Keep bird of paradise (Strelitizia reginae) and white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) looking trim and tidy with regular pruning. Regularly tidying up the dead flowers and leaf debris also helps keep fungal diseases from getting established. Bird of paradise grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, while white bird of paradise is hardy in USDA zones 9b through 11.
Similarities and Differences
Bird of paradise and white bird of paradise are similar, but they have a few differences, the most notable of which is size. Bird of paradise grows in compact clumps 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. White bird of paradise grows 20 to 30 feet tall with a 6- to 10-foot spread. Both species grow in clumps with the stalks emerging directly from the ground. The rhizome roots form a mass under the soil. New shoots grow from the rhizomes. Both species are frost tender.
Bird of paradise flowers make exceptional additions to cut arrangements. Not only are they dramatic and striking, they last as long as two weeks before fading in a vase.
Pruning Step by Step
Basic pruning and trimming requirements are the same for both types of bird of paradise.
Things You'll Need
Trim dead leaf stalks where they attach to the main stalk or trunk.
Trim off dead flowers. To remove the flower, cut it at the base of the flower stalk. Each stalk produces one flower and will not bloom again.
Cut broken leaf stalks and flower stalks at the soil level. Once broken, the stalks won't recover.
Sanitation keeps diseases from spreading in the garden. After trimming or pruning either bird of paradise species, and before moving onto other plants, clean your pruning tools by soaking them for 5 minutes in a 3 to 1 water to bleach solution. Rinse the blades in clean water and allow them to air dry.
Thinning White Bird of Paradise
White bird of paradise forms giant clumps. If it gets more dense then you like, you can cut out select stalks any time of year at the soil line using a pair of disinfected, hand-held pruning shears. For thick stalks, a small tree saw works well.
While cutting back dense bird of paradise plants can pose a temporary fix for an out of control plant, it can actually stimulate growth over time. In place of cutting back, dividing the roots helps keep it in check. Divide bird of paradise in early spring before new growth starts. Start by digging up the root mass and cutting it into sections -- each section should have one stalk, or fan of leaves attached -- then replant.
If an unseasonable frost catches your bird of paradise or white bird of paradise out in the cold, cut the damaged leaves and foliage at the soil surface in the spring once no further frost is expected. New growth will shoot up as weather warms provided the roots haven't been damaged.