How to Grow and Care for Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae bird of paradise

Denny Schrock

Bird of paradise plants are hard to miss, with their large leaves and beautiful, spiky, colorful blooms that resemble birds on the wing. With indirect sunlight and weekly watering, a bird of paradise can grow well as a houseplant. It makes a bold focal point, adding a tropical touch wherever you grow it. A moderate level of maintenance is required to keep your plant healthy.

All bird of paradise plants are native to tropical and subtropical areas of southeastern Africa. The common name, bird of paradise, is attributed to several plants in the Strelitzia genus. Of the 5 recognized species (S. reginae, S. juncea, S. nicolai, S. caudata, and S. alba), the first two are the most "easily grown as houseplants," says Dan Pogust, co-founder of the Portland Botanical Gardens. It's also worth noting that bird of paradise plants are considered toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, so exercise caution when using it as a houseplant or planting it near stables or trails. 

Bird of Paradise Overview

Genus Name Strelitzia
Common Name Bird of Paradise
Plant Type Houseplant, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 30 feet
Width 3 to 5 feet
Flower Color Orange, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Division, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Where to Plant Bird of Paradise

Bird of paradise plants are hardy outdoors only in zones 10 and 11. In these zones, you will need a spot that gets full sun but is not so hot that the plant could scorch. In other warmer zones (such as some areas of central Florida, southern Louisiana, southern Texas, and parts of the western coast of California) it may still be possible to grow bird of paradise plants outdoors, but their growth may be stunted and developing flowers may be damaged by cooler temperatures. 

How and When to Plant Bird of Paradise

When planting a container-grown bird of paradise plant outdoors, you can put it in the ground in the spring or early summer. To make it easier to remove the plant from its nursery container (and reduce the risk of shocking the plant), water it thoroughly before removing it from the container. Dig a hole about 6 feet from other plants so the bird of paradise has plenty of room to grow. You will want to make the hole as deep and approximately twice as wide as the root ball. Don’t make the hole too deep or the plant may be slow to flower.

Bird of Paradise Care

Bird of paradise plants have the look of fussy tropical plants, but they are relatively simple to care for if given the right growing conditions. The foliage can stretch to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide in some species (giant species, like the S. nicolai, can grow to 20 or 30 feet tall), so make sure you have plenty of room for it to stretch its leaves wherever you grow it.


The Strelitzia species prefer to have ample sunlight but as an understory plant, direct sunlight can burn their leaves. Whether you're growing it indoors or outdoors, a bird of paradise plant will do best in very bright indirect sunlight with shaded protection during the most intensely sunny times of the day.

If you’re growing a bird of paradise inside (all year round or only during the winter), you might want to invest in a grow light. But Pogust notes that if you have a bright, sunny window and decent winter sunlight, you can skip the artificial light. He says that the plant "will make it through the dark
winter indoors
, but by keeping it in active growth, you can better avoid getting pests.” Place your plant in east or west-facing windows and avoid north-facing windows where the light may be insufficient.

Soil and Water

Bird of paradise plants grow best in rich, loamy, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5. to 7.5.

While they are growing, water your bird of paradise plants often enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. If you are keeping your plant in bright sunlight, you may need to water it more often. You can taper off on watering during the fall and winter months, allowing the soil to dry out a little. Just pay attention to how the plant responds. If it is getting too much or too little moisture, the leaves will begin to yellow and die. Mature plants are more drought-tolerant and may not need to be watered at all in the winter months if your region gets sufficient rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

Bird of paradise is a tropical plant that is hardy in temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit but thrives best in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees. It craves a humid environment, so indoor-grown plants should be set on a pebble tray or near a humidifier.


Pogust suggests "a good all-purpose fertilizer for your Strelitzia, but you don’t need to fertilize it often. You can fare well with something like a 5-5-5 or a 10-10-10. For the amount to use, follow product label directions.


Prune your established bird of paradise plant regularly to keep it looking happy and healthy and to encourage new growth. You should also remove dead leaves and old flower stalks to reduce the risk of fungal organisms. Prune the leaf stem or flower stalk at the base of the plant.

If your plant is getting too big, remove outer leaves to reduce the overall size. It's best to do this in the early spring before new growth begins.

Potting and Repotting

In containers, bird of paradise plants can be kept to manageable houseplant sizes. For example, when grown indoors or as potted patio plants, S. reginae tends to be shorter, which makes it great for smaller spaces. S. nicolai is much taller and has leaves that can reach 2-3 feet long, which makes it better for bigger spaces like malls, stores, or offices.

To repot a Strelitzia that has outgrown its container, choose another pot that's a little larger. Use fresh potting mix to fill in around the roots and water the plant well. Pogust recommends using a cactus potting mix because “you want the soil to be fast draining/drying during the plant’s less active time of year (winter) when it’s getting less sunlight. You can always water more if needed. It’s easier to kill a plant by giving it too much water than by giving it too little."

Pests and Problems

Outdoors, bird of paradise plants are relatively pest-free, although they can be prone to developing fungal leaf spot and gray mold, or Botrytis cinerea. Remove any infected leaves from the plant as well as leaves and debris that have fallen into the soil nearby. It’s also a good idea to avoid overhead watering and make sure the plant has sufficient airflow between it and other plants.

When it comes to pests, you’re more likely to have issues with them when growing Strelitzia indoors. “They are most susceptible to mealybugs and scale,” advises Pogust. “If you find pests on
your indoor Strelitzia, you should address it right away." Use a cotton bud or paper towel dipped in isopropyl alcohol to wipe off pests. Pogust also recommends neem oil as a more passive pest-eradication method.

How to Propagate Bird of Paradise

Similar to the bird of paradise’s close relatives, bananas, gingers, Maranta, and Heliconia, you can propagate it by cutting off a piece of its rhizome (thick underground stem). Place the rhizome into another pot of moist potting mix, where it will start growing roots and leaves.

To grow bird of paradise plants from seed, you will need a lot of patience because it can take 2 to 3 months for the seeds to germinate and several years (perhaps as long as 5 or 6 years) for the plant to bloom. Bird of paradise seeds are black with a mohawk of orange fuzz on one end. Prep the seeds by soaking them for 24-48 hours and then removing the orange tufts and nicking the seeds with a sharp knife. Plant the seeds in a planting tray at a depth of 1/2 inch to 1 inch and keep the seeds consistently moist until they begin to germinate. To create a more humid environment for the seeds, place a pane of glass or a sheet of plastic over the container and set it in a warm area that gets indirect sunlight. You can transplant your seedlings to individual grow pots when they have at least a couple of leaves.

Types of Bird of Paradise

'Mandela's Gold' Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae bird of paradise
Denny Schrock

Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' is a yellow blooming variety of the commonly orange blooming bird of paradise. Zones 10-11

Orange Bird of Paradise

Orange Bird of Paradise
Edward Gohlich

Strelitzia reginae offers brilliantly colored flowers on 3-foot-tall stalks in winter, spring, and summer. It grows 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 10-11

White Bird of Paradise

White Bird of Paradise
Gordon Beall

Strelitzia nicolai grows like a tree with a fan of 5-foot-long leaves. It produces white flowers in spring and grows 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Zones 10-11

Bird of Paradise Companion Plants


Daylily Hemerocallis 'Little Grapette'
Peter Krumhardt

Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.

Kangaroo Paw

red kangaroo paw Anigozanthos
Edward Gohlich

Make a bold statement in your garden with kangaroo paw. This unusual perennial comes from Australia and bears strappy green leaves and upright spikes of fuzzy flowers in radioactively brilliant colors. The blooms last a long time and make great cut flowers.

Sago Palm

sago palm Cycas revoluta
Edward Gohlich

Complete the tropical look by pairing bird-of-paradise with a showy sago palm. Although this plant looks like a tiny palm tree with its glossy, stiff fronds, it's actually a cycad. It's easy to grow as a houseplant, but be careful because the sago palm is toxic if ingested.

Society Garlic

Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea
Peter Krumhardt

The leaves of this South African native bulb look like chives, and if you brush its foliage while walking by, you'll catch a whiff of garlic. However, the beautiful clusters of lavender-pink flowers have a sweet fragrance, similar to the scent of hyacinth blossoms. They open on tall stems from early summer until late fall. Noted for its drought tolerance, society garlic has become a staple in southern California landscapes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do bird of paradise plants live?

    Bird of paradise plants are slow-growing and can take as many as 5 or 6 years before beginning to bloom. With proper care, a bird of paradise plant can live for decades and giant bird of paradise plants (S. nicolai) have been reported to live as long as 50 to 150 years.

  • Why is my bird of paradise plant not flowering?

    There are a couple of things that could inhibit flower growth on mature, established bird of paradise plants—namely too much shade, a lack of fertilizer, or improper watering. If your bird of paradise plant is still young, it may just need a little more time to get established before it starts to bloom. Even in ideal conditions, it can take as long as five or six years before a bird of paradise plant starts blooming regularly.

  • How do I remove an old, overgrown bird of paradise plant?

    Occasionally, overgrown bird of paradise plants stop producing blooms because their root systems become so compacted that they can’t take in enough nutrients.  When this happens, you may need to divide the plant or discard it—which can be tricky since the root ball will be dense and heavy. Prune the plant to ground level and saturate the soil for 30 minutes a day for 2 days before attempting to dig it up. Measure out a 10-inch radius from the base of the plant, mark it, and begin digging straight down along the radius. You may need to dig down about 18 to 24 inches, so contact your local utility company if necessary before digging. Rock the root ball back and forth until you can get a shovel under it and lift the root ball out. You may need a mattock, pickaxe, or reciprocating saw to get through the roots. Be sure to remove any rhizomes left in the soil or else the plant may return.

Was this page helpful?
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Bird of paradise flower. ASPCA. (n.d.).

Related Articles