Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a South African relative of the banana plant. Its flowers are up to 8 inches long with orange petals and blue sepals reminiscent of a tropical bird's beak and plummage. The plants grow up to 5 feet tall with paddle-shaped leaves up to 18 inches long. They can tolerate temperatures down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods, but rarely flower in colder areas. Birds of paradise can be grown in containers and moved indoors over the winter.
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Plant birds of paradise in the shade if you want large flowers. Plants grown in the shade or in partial sunshine produce larger flowers with longer stems. Shade-grown birds of paradise also have darker green leaves that are longer than if grown in full sun.
Grow birds of paradise in full sun for more abundant, though smaller flowers on shorter stems. Plants grown in direct sunshine are more vulnerable to drying out and need regular watering. Water as soon as the surface of the soil starts to dry out.
Grow birds of paradise in light shade or a generally shady spot that receives some direct sunshine every day. This combination produces large plants with attractive foliage and abundant, large flowers. Leave at least 6 feet between plants, as the large clumps produce most of their flowers around the edges.
Fertilize bird of paradise plants every month during the spring and summer with a balanced, granular fertilizer. Water when the surface of the soil starts to dry out, aiming to keep it evenly moist. Remove old flower stems and leaves to prevent them from rotting.