No matter where you live, you can quickly bring a taste of the tropics to your indoor or outdoor garden by growing bird of paradise. Known botanically as Strelitzia reginae, this colorful, eye-catching plant lights up any garden. It's a perennial only in the very warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.
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Bird of Paradise Features
Showy bird of paradise flowers consist of orange, blue and white, which form to resemble an exotic bird's beak. There's also a variety that has all white flowers. Each bird of paradise flower can last up to two weeks on or off the plant. The plant's foliage is also dramatic. The large, green, textural leaves make a statement even when the plant isn't blooming.
Bird of Paradise History
Native to South Africa, bird of paradise is widely cultivated throughout South America today. The plant got its botanical name when it was introduced to England in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks, who ran Kew Gardens at the time. He named the plant Strelitzia reginae after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. The species name "reginae" means queen, and the genus name "Strelitzia" is a nod to Charlotte's birthplace at Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She lived at Kew Gardens for several years.
Where to Grow Bird of Paradise
Bird of paradise makes an excellent accent in the landscape. Use the plant around pools and spas to add a tropical feel or put bird of paradise in a pot and display it as a focal point. When grown in containers, bird of paradise can be displayed on patios, balconies and decks.
Bird of paradise requires full sun outdoors to thrive. The plant is frost sensitive, so it can only be grown outdoors year-round in the frost-free climates of zones 10 through 12. If you wish to grow bird of paradise outdoors in other zones, do so in the spring and summer when night temperatures are 60 degrees and above. Grow the plant in a container and bring it indoors when nighttime temperatures drop in fall.
Bird of Paradise Grown as a Houseplant
Bird of paradise does well when grown indoors as a houseplant, as such a warm environment is ideal. The plant requires a bright, sunny location, such as in front of an eastern or southern window. Bird of paradise also does well when grown under full-spectrum lighting.
Bird of Paradise Care and Maintenance
With consistent care, bird of paradise can thrive. Though the plant is drought tolerant once established, it grows best when you keep the soil moist but not soggy. This will generally require that you water the plant once a week when grown in the ground. Container-grown plants will require more frequent watering, especially when temperatures are high.
Fertilize bird of paradise once in spring and again in summer with an all-purpose fertilizer designed for flowering plants. Always follow the package directions on the fertilizer, as too much can burn plant roots and damage the plant.
Bird of paradise is a self-cleaning plant that tends to shed its own leaves when necessary. That means it rarely needs pruning. When you do prune, remove dead foliage and spent flower stalks.