Bird of paradise plant care | All about Strelitzia!

If you’re looking for a houseplant that really steals the show like no other species can, you’ll love the genus Strelitzia. Also known as Bird of Paradise plants due to the shape of their spectacular flowers, these large-leaved tropicals are sure to catch anyone’s eye!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Bird of Paradise plant care and growing a Strelitzia in your own home.

Name(s) (common, scientific)Bird of Paradise plant, crane flower, Strelitzia sp.
Difficulty levelIntermediate
Recommended lightingHigh
WaterLet the soil dry 50% before watering
SoilWell-draining, slightly acidic

Bird of Paradise natural habitat

Bird of Paradise plants originate from southern Africa. Here, they can grow up to 20 feet tall! They are found along coastal regions and riverbanks or enjoying some much-needed shade at forest edges.

The likely pollinators for this species are sunbirds, which may carry pollen on their feet as they hop from flower to flower to consume the nectar (Frost & Frost, 1981).

Bird of Paradise light and temperature

Light

Bird of Paradise plant care is demanding when it comes to lighting, which is why this species can sometimes be tricky to keep indoors. These towering beauties need around 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive. You’ll have to keep yours near a window or you won’t see much growth.

While a sunroom may seem like the perfect spot, you’ll have to keep an eye on how hot it gets in there as well, since the combination of direct sunlight and intense heat can scorch the leaves. If this is the case, you’ll have to make do with indirect sunlight or find a way to keep the temperature down

If your home doesn’t get so much direct sunlight, you can opt to move your plants outside during summer months. If you do so, you may find some sunburn damage on the leaves at first but don’t panic! This is because many Bird of Paradise plants are raised in greenhouses and are used to controlled environments and indirect sunlight.

Although some older leaves may be damaged in the transition, the new leaves will be better acclimated and will love all that extra sunlight.

Temperature

These plants love heat and do best between 65 °F to 85 °F (18 °C to 30 °C). If you grow yours outside during summer, make sure to take it back in as soon as autumn creeps in.

Bird of paradise plants also like humidity and will grow more vigorously if the air is moist, but they can still manage in drier environments as well.

Bird of paradise plant in grey planter against grey wall | Full guide on bird of paradise plant care

Bird of Paradise soil and planting

Soil

Just like with many indoor plants, Bird of Paradise plants like well-draining soil mixed with perlite or bark to help with drainage and aeration. Pure potting soil is too dense and can clump around the roots, making them unable to reach and take up water, so use a light and airy mix!

Birds of Paradise also like the soil to be more on the acidic side when it comes to pH. The main way to achieve this is to use peat moss in your potting mix, although the sustainability of this resource is debated.

Tip: If you don’t feel like making your own soil mixture, you can also go for a premade African violet soil to plant your Strelitzia in.

Planting

When it comes to repotting Bird of Paradise plants, you only need to do so every 18 to 24 months. You’ll be surprised how massive these plants can get in a small pot! When choosing a new planter, make sure it’s 2 to 4 inches larger in diameter to make plenty of room for new roots.

Make sure that any planter you use for your houseplants always has a drainage hole to prevent excess water from causing issues. Sturdy plastic nursery planters make a good choice and you can hide their ugliness with a decorative overpot.

Strelitiza (bird of paradise) houseplant.

Watering Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise plants like their soil to be moist but not soggy. The top of the soil should be allowed to dry out a bit between waterings, especially in winter, so it’ll take some trial and error to find the perfect watering schedule.

These plants can be sensitive to salt and other minerals in tap water, so, whenever possible, use distilled or rainwater. To help take care of any mineral buildups in the soil, really flush the soil out with distilled or rainwater twice a year. A regular shower is also much appreciated to clean dust off the leaves.

Showering a big plant like a Strelitzia may be harder to do; you should be able to manage with smaller plants if you can get them to the sink or outdoors. If you want to be able to move around the larger indoor plants, you can place them on heavy-duty plant caddies and wheel them to the shower.

Tip: If you stick a chopstick into the soil, the top part should come out dry while the bottom still touches some moisture. That’s the perfect time to water!

Strelitzia (bird of paradise) houseplant.

Bird of Paradise fertilizer

Bird of Paradise plants are heavy root feeders. Not surprising with how fast they grow when it’s sunny out! You can use a general fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season, then once a month or so during the winter months.

If you want to give your plants even more nutrients for growth, you can use compost. When using compost, only use it as a top layer and be sure to keep it a couple of inches away from the base of the stems to avoid accidentally burning them.

Propagating Bird of Paradise

If you’re in love with Bird of Paradise plants and want more, you can easily multiply yours. Give them away or keep them for your own collection! Propagation is also handy if an individual plant is becoming too large and difficult to handle.

  • To propagate Bird of Paradise, all you need to do is take a cutting by severing a portion from the rhizome of a parent plant. After all, this species grows in a clumping manner.
  • Dig out a portion of the rhizome from the soil, ensuring it looks healthy. The best time to do this is during spring or summer when Strelitzias are growing vigorously.
  • Make the division using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, making sure the cutting has a few shoots and roots.
  • Once you have your cutting in hand, you can dust it with a growth hormone, especially if it doesn’t yet have roots of its own. It’s not a must, though!
  • Plant your cutting in moist soil and place the container in a warm spot.
  • Be patient. As soon as you see new growth pop up, that’s a clear sign the propagation attempt was successful.

If your goal is to get your Bird of Paradise plants to flower, you might want to avoid doing any propagating. We’ll go deeper into why below.

Seedlings of Strelitiza, a popular houseplant also known as bird of paradise.
If you can find seeds, you can also germinate Strelitiza plants yourself. These are the results of my mom’s first attempt!

Problems with Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise plants can suffer from some of the usual problems that affect all indoor houseplants, such as overwatering leading to yellowing leaves or root rot.

There are some issues that are more special to Bird of Paradise plant care, though, such as:

  • Splitting leaves. You may notice clean splits in some of the leaves from time to time. While some of these splits may have been caused by rough handling, some people believe that they also naturally occur to let sunlight reach the lower leaves. It’s pretty much impossible to keep Strelitzia leaves pristine.
  • Drooping. Since Bird of Paradise plants grow tall with massive leaves, you may notice the plant drooping under its own weight. You could consider tying the leaves together or otherwise offering structural support.
  • Curling. If your Bird of Paradise plant’s leaves appear to be curling inward, you might not be watering it enough. Remember, with the amount of sun these plants need, you might have to water quite often to keep them in that ideal ‘lightly moist’ zone! Excessive heat or cold might also cause leaf curl.
Juvenile Strelitzia, a houseplant also known as bird of paradise.

Bird of paradise flowers

One of the major issues with Bird of Paradise plant indoor care is that many plants don’t bloom, which is a shame since this species didn’t get its common name for nothing. Their flowers are incredible to see!

It’s believed that the reason many Bird of Paradise plants never bloom indoors is because they don’t get enough direct sunlight, which is why some people try and keep them outdoors as much as possible when the weather allows it.

However, even with the best Bird of Paradise plant indoor care, these plants can take between 3 and 5 years to flower. That’s why you have to be careful if you propagate your plants: they will spend energy healing instead of flowering, which will push that timeline back even further. If you just like the foliage, however, feel free to propagate to your heart’s content!

Tip: Love flowers? Don’t forget to check out the list of amazing blooming houseplants.

Bird of paradise plant or Strelitzia, a popular houseplant.

Buying Bird of Paradise

Since Bird of Paradise plants are so popular, they are available in different varieties in many nurseries or online. Because their care is similar, all you need to do is decide if you want to be rewarded with orange, yellow, or white flowers when the plants finally bloom.

You can buy an orange blooming Strelitzia online here.

Tip: The most common Bird of Paradise species you’ll find for sale are Strelitzia reginae and nicolai, although there are some other species and cultivars out there.

Is Bird of Paradise toxic to cats and dogs?

Yes, according to the ASPCA, Bird of Paradise plants are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, nausea, and drowsiness. The seeds contain high amounts of tannins and the leaves are reported to be sources of hydrocyanic acid, which is not uncommon in plants.

Interestingly, Poison.org notes that Strelitzias are considered non-toxic to humans, stating that although ingestion can cause some gastrointestinal discomfort, it shouldn’t be outright dangerous.


If you have any more questions about Bird of Paradise plant care or if you want to share your own experiences with these giant tropical beauties, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Frost, S. K., & Frost, P. G. H. (1981). Sunbird pollination of Strelitzia nicolai. Oecologia49(3), 379-384.