Having indoor plants is an amazing thing. You can grow your own yucca like a pro and add that splash of green that you’ve always wanted. Or you can take it on step further! You probably have seen BBC Earth’s documentary about birds of paradise, which was presented by David Attenborough. They are some of the world’s most dramatic and attractive birds found in New Guinea and Eastern Australia. You may, however, have not heard about Strelitzia, which is also known as the bird of paradise plant. If you ever happened to mistake a plant for a bird, this is surely the one.
The plant’s morphology resembles that of a bird because of its split leaves. It is a perennial plant native to South Africa with five species. It is a member of the Strelitziaceae plant family. If you want a plant with big, extravagant blooms, let’s look at this natural wonder in more detail, shall we?
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What is the bird of paradise?
It is a tropical evergreen plant. It also has a strong resemblance to banana plants. In fact, another common name for the bird of paradise is “banana tree”. These regal plants (Reginae) are named after the lovely orange crane flowers that they produce, which refer to the form of their blooms.
Surprisingly, it is easy to grow and makes an excellent indoor plant. It can be transferred outdoors in the summer months and thrives for at least half the year outside in colder climates. Bird of paradise usually blooms in late winter or early spring, but it may bloom at other times of the year under ideal conditions.
With a little attention and care needed, it will happily bloom away. It has a lot going for it. Its bold foliage makes for a great landscape addition. It grows well in pots as well as containers and the pot size can be medium to large. It is simply a florist’s favourite because it can last for weeks in the vase and is breathtaking.
Two of the Strelitzia species are widely grown as indoor greenery: Strelitzia Reginae (orange bird of paradise) and Strelitzia Nicolai (the white bird of paradise).
Where to place your bird of paradise
If you have fallen in love with the bird of paradise and would like to grow it as an indoor plant, you would have to provide the right light conditions. Enough sunlight is vital and will help the plant display its colourful blooms and create that tropical paradise within your home. A lack of sunlight is the most common cause for a bird of paradise‘s failure to bloom. Place your plant in a location where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.
If your living room is exposed to direct light during the midday hours, however, indirect light is preferable. Consider using artificial light to replace natural one if your environment or house layout does not allow for it. In the summer, you should take your houseplant outside to get full sun. Make this transition gradually to acclimate it to the brighter sun. Simply put it back inside once the temperature drops.
Bird of paradise proper plant care
As mentioned before, it requires direct sunlight, as well as moderate heating. Early in the spring, before new growth begins, feed the plant with compost. Following that, you need to fertilise every week or so during the growing season.
Keep the plant pot-bound until it reaches the age of four to five years to ensure that it blooms. Offer it plenty of sunlight and feed it on a regular basis. The key to good indoor growth is to have bright light, moist soil, frequent watering, balanced fertilisation and high humidity. It also needs to be properly propagated, pruned and cleaned.
To bloom properly, this plant needs bright light, including some direct sunlight. However, it must be protected from the midday summer heat, which can burn the leaves of younger plants. A good location is in a space with east or west-facing windows. Rooms with just a north-facing window should be avoided.
Bird of paradise plants are somewhat forgiving and can thrive in a variety of soil conditions. They do, however, grow best in organically rich, fertile, loamy soil which is moist but not soggy and that drains well. The ideal pH is around 5.5-7.5. Make an effort to prevent soil from fully drying out through the pot. You can enrich the soil with compost or well-rotted manure.
During the spring and summer, they need frequent watering to retain constant moisture without saturating the potting mix. The more leaves it has and the bigger it is, the higher the plant’s demand for fluids. As a result, it should be liberally watered on a daily basis. If you happen to see yellowing, wilted leaves, it is due to the fact that the plant is overwatered, so avoid overwatering at all costs. Once a day is sufficient.
This should be gradually decreased, however, during the autumn. Between waterings, the root zone should get fairly dry by the end of November. During the growing season, these plants need daily feeding (April until September in Britain). Apply a liquid feed to your bird of paradise, fortnightly.
In the spring and summer, fertilise your plant once a week. Liquid fertiliser can be mixed into the pouring water for this reason. When the new leaves grow faster than the bulbs, it signals a warning that too much has been applied.
Since the seeds already contain all of the required nutrients, seedlings should not be fertilised. Regardless of the season, a very small amount of fertiliser should be applied once a week, no earlier than two months after the first shoots of a new plant are well visible. Organic ones are the best to use.
Strong humidity is preferred by birds of paradise A warm environment with a temperature of about 25°C can also be beneficial to the plant. During planting, the temperature and humidity should be kept as consistent as possible. If your home is dry, misting is highly recommended so you may want to keep a spray bottle around. The bird of paradise can adapt to regular household humidity levels, but it prefers a little extra humidity as a tropical plant. Every couple of days, place it near a humidifier to give it a boost. In winter, keep the temperature above 15°C. This is a cold-sensitive plant that takes a long time to recover from frost damage.
Your bird of paradise will only bloom once it has reached a certain size. Every spring, repot it into a larger container. In a 25 cm nursery pot, a 1.2 m tall bird of paradise grows well. In a 35 cm container, a plant of 1.9 m height would normally thrive. It should be pot-bound until it reaches maturity to ensure that it blooms. The flowering cycle would be disrupted if you repot it.
In March or April, plant the seed. The seed has a very thick coat, so if you sow it without any preparation, you may have to wait a long time. Remove the orange tufts from the seed two weeks prior to sowing and place them in a plastic bag with a hand full of fresh compost.
Refrigerate this for two weeks. Soak them in lukewarm water for a few hours before sowing, and then nick or scratch the seed coat with a knife or sandpaper to speed up germination. Then place it in a bottom heated propagator at temperatures between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.
Water just enough to keep the soil moist, and remember to air the propagator on a regular basis. It should take four to eight weeks for the seed to germinate. When the seedlings are of a good size, prick them out and put them in individual pots. From this point on, flowering can take a year or more.
Pruning this plant is a serious business. Trimming is performed for the exact same reasons, but with pruning, the targets are more intensive and combined in this case. You may want to prune an older plant or remove leaves and stems that are blocking a pathway or a window. This needs more aggressive pruning which should be done in the early spring.
Hedge trimmers make rough cuts and leave broken edges, so use hand pruners, loppers, or a pruning saw instead. Remove any dead bird of paradise flowers from the base and sweep up any old foliage that has fallen into or around it.
Clean the top of each leaf with soft tissue cloths to expose a healthy shine. You can also wipe the larger leaves simply by hand. The leaves quickly rip, however, so make sure to be extra careful.
When handling your bird of paradise, a little tearing is fine, but if you are someone who is too rough and may tear in the wrong place, it can result in more unpleasant brown splotches on the leaves. Therefore, just be patient with it.
Common pests and diseases to be aware of
Bird of paradise plants, generally speaking, are relatively pest-free. That is not to say that bird of paradise bugs don’t exist. Mealybugs and scale are two of the most common pests found on such plants. Scale pops up on the stems and undersides of the leaves as rough little brown dots. Mealybugs appear as white fuzz patches on the plant’s leaves. Other insects that target bird of paradise plants include snails, spider mites, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, all of which leave bite marks on their leaves.
Bird of paradise diseases are a bit uncommon. Of course, this does not imply that the plant is disease-free. Consider the following:
- Root rot is the most prevalent disease. This occurs when the plant’s roots are left in water or soggy soil for an extended period of time, and it can normally be prevented by allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
- Leaf blight is another disease that affects such plants. It is, in reality, another common cause of sick bird of paradise plants. It appears as white spots on the leaves surrounded by a ring of a different shade of green than the plant. Leaf blight is normally handled with a fungicide applied to the soil.
- Bacterial wilt causes the leaves to wilt and fall off, becoming light green or yellow. It can normally be avoided by keeping the soil well-drained, and it can also be treated with a fungicide application.
Growing a bird of paradise indoors will not only remind you of those warmer days but also raise your spirits if you struggle with the lack of greenery in your area during the winter months. You will also appreciate the idea of having an eye-catching houseplant indoors all year. This is especially the case when it is covered in those incredible bird-like flowers. They are without a doubt some of the most beautiful and elegant indoor plants that you will ever come across, and they can instantly add personality to your living room. Hence, it will add a tropical flair and a splash of colour to your home decor like nothing else. Why won’t you give it a try?