While purchasing plants to grow around my backyard pool during the summer, I became intrigued with the bird of paradise plant. This group of plants grows large flowers resembling the bird of paradise bird in flight.
I opted to order two white bird of paradise plants from a grower in Florida. I liked the crane-like appearance of the white and blue flowers.
Little did I know at the time that the white bird of paradise is not just a color option, it is actually referred to as a Giant Bird of Paradise. You’ll see why.
What is a Giant Bird of Paradise Plant?
There are five species of bird of paradise plants under the genus Strelitzia. The two most popular in the United States are Strelitzia nicolai and Strelitzia reginae, which are both commonly grown as houseplants.
Strelitzia are native to South Africa, resembling the beautiful bird of paradise (bird). It is also commonly known as a crane flower in South Africa. An image of the flower of the bird of paradise is featured on the 50 cent coin in South Africa as well.
Going back to the two most popular Strelitzia houseplants, Strelitzia nicolai grows a large white and blue flower, while Strelitzia reginae grows a more colorful orange, yellow, and blue flower. Strelitzia nicolai is sometimes also called a wild banana plant, while Strelitzia reginae is referred to as a crane lily.
It’s not surprising that it is also known as a wild banana plant, as the leaves are similar to the leaves of a banana tree (seen below).
How big do they grow?
Strelitzia nicolai, the giant bird of paradise, can reach approximately 10 meters (about 33 feet) in height. Now we see why it’s called a giant!
The height of the plant and the long leaves aren’t the only things that make this plant a giant – the flowers on the giant bird of paradise are about 12-18” in length!
The orange bird of paradise, along with most others in the genus, reach a height of closer to 2 to 3.5 meters tall, which is still very big for a houseplant.
How do you keep a 10 meter tall plant as a houseplant?
In the right climate, the giant bird of paradise can be planted outside in the ground, where it can grow as tall as a good-sized tree. In the U.S. they are hardy in zones 9b-11.
When grown in a container, the giant bird of paradise will likely stay below 15 feet tall. That’s still taller than most of our ceilings, but at least it’s a little more manageable.
It is worth noting that the bird of paradise can be toxic for dogs and cats, although it is considered safe for humans. If you plan to grow these, you should make sure they are kept in a place that your pets can’t chew on them.
For more ideas on safe plants for kids, read 6 Safe Plants for Your Kid’s Play Spaces.
How are they pollinated?
The leaves of the bird of paradise are large and arranged in a fan-like pattern. The plant is not pollinated by bees and other insects, it is actually pollinated by sunbirds.
Sunbirds land on the spathe of the plant, and their weight opens it to release pollen onto the feet of the bird. If no sunbirds are available, or if the plant is kept indoors as a houseplant, it will need to be hand pollinated in order to set seed.
Where are the flowers?
First of all, don’t expect your plant to flower before it is a few years old. These plants need 3-5 years before they will start flowering.
Bird of paradise plants need to be kept in the right growing conditions in order to flower. They need to be in full sun (unless it is very hot) or given bright light inside. The soil needs to be watered until evenly moist, but wait to water again until the soil is dry to the touch.
Bird of paradise plants should be fertilized regularly with all-purpose fertilizer during the spring and summer. In fall and winter, the plant can be watered less and it should not be fertilized during this time.
These plants flower best when the roots are slightly pot bound or the roots are somewhat exposed on the surface of the soil. For this reason, it is best to refrain from re-potting them into larger pots too often. They do best in shallow containers and can be re-potted if the roots really need more room.
Under the right conditions, they will usually flower from late winter into spring and possibly even other times throughout the year.
The flowers of the giant bird of paradise produce gooey nectar that attracts plenty of birds back to the plant.
For some additional information on how to care for a giant bird of paradise plant, check out this video by Planterina.