Birds of paradise, or Strelitzia reginae, are common flowers for the home garden. They are native to South Africa and typically grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. When viewing birds of paradise from the side, they resemble tropical birds. Since they have distinguishing features that form these bird-like shapes, they are easy to recognize when they are flowering.
Look at the stalks and foliage, which grow in clumps. The stalks are round, green and reach a height of about 3 to 4 feet. The foliage grows approximately 18 inches on top of the stalks. They are green, leathery and are about 6 inches wide. They look like banana leaves.
Observe the flowers as they begin form in late winter or early spring. On top of some of the stalks, new leaves grow about 4 to 8 inches long. They are pointed and folded like canoes, which partially open to reveal the flowers.
Inspect the flowers. The canoe shaped leaves--which partially opened near the stems--still form a point at the end and look like bird head and beak. It has thin blue petals that grow horizontally above the "beaks." The sepals grow straight up and look like feathers. They are typically orange but can be white or yellow, depending on the variety.