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What’s Blooming in Paradise: White bird of paradise resembles exotic egret head within flower

By Staff | Jul 1, 2015

The white bird of paradise is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from South Africa. Anita Force Marshall

First impression: Exotic egret head in profile shaped flower of snow white, vibrant blues, and a sprinkle of magenta. The blossom is extra large measuring 12 inches long. Its long stemmed dark green leaves resemble the shape of a banana plant. All plant growth starts at the base with the flowers emerging in a fan shaped area of spiral of leaves. I am in awe of this double story tall, tropical, unique plant. What a show stopper, any ornithologist would take a second look! You can see this nonwinged wonder in bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: White Bird of Paradise is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from South Africa. It is grown for its lush foliage and beautiful tropical flowers. This iconic plant is a must for our gardens, with flowers blooming throughout the year. The calyx (feather like flower) is shimmery white and surround three fused petals are dark cobalt blue. All this petal plumage emerges from a vivid cadmium blue canoe shaped bract (spathe) at the base of a whorl of leaves. The edge of this spathe is frosted in a crimson burgundy. WOW!

The large substantial flower resemble our great egret’s profile peeking thru the foliage. After a closer look, you realize they are an explosion of feather shaped floral beauty. The leaves are long, tall and paddle shaped. They are arranged in a spiral – fan like manner. These arrangements of leaves are connected at the base forming a large clump.

New babies appear as tiny clumps on the outside of the plant from suckers. Year after year these many individual plants will appear as one humongous white bird. You can count on minimal maintenance, new pups occur around the base in a clumping manner, which can grow wider or be divided by a shovel and a lot of muscle. After blooming be sure to clean out the old blossoms, which will start to smell if left unattended.

Maximum height for this fast grower is a whopping 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide, so plan for appropriate site. You may plant in full sun or filtered shade, and well drained soil. Avoid planting in a windy area; its leaves will split when under lots of breeze. It is a noninvasive exotic with little or no pests or diseases.

The white bird of paradise is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from South Africa. Anita Force Marshall

The most common dilemma I hear about our star is confusion between white birds and banana plants.

Here are some cues for success: Bananas do not have a spiral or whorl pattern of leaves. Bananas do have a fan pattern of leaves. White birds will never bear bananas! Great habitat plant because birds drink from the flower bases. They are enjoying the collected water and the flowers nectar. Bird ala bird!

Pros:

* Tall dramatic shrub

* Likes full sun

The white bird of paradise is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from South Africa. Anita Force Marshall

* Noninvasive

* May have bird watchers in your garden

* Salt tolerance

* Will fill in unsightly areas with little effort

* Birds love it!

The white bird of paradise is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from South Africa. Anita Force Marshall

Cons:

* Needs to be separated periodically

* Need to trim away spent blooms

* Leaves split in winds

* Don’t let neighbors steal flowers

* 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!