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The White Bird Of Paradise

Ask the Expert: I live about 20 miles north of Montgomery, AL and

I would like to know more about the white bird plant.  Can it be planted outside and how can it be propagated?


  1. Veronica,

    I assume your are referring to a white Bird of Paradise tree (Strelitzia nicolai). This plant is hardy in zones 9b to 11. Montgomery is probably a zone 8 or 9 so any city north of could be a zone 7, 8 or 9. So this plant would not be marginally hardy at best and probably something you could not leave out year round.

    This plant originated in the sub-tropics of South Africa and is a cousin to Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia regina) which is often used in flower arrangements. It can grow into a large tree 20ft tall and is sometimes called Giant Bird of Paradise or Natal Wild Banana (is resembles members of the Banana family). It needs a sunny to partly shady area with protection from harsh winds. It needs a enriched moisture retentive soil and will needs amble amounts of fertilizer. However it does not like soggy conditions. To propagate it you would remove the suckers from the parent plant or divide the clump. You can also start these from seed but it will take years for the plant to mature this way and thus bloom production would be years away.

    If you want this plant and are concerned about its hardiness in your area, plant it in a pot that can be moved to a protected area if the temperature drops below 28 degrees. It will do find in a pot provided the pot is the right size.

  2. What kind of fertilizer do I need for the Bird of Paradise?

  3. Liz,

    I recommend using a balanced fertilizer (equal amount of N, P and K). However, Bird of Paradise should only be fertilized in the spring and summer months. Use a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks or a slow release pellet fertilizer such as Osmocote. Don’t fertilize your plant during the fall and winter months. Good luck and keep me posted.

  4. Alan Collins says:

    I have noticed that our beautiful white bird of paradise tree is getting cobwebs on the leaves and the leaves are cracking and I\’m conerned i\’m doing something wrong.
    It sits in a pot near a window that gets direct early morning sun. Can you offer some suggestions – Thanks

  5. Alan,

    Do the cobwebs look more like a piece of cotton and less like a spider web? If so you have an insect called cottony scale. You will need to pick off all of the cottony substance or use an insecticide to get rid of it. You plant should make a full recovery once the insect is eliminated. Check with your local garden center (a true nursery not a discount store) for an insecticide that is safe to use on your Bird of Paradise. I’m not sure but I think the Fertilome houseplant spray will work in this situation. Please keep me posted.

  6. I am used to covering plants with leaves in the winter that are not hardy enough for our zone 7B. Our Bougainvillea comes back every year here and I’m wondering if I cover my WBOB with approx. 2 ft of leaves and pine straw, will it come back also.
    Anyone with experience please reply,

  7. The problem with covering WBOB with straw or mulch is that it develops stem rot quite easily. In fact, some growers suggest that you keep mulch or straw at least 12 inches away from the stems of the plant. Hopefully, someone will suggest a better way to over winter it.

  8. Jamie we have a white bird of paradise and are a bit worried about it now that the fall is here. The leaves are cracking and some have browned on the outer edges. The plant is in an apartment next to big western facing windows so it gets a lot of afternoon light. It was happy this summer and produced large new leaves but now that the weather has changed, it seems to be a bit under stress. Could it be the change in weather? The windows are cold but the temp never gets below 50 degrees in the apartment. Help!

  9. The cold may not be the issue. I suspect that the plant needs more humidity. Mist it with lukewarm water every day. This should help. Make sure the room doesn’t get any colder than 50 degrees or move it to a room than stays a little warmer.