How to Grow Birds of Paradise

Written by David S.

Birds of Paradise — Strelitzia — are unique and beautiful tropical flowers that thrive in US Hardiness Zones 10-11 and may sometimes thrive in zone 9 if protected in the winter. These lovely additions to your yard come in a few varieties, including Strelitzia nicolai — a white bird of paradise plant. 

Size of Bird of Paradise Plants 

  1. Strelitzia reginae — One of the most beautiful plants in this family with crisp bird blooms and a mauve beak set against a brilliant orange crown with purple or blue accents. Height — 5-6 feet. 
  2. Strelitzia nicolai — A tree form of the Bird of Paradise plant that grows to about 20-feet and produces beautiful white blooms with touches of blue. 
  3. Strelitzia Alba — One of the three tree-like species which can grow over 20 feet in height and features stunning white blooms with a greenish-black bill. 
  4. Strelitzia caudata — A mountain plant that grows to 20 feet with broad banana plant-like leaves
  5. Strelitzia juncea — is a narrow-leaf variety that keeps a short stature. S. juncea may grow to six feet and produce that beautiful orange and blue blooms that are somehow origami in shape and exotic.  

The smaller versions S. Juncea and S. reginae can be brought indoors during the colder times of the year and moved back outside to enjoy the summer heat. 

Soil Needs for Birds of Paradise Plants 

Bird of Paradise plants need well-draining soil. The soil you use or create should hold moisture but not become soggy. The goal is to create a soil environment that is consistently moist but not overly wet. To do this, start with good compost, which you can mix with garden soil or not. The compost offers the plants all the nutrition they need, and the organic matter in the compost helps to hold moisture. To improve the ability of soil to hold water, add perlite, coconut fiber, or another aggregate that absorbs water. Vermiculite is an additional example of an aggregate that absorbs moisture. 

Soil pH — very forgiving at 5.5-7.5. 

Products that help you achieve well-draining soil but that holds moisture include:

  • FoxFarm Cultivation Nation Seventy Thirty Growing Media — is a blend of buffered coconut coir (fiber) and perlite. It has a combination of 70:30, making it an excellent media for in-ground or container planting where plants need moisture but well-draining soil. 
  • Black Gold Natural & Organic Cocoblend Potting Mix – a lovely blend of ingredients that help hold moisture in the soil. These include perlite, pumice, peat moss, and more. Perfect for outdoor containers or as a soil amendment for in-ground planting. 

Bird of Paradise plants can grow a root ball that is two feet by two feet.

 Watering Requirements for Birds of Paradise 

If you build quality soil for your Bird of Paradise plants, then you should plan to water them when the top two-three inches of soil becomes dry. Birds like to cycle between soil conditions that are moist to somewhat dry. The organic material and water-absorbing products will help the roots remain damp while the top layer of soil can dry. What do we mean by dry? There should be a little moisture in the ground, but it should not be wet — the moisture consistency of a cupcake is a good example. Like many plants, water birds of paradise slowly and deeply giving the water-absorbing products time to absorb water. 

Larger varieties will need more water than smaller varieties. Plan on 1-2 inches of water per week for smaller types and 1-3 inches of water for plants over five feet tall. An inch of water is about 16 gallons. 

Planting Requirements for Birds of Paradise 

Planting Depth — For transplants, you want to plant the bird so that the top of the root crown is at the soil level. Ensure the hole or container that you plant the bird is prepped to handle the root ball as it matures. Many birds have a root ball that is 1-2 feet wide.

Lighting — Bird of Paradise like full sun and some afternoon shade. 

Spacing — Upwards of six feet apart. Smaller varieties don’t mind a little crowding, and crowding them may help produce more blooms, so plan on 4-6 feet spacing for smaller types and six feet spacing between larger species. Keep in mind that the larger tree-like birds can grow 30 feet tall and spread outward six or more feet. 

Fertilizing — Generally, not much fertilizer is necessary. In the wild, they live off the nutrient load in leaf litter. In a landscape setting, any nutrient need comes from the organic compost used to prep the soil. You can treat the birds to compost tea now and then. You can simulate the humus layer of the soil by using a mulch that decomposes somewhat quickly. 

Care Notes — It is common for the bird of paradise plant leaves to split. It is a morphology that enables them to stand up to windy conditions without losing their leaves. You can reduce the impact of tattered leaves by planting the birds in a place where they have some shelter from the wind. 

Uses — Bird of Paradise plants are excellent for producing dappled shade in your landscape. They can also block eyesores. You can use them to create a hedge if needed to give privacy along a fence line. They also are a showy welcoming plant along a walkway or around a front porch or patio. 

Bird of Paradise makes a beautiful addition to home and commercial landscaping. Their unique and brilliant flowers attract interest, while their spiky foliage creates a bit of drama around windows and walkways. The larger trees provide lovely shade and contrast in a garden or planter. 

Please stop by any of our five Southern California locations and browse the Bird of Paradise selection we offer. If you need a specific plant or product, give us a call, and we can check our inventory for you. Due to high demand, our inventory changes often. 

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