If you’re seeking a true showpiece of a houseplant, look no further than the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae). This treelike tropical plant grows long, elegant stems with banana-like, fan-shaped green leaves and striking flowers, which bloom dramatically with spiky orange and purple petals that resemble a tropical bird’s colorful plumage.
Before bringing your bird of paradise home, make sure you have the right kind of space for it. It's essential that there is at least several feet for this tall indoor plant's leaves to spread as it grows.
In addition to space, you’ll also need to make sure there’s a substantial, consistent source of bright sunlight near the spot you’d like to display your new plant. A living room or entryway with a big window is ideal.
Best Growing Conditions for Your Bird of Paradise
Your bird of paradise will do best with lots of bright, indirect light. A large, south-facing window is ideal. While the plant can survive indoors in lower light conditions, only specimens in well-lit spaces will bloom, and even then, blooms on indoor plants are rare.
Ideally, your plant will get at least six hours of sunlight, including direct sunlight, each day. However, if you’re planning to put it in a very warm space like a glassed-in porch or sunroom, choose a spot with bright, indirect light.
In terms of temperature, bird of paradise plants do best when temperatures don’t drop below the 55 to 60 degree range at night and 70 degrees or warmer during the daytime. Keep your plant away from cold drafts, and avoid displaying it near hot or cold air vents.
This tropical houseplant also prefers high humidity. If your space is dry, be sure to use a humidifying tray.
Fill a shallow tray a few inches larger than the base of the pot with a layer of small stones. Add water to just below the top of the stones. Place the pot on top, making sure that the bottom of the pot isn't touching the surface of the water. The water will evaporate, humidifying the air around your plant.
How to Care for Your Bird of Paradise
Check your plant’s soil moisture weekly. Keep the soil just barely moist during the spring and summer growing season, when the plant will use more water. In winter, cut back on watering and allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before watering again. If you notice that leaves are drooping or curling, that’s a sign that your bird of paradise needs water.
If you notice cuts or tears forming on your plant’s leaves, don’t worry—the plant does this naturally. It’s believed to be a mutation that allows strong wind to pass through the leaves without breaking them.
During the spring and summer growing season, fertilize your bird of paradise every two weeks with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. Pause feeding during the winter dormant season.
Since bird of paradise plants are more likely to flower when they are slightly potbound, you only need to repot when you see roots growing out of or cracking the container. Repot in the spring before new growth appears, and use a rich, well-draining potting soil.
How to Propagate Your Bird of Paradise
A lush, leafy bird of paradise plants can be easily propagated by division. This method involves pulling or cutting apart individual tubers or rhizomes of a mature plant with stems and leaves attached to make new plants in addition to the mother plant.
Wait until your plant is at least three years old before dividing it. Keep in mind that division will delay flowering in bird of paradise plants one to two years.
To divide your bird of paradise, you’ll need a few small containers appropriate to the size of the divisions you plan to make, commercial potting soil, a clean, sharp blade, and powdered rooting hormone.
Step 1: Carefully turn your plant’s pot on its side, grasp the base of the stem, and remove the root ball from the pot, taking care not to break the stem.
Step 2: Gently pull apart as many stems as you want new plants, making sure that each divided stem has at least four rhizomes attached. If the roots won’t separate on their own, use your knife to cut them apart. Cut away any rotten or dead roots or dead leaves. Dust any cut surfaces of the divisions and mother plant with rooting hormone.
Step 3: Fill the containers for your new plants with fresh soil. Plant one new stem in each pot and repot the mother plant with fresh soil, making sure the soil level is the same as before. Do not water.
Step 4: After a few days, the cuts will have healed, and you can water the new divisions and the mother plant. Keep the new plants in a warm, humid spot with bright, indirect light and care for as usual.