What’s Blooming in Paradise?: Orange Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
First impression: Exotic egret-head-in-profile-shaped flower of vibrant orange, purple, and red. The blossom is large measuring 4-5 inches tall and long. Its long stemmed dark green leaves resemble the shape of a banana plant. All growth starts at the base, the flowers are on their own stiff stalk. What a show-stopper, any ornithologist would take a second look! You can see this non-winged wonder in bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.
Upon further investigation: Orange bird of Paradise is a perennial herb that hails from South Africa. It is grown for its beautiful tropical flowers. Blooming, this tropical plant is a must for cut gardens, with flowers off and on thru out the year. The large, substantial flowers are held above the leaves by long stiff stems. They are an explosion of feather shaped color. Petals are dark blue; sepals are bright orange, and they emerge from a vivid canoe shaped bulge at the end of the stem. All over the world, florists love to utilize our star in really beautiful arrangements.
In the garden our plant is a naturally shaped shrub with banana-shaped leaves and lovely birds peeking thru. The most common question I receive about our star is why isn’t mine blooming? Here are some considerations: requires at least 4+ hours of sunlight with regular watering, doesn’t like continual wet feet, and it takes around five years for a plant to mature and bloom. Easy to care for everything connects at the base in a clumping manner, which can grow wider or be divided by a shovel and a little muscle. After blooming be sure to clean out the old blossoms, which will start to smell if left unattended. Maximum height for this slow grower is 5-6 feet tall, which makes it perfect for patios with a view. You may plant in full sun or filtered shade, and well drained soil. It is a non-invasive exotic with few or no pests or diseases.
You now have a choice with two more varieties. Mandela’s Gold (Strelitzia reginae Aiton), which has bight yellow sepals instead of orange, and Juncea Bird of Paradise, (Strelitzia reginae Juncea), a smaller version of our Orange Bird. Great habitat plant because, birds drink from the flower bases. They are enjoying the collected water and the flower’s nectar. Bird a la bird!
Interesting Trivia: Did you know, we have several species of birds of paradise? Our star is the mot popular garden addition. White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), is a replica that is three times the size with larger white bird blooms. Travellers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), can reach 30 ft. and resembles banana leaves in a symmetrical fan with ginormous bird blossoms.
Pros: Great low growing shrub – Does well in wet areas – Likes full sun – Can be divided and planted other places or shared with neighbors – Non-invasive – May have bird watcher in your garden – Salt tolerance – Will fill in unsightly areas with little effort – Birds love it!
Cons: Needs to be separated periodically – Can get dead foliage/trim away – Need to trim away spent blooms – Not good unless watered regularly – Annoying when they don’t bloom – Non-native.
Conclusion: Bring out those binoculars… There are birds blooming in the bushes. No need to worry, they won’t fly away in our tropical eye-catching garden. Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!