When it comes to home décor, there is no doubt that green is an amazing colour. Aside from its natural vibrancy, green is supremely versatile and it has a calming effect.
And what better way to bring green into your space than with plants? This year, you may want to go bold with the giant Bird of Paradise. This ornamental plant is not only eye-catching but also brings a taste of the tropics to your indoor or outdoor settings.
In certain places, the plant which resembles a bird’s beak is called the wild banana yet in others it is called crane flower.
“The plant's foliage is so dramatic, such that even when it is not blooming, its large, green, textural leaves make a statement,” says Stanley Ndung’u of Brooklyn Plant Centre situated along Nairobi's Ngong Road.
Scientifically, the plant is known as Strelitzia reginae and is indigenous to South Africa. The epithet reginae means ‘of the queen’ and commemorates the British queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of George III.
This is because Sir Joseph Banks, who ran Kew Gardens at the time, introduced the plant to England in 1773. Queen Charlotte lived at Kew Gardens for several years. The Bird of Paradise’s leaves are evergreen and arranged in two ranks, making a fan-shaped crown while its showy flowers come in orange, white and blue.
The interesting bit is that these flowers that resemble an exotic bird’s beak can last up to two weeks on or off the plant.
“Owing to its banana-shaped leaves, the plant is favoured for gardening and makes an excellent accent in the landscape,” he says.
Mr Ndung’u notes the plant with its bold textural leaves can act as an amazing focal point adding elegance to a rather plain room when it is grown in a pot or in ornamental containers. The plant is a perfect for filling empty corners.
In addition to its ornamental role in a room, the plant has health benefits which includes removing airborne toxins essentially improving indoor air quality.
In the outdoor setting, it can be grown at the edges of the pool to add the tropical feel that is reminiscent with the palm tree.
This low-maintenance plant is an ideal choice if you live in a city with limited outdoor space and struggle bring greenery into your life.
You can grow the giant Bird of Paradise in containers and transform your small patio or balcony garden into a green oasis. Whether you opt to grow the plant indoors or outdoors, remember there are some basics that need to be taken to account for successful outcomes.
Basically, consider sunlight, soil, manure and watering.
The plant can grow well in full sun or partial sun so if you opt to have it outside, select a sunny site and if you opt to have it in an indoor container keep it near a sunny window.
As regards soil requirements, the plant can tolerate clay, loam, acidic, or slightly-alkaline soil.
Of essence though is that the soil selected is well-drained since the plant does dismally in extremely wet soil. Enrich the planting soil by adding perlite to it.
Water the plant regularly but be careful not to overdo it since the plant can suffer loss of oxygen which leads to death of the roots.
Be vigilant and watch out for stunted slow growth with yellowing leaves as these are symptoms of over-watering plants.
The Giant White Bird of Paradise is hardly associated with pests but if the pesky creatures show up, wash the leaves clean.
Prune the plant often to rid it of dead leaves to help maintain its elegance. An additional benefit to pruning is that it will help thin out the surplus growth sprouting at the base of the trunk.
Propagation of the plant is mostly through division of suckers but it can also be done through the root ball or by germinating the seed in a damp paper towel.
For fuller growth, opt to plant multiple Bird of Paradise. When planted indoors in containers, it can grow to 14 inches while outdoors it can reach an impressive height of seven feet.