Bird of paradise - Strelizia alba

Bird of paradise - Strelizia alba

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The sterlizia

The Strelizia alba is native to South Africa, it is a genus composed of 5 species of evergreen shrubs and palm trees, with large leaves usually parallel to each other. The plant needs mild temperatures to survive, abundant watering, and a location not exposed to direct sunlight. The flowers are asymmetrical and have 3 small petals and 3 large petals, two of which are welded together.
The genus Strelitzia includes five species of herbaceous plants belonging to the Musaceae family (such as the banana tree). They are all of subtropical origin, in particular they come from southern Africa.
They are also commonly called "bird of paradise", while the current botanical name was given to them to honor the bride of the King of England George III, Sophia of Mecklemburg-Strelitz.
These are herbaceous plants without stems. The leaves, in fact, sprout directly from the collar at ground level. The roots are imposing, collated and very fleshy. In the open ground, and in their natural environments, they are able to grow to a considerable depth in order to be able to procure water and nutrients.

Family and gender Musaceae, gen. Strelitziae, 5 speciesType of plant Herbaceous, up to 10 meters highExposure Very bright, no direct sun in summerRusticitа Non-rustic (withstands a maximum of 5 ° C)Ground Rich, but well-drainedcolors Orange and blue or white flowers.Irrigation Abundant and frequent, no saucer, frequent sprays. Non-calcareous waterFlowering From October to MarchComposting Weekly, good doses of nitrogen and potassium on young plants, then only potassiumVegetative rest July and AugustThe flowers

Much used as a composition flower, the flowers of the bird of paradise are grouped inside bracts. In the temperate zones the strelizia alba is grown as an ornamental shrub. Reproduction occurs through offshoots or via gamica (from seed). The sowing must be carried out in spring, having the foresight to use a warm bed for at least the first three weeks.

Strelitzia reginae

Native to South Africa, it has a bush-like habit which can reach a maximum of 1.2 meters in height, with elliptical leaves of silver color that reach 30-40 cm in length. The flower has yellow-orange sepals divided by blue joined petals.

Strelitzia alba

Native to South Africa, this species has a tree-like habit and has white inflorescences with few bracts.

Strelitzia nicolai

Native to South Africa, it has an erect habit with woody stems that branch off from the ground. The plant also reaches 7 meters in height and has ovate, very large, bright green leaves. The flower is light blue, lilac or white and is characterized by long dark red bracts.

Sterile rusticity

As we have said, the bird of paradise is a vegetable from subtropical areas. In most Italian regions, therefore, it can only be grown in a container and is considered a houseplant.
However, it should be pointed out that in various areas of our peninsula, particularly in the southern regions, on the islands and even some coastal areas of the North (in particular the Ligurian Riviera) it is possible to try also with cultivation outside, in the open ground.
To regulate ourselves on this opportunity, we must keep in mind that the minimum temperature for vegetative growth (even minimal) is 13 ° C. However, the plant can survive outside even at temperatures around 6 ° C, provided they are not too long. In case of doubt (or if there is a particularly cold winter compared to the area averages) it is advisable to cover the plant with several layers of non-woven fabric and create a thick mulching layer around the foot.
The ideal, both outside and inside, is to oscillate between 14 ° and 21 ° C.


To grow and flourish at its best, strelitzies always need a lot of light.
If kept in an apartment, they should be placed near a window that is lit for most of the day. However, with the arrival of summer, especially if we live in the southern regions, it is advisable to move them to a slightly more sheltered area (especially during the central hours of the day) because the intensity of the light could cause leaf burns.
These plants, moreover, do not like stagnant air. It is therefore good to ventilate the room in which they are placed often, avoiding only cold air currents.
For this purpose, from spring to autumn (as long as temperatures allow it) it is always advisable to move the bird's vessels of paradise outside on a balcony, terrace or directly into the garden. We will see vegetative growth increase significantly (except in July and August). In order not to expose them too much to the light it is good to place them under a pergola or in the shade of a deciduous tree.

Sterile soil

The ideal soil for strelitzia alba must be very rich, but also with excellent drainage capacity. In fact, having to irrigate often, problems of stagnation and consequently rottenness can arise.
You can easily use compost for flowering plants, mixing a few handfuls of well-seasoned flour manure and at least 1/3 of coarse sand. To further improve water drainage, we can also add some agriperite.
It is extremely important to create a very thick drainage layer based on expanded clay, gravel or glass beads on the bottom of the bird's paradise container.
Let us remember that in any case the use of saucers is not recommended and containers made of natural materials (such as terracotta) are always preferable because they favor transpiration.

Repotting cleaning and pruning

The repotting of the bird of paradise, on young plants, should be done every year, at the beginning of spring. We will choose a container that is slightly larger than the previous one.
When the pot has reached a considerable size (more than 35 cm) we can simply replace the surface layer of soil, possibly carrying out core drilling with a transplanting machine along the circumference.
Pruning is not necessary. We must only intervene to eliminate the basal leaves which, as we age, will inevitably become necessary to eliminate. You may also need to cut damaged or diseased leaves. In any case, remember to use sharp and flame-disinfected or bleached tools.

Sterile division

The division for the multiplication of the bird of paradise is the only propagation method that can be carried out at home. It is operated in June, before the vegetative rest, extracting the set of roots and dividing them with a well sharpened knife so that each section has at least one leaf. They should then be dusted with a fungicide product and placed in individual jars kept moist, in a bright but sheltered position.

Sterligic irrigation

This plant has great water needs. Therefore, the substrate must always be moist: we irrigate every time the surface is dry. An excellent method also consists in immersing for about 30 minutes in a basin full of water. The plant will absorb whatever is necessary and will be completely rehydrated.
It is however very important to remember that the strelitzia has a reverse seasonal cycle compared to ours. It enters vegetative rest in full summer (July and August, when, in its places of origin it is winter). In this period it is very important to interrupt the watering almost completely.


Like all plants coming from rainforests or tropical areas, it is of fundamental importance both for growth and for flowering that there is always a high environmental humidity. This helps to avoid both leaf burns and desiccations that sometimes occur as temperatures rise.
It will be useful to intervene several times a day by vaporizing the leaves, possibly with rain or demineralised water. We avoid however always to wet the flowers, since they are ruined very easily.
Another possibility is to place saucers full of wet expanded clay near the vase.

Sterilization fertilization

The fertilizations must be carried out, weekly, from mid-September to June, during the whole vegetative period.
If our plant is young it is good to use a product with good amounts of nitrogen and potassium: in this way both vegetative growth and flowering will be stimulated.
On adult plants, on the other hand, it is good to give nitrogen at very low doses and concentrate more on potassium.

Bloody flowering

It blooms with habit in the middle of winter. However, keep in mind that it is extremely rare to see young plants bloom. Generally, to have the first flowering it is necessary to wait until strelitzia has reached at least 4 years of age. It is therefore necessary to have a little patience.

Bird of paradise - Strelizia alba: Variety

SpeciesColor flowersShape leavesHeightOrigin
reginea Orange and blue-violet elliptical Up to 1.5 meters Southern Africa
augusta White with dark green spade oblong Up to 6 meters South Africa
juncea Orange and blue needlelike Up to 2 meters South Africa
nicolai Light blue, white, light purple Very large, similar to banana Up to 8 meters South Africa

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