The genus Strelitzia contains several plant species, according to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Grow Strelitzia species for their eye-catching foliage and bright-colored flowers resembling birds in flight. This feature gives Strelitzia its common name, bird of paradise, or crane flower. Strelitzias are used as landscape specimens in warm climates, as fresh cut flowers in arrangements, and as interior plants.
Orange bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) reaches 4 feet in height, with up to a 10-foot spread and 8-inch flowers with blue fused petals and long orange sepals. Mandela's Gold is a variety with yellow petals and a blue "tongue."
White bird of paradise (Strelitzia alba) is a large tree form of the species. It grows to 18 feet tall with flowers similar to orange bird-of-paradise, but larger--10 to 12 inches long.
Giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicholai) reaches up to 30 feet tall with a spread of 10 feet. Its flowers are up to 18 inches long, white and blue with reddish-brown bracts (petal-like, modified leaves).
Juncea bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae var. juncea) is a variation of the orange bird of paradise, with smaller flowers and undeveloped leaf blades.
Light and Climate
Grow Strelitzia in partial shade outdoors. They are tropical plants, cold hardy only to USDA zone 9. Indoors, Strelitzia prefers full sun, but will tolerate lower light levels. Clemson University Extension literature suggests placing Strelitzia plants near a south-facing window. Strelitzias like 65 to 70 degree Fahrenheit days and 50 to 55 to degree F nights with 60 percent relative humidity when grown indoors.
Soil and Fertilization
Grow Strelitzia species in nutrient-rich, moist soils, but allow the soil to dry between watering. Less water is necessary during the colder months. Over-fertilization leads to excessive foliage and reduced flowers, according to Clemson University Extension. Fertilize Strelitzia plants with commercial houseplant or garden fertilizer every two weeks in spring and weekly in the summer, following label recommendations.
Divide rhizomes (underground stems) to propagate Strelitzia species. Before new growth in the spring, lift the plant out of its pot if container-grown and cut the rhizome with a sharp, clean knife and plant plant the rhizome divisions in new pots to recover and grow. Bird of paradise is also seed propagated, but it is more difficult and will take many years to produce flowers.
Scales are a pest in poorly ventilated areas. Other pests include mealybugs, white flies and aphids. Root rot is a problem for Strelitzias grown in soils that do not drain quickly or as a result of over-watering. Insecticidal soap, available at most garden centers, is beneficial in controlling various garden insect pests.