One of the most curious genera of plants is the Strelitzia, better known as the Bird of Paradise. Strelitzia reginae is a species of evergreen tropical herbaceous plant native to South Africa.
There are a few plants in the genus and several cultivars that all share the same peculiar flowers.
These flowers are boat-shaped with a design that makes them look like birds in flight.
These plants aren’t as common in homes and gardens as many other exotic plants, but having one is sure to start conversations.
However, new growers’ significant concern is how fast these plants grow, as they can get quite large.
To grow Bird of Paradise plants from seed, you will need a lot of patience because it can take 2 to 3 months for the seeds to germinate and several years (perhaps as long as 5 or 6 years) for the plant to bloom.
An entirely different genus, Caesalpinia, includes a number of broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs that also carry the common name “bird of paradise.”
The answer is a little complicated, making it difficult to find a reliable answer online.
How Fast Does Bird Of Paradise Grow?
In ideal conditions, bird of paradise plants will grow 1′ to 2′ feet per year, depending on the species or cultivar.
Many factors affect growth, so it’s entirely possible to have a plant that grows at half this rate.
The Complexities Of Growth
Growth depends on a wide range of natural and artificial factors.
For example, indoor plants will have a much smaller maximum height because it’s almost impossible to provide the same environmental qualities as an outdoor setting.
Furthermore, containers limit how large a plant’s root system can grow, which affects the maximum size of the plant. With proper care, a bird of paradise plant can live for decades, and giant bird of paradise plants (S. nicolai) have been reported to live as long as 50 to 150 years.
Just pay attention to how the plant responds. If it is getting too much or too little moisture, the leaves will begin to yellow and die.
These factors affect these plants’ maximum size and growth rate:
- Soil quality
- Humidity levels
Another factor to consider is that a strelitzia plant can grow rapidly but will still take around 5 years to reach sexual maturity, no matter how large it gets.
Maximum Indoor And Outdoor Heights
Depending on the species or cultivar, an indoor bird of paradise will grow, ranging between 5′ and 10′ feet tall.
However, the latter is relatively rare and limited to the largest species, Strelitzia nicolai.
Compare this to outdoor specimens, which reach an impressive 30 feet tall and have 18″ inches-long leaves. They open on tall stems from early summer until late spring.
Tips For Optimizing Bird Of Paradise Growth Rates
Strelitzias can grow as much as 1′ to 2′ feet per year, but only under optimal conditions.
The following are some of the factors that affect this growth rate.
Please note that individual species and cultivars can have slightly different care requirements, so be sure to adjust these tips as needed for your particular plant.
The substrate has a major impact on strelitzia’s growth rate and overall health.
Indoors and out, the bird of paradise prefers loamy, well-draining soil.
This means your potting mix or garden space should have plenty of organic material mixed in and an aggregate, such as:
- Coarse sand
When preparing outdoor soil to plant loam lovers, a good general goal is to mix an equal amount of:
- Organic material (organic compost or moss)
Unlike potted plants, nature will replenish some organic content through decomposing plant and insect matter.
It’s also a good idea to top the soil with mulch, as this can help prevent the moist soil from drying out due to external factors such as heat or direct sunlight.
This will benefit both indoor and outdoor plants, and some forms of mulch will even decompose, further enriching the soil over time.
Finally, note that strelitzias are heavy feeders, and potted specimens will need a dose of balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer weekly throughout the growing season.
Repot the plant every 2 years or when it shows signs of root binding (such as roots poking out of the top of the soil or the drainage holes).
Use this time to replace the potting mix, as the old soil will likely be drained of nutrients and full of toxins.
Temperature And Lighting
These tropical plants hate cold and can take longer to recover from cold-related damage.
As a result, you should always keep the temperature over 60° degrees Fahrenheit (they’ll survive brief periods down to about 24° degrees Fahrenheit but may be stunted as a result).
Likewise, temperatures over 90° degrees Fahrenheit can stress the plant, causing slower growth and possibly interfering with its ability to flower.
Bird-of-paradise are hardy, drought-tolerant plants that are easy to grow, especially in warm climates, and they are used extensively as ornamental landscape plants.
Outdoors, Bird of Paradise grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12 but can also survive in some parts of Zone 9b. The Bird of Paradise can handle direct and bright indirect light.
In these zones, you will need a spot that gets full sun but is not so hot that the plant could scorch. When planting a container-grown bird of paradise plant outdoors, you can put it in the ground in the spring or early summer.
In other warmer zones (such as some areas of central Florida, southern Louisiana, southern Texas, and parts of the western coast of California), it may still be possible to grow bird of paradise plants outdoors, but their growth may be stunted and developing flowers may be damaged by cooler temperatures.
Note that the plant prefers high humidity, so while it can handle 40% percent, you will want to aim for 60% to 80% percent if you want the best growth rate.
Lighting can be a bit complicated for these plants.
They definitely need direct sunlight, but the midday sun is often too harsh and will scorch younger leaves.
Indoors, the best position is directly in front of a sunny east or west-facing window where it’ll get midday shade.
Outdoors, aim for a spot where it can get direct sunlight but has some shelter in the afternoon, such as beside a taller tree or near your home to the northeast or northwest, so the house will provide partial shade.
Finally, the amount of water plays a huge role in the growth rates of this plant.
Using the soak-and-dry method, a younger plant will need to be watered when the soil is dry 1″ to 2” inches down.
Mature plants won’t need to be watered until the soil is dry about 3” inches down, and they’re somewhat drought tolerant.
Too much water will lead to root rot and contribute to fungal infections in the higher humidity these plants prefer.
Good drainage will be essential, as waterlogged or otherwise poor garden beds often cause yellowing or complete loss of plants. Avoid overwatering, which can cause several root rots.
Meanwhile, underwatering can cause the plant to wilt and possibly lose leaves, stunting the plant’s growth and recovering some time to recover its foliage.
Bonus Tip: Pruning Helps
The leaves of strelitzia plants are pretty delicate and can be torn by strong breezes or even brushing up against them.
Common organic mulch materials include leaves, pine needles, bark, and wood chips. Inorganic materials like gravel and crushed stone are also suitable.
You should also remove dead leaves and old flower stalks to reduce the risk of fungal organisms. Pruning away these damaged leaves can free up resources for growth elsewhere on the landscape plant and improve the overall appearance.
To transplant a Bird of paradise flower, its entire root ball should be removed from its pot. Each planting hole should be approximately twice as wide as the plant’s root mass.
Don’t overdo it, and always cut at a 45-degree angle using sharp, sterile shears to prevent damaging the plant.
Growing bird of paradise plants from seed can take three to 10 years, but propagating them by division produces new plants much more quickly.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Bird of paradise pests like mealybugs, scale, aphids, and spider mites can sometimes pose a problem. Use a horticultural oil spray or systemic insecticide.
Wipe or hose off the leaves to remove dust. The most common white bird of paradise disease is fungus-based.
The Bird of Paradise is an easy-going plant and is generally pest-free but can be prone to spider mites.
Treat pests as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of a natural pesticide like neem oil and regular wipe-downs of the plant.