Sunday, March 2, 2014

Strelitzia reginae

There are some plants so exotic that flowering is always an occasion for a little celebration.  So it is with Strelitzia reginae, the South African native bird of paradise plant.  My indoor specimen has flowered in the kitchen, benefiting from the low angled sun streaming through the window to keep it healthy over the winter.

Flowering is a fascinating process.  I saw the flower stems begin slowly to emerge just before Christmas.  Lengthening seemed to take forever but, finally, a week or so ago the tip bent over as the terminal bract developed, fattened, and, a few days later the first flower emerged.  This bit is fast (in plant terms).  It's almost like they are spring loaded, bouncing out and snapping into perfect form in quick time.
Strelitzia reginae - first flower emerged
Five days later the second flower emerged.  My kitchen has a curious lack of sunbird pollinators so the first flower - orange back petals and two fused blue-purple petals that sheath the stamen - has remained in good condition as the second has emerged.  The effect is like the feathered crown of a crane.

Strelitzia reginae - second flower emerged
With about six flowers per bract the spike should last about 3-4 weeks.  There are two more spikes to follow so I should have flower well into April.

Out of flower the leaves - as befits a member of the same family as bananas and heliconias - are attractive, forming clumps of broad paddles.  You can see part of one in the third, portrait picture below.

Strelitzia reginae - second flower emerged and showing top of leaves
They are just about hardy in the very mildest parts of South West England.  I've got another one outside, in a large pot, hard under the south facing house wall, and protected by fleece on frosty nights.  It really needs a cool greenhouse - but mine is no longer, smashed by gales a couple of years back and not replaced.  It hasn't flowered outside - but then I did overpot it, never a good idea with plants that prefer to be root bound to flower well.

I'd like to say that I grew my indoor plant from seed and nurtured it through the long years it takes to reach flowering maturity.  The truth is I was given the plant last September by a work colleague of Maria's.  A gift for which I'm very grateful.


  1. Oh, it’s lovely!
    I have wanted a Strelitzia for years, but my living room is so dark – east facing, and I have a huge radiator along the only window I have there, not a suitable place for house plants. In my kitchen I have one small windowsill, and it is crammed full with my orchids. Not sure where I would keep a Strelitzia – they get quite big after a few years I think. Perhaps I’ll invest in a grow light, then I could keep it anywhere…seeing yours, I really want one :-)

  2. I've got one outside, protected by fleece through two winters now. It hasn't flowered yet, despite being bigger than the indoor one, and the leaves are a bit wind battered, but it's doing well enough in it's pot. With London's micro climate you might get away with trying one outside in a sheltered spot.

    1. Good to hear about your outdoor Strelitzia, I got so inspired by your post that I actually ordered one last week, it will be delivered end of the month!
      I intend to keep it outside along with my palm and oleander, hopefully it will be OK, although for the few days during the winter we might have frost I could always take it inside. Mind you, still no frost in my garden this winter – I hope end of March isn’t going to throw some silly things at us like snow, the latest I have had snow here is 8th April some years ago, ruined all my camellia flowers. Fingers crossed this will be a frost-free winter, both my camellia and my magnolia are flowering right now :-)