The giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), also called wild banana, is a large and striking plant of warm gardens - but in recent years it has become a popular indoor decorative flourish, too. As it isn’t really at home inside, growing it successfully indoors is a big challenge. Flower Power's expert garden people always recommend that these plants be grown outdoors.


Strelitzia nicolai is truly a giant garden plant, and grows best outdoors where it can reach its full potential.


About The Giant Bird of Paradise

This plant doesn’t have the word 'giant' in its name for nothing. It is a tall, banana-tree-like plant with huge, paddle-shaped leaves and bold white and blue flowers that look like birds. This species is a magnificent plant.

In gardens it can reach 6m high (that’s a lot higher than the ceiling in your living room!) and form a fan-like clump 3.5m wide. Even individual mature leaves can be 1.8m in size from stem base to leaf tip. That’s the size of a person. You’d need a bobcat to move it if it was well-established and growing in a garden. It likes a tropical to subtropical or warm coastal climate in full sun.

The genus name ‘nicolai’ refers to the son of Tsar Nicolas I of Russia, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (1856-1929), but this isn’t an indication that it is native to or even grows well in Russia. It is often a feature plant in large heated glasshouses in European botanic gardens.

All strelitzias come originally from warm climates in Africa and are part of the banana family (Musaceae). Two other Strelitzia species that are frequently grown in gardens and may also be found indoors are Strelitzia reginae and S. juncea. Both form a clump of dark green leaves with tall, stout stems of flamboyant orange and purple or yellow and purple flowers. The flowers have the look of an exotic bird in colourful plumage. Of the two, S. juncea, with its narrow, almost reed-like leaves, is perhaps the best adapted of the bird of paradise clan to grow indoors.

Bird of paradise is also widely depicted on fabrics and wallpapers – you may have admired it on a cushion cover!

The Giant Bird of Paradise produces flowers when it gets enough sunlight.


How To Grow Birds of Paradise Indoors (if you must!)

Strelitzia are outdoor plants, and when not grown in their preferred conditions you're likely to see unattractive leggy growth, pest issues and a general failure to thrive. Still determined to test your indoor gardening skills by growing Strelitzia nicolai indoors? Here are our best tips to keep your plant alive. Note, though, that success is never a given when growing an outdoor plant indoors!

  • Don’t consider this plant to be a permanent indoor plant. Treat it as an outdoor plant – perhaps growing it on a sunny balcony or in the garden in a pot - and bring it indoors for two or three weeks before returning it to its preferred outside home.
  • Have multiple plants and swap them over regularly, so they get to spend some time outdoors, too. If an outdoor plant is inside for two weeks it will take around a month to recover from the stress that being indoors will cause.
  • The temporary indoor spot you select for your plant needs to have strong, bright light – this plant won’t thrive in low light conditions, even for a short period. Try using a grow light to assist by providing extra light – Flower Power stocks the Urban Plant Growers range. The location also needs to be warm. Keep the plant away from draughts – both hot and cold from heating or air conditioning.
  • If the plant starts to wilt, droop or develop pest problems like mealy bug or scale during one of its indoor excursions, it's telling you it isn’t happy. Take it back outside, treat the pest problem with an appropriate insecticide and treat the plant with a seaweed product such as Seasol - you'll definitely want to leave your plant outdoors after applying this, so you don't bring the smell into your home. Regular treatment with a seaweed solution will help to stress-proof the plant. Apply a liquid plant food every four to six weeks - Flower Power recommends Osmocote Pour+Feed Indoor Plant Food.
  • As you'll be moving this plant around a lot, choose a lightweight pot but still use good quality potting mix. Make sure the pot can drain well. As the plant grows it will need to be transferred into a slightly larger pot. Clumps can also be divided.
  • Strelitzias are grown for their handsome leaves and imposing shape and size but they may eventually flower, especially if they spend enough time outside in a favourable location. Regularly remove spent flowers to make room for the next set of buds to open.

Strelitzias are not the best plants to grow indoors - but one trick to making them work is to grow them outdoors in pots and bring them inside for short holidays.


Still want the lush Strelitzia look in your home? Artificial plants have come a long way! Check out Flower Power's realistic artificial strelitzias.