The bird of paradise, or Strelitzia reginae, is native to South Africa and prefers a tropical to subtropical climate. The unique flower stands on a stem as long as 18 inches and creates the form of a brightly colored bird. Most flowers are bright orange and a deep blue, but there is a white-flowered species. The leaves are evergreen and the plant forms a shrub-like clump. Bird of paradise plants are hardy in USDA planting zones 10 and 11 but do very well in containers.
Select a location that receives at least four hours of sun a day and partial sun the rest of the day. The area should not be a low spot in the landscape as the soil needs to drain well for the plant to survive. Plan planting for early spring to give the bird of paradise time to develop a root system before the heat of the summer.
Dig a hole twice the diameter of the container you purchased the plant in and the same depth as the root ball. Clean out all stones, grass and weeds from the dug-out soil. If planting more than one bird of paradise, space holes at least 6 feet apart.
Mix the dug-out soil with one part compost, one part peat moss and a couple of handfuls of bone meal. This mixture will ensure the soil drains well, yet retains enough moisture for the plant.
Remove the plant from the container and place in the planting hole. The top of the root ball should be at the top of the hole or slightly above. Fill in around the root ball with the amended soil and mound around the top if the roots are above the surrounding soil line. Press the soil down firmly around the roots.
Water the plant generously to establish the roots. Keep the soil moist throughout the spring and summer and start to cut back watering in the fall. Water only when the soil starts to dry out throughout the fall and winter.
Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer once you start to see some growth and every three months thereafter during the growing season. Do not fertilize after the flowers start to die until the following spring. Follow manufacturer's directions for amount to apply.
Mulch around the plants in a 6-foot diameter, but keep the mulch 3 inches away from the stalks of the plant. The mulch will help keep the moisture in the soil and keep the weeds down.
Remove dead leaves and flowers whenever they occur. This will help your plant look better and be healthier.