Word On The Bird of Paradise

Word On The Bird of Paradise
Unusual, gorgeous, tropical. If you’ve ever mistaken a plant for a bird, or vice versa, you may have encountered a Bird of Paradise plant. Let’s take a closer look at this natural wonder.

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. 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 plant it’s 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.

“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.”

Wants & Needs

Here’s a cheat sheet of what a BoP needs to thrive.

Sunlight: High to medium light. Direct sunlight is ideal.

Water: Water weekly. Allow potting mix to dry out before watering. Soil about 1-2” down should be dry to touch. Water more frequently during warmer months and fertilize during growth. Generally, the plant will droop or leaves will curl indicating it needs more water. Do not overwater or keep the soil wet for too long, as this will promote root rot.

Humidity: Normal room humidity will do, but prefers humid conditions.

Temperature: 65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C).

Size: Indoors, this plant will reach an ultimate height of about 3-5’ (1-1.5m) and will have a spread of about 2-3’ (0.5-1m).

Common Problems

The Bird of Paradise looks complicated by it is generally a very easy-going plant.

If you have a cat or a dog, make sure they do not eat it. And hey, neither should humans. Best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets. The Bird of Paradise is usually pest-free, but if it happens, treat pests as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of horticultural (Neem) oil and regular wipe-downs with a soft rag until they are eradicated.


SYMPTOM: Leaves turning brown and crispy at leaf edges

CAUSE: Under watered, high salts, or potassium deficiency.

SOLUTION: Water more often and monitor response.


SYMPTOM: Leaves have splits along side-ribs

CAUSE: Torsion of leaves caused by mechanical damage. Possibly due to strong wind or bumping into the plant.

SOLUTION: Be mindful of the space around your plant.


SYMPTOM: Wilting leaves or leaves curling in.

CAUSE: Under watered.

SOLUTION: Water more often and monitor response.


SYMPTOM: Yellowing, with bright yellow leaves. Usually the basal leaves will yellow first.

CAUSE: Rot or root disease; overwatering; or pot-bound.

SOLUTION: Allow wet soil to dry out or try repotting.

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