Bird of Paradise - Varieties, Care, & Propagation Tips

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by Max - last update on September 19, 2020, 8:21 am
Bird of Paradise

This plant is an evergreen perennial that takes the shape of clump-forming large gray-green foliage. The plant has no stem or trunk, and the leaves appear directly out of the ground. The leaves themselves are stunning and closely resemble those of the banana plant, which is a cousin of the bird of paradise plant.

This plant is loved for both its striking foliage and its distinctive flowers, which arrive in vivid colors and unusual shapes. This plant can be grown outside or indoors as a houseplant, though it typically reaches heights of five or six feet, so it will require ample space. It is easy to care for as long as its key requirements are met, and is an enormously rewarding plant to take care of.

Bird of Paradise Overview

Quick Facts

OriginSouth Africa
FamilyStrelitziaceae
Scientific NameStrelitzia reginae
Mature SizeUp to 4 feet tall
USDA Hardiness Zone10-12
TypeEvergreen perennial
Common NamesBird of Paradise Flower, Bird of Paradise Plant, Crane Flower
HeightUp to 6 feet tall
LightFull sun to partial shade
WateringAverage moisture needs
ToxicityToxic to dogs, cats, and horses
PestsScale, mealybugs, spider mites

Varieties

Giant Bird of Paradise-Strelitzia nicolai

Giant Bird of Paradise-Strelitzia nicolai

As the common name implies, this is a huge version of the bird of paradise plant, reaching heights of up to 20 feet. A single leaf can exceed five feet in length. These plants produce bird-like flowers that are entirely white.

Common Bird of Paradise-Strelitzia reginae

Common Bird of Paradise-Strelitzia reginae

This is the most common bird of paradise plant, producing flowers that are typically orange.

Bird of Paradise Shrub-Caesalpinia gilliesii

Bird of Paradise Shrub-Caesalpinia gilliesii

This award-winning shrub is commonly known as a bird of paradise, but it does not belong to the bird of paradise (Strelitzia) family, and instead is a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family. It is native to Argentina and Uruguay and produces exotic looking brightly colored flowers.

Red Bird of Paradise-Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Red Bird of Paradise-Caesalpinia pulcherrima

This is another member of the pea family, which is also commonly known as the Mexican bird of paradise. It takes the shape of a shrub that can reach up to nine feet tall. This plant produces tropical-looking flowers that are the national flower of Barbados.

Watering

Bird of Paradise Watering

The watering schedule of this plant will be determined by its lighting exposure, the temperature, the time of year, and the size of the plant. During spring and summer, whether this plant is kept indoors or outdoors, the bird of paradise will be going through its growth phase, and will therefore need consistent moisture.

This plant needs to be grown in a soil that is kept continually moist, but not waterlogged. It should be watered deeply so that all of the soil is saturated, and then the top few inches of the soil should be allowed to dry out before the plant can be watered again. The best way to check this is simply to dip a finger in the soil and check for moisture.

When the plant is fully grown, it will need watering more frequently, as its large leaves lose moisture quickly. If the plant is kept outside in the full sun, then you can expect to need to water it every day during spring and summer to meet the plant's moisture needs. A bird of paradise plant grown in a container will need to be watered more frequently than if it is grown directly in the ground, as water evaporates more quickly in pots.

Take close care of your bird of paradise when it is young, as under-watering the plant can be fatal. Once established, these plants do gain a certain level of drought tolerance so they can survive short periods in dry soil; however, they will still perform best if moist soil is maintained. During winter, these plants will become dormant. Those grown outside will be able to survive purely on rainfall, while those kept as houseplants will need infrequent supplemental watering.

A key sign to look out for that indicates you have been watering the plants incorrectly is the condition of the foliage. Crispy brown leaves suggest that the plant is being overwatered, while yellowing leaves on the outermost edges of the plant are an indicator that the plant needs more moisture.

Light
 

Bird of Paradise Light

When grown outside, the bird of paradise thrives in full sun and can also tolerate partial shade. To encourage the plant to flower, you should allow as much light exposure as possible. When kept as a houseplant, the bird of paradise should be in bright indirect light.

Though it requires plenty of sun, the plant is prone to scorching if it is kept in a south-facing window. Instead, position the plant in a bright window that is protected by a sheer blind, or keep it in a west or eastern-facing window. A north-facing window will not provide enough light to allow the plant to thrive. You could alternatively keep the plant in a bright room

Temperature

The bird of paradise plant needs to be grown in temperatures between 65° F and 85° F, which means outside it is suitable for growing in USDA hardiness zones 10, 11, and 12, or it can be kept inside as a houseplant. As a general rule, tropical plants like the same temperatures as humans, so if you are comfortable with the temperature in your home, then so is your plant. You should take care not to leave this plant in a room that does not get heated during cold winters, such as a spare bedroom, as it will not survive in temperatures any lower than 60° F.

This plant doesn't respond well to sudden temperature fluctuations so try to keep its temperature fairly consistent all year round when kept as a houseplant. If your plant does endure a drop in temperature, it will be slow to recover, or may not recover at all, so pay close attention to this aspect of care. Many people grow these plants in containers, so they are able to keep them outside in the summer, then move them indoors when temperatures start to drop in fall. This is a perfectly good way to keep your bird of paradise, just be careful not to forget about it and leave it outside during cold snaps.

When moving your bird of paradise back outside in the spring, you should do this gradually to allow the plant to acclimatize. The best way to do this is to move the plant outside in a partially shaded position for a few hours a day over the course of a week, gradually increasing the amount of time it spends outside, and then repeat the same program when moving it from partial shade to full sun. This will prevent any damage to the plant that can occur as a result of sudden temperature changes.

Humidity

As a tropical plant, the bird of paradise thrives in high humidity. When kept as a houseplant, you will need to find a way to increase the moisture levels of the air around the plant, as air in homes is typically dry, especially in winter. One way to do this is to mist the foliage of the plant daily with a fine water spray. You can also use an electric humidifier that releases tiny droplets of moisture into the air.

Another option is using a pebble tray. To do this, line a tray with pebbles and add water so that the pebbles are not completely submerged. Set the plant's container on top of the tray, ensuring that the water does not come into contact with the plant pot. As the water evaporates from the pebbles, it will increase the humidity around the plant. You will need to keep the water levels topped up to ensure this method remains effective.

Feeding

The bird of paradise is a heavy feeder, so fertilizing the plant is an aspect of care that should not be ignored. Use a slow-release fertilizer on a weekly basis from spring until the end of summer, and then cease feeding until the following spring.

Propagation

This plant can be grown from seed, but it takes many months to germinate and can be a very lengthy process to achieve a good-sized plant. A better method of propagation that has a higher success rate and takes much less time and effort is division. When repotting the plant, you can divide the underground rhizomes, separating them into two or more plants and potting them up separately. For a new plant to form, you'll need to choose a rhizome that has at least three leaves attached. Once planted into an appropriately sized container, you can continue care as you usually would with an established bird of paradise plant.

Repotting

Bird of paradise plants grow vigorously and will need to be repotted every year so that they have enough space to accommodate root growth. The best time to repot the plant is in the spring of each year, as this will allow the plant to spread into its new space as it enters its phase of rapid growth. To repot the plant, gently lift it out of its current pot, and place it into a new pot that is one size up from the previous pot, and filled around the base with fresh potting soil. Fill around the edges with further potting soil, and ensure the base of the plant sits at the same level within the pot as it did in the last pot. Gently press the plant in place to ensure it is secure.

Birds of paradise plants can become very big, so they will need a good-sized pot to make sure they are bottom-heavy and don't topple over, and also so that their roots have enough space to spread out. A four-foot-tall bird of paradise should be in a pot that measures ten inches across, while a six-foot plant will be comfortable in a pot that is 14 inches across. Once the plant reaches maturity, you will no longer need to repot it, and it can remain in its final pot for the foreseeable future.

Birds of paradise do not bloom until they reach a certain size, but once at this size, their roots should be pot bound in order to bloom successfully. Allowing the plants roots too much space can interfere with the blooming cycle and can prevent the plant from blooming altogether or cause reduced flowering. A bird of paradise that is mature, but rootbound, will produce the most abundant blooms.

If the soil of your mature plant needs to be refreshed to replenish nutrients, you can repot your bird of paradise in spring, but put it back into the same pot or a pot the same size. This will allow you to freshen up the soil without disturbing the blooming cycle. Alternatively, just top-dress the plant's soil with organic compost for a nutrient boost and to improve soil quality without disturbing the plant’s roots.

Flowers

Bird of Paradise Flower

The flowers of these plants are very distinctive and easily recognizable. They look like tropical birds taking flight, hence the common name of the plant. This plant will not flower until it is three, four, or five years old, depending on its growing conditions, but when it eventually does flower, you'll find that it was worth the wait. The flowers of this plant are predominantly bright orange, with flashes of blue, red, and white. Each flower lasts just one week, but the plant blooms in succession so that you can enjoy a fairly long blooming period.

Toxicity

This plant is toxic to pets, including dogs, cats, and horses. It is also poisonous to humans, though a significant amount would need to be ingested for it to cause severe symptoms. The leaves of the plant contain hydrocyanic acid, while the seeds contain tannins. Symptoms of ingesting this plant will include digestive discomfort, vomiting, unusual breathing, and discharge from the eyes. If you have curious pets or children, it would be best to keep this plant out of reach or avoid owning it altogether.

Bird of Paradise - Varieties, Care, & Propagation Tips

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