The bird of paradise is a fantastic houseplant. It is well-known for its brightly colored flower and long, elegant stems. Apart from its appearance, this tropical plant is popular as it isn’t too fussy either.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to care for, grow and maintain a beautiful bird of paradise.
Strelitzia reginae is the bird of paradise’s botanical name. It gets its common name as when it flowers, the plant resembles the crane which is also called the bird of paradise. It is also referred to as the orange strelitzia, crane flower, and bird’s tongue flower.
The herbaceous perennial belongs to the Strelitziaceae family and is native to South Africa. It loves a humid, moist, and warm environment and is regarded as one of the easiest tropical plants to care for.
The plant grows upright, paddle-shaped leaves directly from the soil and blooms orange flowers. The vibrant flowers resemble the head of a crane.
Fun fact: The houseplant’s scientific name commemorates Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was the wife of King George III.
The Strelitzia species is made up of five different plants and only two are commonly grown as houseplants; the strelitzia reginae and strelitzia nicolai.
We’ll discuss the following four additional types of Strelitzia; strelitzia nicolai, strelitzia alba, strelitzia caudata, and strelitzia juncea.
- Strelitzia nicolai: This type of plant resembles the banana plant and is often called the ‘giant white bird of paradise’. Its blooms are covered by a grey-blue case which gives way to a white flower.
- Strelitzia alba: This tree-like plant grows above 20 feet (6m) tall and is often referred to as the ‘white-flowered banana’. Its name is derived from its white blossoms and banana-shaped leaves.
- Strelitzia caudata: The ‘mountain wild banana’ grows in mountains ranging from Swaziland to Zimbabwe. It can reach heights of around 20 feet (6m) too and also sprouts creamy-white flowers.
- Strelitzia juncea: Its nickname is the ‘narrow leaf’ bird of paradise, and it grows long, narrow leaves with flowers resembling that of the strelitzia reginae.
Bird of Paradise vs. Banana Plant
The bird of paradise plant is often confused with the banana plant but there are a few major differences. You can tell these two plants apart by their foliage and fruits.
The banana plant produces 3 feet (0.9m) long, narrow leaves that form a spiral around the main trunk. The bird of paradise grows paddle-shaped leaves that form a fan as they sprout from a single trunk.
The banana plant also produces edible fruits, but the bird of paradise does not and the flowers can be quite toxic when ingested.
How Tall Does It Grow?
The bird of paradise can grow 3.5 to 6 feet (1 – 1.8m) tall, and approximately 3 to 4 feet (0.9 – 1.2m) wide.
Fun fact: An outdoor strelitzia can reach heights of up to 30 feet (9.1m)!
How Fast Does It Grow?
Strelitzia reginae takes about 5 years until it reaches its mature size. The houseplant can sprout 1 new leaf a month during spring and summer. On average, it grows 1 foot (30.5cm) taller each year.
How Long Does It Live?
Typically, it can live for a couple of decades when optimally cared for. The average orange strelitzia has a lifespan of 25 years before it begins to die.
Fun fact: The strelitzia nicolai can live for around 50 to 150 years when grown outdoors.
When the leaves, stem, or flowers are ingested they can cause a negative reaction. The flowers seeds are poisonous as they contain tannins, while the leaves and stem contain hydrocyanic acid.
We’ll briefly list what may happen to you or your pets when either of you ingests part of this houseplant.
Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Strelitzia reginae is mildly toxic to both cats and dogs. When they eat any part of the houseplant they may experience some harmful side effects.
We’ll list the most common ones below:
- Heavy breathing
- Digestive discomfort (stomach ache and diarrhea)
When you suspect that your pet has consumed part of this plant, you need to call your veterinarian right away.
Is It Poisonous to Humans?
The houseplant is toxic to humans too. If either you or your child eats parts of the plant you may feel ill.
Signs of poisoning are as follows:
- Faint/ lightheaded
- Gastrointestinal issues
If you or a child begins to display these symptoms then contact a medical professional to find out what actions you need to take.
Bird of Paradise Plant Care
A healthy and long-lived tropical houseplant requires a consistent care routine. We’ll be discussing everything that you need to know in order to develop the perfect care regime.
How Often to Water It
It is vital that the orange strelitzia is grown in a moist environment. The potting mixture should be watered on a daily basis during the spring and summertime.
You should adjust your watering schedule according to the climate. You can reduce the watering frequency in winter as the cooler the temperature, the less water is needed. The more light a plant receives the more water it needs.
When watering the houseplant, always allow the water to drain out, and remember to remove any excess water that has accumulated in the bottom saucer.
Does It Need Drainage?
Just like the pothos, the crane flower needs good drainage. Although it loves moist soil, it can’t withstand soggy conditions.
The potting mixture must allow for any excess water to flow out through the drainage holes.
You can also improve its drainage by adding a layer of gravel at the bottom of the container. This will allow water to flow off the roots easily.
How to Trim It
Strelitzia reginae requires light trimming every now and then, as well as hard pruning every 3 years.
You can trim off a small portion of the plant’s stems or leaves to remove any broken stalks, unhealthy foliage, and leggy growth. During the springtime, you can snip off smaller portions of the crane flower to maintain a pristine plant.
A hard prune is needed to encourage growth, remove large portions of the houseplant and dramatically reduce its size. Keep in mind that no more than one-third of the crane flower should be removed at one time.
Follow the steps below to prune your plant:
- Use a sterilized pair of pruners and cut the stems and leaves all the way down to the soil line.
- After pruning, you must water it thoroughly.
- You can then put it back in its sunny home.
When and How to Repot It
When repotting the crane flower, it is best to do so during the springtime. This rule applies to most other houseplants too, such as the umbrella plant.
Typically, you should aim to repot it once every 1 to 2 years or when it has outgrown its current pot. If the growth has slowed down drastically or the roots are growing through the drainage holes, then you need to transplant the crane flower into a larger container.
It is important to water the plant deeply at least 24 hours before you repot it. This will decrease the stress placed on the roots.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to repotting your strelitzia reginae:
- Remove the plant from its current container and gently brush away the excess soil surrounding the rhizome.
- Take out a bigger pot and fill it with new potting soil.
- Place it in the soil and make sure that it is planted as deep as it was in the previous pot.
- Water it gently and position it in a sunny location.
Just like the string of pearls plant, the bird of paradise also thrives in full sunlight. It needs 4 to 6 hours of bright light each day.
Sunshine is one of the most important environmental factors if you want a healthy-looking plant. Even when placed in a medium amount of sunlight, the growth will slow down.
The houseplant can be grown in indirect sunlight, but it won’t be able to survive when placed in a low-lit area for an extended period of time.
Strelitzia reginae prefers loamy, light, and fertile soil. The ideal potting mixture is well-draining, aerated, and slightly acidic.
You can add some organic matter like compost to improve the nutrient density of the soil. Some experts even recommend mixing in a handful of orchid bark or horticultural charcoal to enhance the soil’s ability to drain excess water.
The potting mixture must never be too dry so avoid adding sand, but it mustn’t retain too much moisture either. If you’re concerned that the soil is too heavy then add perlite or vermiculite to improve aeration.
This houseplant thrives when consistently fed. It requires heavy feeding on a regular basis during spring and summer.
You can use a slow-releasing fertilizer at the beginning of spring and summer, or you can opt for a liquid, all-purpose fertilizer once every 2 weeks. If you choose a liquid fertilizer then apply a well-balanced one, such as 20-20-20.
If you prefer to use natural fertilizer, then simply add manure to the potting mixture.
Pot Size and Type
The best container must have 3 to 5 drainage holes to allow for any excess water to flow out, and the same rule applies to other houseplants such as the rubber plant.
The diameter of the pot should be no more than 2 to 3 inches (5 – 7.6cm) wider than the rootball.
You may be tempted to use a terracotta container, but this will dry out the soil too quickly which can harm it’s roots.
As the houseplant is native to South Africa, it needs to be grown in a warm environment. The optimal temperature range for this plant is between 65 to 85°F (18 – 29°C). The temperature should never fall below 60°F (15.5°C).
The crane flower absolutely flourishes in a humid environment. The humidity levels should never dip below 50 percent.
If you want the foliage to have a super glossy appearance then you should maintain a relative humidity level of around 60 or 70 percent.
Can It Grow Outside?
Strelitzia reginae loves warm climates and actually grows well when planted outdoors. The outdoors may even suit this houseplant more as it will begin to bloom and grow taller. It will flourish in USDA hardiness zones of 10 to 12.
Summer is the perfect time to transfer it outside but you will need to adjust its care according to the environment. You may need to water it more frequently to maintain moist soil and you should mist the leaves a couple of times a week.
If you live in a region where the winter months are very cold then this houseplant cannot be grown outdoors year-round. It is imperative that you relocate the plant back indoors when temperatures become too low.
Does It Bloom?
Sadly, this houseplant rarely ever blooms when grown indoors. If you grow it outdoors, you can expect bold, orange flowers between late winter and early spring.
The plant will only produce flowers once it has reached its mature size and they will then last for about 1 month before dying. Once the orange and blue colors begin to fade away, you’ll know that it’s time to snip the flower off at the base of the stalk.
How to Get It to Bloom
If you want to encourage it to flower then make sure that it receives bright sunlight for around 6 hours a day. Furthermore, you must maintain a regular feeding schedule and keep the soil moist throughout summer.
Top tip: You can encourage blooming by using the right type of fertilizer. It’s best to use one that is low in nitrogen, and high in both phosphorus and potassium.
How to Grow It
Strelitzia reginae can be propagated by division or grown from a single seed. The most successful and simple way to grow another plant is through propagating its divisions.
Below, we’ll guide you through propagating the houseplant and planting its seeds.
Bird of Paradise Propagation
You can divide the rooting system and propagate separate offshoots in soil. You cannot root a stem or leaf cutting as without any rhizome attached to them, they will not be able to root.
Spring is the perfect time of year to propagate the divisions as they will have plenty of time to recover and establish their roots before winter.
The plant has to be mature or you may kill it by dividing the roots before it has fully grown.
How to Divide and Plant It
Follow the straightforward process below:
- Use a blunt knife and slide it in between the pot’s perimeter and soil. This will loosen the soil and allow the plant to be removed easily.
- Take out a new container and place some organic matter or a well-draining potting mixture inside.
- Examine the rooting system and slice through the rhizome. Make sure that the divisions each have healthy roots. Furthermore, they should have 3 to 4 leaves still attached to them.
- Plant the offshoot in the soil and cover the roots.
- Water the divisions well and place them in indirect sunshine.
- You can check if they’ve rooted by lightly tugging on the plant after 4 weeks. If the plant has some resistance then it has officially rooted itself in the soil.
How to Grow It from Seed
During the springtime, you can plant the orange strelitzia seeds in some peat moss or organic matter. Be prepared to wait a while as germination can take around 8 weeks and this method isn’t always successful.
Before you even begin to plant the seeds you’ll need to prepare them for germination first. The best way to encourage germination is by soaking the seeds in lukewarm water for 36 hours. You must change the water on a daily basis.
After the seeds have had a good soaking, you can take out a nail file and lightly file them. Now, your seeds are ready to be planted.
- Fill a tray or some small containers with potting mix.
- Plant each seed 1 inch (2.5cm) deep, and 3 inches (7.6cm) apart if grown in a tray.
- Place a plastic bag over the seeds to maintain a warm and humid environment.
- Put the container on a heat mat that is set at 75 to 80°F (23.9 – 26.7°C), and position it under bright sunlight.
- You will need to mist the seeds on a daily basis to keep the soil moist.
- The plastic bag and heat mat can be removed when new growth has sprouted.
- After 2 leaves have been produced, the seedlings will need to be repotted into their own container if they were grown in a single tray. The seeds planted in different pots can be transplanted when necessary.
Why May It Be Dying?
This houseplant is sought after because of its appearance, and when it becomes diseased or damaged the poor plant may lose its beauty. If your plant’s roots soften or its leaves have brown edges, begin to curl, droop, or yellow then you have to alter your care regime immediately.
We’ll explain the potential causes of your plant’s problems and the action needed to improve its health.
When the foliage has crispy, brown edges it may be caused by a lack of humidity, too much sunshine, or overwatering.
If the air is particularly dry then place a humidifier next to the plant or mist its foliage 3 times a week.
When the crane flower is positioned in full sunlight its leaves can become burnt as the sun rays are too harsh. This is especially likely during the summertime as temperatures rise. You will need to find a new home for the plant where it’ll sit in bright indirect light.
Overwatering your houseplant can be detrimental to its health. Remember that most houseplants cannot withstand soggy conditions, so when the soil is too moist you must allow it some time to dry out slightly before watering it again.
There are two different directions that its leaves may curl, and each is caused by different things. We’ll discuss them below.
When the leaves curl inwards this is due to exposure to extreme temperatures or a lack of water.
The crane flower doesn’t do well when it is grown in temperatures above 90°F (32°C). An environment that is too hot will cause the houseplant’s foliage to burn. You must place it in a cool area or a place where it doesn’t receive as much sunshine.
If the potting mixture is completely dry then you will need to water the plant thoroughly. The soil needs to be kept moist throughout its active growing seasons.
If the foliage is curling outwards then the houseplant is suffering from being overwatered or placed in a shady area.
The orange strelitzia cannot sit in soggy conditions. An overly moist potting soil will cause severe damage to its foliage and roots. The best way to fix this issue is by allowing the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil to dry out before watering it again.
As this houseplant is native to sunny regions, it cannot withstand prolonged periods of shade. It should be kept in a sunny area for optimal growth.
There are two potential reasons why the foliage is drooping; improper watering and too much sunlight.
Improper watering can be rectified by either reducing or increasing the number of times you water the houseplant. To determine the correct course of action, you will need to touch the soil. If it is dry then your plant needs to be watered, however, if the soil is too moist then refrain from watering it.
The bird of paradise thrives in sunshine, but during the summertime the sun rays may scorch the foliage. The afternoon sunlight may be too extreme for the plant, therefore, you need to position it in indirect light.
The leaves will begin to yellow when it is exposed to harsh temperatures and is either over- or underwatered.
This houseplant is fairly tolerant of extreme temperatures but if it is too cold or too hot then the plant won’t survive. It is best to find a slightly cooler area during the summertime and a warmer place during the wintertime.
Improper watering is a common issue when it comes to this houseplant. You must make sure that the soil is moist but not overly soggy. You will need to adjust your watering schedule by either reducing or increasing the amount of times it is watered.
Root rot causes the plant’s stem to become soft and limp, and its mushy roots turn into a brown or black color. It is caused by excessively overwatering your plant.
The first thing you need to do is cease watering it immediately. You must then remove it from its current container and examine the roots. Take out a sharp pair of scissors and trim off the discolored roots before repotting it in dry soil.
Going forward you must reduce the number of times that you water it and make sure that the pot has drainage holes.
The houseplant’s leaves split naturally, so you don’t need to freak out. The leaf will split at the seam when it is windy. This is actually common and is what gives the plant its bird-like appearance.
It is the plant’s way of surviving heavy winds as when it opens up the wind can pass through easily. This way the buds of the plant won’t be knocked off.
Fungal Leaf Spot Disease
You may notice tiny spots that are either circular or irregularly shaped on the foliage and this disease is known as leaf spot. The fungal disease occurs when too much moisture is present or when your pruners are not sanitized.
You can prevent this from occurring by reducing the number of times you water the bird of paradise and by regularly cleaning your tools before cutting the plant.
Wrapping It Up
This vibrant, tropical plant is absolutely stunning as its long elegant stems are topped off with a bright flower. Its look makes it a must-have for any houseplant enthusiast. It is also ideal for a newbie as it is easy to grow and look after.
When growing a flourishing bird of paradise you will need to try to imitate its natural environment and keep an eye out for any diseases or issues along the way.