Plant-o-Pedia: Bird of Paradise
The Bird of Paradise is a stunning tropical plant that makes a major statement, but it also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis! Often confused with a banana plant or palm tree, there are several types of Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia, that are commonly used in landscaping in warmer climates (we have them everywhere around LA), but can also be grown indoors. Strelitzia nicolai or the Giant White Bird of Paradise has broad, curvaceous leaves and is a commanding presence in any room, especially one with high ceilings. Its flowers bear the distinct shape you may associate with BOPs, but are a more muted bloom with blue-black and white coloration. Strelitzia reginae or the Bird of Paradise, has the more recognizable, brightly colored blooms, with a slimmer leaf. This species has a more full, shrub-like growth habit, and doesn’t reach the heights its giant cousin can.
Especially when growing these plants indoors, light is key. Very bright indirect, to some direct sun will keep these tropical beauties happy and healthy. If you prefer their presence grace your patio or yard, plant them directly in the ground in warm climates, or in a container in climates with cold winters- just be prepared as you’ll need to transition them to an indoor spot for the winter.
No matter which species you choose, indoors or out, a Bird of Paradise is sure to leave a big impression and bring on major tropical vacay vibes!
GET THE GREEN: Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai and Strelitzia reginae pictured)
WATER: Indoors, or in climates with cold winters, plant in a pot with good drainage. Plant directly in the ground if you live in a climate with warmer winters. In containers, keep soil moist, but not wet or soggy in Spring/Summer. Allow to dry to at least halfway down in Fall/Winter. For outdoor plantings, water liberally in warm months, slightly less in cooler months. Older, established plants can tolerate periods of drought and may not require as much water.
SUNLIGHT: Indoors, place in bright indirect light. Will tolerate some direct sun, but avoid too much in warm months, especially in the afternoon, when direct sun is most intense. Outdoors, a mix of shade with some full sun is best.
PLACEMENT:Strelitzia nicolai, the ‘Giant White Bird of Paradise’ can grow to be very large, over 7 feet isn’t uncommon. Strelitzia reginae can eventually hit 5-6 feet itself, so this is a plant you’ll definitely need some space for, making it a perfect choice for rooms with vaulted or extra high ceilings. Outdoors, Strelitzia can be a nice accent near an entrance, and the Strelitzia reginae also works well as a shrub.
EXTRA CREDIT: When growing Strelitzia indoors, extra humidity will keep leaves looking their best. Use a humidifier, or place plant on a humidity tray (saucer with pebbles and a shallow layer of water). Strelitzia are most likely to flower when kept a bit root bound, so don’t be too eager to re-pot. Temperatures below 60 degrees are difficult for this plant to tolerate.
WORD OF CAUTION: According to the ASPCA, Strelitzia are toxic to cats and dogs. Consult your veterinarian and use caution whenever bringing a new plant into your home.