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The largest of the three species of Strelitzia from South Africa, the White Bird of Paradise will form a cl;ump of several tall and slender trunks with distichous crowns of large, leathery banana-like leaves, and carries large clusters of blue and white, birdlike flowers (hence the common name). S. nicolai will grow happily in all temperate and tropical areas that experience only light frosts. Borne on the same stalk, the flower is a spectacular blossom. Modified leaves, at the end of the stalk, form canoe-like structures, four to eight inches long, from which flowers emerge. As they open, pointed petals of brilliant orange are contrasted with an arrow shaped tongue of vivid blue. Beginning in late winter or early spring, the flowers will open in succession. There are normally one to three flowers on each stalk.
Bird of Paradise prefers full sun but will tolerate lower light levels, such as that received from a south facing window. They prefer 65 to 70? F during the day and 50 to 55? F at night. They prefer moderate relative humidity, around 60 percent, which may require daily misting during the dry winter months. If placed outside in the summer, bring them indoors when temperatures begin to drop below 60? F.
Bird of Paradise should be watered and fertilized according to growing conditions. When watering, thoroughly wet the potting mix, then allow it to dry slightly before watering again. Watering will be less frequent during the colder months when light levels are reduced.
Hardiness zone 9-11
From seed, plants given ideal conditions will flower within 3 years. To get a mature flowering plant from seed takes about three to five years. For best results sow fresh seed in spring. Before sowing, remove the bright orange tuft of hairs attached to the seed (aril of each seed) and soak in a aqueous solution of ethrel at a concentration of 2000 ppm active constituent, for 48 hours. In practical terms this entails making up 6ml ethrel (39.5% active ingredient) to a litre of water. Sow in seedtrays filled with a well-drained soil medium at a depth of 1,5 times the size of the seed. A constant temperature of 25 C is most suitable for germination as low temperatures retard germination. Germination takes four to eight weeks. Seedlings should be a good size before transplanted (two to three leaves) into a well drained medium. Young strelitzia plants must be grown in shade, for the leaves tend to burn in direct sunlight. Regular repotting allows the young plant to develop rapidly. Restricting the root development retards growth.