Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)

Photograph by Paul Gellatly

One of my all time favorite tropical plants has to be the Bird of Paradise.  Its a staple in any tropical flower arrangement given its beautiful unique long lasting blooms.  This plant is available at many nurseries and greenhouses, ranging in price anywhere from $15.00 to $150.00 (depending on size and variety) and should definitely be given a chance if you have a spot in your home that gets a lot of sunlight.

Given this plants natural habitat in South Africa, a south facing window suits this plant best.  It should get atleast 4 hours of direct sunlight in order to thrive.  It is a slow grower, and may take up to 10 years to bloom from a small plant. Keep in mind... buying a bigger plant may cost more... but it will bloom sooner.  Depending on the variety... this plant can reach anywhere from 4-10 feet tall!
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

When I moved into my condo, with floor to ceiling south, and west exposure windows.  Two of the first plants I bought were Bird of Paradise, the orange flowering, and the white flowering varieties.  The plants themselves are beautiful, with unique erect thick, almost leathery dark green leaves.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Tips for success:  A bird of paradise should spend a few months outdoors in full sun during the summer months.  However, during the heat of the day, the plant should be moved to a shaded area.  Its important to watch out for water when the plant is outside.

During the spring and summer months, water the plant liberally, but allow to dry out somewhat between watering.  During the winter months, cut back on the amount of water, and allow to dry out completely before watering again.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The bird of paradise should never be left in a location that drops below about 55 degrees f.   The plant needs to be brought indoors during the winter months, and requires a slightly elevated humidity.  I have aquariums in my condo, which aid in increasing humidity, however, misting the leaves occasionally will also do the trick.

During the growing season, (spring and summer)  this plant can be fed a liquid based fertilizer twice monthly, in the fall and winter months, fertilize only once a month.

Re-potting this plant should be done in the early spring, for both small, and mature plants.  I would recommend using a peat based potting soil, as you will have more success.

I wouldn't say this is a plant for beginners, as it does need some special care... however... if you want to bring some tropical flare into your home,  its definitely worth it!  
Photograph by Angel W.

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