There is flora, and there is fauna. Bird of paradise is both.
Bird of paradise is perhaps one of the most distinctive paradise plants in botany. It is named after its resemblance for the animal, bird of paradise, and its distinctive plumage. The bird of paradise flower is also known as the “crane flower,” genus Strelitzia. It can grow an average 5 feet in height, with a 2 to 3 foot spread. It is generally pollinated by sunbirds.
Its leaves are large and broad shaped, similar to banana leaves but with a longer petiole. The bird of paradise leaves are arranged in two ranks to form a crown of foliage. The flower emerges from there.
The bird of paradise flower is native to South Africa, where it grows wild on river banks and in coastal areas. It was first introduced to Great Britain in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks. He named the exotic-looking plant Strelitzia in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Because of the banana-shaped leaves and other plant characteristics, it was classified in the banana family Musaceae. However, it now has its own family, Strelitziacea.
Bird of paradise has no trunk. It is compact and grows in clusters. The bird of paradise is slow growing and has flesh-like roots. As its flowers open, pointed petals of brilliant orange are contrasted with arrow-shaped tongues of vivid blue color. Beginning in late winter or early spring, the flowers will open in succession. There are normally one to three flowers on each stalk.
Birds of paradise prefer full sun or sometimes 2,000-foot candles, in some circumstances. The plant needs a temperate climate: 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50-55 degrees at night. They prefer humid temperatures, and “misting” during dry, winter months. In outdoor climates that frost during the winter, plant a larger container in the ground and place the bird of paradise in this pot. Cover the plant with mulch.
Over-fertilization will lead to excessive foliage with little or no flowering. Fertilize your bird of paradise flower every 2 weeks in the spring, and weekly in the summer. The plants will not need fertilizer in the fall or winter.
The bird of paradise can be propagated by either seeds or division of the crown. Their seeds have a very hard coat, and must be broken before planting. Seeds must be fresh, less than 6 months old, and no more than a year old. Germination can take 2 to 3 months. Once your seedlings have emerged and have three to four leaves, move them to a well-drained potting mix. As the plants grow, keep moving them to larger pots. Dividing in the spring is the best time.
Bird of paradise plant diseases are rarely a problem. Root rot usually comes from poor soil drainage or over-watering. Bird of paradise may be bothered by scales, mealy bugs, whiteflies or aphids from problems with soil drainage or over-watering.