayers-Strelitzia Nursery in Australia. Growth begins with paddle-shaped leaves that gradually develop into those that resemble reeds. It is the slow grower of the Strelitzia family, reaching a height of about 6 feet.
Strelitzia nicolai is named after Czar Nicolas of Russia and performs best in a subtropical garden. It is a fast-growing plant, indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground. It can grow 15 to 30 feet tall on its trunk and its paddle-like leaves are arranged spirally around the trunk. Strelitzia nicolai has a white flower with a light blue tongue and sits in a purplish bract. The Alba variety flowers are similar to Strelitzia nicolai, but its leaves are a lighter shade of blue-green.