The giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) towers 30 feet in height. Each leaf easily measures 8 feet in length and is a brilliant shade of green. The multi-stemmed trunks of the plant often grow up to 18 inches in diameter. The birdlike flowers appear a bright blue and purple or white in color. The blossom often measures 18 inches in length and 7 inches in height. The plant grows well in a sub-tropical garden setting in Zones 9 to 11. The plant can handle a rare freezing night but if temperatures plummet below 28 degrees F, leaf damage will occur, and the plant will normally succumb with no hope of recovery.
Plant the giant bird of paradise in full sunlight or partial shade. Mid-afternoon shading, when the heat is at its maximum potential, is often appreciated by the plant.
Choose a location that offers well-draining soil. The giant bird of paradise grows in a wide range of soils and will tolerate sandy, loamy or clay. The plant does not withstand heavy winds well so locate in an area that affords ample wind protection such as along a building, beside trees or by a fence.
Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch such as peat moss, leaf debris or bark chips around the base of the giant bird of paradise to help the soil retain moisture in the heat of summer and also keep weed growth controlled.
Water the giant bird of paradise regularly. The plant prefers moist soil conditions and does not tolerate drought well.
Fertilize once every three months during the spring and summer using either a well-balanced fertilizer or by spreading aged manure around the base of the plant. If using a water-soluble plant fertilizer, mix at half-strength prior to applying.
Prune away all dead, broken or diseased stalks. Only prune when necessary.