Strelitzia, also known as bird of paradise or crane flowers, are striking tender perennials native to South Africa. They produce exotic orange and white blooms that resemble the plumage of tropical birds. Stretlitzia make beautiful houseplants or, in the proper climate, garden plants. They are fairly easy to care for and, though slow growing at first, produce beautiful blossoms year after year.
Strelitzia can be grown from seed or propagated by division, meaning they produce branches or fans that can be divided and grown separately as individual plants. When planted from seed, strelitzia germinate slowly and unpredictably. Germination can take anywhere from four to eight weeks, or longer, producing flowers after three to five years. Strelitzia propagated by division take approximately two years to flower.
Soak seeds in water for three days, then germinate in moist, well-drained soil at a depth 1 1/2 times the size of the seed. Seeds germinate best at 23.8 to 29.4 degrees C; colder temperatures will slow germination. Strelitzia seeds do not need sunlight to germinate.
Strelitzia are native to tropical climates. If grown outside, they do best in USDA zones 9 through 11. If you live in a cooler climate, it's best to grow strelitzia in containers that can be moved inside when temperatures dip. They are susceptible to frost and do best in air temperatures between 16.6 and 26.6 degrees C. Though they can tolerate air temperatures as low as 10 degrees C, cooler air temperatures can slow leaf and flower development. Whether planting in your garden or growing in a container, make sure your strelitzia gets plenty of sunshine. They tolerate both full sun or partial shade, but produce more flowers in full sunlight according to the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service.
Soil, Water and Fertilizer
Though strelitzia are tolerant of a variety of soil types, they grow best in moist sandy or loamy soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5. The soil should hold moisture, but drain well. Use high-quality, general-purpose potting soil, or mix your own using a mixture of equal parts garden soil, sand or perlite and peat. Keep the soil moist during spring and summer, but let it dry slightly between watering during the dormant fall and winter months. It's best to water your strelitzia with warm water. Fertilise every other week with a water-soluble fertiliser during the spring and summer and cease fertilising during fall and winter.