Bird of Paradise Care
Bird of paradise (Strelitzia spp.) is a deceptively easy to care for plant. If you have great sun and want something tall that makes a statement, but you're tired of cacti (us too), this is the plant for you!
The most common bird of paradise varieties in stores are S. reginae (orange bird of paradise) and S. nicolai (white bird of paradise). As a houseplant, S. reginae is the more popular of the two because they "only" grow 6 or 7 feet tall. On the other hand, S. nicolai can reach around 15 feet tall. It is easiest to tell these varieties apart by the color of their blooms (i.e. orange or white) but because they won't bloom indoors, you'll have to tell them apart by their leaves. If you can.
The leaves of S. nicolai are said to resemble that of a banana tree. They are very large and wide and the tips are a bit rounded or cupped. The leaves of S.reginae are narrower and come to a bit of a point. That being said, trying to get clear and accurate images of both leaves side by side is impossible. The plants are often mislabeled as well. So if you really want to know which variety you have, you may just have to wait a few or five years to see how large it gets. In the meantime, care is the same and they are both beautiful.
This care slideshow gives you all the deats for growing a gorgeous bird of paradise, including how to keep your plant small if you end up with a larger-than-you'd-like S. nicolai.
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4-6 hours of very bright indirect to direct sun/day. A south or west window is ideal. Acclimate to direct exposure to prevent burning. Keep leaves clean for max light intake. Low light = Leaves droop, new leaves don't open, extreme leaf splitting, & soil stays too damp for too long, which causes overwatering.
Traditional care says to keep the soil damp. We recommend allowing the soil to dry 30 - 50% to avoid overwatering, stem rot, & gnats. You will water less often when light & temps drop. Overwatered = Brown & yellow leaf tips & edges, leaves curl &/or droop, extreme splitting. Underwatered = Leaves curl, shrivel, & crisp, brown leaf tips & edges (without yellowing.)
High is ideal but BOP do fine in average household humidity. Brown leaf tips or edges may be a sign to increase humidity and/or water frequency. Keep from heat vents.
Likes it warm in the summer, 65° - 80°F, & cooler in the winter, 55° - 60°F.
Soil & Repotting
Nutrient rich soil that breathes & drains well but is heavy enough to keep a tall & top-heavy BOP from falling over. A pot with drainage is important to water BOP thoroughly. Keep slightly rootbound. Top of rootball should be at surface level. To keep BOP small, keep it rootbound & cut off the largest & tallest leaves. Can do a hard pruning in the spring. (cont.) If you want a large BOP, gradually increase pot size once plant has completely filled the existing container. (Maybe every 1.5 - 2 years.) If in doubt, don't repot.
Won't happen indoors. There are a lot of blooming tips out there but don't expect them to work.
Leaves rip with age to increase sun exposure to lower leaves & to allow the plant to withstand windy conditions. Lower (older) leaves yellow with age. Trim off as close to the plant's base as possible.