The Bird of Paradise Flower, or Strelitzia reginae, is closely related to the banana and is named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III of England. Native to South Africa, where it is also known as the Crane Flower, It is now cultivated all over the world for its striking and long lasting orange flowers, which are now a staple of the cut flower trade.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Plant your Strelitzia, or Bird of Paradise plant, in a sunny spot in your garden. Strelitzias prefer rich, acidic soils but are tolerant of most soil types provided they are rich in organic matter. Plant in semi-shade for the most attractive leaves, and in full sun for the most flowers. Strelitzias grow well in USDA Zones 9 to 11, and are frost-tender, although frost-damaged plants will grow back from the rhizome, provided the soil has not frozen.
Fertilize your Strelitzia plant every month with liquid, all-purpose fertilizer. Water regularly and freely, but do not allow the soil around your Strelitzia to become waterlogged. Old leaves and flower stems can be pruned back to the ground. Strelitzia plants will form dense clumps after a few years.
Overwinter your Strelitzia indoors if you live in a frost area, or grow it as an indoor pot plant. Plant your indoor Strelitzia in a large pot and place in a sunny spot in your house. Water liberally, fertilizing every two weeks with a liquid, all-purpose fertilizer.
Propagate your Strelitzia plant by dividing clumps equally at the rhizome every four years. Division will often cause your plant not to flower then next year. Strelitzias can also be cultivated from seed, but germination can take up to two years, especially if the seeds you plant are not fresh. Fresh seed germinates in about four to 10 weeks if soaked for a few days before planting. Strelitzia plants grown from seed take a minimum of four or five years to flower. Grow seedlings in large pots or plant out to allow the roots to develop and encourage flowering.
Cut flowers from your Bird of Paradise plant with as much stem as possible. To maximize their life as cut flowers, cut the base of the stem at an angle and change the water every two days. Keep in a light place but not in direct sunlight. Strelitzia flowers last up to 20 days as cut flowers, and the attractive leaves last for several weeks.