Commonly found in tropical places such as Hawaii and Florida, the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) originated in South Africa. It is a perennial, clump-forming plant with fleshy roots that can grow up to 6 feet high and spread up to 3 feet. Leaves borne on long stalks sometimes reach up to 2 feet high and appear similar to banana leaves. Bird of Paradise blooms in early spring. Each flower consists of three orange sepals with three blue petals and resembles a brightly colored bird in flight.
The Bird of Paradise plant prefers at least six hours of direct unobstructed sunlight. Although it may tolerate lower light levels, it may not flower as heavily or the foliage will not be as vibrant. Placing indoor plants in front of a south- or west-facing window will ensure they receive enough light.
Birds of Paradise requires moderate to heavy watering. To ensure the plant receives enough water without becoming too damp, water the potting mix thoroughly, then allow it to dry slightly before rewatering. Watering once a week is sufficient in most cases, unless it is extremely hot. Decrease watering during the colder months. A daily mist of water not only provides enough humidity, but also keeps the soil moist.
Fertilize Birds of Paradise with water-soluble quick-release fertilizers, temperature-controlled slow-release fertilizers, or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Use water soluble fertilizers every two weeks during the growing season. Mix controlled, slow-release fertilizers with soil only once during the growing season. Follow label directions for organic fertilizers because they may vary by product. Continue applying fertilizer through the end of summer; the plant needs no fertilizer in fall and winter. Avoid over-fertilization, which may lead to excessive foliage, but fewer flowers.
Provide adequate growing conditions to encourage flowers to bloom. Bird of Paradise plants require shallow planting in well-drained soil to expose the top of the roots. This method encourages flowering, while dividing and repotting may delay flowering, especially if done too often. It may take up to two years before blooms reappear after repotting. Topdressing the plant with fresh potting soil in spring, instead of constantly repotting, can prevent delayed flowering.
Pruning and deadheading should not affect the Bird of Paradise's growth and next season's flowering unless it is done too often or too severely. Prune sparingly in spring by cutting faded blooms and flower stalks. Birds of Paradise require severe pruning during dormant period by cutting back one-half of the branches and vertical growth.
The Bird of Paradise plant prefers 65 to 70 degrees F during the day and 50 to 55 degrees F at night. The plant prefers moderate humidity (approximately 60 percent), and requires daily misting to prevent dryness, especially during winter. Bring the Bird of Paradise indoors when the temperature outside begins to drop below 60 degrees F.