Native to South Africa, as other Strelitzia are, the Bird of Paradise is one of the most well-known tropical ornamentals. Its blusih-green foliage adds a fair amount of contrast to all gardens, but that isn’t necessarily it’s best selling points. Its flowering structure, consisting of orange petals and bluish-purple petals, look strangely similar to some birds’ crests and catches the eye of many. It’s fairly slow growth means that repotting is uncommon, which is kind of helpful as its root system is unfortunately fragile. However, Strelitzia reginae are primarily pest free with few minor problems that rarely kill the entire plant. If you’re willing to be patient and have the appropriate conditions, the wait for flowering is well worth it from this extraordinary monocot.
Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise, Crane Flower, Orange Strelitzia, Crane Lily)
Hardiness Zones: 10-12
Height: 3-5 feet tall
Diameter: 3-4 feet wide
Growth Rate: slow
Root System: fleshy and easily disturbed
Subspecies: ‘Aiton Mandela’s Gold’ (less common with yellow flowers), ‘mzimvubuensis’ (essentially impossible to pronounce),
Tolerates: drought, loam soil, clay soil, occasionally wet soil
Problems (major): Roots are easily disturbed, causing shock to the plant. Temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius will significantly harm the plant and have a profound, negative effect on flowering.
Problems (minor): very poor salt tolerance, scale and grasshoppers may harm foliage; caterpillars, snails, and aphids, mealybug
Poisonous: no (don’t try to eat it, though… when I state that something isn’t poisonous, I don’t mean that it should be consumed)
Soil requirements: rich, acidic, fertile, well-drained soil
Air Requirements: high humidity preferred
Watering requirement: moderate amounts
Sun requirement: full sun or part shade
Leaf shape: distichous (grow oppositely to one another, fan-like), blue-green coloration, similar to banana plant leaves
Leaf size: 18 inches long, 6 inches wide
Stem: This monocot actually lacks a petiole, the stem-like appendage is just a modified lamina.
Flowering structure: petals are orange and contain nectar, other petals are blue or purple (may be white in shaded areas) and contain pollen, very unique in structure
Flowering frequency: flowering occurs in spring and summers once the plant is about 2-3 years old (increased flowering may occur if the plant faces notable stress and if crowded); bees primarily pollinate (some birds, like the Sun Bird, may also pollinate)
Fruits: round, brown or black with yellow arils (“hair” tufts), less than 0.5 inches in diameter, distributed by birds
Propagates by dividing, suckering through rhizomes, and seed dispersal. The seeds germinate anywhere from one month to two years, stratifying the seeds at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit reduces time for germination. The leaves and flowering structures grow taller if grown in part shade. The flowers are relatively easy to hand-pollinate, and if the seeds are stratified, growing more shouldn’t be a mjaor concern.
Ornamental, Strelitzia reginae is highly prized for its magnificient flowering. Used commonly as a specimen plant.
- http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:VUkrYFboXKgJ:hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/shrub_fact_sheets/strrega.pdf+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us (the pdf link doesn’t work)
The inflorescence of S. reginae ‘Aiton Mandela’s Gold’
The pollen inside the two fused blue petals by “http://culturesheet.org/strelitziaceae:strelitzia:reginae”
Crane Flower seeds still in their original pod by
The root system of a juvenile Bird of Paradise by Flickr user ‘exoticgarden’ “http://www.flickr.com/photos/exoticgarden/”
Juvenille Strelitzia reginae
A close-up of the Bird of Paradise inflorescence down in Carbondale
The petioles of the Bird of Paradise down in Carbondale
The blue-green foliage of a Strelitzia reginae
Doctor Stephen Ebbs with his flowering Bird of Paradise down at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s). The last four images ‘belong’ to me, so they can be used for educational purposes if austinbotany.wordpress is referenced.