How to grow a Bird of Paradise plant in the UK

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Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is an evergreen perennial native of South Africa, where it grows wild. It grows outside in mild climates, but in the United Kingdom, it needs protection. Growing up to 1.5 metres tall, it forms spreading clumps 1.5 metres wide. The flower resembles a colourful crane's head. Bird of Paradise is a slow grower, so with care you can enjoy container-grown plants for many years.

Propagation

Turn your Bird of Paradise's pot on its side and flush away some of the soil with a hose so the plant slides out easily. Do this in early spring.

Use a sharp knife to cut the rhizomes (horizontal, underground stems) apart. Make sure each rhizome has a fan of leaves with roots attached.

Repot your smaller plants in individual pots in a mix of one part compost, one part sterile potting soil and one-half part sand.

Water immediately, and place the pots in bright indirect light. Keep your Bird of Paradise plants in a warm area; 21 degrees C is ideal.

Move your Bird of Paradise pots into bright direct sunlight after six weeks. These plants will tolerate low light from south-facing windows but grow best in full sun. Use grow lights if necessary.

General care

Put your Bird of Paradise outside in the summer, and bring it in when temperatures drop below 12 degrees C. Grow it in a conservatory or greenhouse in very cold zones.

Mist daily, or provide a tray filled with pebbles and water under your Bird of Paradise pot to raise the humidity. Ideal humidity for these plants is 60 per cent. Provide good ventilation if growing in a conservatory.

Water sparingly during the winter and more frequently during the growing season. Thoroughly wet the soil, and let it dry before watering again.

Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertiliser beginning at the start of the spring growing season and continuing through September. Plants may be fed every two weeks. Do not fertilise during the fall or winter.

Repot every two years unless your plant shows distress or slows flower production. Do not allow your plant too much space, or it will produce foliage and few flowers. Bird of Paradise prefers to be slightly pot-bound.

Remove dead leaves to prevent rotting, since Bird of Paradise plants do not drop dead stems and leaves naturally.

Check periodically for pests like whitefly and red spider mites. Coat all parts of your Bird of Paradise plant with a soap spray to control these pests.

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