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: Thrives in bright direct to bright indirect light. Can take full sun.
Water: 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. Bird of Paradise can be sensitive to hard tap water. Try using filtered water or leaving water out overnight before using.
Humidity: Normal room humidity will do, but does best in higher humidity.
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).
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: 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
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