The unusually beautiful shape and brilliant colours of Strelitzia reginae have made these flowers not just a designer's favorite, but also a popular symbol of paradise. The plant bears a unique flower that resembles a brightly coloured bird in flight, or a birds beak and head plumage. giving it the common name of the Bird of Paradise. The fascinating blooms make wonderful, long lasting cut flowers.
Strelitzia reginae is a bold structural plant, that grows to 2m (6.6ft) tall, with large, strong leaves 25 to 70cm (10 to 28in) long and 10 to 30cm (4 to 12in) broad, produced on petioles up to 1m (39in) long. The leaves are evergreen and arranged in two ranks, making a fan-shaped crown.
The flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges, called the spathe, is placed perpendicular to the stem it gives it the appearance of a bird's head and beak.
In is native enviroments of South Africa it makes a durable perch for holding the sunbirds which pollinate the flowers. The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of three brilliant orange sepals and three purplish-blue or white petals. Two of the blue or white petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When the sunbirds sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to cover their feet in pollen.
The grey-green banana-like leaves are evergreen and the flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. Mature plants are very floriferous with flowers in autumn, winter and spring.
Strelitzia are not difficult to grow from seed – they just take time but once they flower, you will have to agree, they are well worth the wait!
Strelitzia reginae has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time of year.
Before sowing, remove the bright orange tuft of hairs attached to the seed (aril of each seed), the hard seeds can be scarified (nicked or scratched) to decrease germinate. To scarify, soak the seeds in lukewarm water for several hours, and then nick them with a knife or small file. Scarified seeds will germinate in two to three months.
Another way to decrease germination time is to put un-scarified seeds in a plastic bag and place them in a refrigerator at 4°C (40°F) for two weeks. Then scarify and sow them.
Sow in seed trays filled with a well-drained soil medium at a depth of 12mm (½in)
Keep at a constant temperature of 25°C (77°F) low temperatures retard germination. Germination takes four to eight weeks.
The soil mix must be kept consistently damp until the seeds germinate. To ensure a moist, humid environment, cover the seed container with a sheet of glass or clear plastic and place it in indirect light.
Seedlings should be a good size before transplanted (two to three leaves) into a well drained medium. Young Strelitzia plants must be grown in shade, for the leaves tend to burn in direct sunlight. Regular repotting allows the young plant to develop rapidly. Restricting the root development retards growth.
Strelitzia is an easy plant to grow in the garden. Plants do well in full sun to semi-shade, love a rich loamy soil and plenty of water throughout the year. They respond well to regular feeding with a slow release fertiliser and compost. They are very tolerant plants and will thrive in most soils and can survive with very little water once established. They are also wind resistant and grow well in coastal gardens.
The plants are sensitive to cold and in areas with frosts would need a sheltered position. In cold climates it is better to grow them in pots that could be moved indoors when frosts are expected. As soon as the frosts finish for the winter, you may place the plant outside in a sheltered south facing garden. They tend to do well when temperatures do not drop below 10°C (50°F) and do very well in a greenhouse/conservatory.
Tips for growing in a temperate climate:
Overwintering - One of the main points with exotic plants is to avoid frost. Keep in a warm, well lit area. Stop feeding the plants to allow them to become dormant. Do not overwater in the dormant season/winter. Wet soil is cold soil.
Springtime: - Feed the plant well once growth starts again. Feed regularly throughout the growing season but do not over-feed otherwise your plants will just grow foliage and no flowers.
From seed, plants given ideal conditions will flower within 3 years. To get a mature flowering plant from seed takes about three to five years. They usually start to come into flower at Christmas time and sometimes later in the summer months. The flower spikes take a few months to grow full size, but then open gradually, taking a few weeks, to a few months to open up to reveal their famous flowers.
The bird of paradise plant should be watered thoroughly but then allowed to dry out almost completely before re-watering. They don’t like to be over-watered, and in the rest period (winter) they should only be watered when the soil is almost completely bone dry. When growing begins in the Spring they should be given phostrogen feed once every two weeks, to encourage new growth.
During the summer months, Strelitzia require as much sunlight and ventilation as possible. Feed once a week with a phostrogen feed in summer to help encourage new leaves and flower spikes.
As soon as the roots start to stretch the pot wider, it would then be wise to pot the plant up into the next size pot. They tend to do very well in loam-based compost with either grit or bark chippings to aid drainage. The optimum pH is 6.5.
Strelitzia reginae is native to South Africa where it grows wild in the Eastern Cape where it grows on tiver banks and scrub clearings in coastal areas.
It is naturalised in Mexico, Belize, Bangladesh, Madeira Islands and Juan Fernández Islands off the coast of Chile.
It was first introduced to Europe in 1773, when it was grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Since then, it has been widely introduced around the world, including the Americas and Australia, growing well in any area that is sunny and warm. In the United States, Florida and California are the main areas of cultivation, due to their warm climate.
In 1909, S. x kewensis, a hybrid between S. reginae and S. alba, flowered at Kew for the first time, producing pale watery yellow flowers. Unfortunately it now seems to have disappeared from cultivation.
Strelitzia reginae is a common ornamental plant in Southern California, and has been chosen as the Official Flower of the City of Los Angeles.
In 1773 Sir Joseph Banks brought back this spectacular new plant to Kew Gardens from South Africa. He named the exotic-looking plant Strelitzia in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, (1744-1818). Queen Charlotte was an amateur botanist and lived at Kew for many years. Her husband King George III inherited the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens in 1772.
The species name reginae, is from the Latin regina, meaning 'Queen'.
Pronounced strell-LITZ-zee-uh ree-JIN-nee, it is commonly called the Bird of Paradise or the Crane Flower.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Family Strelitziaceae Genus Strelitzia Species reginae Common Name The Bird of Paradise Other Common Names Crane flower, Geel Piesang Hardiness Tender Perennial Flowers Orange with Blue, 30cm (12in) long blooms Natural Flower Time September thru to May Foliage Evergreen, Grey-green banana-like leaves Height to 150cm (5ft) in 5 years Spread 100cm (40in) Position Full sun to partial shade Soil Fertile, well drained Time to Sow Sow indoors at any time of year. Germination Keep at a constant temperature of 25°C (77°F)