Unveiling the Beauty of Strelitzia, the Bird of Paradise Plant

Here’s how to take care of and grow this plant with amazingly beautiful flowers

Photo of author

By Alex

strelitzia

The Strelitzia, commonly known as the Bird of Paradise Plant, is a wonderful plant characterized by colorful flowers that are among the most beautiful in nature. Quite surprisingly, it is fairly simple to grow. It is one of the most elegant flowering garden plants, but it is also splendid in pots thanks to its wonderful orange flowers in pots, as a decorative plant on balconies and terraces. Because of the beauty of its flowers, it is often bought as a gift.

Strelitzia: noteworthy characteristics

The Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise Plant, is a plant native to Southern Africa with a bushy habit and an average height of around one meter.

It belongs to the plant family Strelitziaceae. Here is how it looks:

  • Roots. It has a robust and long root system
  • Stem. It has an aerial part characterized by a thick bush consisting of an elegant stem.
  • Leaves. They are oval-shaped and elongated, purple-green in color and have pronounced veins. While in full vegetative vigor, leaves can exceed 40 cm in length and 15 cm in width.
  • Flowers. The main peculiarity is its spectacular heron’s beak-shaped inflorescences, supported by long rigid stems. Each consists of three petals of a beautiful deep orange, and a deep blue central one.
  • Fruit. It is a trilocular capsule with a feathery tuft, also of an intense orange colour. The seeds contained inside are small, with black and shiny arils.
Strelitzia seeds
Strelitzia seeds are really something you don’t see every day.

How many varieties of Strelitzia are there?

It is estimated that there are more than forty species of Strelitzia. The 4 most famous varieties are all named after Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III of England, who died in 1818 and was a great botany enthusiast.

  • Strelitzia Reginae. It has elliptical, silvery-colored leaves that can reach a length of 30-40 cm. The roots are large and the flowers have a distinctive shape. They sprout sequentially for long periods from a spathe resembling a heron’s beak. They can be bright orange, deep yellow or deep blue.
  • Strelitzia Nicolai. It’s a variety from South Africa with an upright habit. Its woody stems grow slowly, but it can reach a height of 8 meters. The leaves resemble those of the banana tree and can reach up to 3 meters. The flowers have the characteristic heron’s beak shape.
  • Strelitzia Alba. This variety is also native to South Africacan and can grow up to 10 meters. It has green, leathery leaves up to 2 meters long. White flowers bloom in spring on purple spathes as long as 25-30 cm. It can be grown outdoors in areas where winter minimum temperatures do not fall below 5°.
  • Strelitzia Juncea. Standing 1-2 m tall, it is a slow-growing evergreen perennial plant. It has strong fleshy roots and upright cylindrical leaves arranged in a fan shape. The inflorescences are similar to the Reginae variety. This variety should be grown in full sun, in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil.

Strelitzia

When do Strelitzias bloom?

This plant blooms from autumn until spring (April-May). However, it is necessary to wait until it is 5 years old. The inflorescences persist on the plant even for weeks.

Why Strelitzia does not flower

Cold temperature and/or too dry air may prevent flower formation.

Care of Strelitzia

This wonderful plant is quite simple to grow. As with any plant, however, it is wise to know and take the right steps.

First of all, it should be pointed out that it can be grown in the garden or on the balcony only in those regions with a mild climate, which never falls below 5°. In all other areas, an appropriate shelter must be provided for the winter, otherwise the plant would be in danger of dying.

Strelitzia

Let us now go on to find out the main pointers for taking proper care of it.

  • Climate: It thrives well in areas with a mild climate. The ideal temperature should be between 13°C and 20°C. In any case, it should never fall below 5°C
  • Exposure: It prefers sunny places sheltered from cold winds
  • Soil: It grows well in ordinary garden soil, as long as it is fertile, moist and well drained

Where should the Strelitzia be placed?

This plant should be placed in a position in full sun or, at any rate, very brightly lit. Keep in mind that although it is a very hardy plant, it is likely to suffer if it is planted in the garden and during winter temperatures drop below 5°.

If you live in a region where winters are rather harsh, it is a good idea to think now about adequate shelter for the colder months. Alternatively, you can also grow the plant indoors. The important thing is to place it in a very bright area.

Strelitzia in the open ground

For cultivation in the open ground, it is best to plant it in well-drained soil. Strelitzia grown in the garden should be protected with a basal mulch and tarps during winter.

How to grow Strelitzia in pots

In order to grow Strelitzia in pots, you will need pots of adequate size for the development of the root system and lush growth of the aerial part.

The soil to be used should be fresh, fertile and well drained at the bottom with the addition of expanded clay or vermiculite so as to facilitate the percolation of water from the pot thus avoiding harmful water stagnation.

Once the planting is done, the pot should be placed in a bright place with temperatures around 20°-25°. In winter it should be sheltered indoors.

Potting the Strelitzia

In the first 5 years of its life, as it grows, it should be repotted, increasing the size of the pot more and more.

This should be done in the spring. Once it reaches 5 years of age, it is now an adult and begins to flower. From this point on, repotting is no longer necessary. However, it is good to pay attention to the potting soil.

As spring arrives, this can be partially replaced and enriched with compost so that it is fertile.

The plant does not tolerate water stagnation. For this reason, at the base of the pots it would be good to arrange crocks to let the water drain better.

How often to water Strelitzia

It should be watered abundantly except in June and July. During this period, in fact, the plant enters its vegetative rest and therefore does not need as much water.

In any case, wait until the soil is completely dry before watering again.

It loves moisture. It can therefore be very helpful to spray the leaves. On the other hand, always be careful to avoid water stagnation in the saucer.

Strelitzia

When to fertilize Strelitzia

From October to May, about every 15 days, liquid fertilizer to be diluted in the watering water should be given.

When the plant is young and has not yet begun to flower (within 5 years), opt for a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

If the plant is already over 5 years old, choose a fertilizer that has twice as much potassium as nitrogen, and little phosphorus.

Iron chelates are also recommended, twice a year. These serve to strengthen and invigorate the plant.

How and when to prune Strelitzia

Generally, it is a plant that does not need to be pruned. Simply remove leaves that become dry so that they do not become a vehicle for parasitic diseases.

How Strelitzias are multiplied

It reproduces by seedimg and by division of the tufts.
  • Seeding. In spring, fresh seeds are sown, scarified and without the tuft of hair. They should be buried at a depth double their size, in a mixture of equal parts river sand and compost, to be kept slightly moist until germination. The seedbed should be placed in a shaded place and at a constant temperature of 25º. This method is quite time consuming; in fact you have to wait 5 years.
  • Division of tufts. In autumn or winter, place the divided plants in shady areas and in moist soil enriched with peat. With this propagation method the first flowers will appear within 2-3 years

Planting of Strelitzia

Strelitzia plants have to be planted in spring, from March to May, in holes larger than the soil loaf and at least 1 meter apart.

Pests and diseases of Strelitzia

The main enemies of this plant are mealybugs and red spider mite. It also fears root rot caused by the Phytophtora fungus, which generally proliferates after heavy watering. To remedy this, the plant should be removed from its pot and the ruined parts removed.

Treat these areas with a fungicide and wait for the soil to dry. Replace the plant in its pot and wait a week before watering again.

Why Strelitzia leaves close

If the unfurling of a new leaf does not occur smoothly and the leaves open only partially, most likely water and light are insufficient.

Why Strelitzia leaves curl up

If the leaves are dry, the cause could be an unsuitable temperature for the plant. This usually happens if the plant is in the cold or in a drafty or drafty area.

How much does a Strelitzia plant cost

It is a fairly inexpensive plant. Expect to pay 15-20 dollars in a garden center for a Bird of Paradise Plant.

The significance of Strelitzia

Because of the extraordinary beauty of its flowers, it is a symbol of nobility, majesty and elegance. A perfect ornamental plant in a well-maintained garden. Last, it is also ideal as a gift.

Other plants to discover

More on this topic: