It’s a bird!… It’s a plane!… It’s… a bird-shaped flower! Yes, you heard right. Not only does it resemble the silhouette of a flying bird, but its petals are also colourful and vibrant like feathers. Read on to discover the wonders of this tropical bloom: origins, symbolisms, different types of Birds of Paradise, and more!
The Crane Flower’s First Flight
Bird of Paradise flowers originate from South Africa, where they are otherwise known as the ‘Crane Flower’. Since 1773, Birds of Paradise have been grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Their scientific name, Strelitzia reginae, was given by Sir Joseph Banks (director of the royal gardens) to commemorate Queen Charlotte, who was Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Known for having round palm-like leaves, these flowers were named ‘Bird of Paradise’ for their bright-coloured petals that mirror the shape of a colourful, exotic bird. They can be found growing in places that have an abundance of sunshine and warmth – including the Americas and Australia.
Bird of Paradise flowers take approximately ten years to mature and blossom. Whether or not you’re required to wait a long time till they’re all in bloom depends on how old they were when you first got them. Although it takes a while before you can experience your Crane flowers’ beauty in all their glory, you can look forward to seeing around 36 spiked flowers per year.
With the ideal conditions, these plants can even bloom beyond the growing season. Patience is a virtue!
What does a Bird of Paradise Flower mean?
A phenomenal flower such as the Bird of Paradise is certain to signify many different things. As its name suggests, the flower symbolises paradise, freedom, joy, success and having a good outlook on life. How beautiful — both on the inside, and the out.
In Hawaii, these blooms are called “Little Globe” and convey magnificence — playing a major role in Hawaiian culture. Similarly, due to its association to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III, it also stands for royalty and its ruling lineage.
Bird of Paradise Varieties
A misconception that people usually have of Birds of Paradise is that there’s only one type of flower. Well, we’re here to tell you that this is false! Here are five common Bird of Paradise flower types under the Strelitzia family:
Strelitzia Reginae (The Crane Flower)
Ah, the most commonly known Bird of Paradise. Isn’t she lovely? This variant boasts a signature colour combination of blue, green and bright orange. Resembling the head of a crowned bird, they’re also known as Crane Flowers in their country of origin, South Africa. A mature plant will grow approximately five to six feet tall and can bloom on and off all year long. Get a load of this stunner!
Strelitzia Nicolai (The Giant White Bird of Paradise)
Known as the Giant White Bird of Paradise, this flower consists of a white or slightly pink crown with blue petals emerging from an amethyst-black bract (a modified, leaflike structure usually found beneath a flower). They can also grow up to 20-30 feet in height because of their immense collection of stems! Due to the manner of sprouting, they have a unique double-decked appearance as one flower spathe (a single bract) sprouts out from another.
Strelitzia Juncea (Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise)
Being the toughest of the lot, Strelitzia Juncea (also known as the Narrow-leaved Bird of Paradise) is the most drought-resistant variant. Comprising slim, reed-like leaves, they mature in thick clumps and make for a charming add-on to your other indoor plants. Despite being so strong, their survival as a whole is endangered by industrial development, illegal collection of horticultural trade and the declining number of their bird pollinators.
Strelitzia Alba (White-flowered Wild Banana)
Taller than its siblings, the Strelitzia Alba can grow up to 30 feet or more in optimal conditions! Sporting only white petals and banana-like leaves, this plant is also referred to as the White-flowered Wild Banana. In terms of cultivation, it’s a hard nut to crack in areas other than its native country South Africa.
Strelitzia Caudata (Mountain Wild Banana)
Growing wild in the mountains of South Africa (hence the given name, Mountain Wild Banana), this banana-like variant is the rarest one of them all. They’re multi-stemmed and branchless, bearing close resemblance to the Strelitzia Nicolai and Strelitzia Alba. To tell these siblings apart, the plant has one bract for each inflorescence (unlike the Strelitzia Nicolai) and light blue petals (unlike the Strelitzia Alba). It naturally grows up to 20 feet but can stay much smaller if grown in a tub – making this the perfect indoor plant in mild climates.
Bird of Paradise Fun Facts
- In need of each other’s support, Birds of Paradise grow best when planted in pairs.
- Despite their hardiness and ability to withstand some cold, they are susceptible to freeze damage.
- Did you know that Bird of Paradise plants grown in full sun produce smaller flowers in comparison to the ones placed in partially lit spots?
- This tropical wonder has come to be the official flower of Los Angeles, California, where a majority of them are grown there.
- The Bird of Paradise and banana plants belong to the same flower family, Zingiberales!
- Evoking a sense of faithfulness, Bird of Paradise flowers are often gifted to wedded couples for their 9th anniversary.
Birdie Care 101
If properly cared for under the right conditions, this hardy bunch can last up to 2 weeks once cut! Here are some tips to keep your Birds of Paradise as chirpy as possible!
- As tropical plants, they flourish anywhere with ample sunshine and can even stay in full sun for an extended period of time. Although they can withstand some shade, Birds of Paradise flowers won’t do well long-term without sunlight.
- On the other hand, Birds of Paradise that are cut and used for flower arrangements require a different kind of care and should be placed away from direct sunlight, and ideally in a room above 10 degrees Celsius.
- These guys are heavy, so do bind them together in case they topple over. This prevents any damage to the other flowers in the floral arrangement.
Looking for a detailed guide on cut flower care? Look no further!
Thank You for Flying with Us!
Now that we’ve “flown over” these tropical beauties’ backstory, symbolisms, varieties and flower care tips, will they be in your next bunch? We can’t wait to find out!
Like what you’re reading? Check out our Flower Dictionary for more flower fun facts!