Strelitzia reginea or ‘Bird of Paradise’ is a tropical, flowering plant native to South Africa. The plant gets its name from the head of a male bird species with the same name, birds-of-paradise. There are five recognized species of Bird of Paradise plants, but the most common species grown as a houseplant is Strelitzia reginea. You may have noticed that the Bird of Paradise resembles a Banana tree! Although they are in different families, both are closely related in the Zingiberales order and have similar needs.
The Bird of Paradise typically grows up to 6’ tall with leaves that span up to 26” long and 12” wide. The ornate flowers are orange and blue in color and don’t commonly bloom when grown indoors because of the low lighting conditions. However, we have seen a few of our customer’s Bird of Paradise blooming in their homes because of the large amount of sunlight and warmth they are able to provide the plant.
The Bird of Paradise is also commonly grown in landscapes of Southern California and Florida because of the sunny, warm and humid conditions these regions provide the plant. As long as temperatures stay above 50 °F outdoors, the Bird of Paradise will thrive and flower regularly. If growing a Bird of Paradise in a colder climate, the plant can be brought outside during the summer months and brought indoors during the winter months.
The Bird of Paradise will begin growing ‘offsets’ once it matures, quickly filling out the pot it grows in. If the dense cluster of plants gets too large for its pot, the pot size can be upgraded or the plants can be separated by gently pulling the roots apart to free the plants from each other.
One of the most common questions we get about the Bird of Paradise is why the leaves curl and split. The most common reasons for leaf curl is a lack of humidity, lack of soil moisture, high lighting conditions or high heat. The plant curls its leaves to reduce its leaf surface area in order to conserve water, especially during the summer months. If you are keeping your Bird of Paradise’s soil moist and the leaves are still curling, increase the humidity by placing a humidifier near the plant. Leaf curl from high heat or sunshine should improve when temperatures lower and the sun is not as intense in the fall.
Leaf splitting on the Bird of Paradise is a common characteristic when it is grown outdoors. The leaf slits allow wind to pass through the leaves easily. If wind is not able to pass through the leaves, the stems can be at risk of getting damaged from the weight of the wind. To reduce leave splitting on a Bird of Paradise grown indoors, keep the plant away from drafts coming from A/C vents or open windows.
The Bird of Paradise likes bright light most of the day for strong, healthy growth and flowering. This plant can even receive direct sunlight as long as it is pulled away a couple of feet from a window that provides mid to afternoon sunlight. Mid to Afternoon sunlight is the most intense lighting of the day and can burn the leaves. If you notice brown spots on the surface of the leaves closest to the window only, it is likely a sunburn and not a sign of anything more serious. It may be necessary to rotate your Bird of Paradise every other watering to prevent it from bending in one direction towards the light.
If a Bird of Paradise is placed in too much shade, the plant will eventually begin struggling. The first signs of the plant suffering from a lack of sunshine are new leaves not opening or the stems becoming ‘leggy’ and weak as they stretch for sunshine. The bottom leaves can also get shaded out by the top leaves, causing them to yellow and die before they have a chance to mature. For help in determining the best lighting for your Bird of Paradise, book a plant checkup with one of our specialists.
The Bird of Paradise likes its soil to be consistently moist for optimal root health. Dry roots are not able to take up soil nutrients properly, which will eventually lead to the plant becoming nutrient deficient. Dry soils also cause the Bird of Paradise’s leaves to droop, split and develop dry, brown edges. If the leaves on your Bird of Paradise are drooping and browning on the edges even though the soil is staying consistently moist, it could be from a lack of humidity. Place a humidifier near your plant and let it run for the first half of the day.
Using a moisture meter can help in determining how much moisture is in the soil, especially for larger pots. Most meters have a moisture gauge with ‘dry’, ‘moist’ and ‘wet’ levels. Water your Bird of Paradise only when the meter reads between ‘dry’ and ‘moist’. These levels may fluctuate seasonally and are dependent on the temperature and the amount of sunlight the plant is getting. The less sunlight the plant receives, the less water it absorbs.
If you notice a large amount of water running out the drainage holes in the pot or the soil is drying out quickly, it may be time to repot your Bird of Paradise into fresh soil that is more water absorbent.
Fertilize a Bird of Paradise with a well balanced, slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote ‘Flower & Vegetable’ once every six months in the spring and fall. This fertilizer has an N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of 14-14-14.
Avoid using water soluble or liquid fertilizers with a high nitrogen ratio as they allow the plant to take up all the nutrients at once opposed to slowly throughout the year. These fertilizers can also cause thin, leggy growth and nitrogen burns on the leaf tips if overused.
We recommend you repot your Bird of Paradise into fresh soil every couple of years, even if you are placing the plant back into the same pot. This plant can quickly outgrow a pot because of its ability to produce many offsets. When upgrading to a new pot, only go up 2” to 4” larger in pot size to reduce the chances of over-watering.
For suggestions on how to repot your Bird of Paradise or any other plant, checkout our blog called How to Repot Your Plants Without Making a Mess. Since a Bird of Paradise has such large growth, the biggest obstacle you will face is supporting the foliage without damaging it in the repotting process. It may be easier for you to lay the plant down horizontally if repotting alone or have one person support the top while the other does the repotting work.
Always check the health of the plant’s roots when repotting. Roots should be firm to the touch and white to cream colored. Any mushy or black roots should be cut off to prevent the spread of rot to the rest of the root system. Gently loosen the root ball before placing it in the pot. This will allow the roots a better chance at taking hold of the fresh soil. This is also a good time to separate the plant’s offsets if it has gotten too large for the space you are growing it in.
If you have any more questions about how to care for your Bird of Paradise, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual telehealth appointment with one of our Plant Specialists. Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.