The bird of paradise plant (Stelitzia reginae) produces unique flowers that resemble the head of a bird complete with showy blue and orange feathers. A few varieties produce white flower-heads. The plant grows up to 5 feet tall with a similar spread. Foliage appears in spear-like shapes that measure 8 inches long with a width up to 6 inches. Numerous cultivars offer varying sizes. The plant grows best in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 9 to 11.
The bird of paradise plant, native to South Africa, was first brought to England in 1773 where it was introduced to the Royal Botanical Garden of King George III. The plant was bestowed the name "Strelitzia" in honor of the king's wife, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, according to Floridata.
The bird of paradise enjoys a location in full sunlight or partial shade. Partial shade conditions often produce large flowers with greater foliage height. The plant thrives in acidic soil conditions but will tolerate virtually any soil condition. The plant does well in coastal areas with only light salt spray. The bird of paradise enjoys ample room to sprawl so space the plants at least 6 feet apart. Allowing the plant to have adequate room often creates more blossoms since the plant produces on outside shoots.
When first planted the bird of paradise is extremely sensitive to watering. The plant must receive adequate water during the first six months to survive, according to the University of Florida. Keep the plant moist but not soggy or water-logged. Once established, the bird of paradise is moderately drought tolerant.
The bird of paradise requires fertilizing to flourish. Apply blood meal or aged manure around the plant every three months to meet the plant's needs.
Flower production on a bird of paradise plant does not begin for many years. The plant often has to achieve its full size of around 5 feet before blossoming. Once flowering begins, prompt removal of dead flower-heads often stimulates repeat blooming.
Propagating the bird of paradise using seeds is difficult. Seeds often take 18 months before germination occurs, according to the University of Oklahoma. Division is the easiest means of propagation.