Strelitzia reginae is a monocotyledonous flowering plant indigenous to South Africa. Common names include strelitzia, crane flower or bird of paradise. Its scientific name commemorates the British queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The species has beent naturalized in Mexico, Belize, Bangladesh, Madeira Islands and Juan Fernández Islands off the coast of Chile.
In pots, it usually grows to around 0.8 - 1.0 m (3') tall, with large, strong leaves. The leaves are evergreen and arranged in two ranks, making a fan-shaped crown. The flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges is termed the spathe. This is placed perpendicular to the stem, which gives it the appearance of a bird's head and beak; it makes a durable perch for holding the sunbirds which pollinate the flowers. The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of three brilliant orange sepals and three purplish-blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When the sunbirds sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to cover their feet in pollen.
Bird of Paradise is very popular as an ornamental plant. It was first introduced at the Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew in 1773. Since then, it has been widely introduced around the world, including the Americas and Australia, growing well in any area that is sunny and warm. In the United States, Florida and California are the main areas of cultivation, due to their warm climate. It is the Official Flower of the City of Los Angeles and it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
You can grow it in a greenhouse, sunroom or bright window where it will be more-or-less dormant (no growth) over the winter. But, give it some water and fertilizer from spring through summer and it will dazzle you with luxurient gowth and the flamboyant flowers that are it's hallmark.
We have six nice plants remaining.