Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe this tropical plant. Bird-of-paradise is a flowering perennial in the family Strelitziaceae and the genus Strelitzia. It’s native to South Africa but is now grown widely in North and South America too. It’s an evergreen plant with a notable calling card in the form of eye-catching blooms, which appear throughout the year, and, in the right environment, can bloom all year long.
Bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia sp.) thrives in partial shade with regular water. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, «Bird-of-paradise is a good planting for poolside. The plants produce no litter and withstand some splashing.» They’re also resistant to grazing deer and can withstand temperatures that drop below freezing. After frost, Strelitzia species do usually recover, though they can take their time in doing so.
Bird-of-paradise gets its Latin name from England, where it was named for Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was an amateur botanist, according to the Royal Family. It gets its common name from its appearance because its spiky, brightly colored flowers resemble tropical birds. Those flowers are long-lasting once they’re produced, and they also last for an extended period of time when cut for arrangements. This is also a great plant for container gardening.
Bird-of-Paradise’s Beautiful Blooms
Strelitzia reginae, also known as bird-of-paradise, is prized for its vibrant, unmistakable blooms. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, «The spectacular flowers bear a startling resemblance to the heads of crested tropical birds. Blooms combining orange, blue, and white are borne on long, stiff stems.» S. reginae grows to heights of 5- to 6-feet tall, and its leaves grow to 1- to 2-feet long. It thrives in hardiness zones nine through 11.
Strelitzia nicolai, also known as giant bird-of-paradise, can grow to heights of 30 feet tall and wide. It produces big foliage—the leaves can reach lengths of 5 to 10 feet. It also produces distinctive flowers, but the blooms» colors aren’t as bright as those found on S. reginae. It’s hardy to zones 10 to 11.
More Tropical Inspiration
If bird-of-paradise has you thinking of adding tropical touches to your landscape, also check out mandevilla, crotons, canna, and ferns, which can thrive outdoors in the South. The trick is to have good soil and know your hardiness zone—most of the South has adequate rainfall, but these plants may not stand up to the cold. You can also create a tropical-inspired container recipe or pots with plants that are heat-tolerant for hot Southern summers.
Paradise Right Outside Your Door
Both S. nicolai and S. reginae are beautiful additions to gardens. Once you plant them, each time you look out your window, you just might think you’ve caught a glimpse of a tropical bird from a far-flung locale paying you a visit.
These beautiful flowers are a glimpse of paradise in the garden. Do you have any in your backyard?