The Bird of Paradise plant has to be one of the most beautiful flowering plants that we can grow in our homes and is one of my all-time favourites. With its stunning and substantial form, its presence as a houseplant is second to none, so when you know how to make your bird of paradise flower, all your other house plants pale into insignificance.
However, these amazing plants do need the right environment to flower, and hopefully, we'll show you how to make your bird of paradise plant thrive. Providing what your plant needs will give you a show stopper houseplant that will potentially last for decades.
What is a Bird of Paradise Plant?
Bird of Paradise earns its name from its architectural and exotic flowers. These flowers come bursting out on elongated stems, adorned with feather-like, brightly coloured spikes, they look just like an exotic and undiscovered species of bird, wearing its best feathery hat.
Bird of Paradise, also known as Strelitzia reginae or crane lily, is native to South Africa and comes from the plant family Strelitziaceae, the same taxonomic group as ginger and banana plants which have these large fan-like leaves supported on thick, strong stems.
These stems have to be as strong as possible as the Bird of Paradise is pollinated by birds, and those beautiful blooms can attract several birds at once so they have to support quite a lot of weight in nature.
Bird of paradise can grow over 6ft tall and 5ft wide, but it’s rare to grow them to full maturity indoors, as their natural habitat is a warm and humid tropical rainforest, where their large leaves can stretch out and birds can find the sweet nectar.
In its natural habitat, the Bird of Paradise can produce upwards of 35 flower spikes every year meaning it could have the potential to be in flower all year round.
Bird of Paradise Varieties to Grow in the US
The white flowers of this broad-leaved Bird of Paradise plant have earned it the nickname ‘white banana’. Strelitzias are not banana plants, but their resemblance is striking, with S. Nicolai being the easiest to mistake for their tree growing relatives.
I’ll admit that the white flowers can feel like something of a letdown with these plants, when we’re so conditioned to expect vivid orange blooms, like flames bursting from the earth, but the height of S. Nicolai (the Giant Bird of Paradise) is second to none for architectural impact in indoor growing spaces.
Sold to growing this variety? See our comprehensive guide on growing the Giant Bird of Paradise.
Strelitzia reginae is the classic, unadulterated, Bird of Paradise plant with flowers that look exactly as you’d expect. Their flowers, with fluorescent oranges and deep blues and purples, mimic their names like performing birds of paradise dancing to find a mate.
These crane flowers are native to South Africa and typically grow much smaller than their cultivated cousins. While they can grow up to 6ft tall, it’s much more likely to have potted houseplants reaching around 2-3ft.
Strelitzia juncea are outstanding houseplants in any part of the world. They are happy with drought but resilient to overwatering too, so very useful plants for beginners, but thanks to their spiked leaves they are not as popular, making them pretty difficult to find in garden centres.
If you find one on your shopping trips, you’ll be missing a huge opportunity if you don’t buy it. They make incredibly easy houseplants, with far more striking forms than other birds of paradise, which typically have leaf blades running the majority of the way from floor to tip.
S. juncea grows more like reeds, with tightly defined flowers that interrupt the repetitive and stuffy foliage.
Strelitzia alba, the white-flowered bird of paradise, isn’t as dramatic as S. nicolai, with thinner narrower leaves, but it will grow taller in most settings, including in cooler climates, so makes a much more logical choice for more northerly house plant growers.
It certainly shouldn’t be planted permanently outdoors in the US as it can be ruined by frost damage almost instantly, so if you do decide to grow S. alba outdoors, make sure it’s in a pot that can be moved indoors or into a greenhouse over winter.
Where most Bird of Paradise plants will grow from the base and split into multiple stems, Strelitzia caudata grows upwards, repeating leaves in a stacked formation which cause a trunk as the lower leaves dry out and drop off.
S. caudata should be treated like an extremely tender banana plant. While it will never produce edible fruit, its flowers are identical to its ground-dwelling cousins, and its stem can be cut back whenever it outgrows its space. You can cut off top growth in late autumn when the leaves begin to fade, and wrap the main trunk in fleece.
How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plant
Growing Bird of Paradise Indoors
Bird of Paradise isn't hard to find, at the right time of the year these beautiful plants are accessible in most garden centres, and even in different varieties and colours.
The most popular bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, has bold and striking orange blooms with blue contrasting stripes, it's clear to see how these healthy specimens appeal to the inner interior designer in us all.
However, to keep them looking their best, they do need a little more consideration than the limited information you get on the bird of paradise care label.
Light for Indoor Bird of Paradise Plant
First and foremost, the Bird of Paradise needs light, as much light as possible. If you can't supply your Bird of Paradise with plenty of light then it will need some supplementary light in the form of a full spectrum grow light.
Another essential for your Bird of Paradise is humidity. If you're able to grow your plant in a bathroom that has a good supply of light, this will be a perfect home from home.
Without humidity in the air, your Bird of Paradise's leaves will brown as it loses moisture into the air. If you have a mini humidifier, this can give your plant just that boost in environmental humidity that it craves.
Or simply place your pot on top of a tray of pebbles resting in water can humidify the air around your plant.
Watering for Indoor Growth
If your Bird of Paradise plant has enough moisture in the air inside your home, its watering routine may not stress you out as much as it could.
Keep your plant’s soil moist, but not sodden, in the growing season from around late March to the beginning of the Autumnal months. During winter, resist the urge to water your Bird of Paradise every week, and try to let the soil dry out between watering.
Planting Bird of Paradise Outdoors
It won't surprise you that this tropical, humidity loving plant will not tolerate any frost or extreme-low temperatures, so if you live in a country where you wouldn't want to sit in the soil in the winter chances are your Bird of Paradise won't either.
However, at the right time of year, your Bird of Paradise plant will love to spend a little time holidaying outside in the garden. Simply plunge your plant, pot and all into the soil so you can easily lift out when the temperatures start to drop.
Light for Outdoor Bird of Paradise
When choosing to take your Bird of Paradise outside for the summer months, bear in mind that they do love to bask in the sun.
The best place for your plant will be somewhere with full sun, but monitor your plant on very sunny days to prevent any scorched leaves.
If you have any water feature outside, placing your Bird of Paradise plant next to this will give it enough humidity. During the summer months when the soil warms up, keeping the soil moist will create enough humidity for your plant to thrive.
Watering for Outdoor Growth
Your Bird of Paradise plant will still need to be watered regularly, however, it is best to monitor how much water it will be taking in from natural rainfall as too much water may overly drench your plant and cause the beginning of root rot (especially if you have sunken the pot straight into the soil).
Propagating Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise Propagation from Seed
Planting Bird of Paradise from seed requires a lot of patience but it is possible. Bird of Paradise plants grown from seed can take up to 10 years to flower.
To prepare your seeds, soak them in water overnight, which improves germination rates, and sow them in trays of standard seed compost. Germination can take anywhere from 1-2 months, so keep the soil moist and leave them in a warm sunny spot.
How to Propagate Bird of Paradise from Division
Dividing already healthy Bird of Paradise plants is a successful way of creating new plants and also caring for your plant's overall health and longevity.
It is best to divide plants during their growing season, preferably at the beginning to get the separated plants a good time to recover during the active growing months.
When dividing mature plants, make sure to support the plant and stems at all times. Hopefully, your plant will have a defined and separate plant that you can trace down to the root and this will be the point at which you try and divide.
Your Bird of Paradise plant will have some thicker white rhizomatous roots and some thin feeder roots, carefully tease the roots away from their soil and start to separate your new plant.
You may need to use a sharp sterilized knife to cut through the rhizome at some point, but your division must have some rhizomatous root still attached.
Propagate from Cuttings
Your Bird of Paradise plant will only be able to reproduce through division or from seed. Unfortunately, the Bird of Paradise doesn't have the right stem tissue to create roots by itself.
Caring for Bird of Paradise Plants
Strelitzia becomes large, show-stopping, plants, so it's no wonder that they require plenty of light, and are one of the few indoor plants that require full sun.
For bird of paradise care, make sure your plant is well-positioned in your home to get as much light as possible will ensure healthy growth.
This requirement for full-sun should be all year round, so investing in some full-spectrum light bulbs is well worth it if you love your Bird of Paradise.
Growth Cycle of Bird of Paradise Plants
Understanding the natural cycle of your plant will help with its general month by month care. For Bird of Paradise plant, the active growing season is the summer months, when you would see the most new growth happen, or any flowers.
During the winter months, your plant won't produce any flowers indoors or put on much new growth. Therefore, it doesn't need to be fed or watered as much as you would do in summer.
Also, consider using harvested rainwater where you can, as tap water can have a lot of chlorine and fluoride which can gradually build up in your plant’s tissue and hinder its growth.
They take some time and patience to flower, and do prefer to be a little restricted in their pot which encourages that plant to flower. Take some time to dust your plant's leaves, they'll thank you for it.
Those large, spoon-like leaves are such efficient dust collectors that dust can build up to the point that it hinders your plants’ health.
You wouldn't want to walk around with a dusty face; your pores would clog up, you would feel suffocated and dried out! This is just how those lush leaves feel when they're covered in dust.
Pruning Bird of Paradise
If you do notice any broken or damaged leaves, maybe some stems that have succumbed to the weight of their leaf, there's no harm in pruning these off for the overall health of the plant.
Repotting Bird of Paradise Plant
When thinking about repotting your Bird of Paradise, good drainage is a must, but you must use a good peat-free potting compost that's rich in organic matter as all that lush foliage needs a lot of feed.
Repot your plant into a pot that's just a little bigger than the one it's currently in. If you choose a pot that's too large for reporting you may risk drowning your plant when you next water. Too much soil without roots can become waterlogged.
Troubles in Paradise - Bird of Paradise Pests and Diseases
If you notice that your Bird of Paradise leaves have slits or separated sections along the leaf veins, don't worry, this is just a natural adaptation that the plant would do in the wild.
The plant will create these slits to make its large leaves less susceptible to strong winds.
Leaf Edge Browning
Brown and crispy edges on your Bird of Paradise is most likely related to your watering routine. It may be wise to switch to using rainwater if you can, or filtered water.
Another culprit could be under-watering, causing your plant leaves to become dehydrated. Increasing the humidity around your plant and keeping the soil moist but not soaking wet will hopefully help.
Leaves that have started to yellow could be an indication that your plant is stressed in some way. This could be a sign of insufficient light levels or overwatering, your plant is telling you it needs some TLC. Try moving your Bird of Paradise to a brighter location.
All these pests will feed on your plant's sap, interrupt new growth and generally harm your Bird of Paradise plant so controlling the problem as soon as you identify it is key.
Using insecticidal soap to wipe down leaves and a mixture with something like neem oil or any other plant oil can help to control the problem in future.
If you notice any delicate webbing on your plant, especially around the base where the stems meet, this could be a sign that your plant has an infestation of spider mites.
Spider mites can quickly spread to your other houseplant if not tackled promptly and sometimes they can be barely noticeable so thoroughly checking over both the top and undersides of your Bird of Paradise's leaves for any sign can stop a major disaster.
Mealybugs are the bane of all houseplant gardeners. If you happen to find any small, white and fluffy looking bugs on your Bird of Paradise, particularly on the underside of leaves and around stems, you have Mealy Bugs.
They will also cluster around the leaf nodes where it will look like white dusty patches in the crevices around the stem. Learn more on how get rid of mealybugs here.
Scale bugs come in a variety of shapes and sizes but mostly tend to look like small scabs on your houseplant. They tend to cluster together and you might not even notice they are there until you have a large infestation.
Scale insects can leave a sticky residue on your Bird of Paradise plant so keep checking your plant for any sign.
Interested to grow more bird of paradise variety? Go big with our guide on Giant white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai).
Have Fun Planting Bird of Paradise Plant
There's something so elegant and regal about the Bird of Paradise and for a little extra care and attention, they will reward you for your efforts. They can take up a large amount of space in your home, but it'll all be worth it.
With proper care, your Bird of Paradise could be passed down through family generations, just like ours.