Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)

By Jenna Beck

Tags: beginner gardener, bird of paradise, leaf blight, low maintenance, mealy bugs, root rot, scale, Strelitzia, Strelitzia Juncea, Strelitzia Nicolai, Strelitzia Reginae, tropical

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is a much loved plant in Australian gardens. Their common name comes from their striking flowers – bright, plumed blooms perched on long stems that look like the crests of tropical birds peeking through the leaves.

They’ve more to offer than just looks though. Native to South Africa, Strelitzias are tough plants. They’ll withstand drought, salty coastal conditions, light frost and general neglect. They’re perfect for beginner gardeners as they don’t ask very much once established, and are fantastic at bouncing back from just about any gardening mishap.

Planting, Care and Maintenance

The most important thing to do for a Strelitzia is to plant it somewhere that suits its needs, and it will mostly take care of the rest. That means a sunny position, at worst part shade, with free draining soil. They can cope with either very little water or lots – provided that the water is running through the soil away from the plant. If they are left to sit in boggy soil, the fleshy roots will slowly rot, killing your plant.

Fertilise your Strelitzia in spring and autumn with a general purpose fertiliser like Ferticote. Those gorgeous flowers will appear in spring, summer and if you’re lucky winter too, so either cut them to enjoy inside in a vase or trim them off when the flower has finished to help the plant conserve energy. Leaving finished flowers on the plant will discourage it from producing more.


There are three main varieties of Strelitzia:

Strelitzia Reginae is the most recognisable and popular variety, with striking orange and blue flowers amongst broad, tropical looking leaves. In lush environments with plenty of water, the leaves will be a deep green, while in drier environments they take on a touch of pretty silvery-grey. Growing to 1.5 metres high by one metre wide, the plant keeps a dense, clumping habit.

Strelitzia Nicolai growing to 4 or 6 metres tall, Nicolai is a more dramatic choice in the garden. There are fewer leaves but they are much larger. The flowers are the same shape as Reginae, but dark blue and white. Try them as a lovely tropical screen.

Strelitzia Juncea sets itself apart from Nicolai and Reginae with the absence of those broad, tropical leaves. While a similar size and shape to Reginae, the leaves grow long and straight like tubes or grass. When dotted with the trademark orange and blue flowers, they look like a burst of fireworks. They are slower growing than other Strelitzias but their architectural shape makes them a great choice for those that don’t like the tropical look – particularly in modern gardens.

Pests and Diseases

Thankfully Strelitzias are not prone to any serious problems in Australia. The most common are:

  • Root Rot: Caused by inadequate drainage. Water builds up around the fleshy roots, causing them to slowly rot. It can be hard to identify early as the plant slowly wilts and looks generally miserable. Digging into the soil reveals slimy and sometimes dark roots. Try raising the garden bed or in clay soils, adding gypsum to help improve the soil structure.
  • Mealy Bug or Scale: These tiny insects can be a problem throughout the garden. Either spray them off with a jet of water and squash them or, for big infestations, consider a spray with an insecticide.
  • Leaf Blight: Usually identified by white spots on the leaves with a ring of green around them. This is a fungal issue, and is treated with a spray of a fungicide.


Jenna Beck

Jenna Beck

  • Ana Pereira

    I have some New Zealand Flax which do not look too well. I have noticed the base of the plant is brown and looks dead and have also noticed that a lot of the leaves are yellowy brown and some have been eaten away either on the sides or in the middle by some sort of bug. The soil is damp and clumpy and it sticks together.
    What should I do to save these plants?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Ana, The soil is your problem , flax need a well-drained soil and not clay which you have. With the extra rain we have been having the root system will be rotting off hence the foliage going yellow and brown. If the flax is still small I would look at moving it to a better soil area of the garden. To take care of the insect or caterpillar eating the foliage spray with success ultra. Happy Gardening!

  • David Wood

    Hi, we have a large clump of Strelitzia, 2M diameter, that has pushed out the sprinkler system piping and broken them. We have cut the rootball back with maddock and coarse hand saw, and now wish to place a barrier or method of restricting growth on two sides of the clump.It has been suggested copper sheet would present a barrier, but we are in our mid seventies and wish to make sure we don’t have this problem again. rather than total removal.

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi David, that’s a tough question. Unfortunately we can’t suggest a strong enough barrier that doesn’t require total removal. If removal is an option you could replant in a pot to restrict growth or build a concrete trench. I’m sorry we don’t have better news. Good Luck! The Flower Power team.

  • robyne blee

    have moved house and want to take our strelitzia with us. has just had first flower in 8 years after previous move. should we leave where it is and simply buy a new one, or dig out and replant?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Robyne, It will take time to establish again but a new one will take time to grow. Good luck with your decision. The Flower Power Team.

  • Dorothy black

    I have a bird of paradise Nicolai planted near our swimming pool and want to know if it will crack our house foundations and paving

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Dorothy, it sure can as it has very big root systems. Merry Christmas! The Flower Power team.

  • Ai Lee Heng

    Hi I have a 4m giant bird of paradise(the black and white flower). i would like to transfer it to another spot. How long will the root be and is it likely to survive after the transplant? thanks

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Ai Lee, it’s probably not a good idea to move it. It will be a big job, the root ball will be quite large and we don’t think it will do too well after the transfer. Merry Christmas from the Flower Power team.

  • Darin

    Hi, We’re looking at planting a bird of paradise. Our soil is pretty much all clay so we will dig a garden bed for it, just not sure how deep we should dig to allow the root system to grow properly

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Darin, clay is okay for bird of paradise as clay retains moisture. If you prefer to dig a garden bed make it half a metre deep and put gypsum at the bottom. Happy planting! The Flower Power team.

  • Peter

    I have a very mature bird of paradise for many years it produced orange flowers but now it produces white flowers?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Peter, no way! That is unheard of. If you have some please send us some before and after pictures. Happy new year! The Flower Power team.

  • Anne Micallef

    Hi there! Can you recommend a bird of paradise variety that will do well in a pot.

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Anne! The Strelitzia Reginae would be great for a pot and will grow to 1.5metres high. Happy New Year from the Flower Power team!

  • Terry

    Hi.Can you give me any pointers on planting from seed?
    How deep should they be planted, and can I start them from a pot or directly in the ground?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Terry, you can sow them indoors at any time of the year using seed trays and well drained soil. Before sowing remove the hair from the seeds and nick the hard seeds after soaking in lukewarm water for 2-3 hours, this will help decrease germination time. For best results keep the seeds at a consistent temperature of 25 degrees and keep the soil moist. It might be best to speak to a grower as well. Good luck! The Flower Power team.

  • Maureen heath

    Hi I’ve just got a strelitzia sent me seeds. And two soil pads could you tell me how you melt them into soil pleasei

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Maureen! Thanks for your interest in our Bird of Paradise article. We are not sure exactly what you are asking? Let us know and we will do what we can to help. The Flower Power team.

  • Jess

    Is there a way to restrict the growth of the Nicolai? I’m wanting to plant them along the boundary of our property next to the driveway by done want to cause damage to the driveway due to the root system.

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Jess, the only thing we can suggest is planting in pots to contain the growth. A row of potted plants can look striking!

    • Octavia Hammer

      Hi Jess, the only thing we can suggest is planting in pots. This is the only way to contain the growth really but a row of potted plants can look striking too!

  • Lisa

    Hi, we have just moved into a place that has the large & smaller variety planted over the easement. Im trying to find out more about the root system, as a friend suggested pulling them out due to damage they can cause. Any info appreciated, thanks

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Lisa, they do have powerful root systems but they do stay in a root ball unlike trees. From our experience, we’ve only ever seen damage if planted between walls where they can push out of the space and crack and damage the walls. We haven’t yet come across pipe damage ourselves but it’s not to say it can’t happen. We hope this extra information is helpful. Good luck!

  • RobbieCC

    Hi, I have a Reginae, but it’s huge – maybe 2m across. It’s such a chore to get in and cut the flowers and it can take hours to remove even just most of the edge ones, making a big pile for garden waste collection truck. Because it’s too much work, it ends up with mostly dead flowers. How big a chore will be to get rid of it?
    If they don’t transfer well as you’ve said, I’m guessing no one will be interested in taking it if they dig it up.

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Robbie, it will be a lot of work to dig out completely and it won’t grow back so it will need to be binned. The FP team.

  • 4 Elements Gallery

    Hi , I have just purchased a Strelitzia Nicolai as an indoor plant. It’s near a window and gets plenty of light but only a little bit of sun in the afternoon. It’s a reasonable size plant around 5 foot already. I feel the leaves are curling a little. Should I be concerned?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi, sounds like its a watering issue. If the leaves are curling up they are drying out and need more water and the leaves are curling under they are too wet. Cheers, the FP team.

  • FlowerPowerAustralia

    Hi Jennifer, it sounds like it could come back, the main thing is to keep it on the dryer side and put it in a warm spot. When watering use seasol. Good luck! The Flower Power team.

  • Michele Ashton

    Hi I have a large well established 2.5 m bird paradise which came with the house it was flowering beautifully but a couple of years ago we were thinking of moving it and tried digging it up… we realised this wasn’t going to be easy so we left it … since then the byline of flowers has seriously finished and when it goes flower they shrivel on the bush … also a lack spot is on the leaves … please help as I really miss the beautiful show of orange flowers

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Michele, its sounds like you might have caused some damage to the roots when you were trying to dig it out. Start by liquid feeding with seasol and power feed every month, it will come good but it will put most energy into repairing itself.
      Without seeing the spots on the leaf it could be scale which will need spraying. With some patience and care it should be back to its normal self. Good luck! The FP team.

  • Chris

    Hi, just purchased a small Reginae and just transplanted into a bigger pot.
    It’s on the veranda in partial shade, will it be ok or should it be in full sunlight?

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Chris, it will be alright but it would be better in full sun. The FP team.

  • peter

    hi, I am looking to have some of these behind a shed which will be 2m tall, so by default will be in partial shade, will they be OK in such a position? Is there a better screening plant that would enjoy the shade behind a shed? looking for something to grow 6-8 m

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Peter, I don’t think they would be a great plant for you as you need a lot of room at the base. We suggest you go with camellia sasanquas or lilly pillies. Happy Shopping! The FP team.

  • Corey Andrew Thomas

    Hi, I’m thinking about purchasing a Nicolai for my room, it only gets filtered sun, is this still possible to grow. Also, roughly how fast do they grow per year?