Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) Care: How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plant Indoors (With Pictures)

bird of paradise plant indoor

The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is a stunning exotic tropical plant with distinct flowers and leaves like a banana plant. Bird of paradise flowers look like the head of a crane or birds from the family Paradisaeidae—commonly called “birds-of-paradise.” Although this is a tropical flowering plant, birds of paradise can grow in pots indoors. Bird of paradise flowers can be orange, yellow, or white with hints of blue.

How to care for bird of paradise plants (Strelitzia): Strelitzia plants need bright light and some direct sunlight when grown indoors or outdoors. The soil should be rich, well-draining, moist – not waterlogged—and watered regularly. Keep humidity levels high, temperatures above 60°F (15°C), and fertilize monthly during the growing season.

There are five species of bird of paradise plants. These flowering plants are native to South Africa, where they are also called crane flowers. Some species of Strelitzia can grow to 32 ft. (10 m) tall. However, the varieties that grow well indoors are shorter, reaching six or seven feet (1.8 – 2.1 m). The long straight stems have large leaves similar to banana tree leaves which are between 3.5” and 78” (30 – 200 cm) long.

Bird of Paradise Flower

bird of paradise blooms

The flowers on bird of paradise plants are the unique feature. Although the large foliage is eye-catching, it’s the white, yellow, or orange flowers that look like cranes that grab attention. The colorful spiky petals stick up like a crane’s plumage and the blue or black modified leaf looks like the bird’s beak.

Bird of paradise flowers usually bloom in late winter and early spring.

If you care for the plants well, you may even get white or orange bird of paradise flowers when growing indoors. The essential care requirement for Strelitzia plants to flower is plenty of bright sunlight. To successfully grow a bird of paradise inside in containers, you should mimic its natural growing conditions—bright light, warmth, and humidity.

Types of Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)

Strelitzia nicolai

In the picture: Strelitzia nicolai, a bird of paradise plant with white flower

From the five species of Strelitzia, two are popular houseplants. These are Strelitzia reginae and Strelitzia nicolai. Here are more descriptions of these unusually-looking flowering plants.

  • White bird of paradise (Strelitzia alba)—This tropical flowering plant has large foliage and white flowers.
  • Crane lily (Strelitzia reginae)—The most elegant of the Strelitzia varieties—hence the name regal. The crane lily is a popular houseplant and has vibrant orange and blue flowers.
  • Mountain strelitzia (Strelitzia caudata)—Also called the “wild banana,” grows outdoor and has white, spiky flowers.
  • White bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)—A stunning example of a tall indoor house plant with white and blue flowers.
  • African desert banana (Strelitzia juncea)—Native to South Africa, this drought-resistant plant has orange flowers that are typical of birds of paradise plants.

How to Care for Bird of Paradise Indoors

bird of paradise leaves

The bird of paradise plant is sometimes mistakenly called “banana tree” because its leaves resemble the ones of banana plants

Whether you have a crane lily (Strelitzia reginae) or a white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) growing indoors, the care requirements are all the same.

The three most critical needs for bird of paradise plants to thrive are:

  • Bright light.
  • Warm temperatures.
  • High humidity.

Read on to learn how to care for this tall tropical plant that has banana-like leaves and cool yellow, orange, or white flowers.

Light Requirements for Indoor Strelitzia Plants

Bird of paradise plants need at least six hours of bright light and some direct sunlight daily to flourish. The plant pot should be in a sunny location. An east- or west-facing room is an ideal place for your Strelitzia to flower and thrive. Indirect sunlight during the middle of the day is best.

A lack of sunlight is a common reason why bird of paradise plants fail to bloom.  Although the plants will grow in low light or shade, they need plenty of bright light most of the day to achieve their best. The only thing to watch out for is that direct, all day long sunlight can scorch young leaves.

If you decide to move your bird of paradise plant outdoors during the summer to a patio, balcony, or deck, follow the same care instructions for light. Choose a location with bright light throughout the day with direct sunlight in the morning and late afternoon. Dappled sunlight between 12 pm and 2 pm is perfect.

Bird of Paradise Indoor Care: Watering

Birds of paradise need regular watering to keep the soil moist. Crane flower plants grow best when the potting soil is never allowed to get soggy or waterlogged. Water Strelitzias when the top one-inch (2.5 cm) of soil is dry. Hydrate the plant by running water through the potting mix until it drains out the bottom.

Rather than sticking to a set schedule for watering, use the soil condition as a gauge. If the soil feels damp when gently pressing it, you should hold off watering. Otherwise, if you water too much, you risk root rot. However, the potting soil shouldn’t be left to go completely dry.

Sign of watering issues with a bird of paradise plant:

  • Too much water—Leaves will turn brown and crispy, and the beautiful plant may eventually die.
  • Too little water–Wilting, drooping leaves that begin turning yellow are signs that your Strelitzia is thirsty.

Another thing to remember when caring for crane lilies (Strelitzia reginae) or white birds of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) is that the climate affects watering frequency. In spring and summer, when growth is vigorous, water more frequently. In fall and winter, you have to water the potted plant less often.

Humidity Requirements for Bird of Paradise

All species of Strelitzia plants need high humidity to thrive—higher than average room air moisture. Although they will grow in average household humidity, upping moisture levels will bring out the best in the plant. The closer you can replicate its native environment with light, heat, and moisture, the higher the chance you have of getting bird of paradise plants to bloom.

What are the best ways to increase humidity levels to keep your crane lilies happy? Here are three ways to look after tropical, exotic houseplants:

  • Misting—Keep a spray bottle close by your plants. Spray a fine mist every other day on the leaves. Use distilled water as this won’t leave any residue on the shiny, glossy green banana-like leaves.
  • Humidity Tray —If you don’t want to mist your “banana tree” regularly, place it on a pebble tray. To create a humidifying dish, put a one-inch (2.5 cm) layer of pebbles in a tray. Pour in enough water so that it fills the dish half full. Place the bird of paradise plant pot on the stones.
  • Room humidifier—Another way to humidify tropical house plants is to use a room humidifier. The humidifier will keep the air moist enough for Strelitzia plants to thrive.

As well as humidifying your tropical houseplants, you should ensure that there is plenty of airflow. Stagnant air isn’t suitable for most houseplants—and birds of paradise are no exception. During summer, open a window or have an oscillating fan nearby to keep air circulating.

Temperature for Strelitzia Plants Indoors

Birds of paradise need warm temperatures indoors and outdoors to flourish. The ideal temperature range is between 65°F and 80°F (18°C – 26°C). Although the crane flowers can be hardy down to 60°F (15°C), anything below that will damage the plant. Birds of paradise aren’t cold-hardy plants and grow in USDA zones 10 – 12.

If you live in zone 9 and below, you can grow crane lilies outdoors in the summer. Just make sure to bring them indoors when the temperature drops below 60°F (15°C) at night. They don’t survive frost well, and too much cold can kill the plants.

If you’re growing birds of paradise in pots indoors, try to avoid extremes of temperatures. So, in winter, keep the plant containers away from direct heat sources—furnaces or hot radiators. In summer, avoid the plant pot standing in cold drafts—airflow from the air conditioning system or open windows or doors.

The Best Soil for Bird of Paradise Flowers in Pots

A blue-and-white Strelitzia or orange-yellow bird-of-paradise need soil that holds moisture without becoming soggy. Well-draining, fertile soil that has organic matter mixed in will help your plants thrive. Loamy potting mix that has sand or perlite mixed through it will also help with drainage.

However, birds of paradise aren’t too fussy when it comes to soil. The most critical care factor is that they don’t “stand” in wet, damp soil. It is easy to tell if the soil is too compact—pour water through the potting medium and if it sits on top, you’ll have to aerate the soil better.

Because crane lilies are tall, flowering houseplants, they need a sturdy container to support them. The type of pot you choose for your S. reginae and S. nicolai plants can also affect moisture levels. Here’s how:

  • Plastic pots—These containers hold in moisture, which means you have to water Strelitzia plant less often. However, they may not be robust enough for very tall plants.
  • Terracotta pots—Clay pots are more substantial and sturdier than plastic ones and can give excellent support. However, they are porous and moisture evaporates more rapidly from the potting medium.
  • Pot size—Choose a pot in relation to the size of the plant. It will be difficult to control moisture levels if the pot is too large. If the container is too small, it will become rootbound quickly and water won’t drain well.

How to Care for Indoor Bird of Paradise: Fertilizing

Birds of paradise are vigorous growers and need regular feeding during the growing season. Use all-purpose houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Feed once a month to help your plant grow well and flower. You could also use organic, slow-release fertilizer for indoor plants to nourish your plant from spring through fall.

When it comes to feeding birds of paradise growing in pots, too much fertilizer is not suitable for them. Mineral salts tend to build up in containers and this can eventually lead to fertilizer burn. To prevent over-fertilizing or a salt buildup, flush or leech the potting soil every three months or so.

To flush the potting mix, take your crane lily in its pot to the bath. Slowly run water through the soil for two to three minutes. Wait until all the water has completely drained. Put your bird of paradise plant back in its favorite sunny location.

Bird of Paradise Propagation

You can propagate a bird of paradise plant by separating the rhizome—this is the thick root that looks similar to ginger root. Divide the rhizome so that the new plant has at least one healthy stem and three or four leaves on it. When propagating, remember that Strelitzia plants prefer growing in clumps—bushy plants produce the most orange or white flowers.

Another propagation method is by seed. You may be able to harvest seeds from the birds of paradise flowers. However, seed propagation is not the most effective method. It can take up to eight weeks for the newly-planted Strelitzia seeds to germinate and between four and seven years for the plants to bloom.

Transplanting Bird of Paradise

Repotting a bird of paradise helps the plant grow well and bloom regularly. These plants grow very fast and you will need to transfer Strelitzias to a new, larger pot in springtime. When transferring birds of paradise to a new container, you can also check for root damage or rot. Trim dead or decaying roots as necessary.

  • Choose a 10-inch (25 cm) pot for a bird-of-paradise plant that is three to four feet (0.9 – 1.2 m) tall.
  • Pot in a 14-inch (35 cm) container when your Strelitzia plant is five to six feet (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall.

Birds of paradise like to be somewhat rootbound. When you care for them well and don’t disturb a mature plant too much by repotting, it will reward you with exotic white, yellow, or orange flowers.

Pruning Bird of Paradise

Pruning bird of paradise plants can help keep them growing well and ensure they bloom indoors and outdoors. The best time to prune back dead foliage and leaves is in late winter or early spring—after the plants have finished blooming. Only remove the stems of Strelitzia bird of paradise that are brown or have died.

You can deadhead bird of paradise blooms when the vibrant colorful “plumes” and blue beak-like leaf turn brown. Cut off the stem that has the dead flower as close to the ground as possible.

If you have dead leaves growing out the ground, either gently pull them out or cut them close to the base with clean pruning shears.

The good news about growing bird of paradise Strelitzia plants indoors is that you rarely have to prune them.

Is Bird of Paradise Toxic?

All plants in the genus Strelitzia—birds of paradise and crane lilies—are toxic. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), birds of paradise are poisonous for cats, dogs, and horses. Ingesting parts of the plant can cause irritation, vomiting, or drowsiness. (1)

Common Birds of Paradise Pests and Diseases

Pests rarely affect Strelitzia plants. But if they do, usually the culprits are mites, scale, or aphids. The best natural insecticide solution is to use an organic neem oil treatment and wiping down the leaves. Wiping the leaves with neem oil not only gets rid of pesky bugs but also makes the leaves shine even more.

A common disease to affect birds of paradise is the gray mold fungal infection Botrytis cinerea. You can avoid this by not allowing the soil to get too soggy and making sure there’s enough airflow around the leaves.

Common Problems Growing Bird of Paradise Indoors

When growing Strelitzia plants indoors, the leaves can often tell you much about the plant’s health. Here are a few common questions about how to know if your exotic flowering plant is under stress.

Why are leaves on my bird of paradise turning yellow?

Dark glossy Strelitzia leaves turning yellow could be due to watering or light issues. Under-watering your plant and dry soil can starve the plant of nutrients that result in yellowing leaves.

Another reason for yellow leaves is too little light. Try moving the plant to a brighter location where it gets some direct sunlight every day.

Why are bird of paradise leaves curling?

Bird of paradise plant leaves curling is a classic sign of being thirsty. All Strelitzia plants need regular watering to keep the soil moist. Thoroughly water your plant so that moisture gets to the roots.

Other reasons for curling leaves include:

  • Being in cold temperatures.
  • Poor soil quality.
  • Infestation of plant-sucking insects such as thrip, mites, or scale.
  • The bird of paradise plant is rootbound and need transferring to a larger pot.

Why are my Strelitzia plant leaves turning brown and crispy?

Discolored leaves that are brown and with crispy patches could be due to a lack of moisture or a buildup of mineral salts. Both of these problems can be solved by flushing the potting soil.

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