Bird of Paradise is a unique name for a unique plant. Officially known as Strelitzia reginae, this tropical plant has a majestic and dramatic look. Bird of paradise is native to South Africa, so it prefers warm, humid weather. These plants are known for their sizeable green foliage, but wait until this beauty blooms to really enjoy a show. The tufted flowers resemble a crane and feature upright petals. Most cultivars are known for bold flowers in shades of orange and blue, but some varieties have stunning white blooms.
The bird of paradise can grow outdoors in zones 10 through 12, making an impressive landscape plant. Some gardeners in colder climates move the potted plant outside during the summer to adorn a deck or outdoor space and return the plant inside before the winter chill. Large plants can sometimes be intimidating to take on, but just like all other varieties of houseplants, bird of paradise plant care is easy when you understand what this beauty needs.
Types of Bird of Paradise
The bird of paradise has large, glossy green leaves that are eye-catching. The oval-shaped leaves have a central midrib and evenly spaced, alternating veining. The veining offers a slight texture, creating visual interest. The leaves stand on upright stems that grow from a central point. The tall flower stalks gently bend, mimicking the shape of a bird’s body, and are usually shades of burgundy and blue. Boldly colored petals emerge from the ‘body,’ resembling wings in flight. Most bird of paradise cultivars are large plants better suited to landscapes, but some varieties can be grown indoors. The most common bird of paradise cultivars include:
- Strelitzia juncea, or narrow leaf bird of paradise
- Strelitzia reginea
- Strelitzia alba (landscape plant)
- Strelitzia caudata (landscape plant)
- Strelitzia nicolai (landscape plant)
Bird of paradise plants are distantly related to bananas, which is why these plants resemble one another. Bird of paradise plants are sometimes called banana trees or banana plants.
Another genus of plants, Caesalpinia, also goes by the name bird of paradise. This broadleaf evergreen shrub has a tree-like, thorny form and thrives in desert climates. Caesalpinia is an entirely different plant from Strelitzia reginea and does not look at all similar.
Bird of Paradise Light Requirements
Sunlight is a major part of the bird of paradise plant care. Place this plant in a south-, west-, or east-facing window because it needs at least 4 hours of bright indirect sunlight daily. Light is important for all plants, but it is especially important for flowering plants. Bird of paradise plants in medium light may not thrive or bloom.
Rotate the plant a quarter turn each time you give it water, so each side receives even light. Periodically wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust buildup. Clean leaves can better take in the sunlight and go through the photosynthesis process.
How Often to Water Bird of Paradise
Bird of paradise plant care requires consistent watering. These plants like damp conditions, but they don’t like wet feet. Give the plant a drink when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil feels dry. The soil in the lower portion of the pot can be damp when watering.
Yellow or brown edges, drooping foliage, and leaves with excessive splits are signs that the plant is overwatered. Remove damaged growth and allow the soil to dry out before giving the plant a drink. Dried-out foliage indicates an underwatered plant. Water a dry plant immediately; aside from a few dried-out leaves, the plant should recover.
Best Soil for Bird of Paradise
Well-drained soil with lots of organic content is ideal for bird of paradise plant care. This plant likes damp conditions, but it does not enjoy standing water. Soil that allows excess moisture to drain keeps the plant hydrated but not soggy.
Temperature for Bird of Paradise
Temperatures between 65° and 85° F are ideal. Bird of paradise is a tropical plant that likes warm conditions. Most homes are warm enough to support this plant without issue. Keep the plant clear of heating and cooling vents, drafty windows, and exterior doors. The plant can be moved outside during the warmer months. Once the temperature is consistently above 60° F, the bird of paradise can be brought outside. Remember to bring it back inside before the temperature turns cold.
Bird of Paradise Humidity
Above-average humidity is necessary for bird of paradise plant care. This plant hails from a tropical climate, so increased dampness keeps the foliage lush and healthy. Brown and curling edges are signs of low humidity. Use a humidifier or a pebble tray with water to increase the moisture in the air as needed.
Bird of Paradise Fertilizer
Feed your bird of paradise monthly using balanced, water-soluble plant food. The bird of paradise only needs to be fertilized during the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. Stop fertilizing the plant during the fall and winter when the plant is resting up for the next growing season.
Pruning Bird of Paradise
Prune your plant to keep it looking healthy and full. Trim away older leaves that have developed significant splits or started to droop. Old leaves will be replaced by new growth that emerges from the center of the plant, maintaining a complete and balanced appearance.
In nature, the foliage will develop splits, especially as wind jostles the leaves, and this will happen to plants grown outdoors. Houseplants do not always develop splits, but it can happen. The splits add to the look and character of the bird of paradise and allow sunlight to reach the lower portions of the plant. Leaves with splits are not damaged and do not need to be removed, although they can be pruned away as they age.
When to Repot Bird of Paradise
Bird of paradise plants like to be somewhat rootbound, so you can wait to repot your plant. Plan to repot your plant every two years, but you can wait as long as two and a half years. Repot during the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Select a pot two to four inches larger when repotting, so the roots have room to spread. Since this is a large plant, you can maintain the size (and repot in the same size pot with fresh soil) by trimming the roots slightly.
Bird of Paradise Propagation
Propagating your plant allows you to increase your collection. The bird of paradise is a showy plant that is sure to turn heads, so even if you don’t have enough space for more plants, your friends and family may be interested in a plant for their own. Propagate bird of paradise plants via division. You may need to cut a section of the roots to separate a leaf from the main plant. This process is easiest done while repotting when the plant is out of the soil, and you can easily identify the best place to make a cut. Always use clean, sharp shears or a knife when cutting roots.
The section to be propagated should have a good amount of existing roots. You can apply a rooting hormone if you choose to help the roots push out new growth. The new plant can be placed in soil, and new roots should form in a couple of weeks. The new plant may need time to settle in, so don’t be alarmed in the stems droop. Make sure the new plant receives bright indirect light and water when the top few inches of soil are dry.
Is Bird of Paradise Pet Friendly?
Unfortunately, bird of paradise plants are not pet friendly. Eating any part of the plant can cause an upset stomach for your cats, dogs, or young children. Be aware of this issue if you choose to bring the plant into your home or consider locating a plant in an area that is not as easily accessible if you already own one.
Bird of Paradise Styling Tips
This plant certainly has care needs in terms of sunlight and water, but also consider your space when bringing a bird of paradise into your home. In nature, this giant can reach 20 feet tall! Plants grown indoors are likely to stand 3 to 8 feet tall. This plant is a natural fit for a room with high ceilings and an open, airy feeling, but it will also look lovely in a room with standard-height ceilings, so the scale of the plant can play off of the space. The ideal spot will have the room needed for this plant to spread its foliage and bloom.
Bird of Paradise Care Tips
Bird of paradise houseplants do not always bloom, but you can encourage your plant to set flowers by providing ideal care. Moving the plant outside during the summer may help increase the odds of the bird of paradise setting flower buds. The bird of paradise is a stunning plant that makes an impressive and large statement. Proper bird of paradise plant care will help your plant thrive, bloom, and look amazing.