Bird of Paradise Bringing The Tropics To Everyone
Bird of Paradise … The name alone brings a warm tropical feeling. The brilliant flowers look similar to head plumes on a bird. Brought to England for King George, this plant with its orange and blue tinged bloom is native to South Africa. In honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (King George’s wife), it was named Strelitzia reginae. Bird of Paradise, also known as crane flower, is one of the most widely know flowering plants around the world.
Bird of Paradise Structure
The Bird of Paradise flower is composed of a series of highly colored bracts, or modified leaves, formed into green, red, and or purplish canoe-like structures. Bracts vary between 4-8 inches long, depending upon the age and size of the Bird of Paradise plant. Each bract contains 2 or more protruding Bird of Paradise florets of bright yellow or orange elongated petals and a bright blue tongue. The female part of the Bird of Paradise flower is the long extension of the blue tongue, which is extended well away from the stamens. The color, foliage and structure of the flower are distinct and unforgettable.
Bird of Paradise in Flower Arrangements
One of the most unique flowering plants used in flower arrangements, Bird of Paradise provides structure by forming lines and mass. The orange and blue flowers offer vibrant colors and a style that no other flower can. When using Bird of Paradise, you’ll find it lends itself to a good base mass and is easily incorporated into any tropical arrangement style. It is best to use the striking flowers as the most dramatic piece in the arrangement. When using Bird of Paradise keep other flowers and foliage lower in the design and choose material that complements the tropical feel.
Bird of Paradise is typically used in spring and summer arrangements. But don’t hesitate to use Bird of Paradise in the winter or fall when we long for a little tropical feeling. This flower can be added to wedding centerpieces or even as a topper for the wedding cake. The only rule to abide by when using Bird of Paradise is to keep the accompanying flowers or foliage on the demure side. For a unique flower arrangement design pair Bird of Paradise with fruits such as grapes, kumquats or small vegetables. Bird of Paradise speaks for itself, so not much else is needed. In fact simplicity is best when using this flower.
Caring For Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise as a Cut Flower
Caring for Bird of Paradise as a cut flower is simple; requiring no more than a change of water every two to three days, and snipping about ¾” off the stems. This practice will help the flower last for weeks. If the flower is arranged in a way that you can’t change the water or snip the stems, add water and avoid letting the arrangement dry out.
Bird of Paradise as a Plant
When selecting a Bird of Paradise plant, look for a full healthy-looking plant with lots of new growth. Plants that are slightly crowded in their pots will bloom better. This clump forming, trunk-less plant will grow to a height of five foot and approximately five foot wide when planted outside. Bird of Paradise has thick, stiff leaves often referred to as paddle like and are approximately eight inches long and six inches wide. Overall Bird of Paradise screams tropical.
Bird of Paradise Outdoor Care
Easy to grow, Birds of Paradise does well in full sun or semi-shade. In areas where frost is not a danger it can be plant outdoors year round and requires rich loamy soil. Often you’ll find a time-release fertilizer through out the year brings the most out of this gorgeous plant. Bird of Paradise requires liberal amounts of water until well established. Planting in full sun will provide you with more flowers, while planting in shade will keep the foliage looking the best.
Bird of Paradise House Plant Care
When using Bird of Paradise as a houseplant, watch out for over watering. Plants should be watered only when soil is slightly dry. The best watering method for Bird of Paradise is to thoroughly wet the entire soil mix then allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again. Daily misting maybe required in dry climates or in the winter, since Bird of Paradise is tropical by nature thriving in 60% moderate humidity. During the winter months watering should be slightly taper off; this is thought to encourage the flowering process. Use a time-release fertilizer March through September for optimum growth. Bird of Paradise oddly enough seemed to do better when slightly root bound. Keep pot size relevant to plant size; large pots or containers may be needed. Bird of Paradise plants naturally bloom September through May, although when grown and kept in greenhouses they can bloom year round.
Propagating Bird of Paradise
The best time to propagate Bird of Paradise is in early spring prior to new growth. Remove the plant from the pot, or ground and cut the rhizomes (underground stems) with a sharp knife so each division has a fan with roots. Then place these divisions into small pots, water and place in a warm location. Bright indirect light sunlight is best. After eight weeks, when plants have acclimated move them to a place with more direct sunlight. The new plant will bloom in two to three years. Bird of Paradise can also be grown from seed, but the plants may take four to ten years to bloom. Check with your seed supplier for special seed propagation instructions.
Bird of Paradise pest problems
Usually caused from over watering or a poor soil mixture, root rot maybe the only issue you may have with this plant. Pests that may affect Bird of Paradise are scale, mealy bug, whitefly or aphids, all of which can easily be treated with an insecticide. Check with your local garden center for a pyrethin based houseplant insecticide.
Bird of paradise used in flower arrangements or grown, as houseplants will give you the surprise of the tropics even in the dead of winter. You could send a Bird of Paradise to a family member or friend; this plant is the perfect way to bright any day. Find a local florist to send Bird of Paradise today.
Did you know that Bird of Paradise is the official flower of Los Angeles? Florists love Bird of Paradise.
Contributor: Leigh Morrisett