A California Darling
Bird-of-paradise is the official flower of Los Angeles, California.
The bird-of-paradise Latin name Strelitzia reginae was chosen in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England, who was Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in Germany.
Bird-of-paradise belong to the same taxonomic group as ginger and banana plants.
Prolific in Paradise
A healthy, mature bird-of-paradise can produce up to 36 flower spikes a year. In the right conditions, it can bloom year round.
Very different species of plants can sometimes share the same common name, and nowhere is this more true than with the flowering plants known as bird of paradise. Species from two entirely different plant genera share this common name, and that’s just about the only thing similar about them. One type of bird of paradise plant is a low-growing jungle plant with unique exotic flowers, a relative of the banana plant, while the other type is a member of the pea family, a thorny shrub or tree that loves desert environments.
If you know the bird of paradise mainly as a florist’s flower, you’re probably thinking of the Strelitzia genus. These plants, indigenous to warm, humid areas of South Africa, can be grown as outdoor perennials in USDA cold hardiness zones 9–11 or as houseplants elsewhere.
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 shape of these plants and the appearance of their flowers is starkly different than Strelitzia species. They’e generally desert dwellers.
The bird-of-paradise flower grows from rhizomes (underground stems) to a height of 1 to 1.5 metres (about 3 to 5 feet). It has stiff, erect, leathery, concave, and oblong leaves borne on a long petiole (leafstalk). The leaves are bluish green in colour and may have a red midrib. The orange and blue flower has two erect pointed petals and five stamens. One main flower bract, shaped like a boat, is green with red borders. The fruits are capsules with numerous seeds.