Introduction: Bird of Paradise Plant Care

Picture of Bird of Paradise Plant Care

In Southern California this plant, with its bright, bold and easily recognizable flowers, is ubiquitous. It’s found growing alongside sidewalks and the streets, by the sea, poolside, in parking strips, in container plantings as well as in lots and lots of gardens. It’s common but loved nonetheless so much so that it’s the official flower of the city of Los Angeles.

Here are care tips (mostly for growing it outdoors with a few pointers for indoors towards the end) for Strelitzia reginae commonly known as the Bird Of Paradise.

Step 1:

Size

This is not really a care tip but well worth a mention. This sub tropical/tropical clumping evergreen perennial can reach 6′ tall by 6′ wide. It’s the size of a shrub!

Exposure

The Bird Of Paradise grows the best & blooms the most in full sun. It does okay in part shade & actually prefers this in blazing hot climates.

Step 2:

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Here are a couple of Birds growing in shade in Santa Barbara. As you can see, the plant is less dense with longer stems as well as smaller foliage & flowers.

Flowers

The crested orange & blue flowers are what this plant is grown for, both in the landscape & commercially. The flowers are long lasting on the plant as well as in arrangements. When you plant a young Bird Of Paradise don’t be surprised if it doesn’t flower for the 1st few years. As the plant ages, more flowers will appear. Don’t rush to divide it because it blooms better when crowded. It blooms the heaviest, in Southern California anyway, fall through spring & then intermittently in summer.

Watering

The Bird Of Paradise looks & does the best with regular water – not too wet & not too dry. And not a few little splashes every now & then but a deep watering every couple of weeks in the hotter months. Because of the drought in Southern California, the foliage of this plant is not looking like it did pre-drier times.

Step 3:

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edges turn brown, curl & split in response to not enough water. Another reason for the split, torn leaves is wind.

Soil

The Bird Of Paradise isn’t too fussy as to soil which is evidenced by the wide variety of places it grows in. It does prefer a loamy, somewhat rich mix however & needs good drainage.

Hardiness

It’s hardy to 25-30 degrees F. The Bird Of Paradise grows in USDA zones 10-12 & also in zone 9 with protection from prolonged freezes. You can grow it outdoors in the warmer months & move it indoors when the temps drop.

Feeding

Not much if any is necessary. The majority of the ones which grow around Santa Barbara don’t get any. It would benefit from a generous top dressing of organic compost which would not only feed it but help to conserve moisture as well.

Step 4:

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It’s not uncommon at all to see “double Birds” – that’s what I call them anyway! What happens is a 2nd smaller flower emerges out of & above the 1st flower.

Pests

I’ve only seen them with mealy bugs but have read that they can be susceptible to scale & spider mites as well. A good blast with the garden hose will send those pests flying. Just be sure to get the undersides of the leaves & in the nodes as well. A homemade spray with a mild, natural dish soap & water will help as well.

Pruning

Bird Of Paradise don’t require much pruning at all. You’ll want to remove the dead flowers & any unsightly foliage. Just be sure to take the stems all the way down as close to the base of the plant as you can.

Step 5:

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Here’s the picture I said that I’d try to find in the video. This is what the neighbors down the street did to the 2 Birds of Paradise on either side of their front steps. This “mohawking” is NOT the way to prune these plants! They eventually came back just fine but believe me, it didn’t happen overnight.

Now, a few tips about caring for this plant indoors:

–> High light is the key. Give the Bird Of Paradise as much natural light as you can – it needs this for foliage & flower production. Be sure to rotate your plant (unless it gets light from all sides) so it grows evenly.

–> Just like outdoors, it likes to grow crowded so don’t rush to do any transplanting. By keeping it slightly potbound you’ll get much better blooms.

–> You want to give keep it slightly moist by giving it regular water. In the cooler, darker months be sure to back off on the watering allowing it to dry out before doing it again. This plant is susceptible to root rot so don’t keep it “mushy”.

Step 6:

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–> Our homes tend to be dry so you can increase the humidity with a saucer filled with pebbles & water. Set the pot on top making sure that no roots are staying soaked. Or, you can mist it a couple of times a weeks.

–> You want to plant it in a nice, rich potting mix. A few handfuls of coco coir added in would be greatly appreciated.

–> In terms of feeding, you can give your Bird Of Paradise a drink with a balanced organic liquid houseplant fertilizer in the spring. If it looks like it needs a little boost mid-summer, then do it again. You can also apply a 2″ layer of organic compost &/or worm castings in the spring. This works slower but the effects last longer.

–> The leaves would greatly appreciate a good cleaning every now & then. If you can’t put it in the shower or put it outside in the rain, then wipe the foliage with a wet cloth every now & then.

This plant is really easy to care for outdoors (it’s 1 tough puppy) but is a little more of a challenge indoors.

If you like bold tropical foliage and big bright blooms then it’s so well worth the effort!

Happy gardening,

Nell

If you liked this Bird Paradise Plant Care blog you should also check the one I did on the Giant Bird Of Paradise.

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