Bird of paradise plants are known for their striking tropical blooms that instantly transport you to a lush, exotic oasis. With their vibrant colors and sculptural shapes, these iconic plants have the power to turn any indoor or outdoor space into your own personal Shangri-la.
An Introduction to Bird of Paradise Plants
Native to South Africa, bird of paradise plants belong to the genus Strelitzia. There are five species in this genus, but Strelitzia reginae is the most popular and widely cultivated. This species is known for its bright orange and blue blooms that emerge from a beak-like bract. The flowers resemble the head of a crane, hence the common name bird of paradise.
These plants thrive in warm, humid environments and are incredibly resilient. Mature plants can grow up to 6 feet tall and wide, with lush green banana-like leaves. When happily sited, they will reward you with an almost constant supply of stunning blooms.
Best Varieties for Creating a Tropical Oasis
While the classic orange Strelitzia reginae is a must-have, there are also some other fantastic bird of paradise varieties to consider:
Strelitzia Nicolai – The white bird of paradise has enormous leaves and towering flower spikes that can reach up to 20 feet tall! This adds serious drama and vertical interest.
Strelitzia Juncea – For something more compact, go for the narrow-leaved bird of paradise. It reaches just 3-4 feet tall but still pumps out magnificent flowers.
Strelitzia Reginae Dwarf – Maxing out at around 3 feet, the dwarf bird of paradise is perfect for patio containers. It looks great paired with succulents and other tropicals.
Strelitzia Alba – An exquisite variant, the white strelitzia bears flowers with pure white bracts and a pale blue “tongue”. Striking when contrasted against dark green foliage.
Ideal Growing Conditions
To create a true tropical paradise, bird of paradise plants require some specialized care:
- Sun – Birds of paradise need at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. More sun means more frequent blooming.
- Humidity – High humidity is key. Mist your plants daily or use a humidifier. Grow them in a bathroom or greenhouse if possible.
- Soil – Rich, well-draining potting mix amended with compost or worm castings.
- Water – Water deeply when the top few inches of soil become dry. Let excess water drain away.
- Fertilizer – Feed every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer.
- Temperature – Ideal temps are 65°F-85°F. Bring plants indoors if colder.
Using Birds of Paradise in Your Outdoor Tropical Oasis
Thanks to their showstopping blooms and lush foliage, bird of paradise plants are fantastic for creating an exotic backyard escape. Here are some tips:
- Plant bird of paradise as focal points near pools, seating areas, or along borders. Or mass several together for high visual impact.
- Group them with other tropicals like elephant ears, palms, philodendrons, and colorful annuals like impatiens and coleus.
- Use the tall white bird of paradise as a living screen or backdrop. Its huge leaves provide privacy and a lush green wall.
- Underplant bird of paradise with low-growing plants like lantana and pentas to add vibrant pops of color.
- Add hardscaping like pathways, fountains, decorative pots, and tiki torches to complete the tropical theme.
- For high drama, illuminate your bird of paradise at night with landscape lighting. The flowers glow beautifully.
Using Bird of Paradise Plants Indoors
The bird of paradise’s exotic appeal also helps you cultivate an indoor sanctuary right at home. Follow these indoor growing tips:
- Site bird of paradise near bright southern or western windows. East-facing windows also work.
- Use shear curtains to filter intense afternoon sun if necessary.
- Maintain warm temps between 65-80°F year-round. Move plant to a warmer room in winter if needed.
- Run a humidifier nearby and mist plant daily to boost humidity. Pebble trays also help.
- Prune dead leaves and spent flowers to keep your plant looking fresh.
- Rotate the plant every few weeks so all sides get equal light exposure.
- Repot in a slightly larger container every 2-3 years when rootbound.
- Display your bird of paradise as a stand-alone specimen, or combine with other houseplants.
How long do bird of paradise blooms last?
Each long-lasting bloom can persist for up to 3-4 weeks if cared for properly. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new blooms.
Why is my bird of paradise not blooming?
Insufficient sunlight, low temperatures, or inadequate nutrition can prevent blooming. Ensure proper care is provided. Mature plants bloom much more than younger ones.
Should I cut off dead leaves and spent blooms?
Yes, pruning is important! Remove any dead/damaged foliage and spent flowers to keep plants looking their best. Make cuts near the base of the plant.
Are birds of paradise toxic to pets?
The plants are non-toxic, but the berries that sometimes form after flowering may cause stomach upset if eaten. Keep plants out of reach from kids and pets.
How do I overwinter bird of paradise plants?
In temperate climates, move pots indoors before first frost. Provide bright light, warm temps (above 55°F), and high humidity over winter. Reduce watering frequency.
Bring the Tropics Home
With their bold, exotic allure, bird of paradise plants are guaranteed to brighten up any space and whisk you away to paradise. Their vibrant blooms and lush foliage make them perfect for crafting an indoor or outdoor tropical oasis right at home. Provide ample sunlight, humidity, and care, and your birds of paradise will reward you with their stunning beauty for years to come.