Native to South Africa, bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a lush, tropical plant that will bear brilliantly-colored, bird-like flowers atop sturdy stalks that can grow to heights of more than 5 feet. Although the blooms are spectacular, the big, splashy leaves are decorative as well. Bird of paradise plants aren't difficult to grow, but require warm, humid climates. If you live in a climate with chilly winters, plant bird of paradise in a container and bring it indoors for the winter.
Choose a planting spot for the bird of paradise plant. Bird of paradise needs at least six hours of sunlight each day. Be sure the soil drains well. If water pools for more than four hours, plant the bird of paradise elsewhere or amend the soil to improve the drainage.
Use a shovel or tiller to work the soil to a depth of at least 10 to 12 inches. Add 3 to 4 inches of manure or compost and rake it into the soil. If you determine that the soil doesn't drain well, increase the amount of manure or compost or add 3 to 4 inches of peat moss.
Dig a hole and plant the bird of paradise in the prepared spot. Backfill the hole with reserved soil and tamp the soil down lightly. If you're planting bird of paradise in a container, use a large, sturdy container and fill it with commercial potting mix. Plant the bird of paradise in the container and place it in a sunny, outdoor location.
Water bird of paradise deeply once every week that it doesn't rain, then allow the soil to dry before the next watering. Check containerized bird of paradise plants daily as the soil in containers will dry out quickly, especially during warm weather.
Deadhead, or remove spent bird of paradise blooms, by pinching off the flower at its base. Removing the blooms will encourage the plant to continue blooming and to produce bigger blooms.
Fertilize bird of paradise plants every other week during spring, increasing to once every week during the summer months. Use a time-release granular fertilizer for blooming plants. Fertilize containerized plants with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week during the growing season, as containerized plants can't draw nutrients from the soil. Don't fertilize either in-ground or containerized bird of paradise plants during the winter.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the base of the in-ground bird of paradise plant when autumn weather turns cool, but don't allow the mulch to pile up on the plant as damp mulch can harbor disease and pests.
Bring containerized bird of paradise plants indoors when the daytime temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the plant in a bright window in a room where the temperature will be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a cloudy climate or don't have a bright window, supplement light with a grow light.