A-Z Gardening in Zone 3-4

For the organic gardner struggling in the short season climate

The Bird of Paradise House Plant

recovered34.jpgThe empress of house plants

This bird of paradise plant resides in my friend Linda’s dinning room. It’s a division from my bird of paradise plant, affectionately called, “the bird”. A year ago last fall, I decided to divide it when it grew much too big for it’s pot. I wasn’t sure if I could divide it or not, however, since I had previously cut back the fleshy root on numerous occasions in order to give it a little more room in it’s pot, I felt it would survive the surgery.

I used a very large butcher knife, I’m sure a pruning saw would also do a good job, to cut it in half. It wasn’t easy because the plant is basically a group of plants that grow very close together and it has a very dense fleshy root. I made three divisions, because while I was potting them up, two plants fell off of one of the divisions. I gave that plant to one of Linda’s friends. I potted the two largest birds in a 14″ diameter by 12″ high pot. I use potting soil that had fertilizer in it mixed with some of my garden soil.

Linda’s bird sent up a flower spike at Thanksgiving and it started blooming at Christmas. Right now the flower spike has three blossoms on it and there are more to come. Since then her bird has sent up 2 more flower spikes in January, one bloomed on Easter Sunday, March 23 this year, the other one never blossomed it just turned brown and dried up.  My bird usually sends up a flower spike in March, probably because it lives on my front porch. The porch has an east, south exposure and it is heated by keeping the door to the laundry room open at all times. Even in -30 degrees it never gets any colder than 50 degrees at night and on a day with full sun will easily get to 70 degrees in winter. The difference between Linda’s more constant and even temperature and the wide swing and cooler temperature of my porch probably explains the difference in bloom time. Some seed catalogs say that the bird will flower when it gets 9 leaves. What they don’t tell you is that it never gets 9 leaves until it is at least 10 years old. The older leaves just dry up and turn brown.

In late June I put the bird outside to enjoy the summer sun and rain. I bring it back in when frost threatens.

This house plant is not for those who want fast results. I started my plant approximately 35 years ago and it has had four blooming periods, sending out flower spikes for a number of years in a row; followed by long stretches of not blooming.

Thompsom and Morgan seed catalog, offers bird of paradise seeds in both the black blossomed standard variety that can grow to 15′ and the orange, deep blue blossomed plant in a dwarf that will grow to 24-36″. They claim the dwarf will bloom faster.

Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co., has plants of the orange, deep blue standard variety only. I probably bought my bird from Gurney’s. When I received it in the mail it was about 3″ high and had 3 or 4 leaves. The growing directions at that time were that the plant liked to be dry between watering, and that is how I have always treated it. Now Gurney’s says that the plant likes moist soil and indirect light. My bird is thriving on tender loving neglect.

For those of you who like to keep tropical plants as house plants, Logee’s Tropical Plants has a catalog with a very nice selection including the lobster plant, a relative of the bird of paradise.

12 thoughts on “The Bird of Paradise House Plant

  1. The most beautiful BOP i ever saw was on gate 5 road SAUSALITO. my friend and i cut a flower and i got many hard black seeds with orange/ red hair. now i cant find where i hid them.

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  2. Do you wait until the blossom dies to cut it or just cut when it is full bloom?

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  3. Wow! 35 years! My strelitzia is only 23 years old. My BOP has only bloomed twice the last time 8 years ago. I too have followed the organic approach. Sun, soil and water but 8 years without flowering? I had to do something. I once read an article where the BOP is referred to as a “gross feeder” and a “nutrient hog” so I figured too little nutrient intake was the problem. The last time it was transplanted was 1997 into a 4 gallon floor container. My BOP is now very heavy and it would take a chainsaw to get it out of it’s container now. I started feeding it with a liquid plant food and I now have a spike. Forget the organic approach. You want frequent flowering than I guess you have to feed it.

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    • Morgram, organic feeding only means that the nutrients are coming from a natural source and are not chemically engeneered. I feed my house plants kelp and sometimes fish fertilizer, but the fish fertilizer only if I am able to air out that place for a few hours 😉 I top the plants with home made compost once a year. My 12 year old corn plant blooms almost every year and my parlor maple is in constant bloom and needs to be cut back ever so often, because it grows so much. Last time I re-potted that one I found an earthworm living in it. It must have been in the compost and survived in the pot for over a year, constantly turning the soil and feeding the plant!

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  4. I have had my BOP for 13-15 years and re potted 2 X in that time. My daughter-in-law wants a “start” from it and I didn’t know it could be cut and seperated. Mine has never bloomed. I just learned a few weeks ago that “Birds of Paradise” can bloom. Some articles I have read are pretty much what is on this site. This site, I think has more information that is helpful to me. It grows to 7leaves and I always lose a leaf. What can I do to keep it and either give my daught-in-law a start? I may just buy her one. I don’t know what do. I’m afraid to cut into it, Iv’e had it so many years and I don’t want to lose it. It also made the move from Utah to Oregon (Southern). 10 years Memorial Day weekend. I love house plants. Any and all advice will be appreciated. Thank you for your help.

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  5. I have a beautiful, healthy looking BOP that I have had for three years. It has gown quite large from it’s purchase size, and I have re-potted it once. I keep hoping for a bloom, but so far nothing. I would like to move it outside for the summer, but it is so heavy, and we have a problem with very large grasshoppers (Lubbers they are called here.) that will get into the soil of potted plants, lay their eggs, and then the eggs hatch out (early) in the warmth of the house after I bring the plant inside. I learned this the hard way with a Norfolk Pine that I had on my bedroom deck on the second floor for the summer. My husband discovered the hatch-lings one night and thought we were being invaded by these ugly small black creatures that were all over the master bathroom where I had put the plant by my garden tub. I have not counted the leaves on my plant, but I am sure there are nine. I cut the older leaves from around the bottom of the plant when they start to look a little scruffy. My BOP is at a full window that gets the afternoon sun. We keep our AC setting at 78 degrees during the day while we are at work and I mist the plant heavily in he morning before I leave and in the evening when I come home. I use fertilizer at appropriate intervals and I try to keep the soil semi-moist . Can I hope for a bloom eventually?

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    • I started my BOP from seeds in 1987. It took five months for them to sprout. Out of five seeds only one sprout made it to a mature plant. It has bloomed four times and has been divided once. Right now I still have two plants outside but will bring them in today. When they are outside I feed them heavily with 10-10-10. One has lots of green leaves and the other not so much. I hosed the down three days ago and placed a couple of moth balls on the rim of the pot to kill bugs. I’m hoping for a flower or two this year and I will provide a little more light this year.

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  6. Thank you Jerry. I think I may not be feeding enough. I live in Zone 9, Northeast Florida and I am going to find a good spot outside next spring and plant my “Bird” out there. I will probably divide then too and repot a smaller start for inside the house. My “Bird” is still very healthy.

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  7. I have a BOP that has sent up a bloom spike. I had moved it a couple of months ago to make room for our Christmas tree and now that the spike is up I am not sure if I should move it back into the window or leave it where it is? Also is now a good time to fertilize it? If so what type of fertilizer should I use?

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  8. Ann, anonymous is me. I had trouble with this new way to reply.

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