Strelitzia reginae is a species of evergreen tropical herbaceous plant, native to South Africa. Given its own family Strelitziaceae by taxonomists, it is still closely related to bananas (Musaceae). Many often mistakenly call this plant the “banana tree” because it looks like banana plants. These regal plants (for which they are named, reginae) are named for the beautiful, orange crane-like flowers that they produce, like birds of paradise. They are known for bright orange-blue colors, however, there are also white birds of paradise. Under the right conditions, including full, southern light exposure, proper humidity, and temperature, Bird of Paradise may flower indoors, although this is rare.
The split leaves that give the Bird of Paradise its bird-like morphology is scientifically believed to be purposeful leaf tearing or lobing of leaves to reduce drag in the wind. They have evolved to create splits along their lateral leaf seams to allow the wind to pass by. In doing so, they eliminate the risk of being snapped in half by a strong wind. Learn how to care for a Bird of Paradise below.
“Practically Plant Royalty: This plant’s scientific name commemorates Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen consort and wife of King George III. Queen Charlotte was a patron of the arts and an amateur botanist, and helped to expand Kew Gardens.”
Bird Of Paradise Plant Care 101
Thrives in bright indirect light to full sun when acclimated. Not suited for low light conditions.
Water every 1-2 weeks, allowing soil to dry out between waterings. Expect to water more often in brighter light and less often in lower light. Pro tip: Birds of Paradise can benefit from filtered water or water left out overnight before using.
Most houseplants prefer temps in the 65°F-85°F range (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C).
Common Problems with Growing Birds of Paradise
The Bird of Paradise is an easy-going plant and is generally pest-free but can be prone to spider mites. Treat pests as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of a natural pesticide like neem oil and regular wipe-downs of the plant.
SYMPTOM: Splits along sides of leaves
CAUSE: Normal adaptive precaution to help the plant bear strong winds in its natural habitat
SYMPTOM: Yellowing lower leaves, wet potting mix
SYMPTOM: Wilting, curling leaves, dry potting mix
CAUSE: Thirsty plant, underwatered
Are Bird of Paradise Plants Toxic?
Birds of Paradise can be irritating to cats, dogs, and humans if the foliage is consumed. The best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets.