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How to grow Strelitzia

How to grow Strelitzia

Ah, the majestic Strelitzia – the crown jewel of South African flora, beloved by locals and admired across the world! While it may not have official national flower status, this beauty reigns supreme as the emblem of the City of Angels otherwise known as Los Angeles. Talk about reaching Hollywood status and with worldwide fans nogal! With its vibrant orange and bright blue inflorescences resembling a bird in flight or a regal feathered crown, the Strelitzia, also known as Ikhamanga flower, crane flower or bird of paradise, is a superstar that goes by many names. 

How to grow and care for Strelitzia 

Now, let's talk about how to cultivate this botanical wonder. There’s an option for every gardener! If you possess monk-like patience you can grow a bird of paradise from seed, otherwise planting out root divisions is suitable for the hands-on gardener. If you simply can’t wait to see them bloom you can opt for more established, nursery bought plants. Whichever route you choose, you're in for a treat. Did you know there is more than one species? From S. reginae to the less common S. alba to the towering S. nicolai, there's also S. juncea and S. caudata, basically there’s a Strelitzia for every garden too. If you are strapped for space you can plant them in pots or let them grow in clumps in garden beds. 

Now, onto the important stuff. Strelitzia is like the Hollywood starlet who looks fabulous without even trying. 

  • Strelitzia thrive in temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius, basking in at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight daily. 
  • Wind, salt, and drought-resistant, Strelitzia is one of the main characters of the South African plant world. 
  • Plant your Strelitzia in rich, well-composted soil in a sun-drenched position if possible so it flowers optimally.
  • Keep your Strelitzia hydrated during dry spells, with a weekly watering.

How to grow Strelitzia from seed

You might be wondering how patient you will have to be if you decide to go with the less traveled option. Here is what you need to know:

  • When you grow a bird of paradise from seed it takes about 3-5 years for the plants to begin flowering. 
  • Remove any orange tufts from the seeds.
  • Soak in lukewarm water for 24 hours.
  • Gently scarify the seed before planting in potting soil. 
  • Ensure soil remains consistently moist. 
  • Germination usually occurs within 2 to 3 months.

How to grow Strelitzia indoors

If you want to grow a Strelitzia indoors, fear not! Caring for them is a breeze. Just give them a spot soaked in direct sunlight, and water them once a week. Beware of overwatering, and what does an overwatered bird of paradise look like you may ask? Well, browning of leaf tips and edges, often accompanied by a yellow line, is typically associated with overwatering. Wilted leaves could be a symptom of root rot, signaling overall poor plant health.

Part of the solution is to ensure they sit pretty in a pot with drainage holes and voilà, you have greenery that screams tropical oasis. It won’t hurt to give these green celebs some star treatment that will in turn keep them shining. If you are happy to fuss over them like a true fan, you can feed them with Universal Plant Food in their growing season. If you are concerned about splitting leaves, make sure your plant doesn’t sit in front of an air vent or draft and that it’s getting sufficient light and water. Increase humidity levels around the plant with regular misting or invest in a humidifier. 

Strelitzia in the garden

Found along the eastern coast of South Africa, this hardy plant boasts fan-shaped foliage that adds interest to any garden, even when it isn’t blooming. Talk about a triple threat: gorgeous foliage, evergreen with uber-striking flowers. This botanical beauty easily earns its place in the all season garden and usually blooms from August to late October. 

There is one catch, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. We know you love your fur babies and are concerned about which plants are pet-friendly. So, are Strelitizia pet-friendly? The answer is no. Birds of paradise contain gastrointestinal irritants that cause an upset stomach in cats and dogs, so best to take precautions if you want their exotic beauty in your home and garden. 

These natural wonders do have a thriving social life going for them! Bees buzz around their flowers, sunbirds flock to them like paparazzi, and generally people can't help but admire their beauty. In fact, they're so iconic that they even have awards named after them, like the prestigious Order of Ikhamanga, honouring achievements in arts, culture, music, journalism and sports fields. You might be wondering where the name came from? Well, it's a royal affair! Named in honour of Queen Charlotte, with "reginae" meaning "of the queen," these plants are fit for royalty indeed.

There you have it – the Strelitzia, a true South African treasure, shining bright on the global stage. Whether you're a green-thumbed guru or a novice gardener, these beauties are sure to make a statement in your garden and home. 

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