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Bird of Paradise
Nothing says tropical quite like the bird of paradise. With its large, coarse-textured leaves and long-lasting blooms, bird of paradise plants find themselves at home in any tropical garden. The complex blooms not only look like tropical birds, but also rely on birds for pollination! They last for quite a long time and make fantastic cut flowers.
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Part Sun, Sun
Under 6 inches to Varies by variety
Up to 15 feet, depending on type
Bird of paradise plants can make an amazing statement piece in a garden setting. Their large, tropical foliage is reminiscent of banana leaves in a cool blue-green color, acting as a great foil for the amazingly intricate flowers. Blooms of the bird of paradise are actually made up of many different parts. The base of the flower—the "beak" of the bird—is a bract or a modified leaf. The showy orange petals at the top aren't true petals, but actually sepals or modified petals. The true petals of the flower are the blue petals. These multicolored blooms are truly unique, and each blossom can last up to 2 weeks.
Bird of Paradise Care Must-Knows
Since bird of paradise plants are tropical in nature, they need protection from cold and plenty of warmth and sun to thrive. In many cases, it's best to keep bird of paradise plants as potted container plants so they can easily be moved indoors in cool conditions. In settings warm enough to overwinter bird of paradise outdoors, the plant makes a great addition to poolside gardens since they don't shed leaves. Some smaller varieties can survive part shade, but give them as much sun as you can for a show of flowers. Foliage may also become leggy and flop in too much shade. See more low-maintenance perennials that thrive in Southern California.
When looking for a home for your bird of paradise, be sure to pick a spot with rich, organic soil. Have a regular water schedule for at least the first six months after planting. Once the plants are established, they can handle a little drought, but these plants ideally want consistent, even moisture. Be careful not to overwater, however, as this is a sure way to stress the plants and eventually kill them.
As bird of paradise plants continue to grow, they might get crowded. These plants actually don't mind being snug in a pot, and in many cases tend to bloom better when they are. They also tend to bloom most from their outer growth, so divide if yours is reaching its limit in the pot. Simply dig up the plants or unpot them and carefully separate the shoots into smaller divisions. Once done, replant the new divisions and keep them consistently moist for 3 to 6 months or until the plants have thoroughly rooted. New divisions may take a few years before they are ready to bloom again.
Birds on Birds
If you plant these indoors (or in less-than-tropical areas), you may notice that they never set seed. That's because, unlike many other plants, birds of paradise are not pollinated by insects. They are pollinated by sunbirds! Bird of paradise has evolved so that in order for pollination to take place, a bird must sit on the lower bract of the bloom. Once the bird is perched there, the weight of the bird levers the pollen of the bloom. As the bird goes in for nectar, pollen is deposited on the breast of the bird. When the bird visits another flower, the same process happens again, and the pollen from the bird is then deposited on the exposed flower parts of the next bloom.