giant bird of papadise root system – Knowledgebase Question
Although the site you describe is culturally sound for Giant Bird of Paradise, I’m concerned the root system will grow too large for the area you describe. The Giant Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia nicholai, can reach a height of 30 feet, with a trunk capable of reaching 20 feet. The leaves are identical to the White Bird of Paradise except they are attached to a trunk and arranged in a fan pattern on opposite sides of the trunk. Leaf scars are formed on the trunk when leaves fall off, giving the trunk a rough texture. The flowers are white with blue tongues and reddish-brown bracts about 18 inches long but are sometimes difficult to see because they are so high. The roots spread by rhizomes and while you can dig and remove excessive plants, eventually you’ll be facing quite a battle. If you want to grow Bird of Paradise, I’d recommend the smaller species. Orange Bird of Paradise: The orange flowering Strelitzia reginae is the plant most often referred to as Bird of Paradise. There is a variety known as ?Mandelas?s Gold? that has yellow petals and a blue tongue. This plant remains considerably smaller in both height and girth and will still give you that tropical look with little maintenance.
Calla Lilies are well-behaved plants and will make a nice companion to Bird of Paradise.
Best wishes with your garden.
Giant Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia nicolai
After we moved into a house, I planted my ‘bird of pardise’ in the yard between two other orange-flowered birds of paradise that came with the house. Fortunately, I gave it a lot of space. It really took off and then I could see that I had a giant bird of paradise.
Giant bird of paradise is a tropical-looking plant with large leaves something like a banana plant. The plant is grown mainly for its foliage. It reaches 30 feet in height and spread. It gets white flowers with a blue ‘tongue’ on short stems high up on the plant, unlike the regular bird of paradise, which produces orange flowers on long stems. The flowers produce large quantities of nectar and are attractive to orioles. One gardener in Plant Files noted that the nectar can be messy, so think first before planting right next to a sidewalk or driveway.
The plant is hardy in USDA zone 10 and higher. It is reported to be hardy in Sunset zones 22-24, H1, H2, and with protection in zones 12 and 13. However, I have been growing mine in Sunset zone 19 for years and it is flourishing. Also, a comment was made in Plant Files that a gardener was growing it in USDA zone 9b.
Care of the plant is not difficult. The plant should be grown in full sun or partial shade in the hottest climates. My zone can get very hot and my plant gets some afternoon shade from a Hollywood juniper of about the same size and in close proximity. Contributers to Plant Files have stated that the plant should not be planted too close to buildings or fences. Plants should get regular water. My plant has been free of problems with insects or disease. Strong wind does tear the leaves.
The plant can require some maintenance. The dead leaves and flowers should be trimmed off to keep the plant looking neat. This will require the use of a ladder for larger plants. Unlike some palms, leaf stems are smooth and do not have thorns.
Giant bird of paradise is native to South Africa. The plant produces hard, black seeds with fuzzy, oily, orange arils attached to them. In the plant’s native land, the seeds are ground into meal and formed into cakes. The arils are patted onto the surface of the cake and then the cake is baked. The resulting food is reported to be filling but bland. At my house, squirrels eat the seeds.
If you are looking for a large background plant for your tropical or subtropical garden, giant bird of paradise may be the plant for you. The main drawback is in the trimming. Otherwise, it is fast-growing and robust.
A bird of paradise flower at dusk.
Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a dramatic plant with distinctive iridescent orange and midnight blue flowers that resemble an exotic bird peeking out from the broad leaves in autumn, winter and spring. Although this flower is often associated with tropical places, like Hawaii, the plant is actually native to South Africa. It grows wild in the eastern Cape among other shrubs along riverbanks and clearings in the coastal bush where it is an important nectar source for birds. The climate there is mild, with rain distributed throughout the year. It has been exported throughout the world to subtropical climates. In the US it is widely used as an ornamental in Southern California and Florida – and is even the official flower of the City of Los Angeles. It is also commonly used as a cut flower in the florist trade.
Bird of paradise is commonly used in residential and commercial landscaping in southern California.
‘Mandela’s Gold’ bird of paradise at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
There are five species in the genus Strelitzia, named for Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who was also the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Germany. They are all perennial subtropical plants native to southern Africa. In addition to the ordinary common bird of paradise, there is a variety of S. reginae with yellow sepals called ‘Mandela’s Gold’ that was was released by Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa in 1996. Although S. reginae is the most common, white or giant bird of paradise (S. nicolai and S. alba) are also available in the horticultural trade.
Landscape plants of white or giant bird of paradise in bloom in San Diego.
These species can grow to 30 feet tall and do not bloom until the plants are quite mature. But the large, 18-24 inch wide and 3-4 foot long, banana tree-like leaves are attractive enough on their own to make this an excellent interior foliage specimen for a very tropical look. (The common names white and giant are often used interchangeably for these two species – they look very similar, but S. nicolai usually has blue petals.) S. caudata is very similar to these two species, but remains much shorter (to about 6½ feet) and is rarely available.There is also another species, S. juncea (sometimes considered a variety of S. reginae) that has a rush-like appearance, with the leaves arising from the base of the plant and staying in a round, spear-like form. This plant has flowers similar to, but slightly smaller than S. reginae, but is rarely available to the home gardener.
Bird of paradise has leathery leaves.
The common bird of paradise is a slow-growing, clump-forming plant with fleshy roots. Leaves grow from a crown at the base of the plant, arising alternately (coming from the base directly opposite each other) so each clump is somewhat flattened. The leaves are borne on a long stalk that sometimes reaches up to 2 feet in length. The oblong leaf blades are stiff and leathery, concave and grayish- or bluish-green with a pale midrib.
The flowers emerge from the spathe.
The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges is called the spathe, which grows at right angles to the stem and gives the appearance of a bird’s head. The flowers emerge one at a time from the spathe.
Top: the two blue petals form the nectary. Bottom: a secondary spathe produced from the primary spathe.
Each flower consist of 3 orange sepals and 3 blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When birds that pollinate the flowers sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to cover their feet in pollen. The older flowers dry up after a while. These can be carefully removed as newer flowers emerge, to keep the bloom looking fresh, or can be left to shrivel on the flower stalk. Occasionally a second spathe will be produced from the primary one, giving a double tier of flowers.
Bird of paradise can easily be grown as a houseplant to bring a touch of the tropics to our cold climate. It needs a sunny spot indoors during the winter and does best when moved outside for the summer (but be careful to acclimate it to the stronger light outdoors or it could get sunburned). One of the most common reasons mature Strelitzia do not bloom well is insufficient light. They require nearly full sun in the summer and as much light as possible in winter to bloom. Be sure to bring the plant in before first frost (although it can tolerate a limited amount of time down to about 28ºF).
Keep the soil moist in the summer, but allow the pot to dry out between waterings when indoors. These plants are heavy feeders, so fertilize every 2 weeks throughout the summer, and monthly in the winter with a water-soluble fertilizer (if it’s planted in soilless medium; it may require less fertilizer if in real soil).
Bird of paradise can be grown as a houseplant to lend a tropical flair.
Plants tend to bloom more profusely when pot-bound, so don’t be too anxious to repot your plant once it is about 3 feet tall – just replace the top soil every year or so. Also, do not plant too deeply. Exposure of the top of the roots supposedly encourages flowering. Early spring is the best time when repotting is necessary (i.e. the roots have cracked open the pot). Plant in any well-draining soil or soilless potting mix in a large pot or tub.
Strelitzia does not have many pest problems, but mealybugs, scale and spider mites may infest the plants. It is easy to wipe the large leaves off with a soft cloth (do not use any leafshine product, as that could damage the natural matte finish). Houseplant insecticides can also be used.
Small bird of paradise can be purchased at nurseries or by mail order.
Bird of paradise can be propagated from seeds or division. Seeds are slow to germinate (it may take up to 8 weeks or more) and it will take 4-7 years for the plant to begin blooming. For best results, sow fresh seed in the spring. Soak the hard seeds for 24 hours and remove the bright orange tuft of hairs attached to the seed, then place 1 inch deep in moist potting mix and keep warm (85ºF). Transplant when the seedlings have 2-3 leaves. Grow in lower light than mature plants and do not restrict root growth, as this will slow overall development of the plant. Plants that have been blooming for a few years can be divided, but this may prevent the plant from blooming again for a few years. Or young suckers can be removed from the parent plant.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin
Christine in Tarragindi, Brisbane Queensland
Nature of problem:
Retaining wall pushed apart by plant roots
Type of Plant (if known):
Strelitzia nicolai (Giant Bird of Paradise)
Symptoms of Plant Illness (please try NOT to diagnose your problems yourself):
Soil Type (e.g. sandy, clay or loam) OR Potting Mix Type:
Garden soil, clay base
How often do you water the plant:
How many hours of sunlight does the plant get each day:
4-6 hours full sun
How long since you planted it:
Have you fertilised? If so, with what and when:
Is the plant indoors or outdoors:
Is the plant in a pot or in the ground:
In the ground.
What other treatments have you given the plant:
None, only watering
Upload photo if available:
Hi there, I’m wondering if this plant (Giant Bird of Paradise) could have caused a crack and pushed out the retraining wall? It was originally planted about 1 metre from the retraining wall. It’s been in the ground for about 7 years, is a few metres tall and receives regular watering. I’ve tried to upload three photos of the plant but it seems to take only one.
We are going to have to replace the retaining wall so I’m wondering what we should do with the plant.
Hi Christine, From the photo, it looks more like a footing than a retaining wall. Whatever, it seems to be pretty flimsy. I would not blame the Strelitzia, but in time it could do damage if you get another badly constructed footing/retaining wall…maybe change your landscaper/handyman. In general, any retaining wall that falls over or leans is poorly constructed in the first place. Don