One of the most curious genera of plants is the Strelitzia, better known as the Bird of Paradise.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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 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.
Outdoors, Bird of Paradise grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12 but can also survive in some parts of zone 9b.
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 afternoon 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.
Meanwhile, underwatering can cause the plant to wilt and possibly lose leaves, which will stunt the plant’s growth and recover 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.
Pruning away these damaged leaves can free up resources for growth elsewhere on the plant and improve the overall appearance.
Don’t overdo it, and always cut at a 45° degree angle using sharp, sterile shears to prevent damaging the plant.