Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is an exquisite, mysterious flower. This well-known African flower captivates people with its bright blue petals and fiery orange sepals, which extend from a beak-shaped leaf to give the impression of a brilliantly colored bird in flight. Flowers appear throughout the year on long stalks above the rich green leaves. When birds drink the flower’s nectar, the petals open to dust their feet with pollen. Millions of bird of paradise blooms are sold as cut flowers each year.
Common name: Bird of paradise
Botanical name: Strelitzia reginae
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 10 to 12
Height: 3½ to 4 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Fertile, loamy, well-drained
• Moisture: Moist but not soggy
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil and prevent weeds.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: Fertilize often in spring and summer.
• By seed or by division.
Pests and diseases
• No major insect or disease problems, but mealybugs and scale may be a problem.
• Bird of paradise looks great in a container. In warm climates, it makes an excellent street or landscape planting.
• If you grow S. reginae inside, choose a well-lit, sunny location. During summer months, protect the plant from direct sunlight.
• Bird of paradise is very wind resistant and performs well in coastal gardens.
• The leaves of S. reginae are evergreen and provide striking foliage year-round.
All in the family
• Plants in the Strelitziaceae family are similar in appearance and growth to those of the banana family (Musaceae).
• Strelitziaceae has only three genera: Strelitzia, from Africa; Ravenala, from Madagascar; and Phenakospermum, from South America.
Where to buy
• Ecolage, Lake Charles, LA, 866-562-8088, http://stores.homestead.com/ecolage
• Flora Exotica, 514-747-7618, www.floraexotica.ca/index.htm
• Real Palm Trees, 888-4778-2476, www.realpalmtrees.com
(Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)