Botanical Name: Strelitzia reginae
Origin: South Africa
Height: Bird of Paradise plants can grow to heights of about 90 cm (3 ft).
Soil: Any good, balanced potting mix is suitable for this plant.
Light: A greenhouse, south-facing window or sun room would be ideal for this plant, as it needs plenty of bright light, with a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day throughout the year.
Humidity: This plant is quite satisfied with average humidity levels.
Temperatures: From spring through into autumn, the Bird of Paradise plant requires average temperatures of between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F). Winter temperatures must be kept at approximately 10 to 13 degrees C (50 to 55 degrees F).
Water: Bird of Paradise plants need to be watered thoroughly, although the soil should be allowed to dry a little between watering. Watering should be cut down in winter.
Fertiliser: A balanced liquid fertiliser (like, for example, a 10-10-10; see Fertilising House Plants) should be administered once a month from spring into autumn.
Propagation: Bird of Paradise plants can be propagated from seed or through division. A mature plant can be divided when it becomes absolutely necessary (if it bursts out of its pot, for instance). Division should take place in spring, and there is a good chance that the plant will refuse to bloom until its roots are once again pot-bound.
Description and Care Tips
The horizontal, sharply pointed flower bracts of the Bird of Paradise plant stand tall above the plant's foliage on stalks rising from the plant's base. From the spathe, bright blue and orange flowers form a colourful crest. Looking at these exotic flowers, there is little wonder how this plant came to be called Bird of Paradise.
This is a plant that will only bloom once it has matured sufficiently. As a rule, plants older than five years can be expected to produce blooms in the months from spring into summer. Each spathe will provide several flowers in succession, with each flower lasting little more than a week.
While these gorgeous flowers naturally add significantly to the plant's appeal, the foliage on its own is highly attractive. Leathery oblong leaves are deeply textured with veins and almost look like Banana plant leaves. They will require plenty of space, as each leaf can grow to a length of around 46 cm (18 in).
New plants should be repotted in summer each year, just until they reach a height of approximately 90 cm (3 ft). After this, only top-dressing the soil will be necessary, as the plant will not bloom unless it is almost root bound.
In summer, the plant can be gradually acclimatised to stronger light, until it is safe to move it outside. This process has to be taken slowly, as sudden exposure to lots of sunlight could cause sunburn. Obviously, the Bird of Paradise plant will have to be brought back indoors well before the first frost sets in.