It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s a Bird of Paradise Bud!

The coolest thing about plants is how they can surprise you. This week I was surprised by a bird of paradise plant that’s overwintering in an upstairs window.

Bird of Paradise Flower (By William Warby (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/8190627451/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Bird of Paradise Flower
(By William Warby (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/8190627451/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

I tried growing a bird of paradise a few years ago, but it was a disaster. The plant I had gotten was labeled as a white bird of paradise. The plant grew well, but it was huge! The leaves were well over 1 and 1/2 feet long and they were supported by petioles that were over 4 feet tall. The plant looked great, but it was just too big to overwinter in the house.

Come to find out, there are (at least) two different kinds of bird of paradise plants. The white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) produces large white flowers and can grow to over 30 feet tall. No wonder the plant I was growing was too big for my limited space.

The more traditional bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) has orange, blue and yellow flowers and grows 3-5 feet tall. That’s a size that, while on the tall side, I can manage!

Last year I started growing one of these more manageable sized birds of paradise. After bringing it home, I transplanted it into a large pot and put it on a covered porch with a southern exposure. While it didn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, it was in very bright location. The plant grew well, and in the fall, I moved it into an upstairs bedroom with a southern exposure.

All I was looking to do was keep the plant alive until the spring. Everything I’d read said that it can take at least 3-4 years for a bird of paradise to blossom.

bird_edited-1That’s why I was shocked when I saw an inflorescence on this plant. As clear as day there was a 2 foot tall stalk with a spathe (a beak-like structure that protects the flowers) on top. Why I hadn’t noticed this before I don’t know; I probably didn’t see it because I didn’t expect to see it.

The fact that this bird of paradise is going to blossom lets me know that the plant I purchased at a garden center was at least a couple of years old. I also now know that the summer growing location of this plant was a good one for it.

It also shows that you never know when a plant will surprise you!

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