Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Giant Bird of Paradise, Natal Strelitzia, Wild Strelitzia
Strelitzia nicolai

Family: Strelitziaceae
Genus: Strelitzia (stre-LITZ-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: nicolai (NIK-oh-ly) (Info)

Synonym:Strelitzia nicholai

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

28 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Dark Blue
Dark Purple/Black
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
This plant is suitable for growing indoors

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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There are a total of 64 photos.
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23 positives
7 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive DaveTorquay On Feb 20, 2014, DaveTorquay from Torquay
United Kingdom (Zone 10b) wrote:

A very easy to grow plant in the sub-tropical climate of Torquay. My own specimen was purchased as a tiny seedling some 6 inches tall and now is towering over my bungalow. I wanted to give this species a go after successfully growing Strelitzia reginae for many years and wanting a contrast to the bright orange flowers. Winter frosts are non existant in Torquay and snow was only recorded once in 1745, so it has no trouble growing here. The long hot Torquay summers seem to be to their liking as they grow almost as fast as my Musa's, unrolling a new huge leaf every 7 to 10 days from March to November. The white flowers are produced profusely year round and I have had it self seed too. A very commonly grown plant in Torquay, I see it in gardens all over the bay, not to be confused with Strelitzia alba, of which a solitary specimen grows outside the local swimming baths.

Positive StephaniePhx On Feb 13, 2013, StephaniePhx from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

I've been looking into the strelitzia nicolai, appropos to my Phoenix, AZ garden, for a couple years now. I have a "sub-tropical" theme gated front garden facing almost purely east as there are walls on the north, south, and west side. Since we have such hot summers and perception of the heat is in no small part psychological, I do not allow any red-orange to yellows in this "shade" garden. The deep blue green leaves and surreal white and blue flowers of the white bird of paradise are now the focal points. We've planted them on the south side next to a wall that continues around the west side and protected to approximately 10 feet from high winds. They flank a patio/seating area that is a mix of aggregated block with space left for dichondra to grow between pavers. I have the contributors to DG to thank for what is not only a lovely outdoor space, but a highly practical one, as well. And, the growers at 'Almost Eden' for some of the highest quality of nursery plants I have ever encountered!

Neutral Onegaes On Oct 19, 2011, Onegaes from San Jacinto, CA wrote:

I was told by a nursery that Bird of Paradise cannot stand full sun. My landscaper mistakenly planted Bird of Paradise instead of the Red Bird of Paradise which thrives in full sun. Since it's now fall, the plants should have a whole year to climatize to our intense heat. & full sun all day long in dry weather. They're small & hopefully will adjust to full days of sun.

Positive bkacker On Mar 11, 2011, bkacker from Pompano Beach, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

One bit of information that hasn't been mentioned about this plant is that it is a bird magnet. Spot-breasted oriole, red-bellied woodpecker, palm warbler and others are attracted to the flowers. If you live in an area where you can plant this outside; once it has blossomed you will be amazed at how many birds it attracts.

Positive karlmale On Dec 20, 2010, karlmale from Saint James, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

I adopted a potted strelitzia nicolai from a VCR repair shop many years ago. The owner just happened to be remarking on how he wanted to get rid of it, and I took it home with me, all 10' high, poking through the roof of a Honda Prelude!

Since then, it has performed very well, providing a tropical motif in my cathedral ceilinged, skylighted bedroom on Long Island, NY. It has grown, been divided, and now both large pots need dividing again! Somewhat damaged while outdoors by some summer storms this year, they are leafing anew with vigor, and are again becoming the luxurious plants they aim to be!

When I divided them, I was surprised by the size and weight of the roots - they were a challenge, indeed!

The sight of these plants was fairly rare in the mid-'80's when I first got them, but they seem to be ubiquitous in lots of magazines, in gardens, and in pots.

They really require very little attention or care, and I love having them!

Positive pjalaff On Jun 8, 2010, pjalaff from Zephyrhills, FL wrote:

I have a 10 year old Giant White Bird, very large and very beautiful. I've been caring for her about 8 years myself. I gues the term 'clumping' means :where new branch/trunk/arm develops at the bottom. If so then I understand.

Question: last winter was very cold in Tampa, FL and several of the arms/trunks didn't make it. Can/Should those be cut down or pruned to let the rest of the tree to grow. Will that cause it damage? Should I just leave them? I also have a very tall arm (about 10 meters) pushing against the pool cage. is there anything I can do? I can remove / prune that arm too?


Neutral krusty412 On Jun 5, 2009, krusty412 from Encinitas, CA wrote:

I'm in coastal San Diego. Love the tropical effect but these guys can become a huge mess with maturity. I inherited about 25 plants over 6 feet tall at the home I recently purchased. I have 5 plants that are 20+ feet tall and impossible for me to trim on my own, they are not attractive with brown leaves and year old blooms still attached. They create such a huge clumping mess that they will knock down fences and decks if unchecked. The blooms are a huge mess on their own as they will drip large amounts of sap during bloom and hang on the tree for a long time after death.
My recommendation: don't plant too many and don't get them too close to fences or deck. Prepare yourself for very regular trimming in maturity. They are beautiful for a tropical look but a little too Home Depot in San Diego where they will grow anywhere.

Neutral Jungleman On May 23, 2009, Jungleman from Pasadena, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Despite the hardiness zone ratings here as well in the Sunset Western Garden Book, you will see many healthy old specimen of this plant in gardens in 9b Pasadena, Calif..

So here's the thing: I think they need to be planted with a lot of care, disturbing the root system as little as possible - or you will have a very witholding plant. I also think that in areas with hot summer sun and low humidity, they need partial to full shade. The leaves of these plants are very nice looking at the nursery - but note the conditions. Are they being sold under shade cloth? Mine were, and I think I did not adequately aclimate them to full sun enough, so they had to shrivel up, while producing a new, more sun tolerant set of leaves.

Judging by the plants I see in the neighborhood, they are relatively trouble free once established, but getting one going in full sun is tough.

Neutral Kaelkitty On Dec 5, 2008, Kaelkitty from Adelaide
Australia (Zone 10a) wrote:

It seems there is some confusion out there about the differences between S. alba and S. nicolai. Here is some information which should help, mostly garnered from the Royal Horticultural Society's Dictionary of Gardening published in 1999. I have reordered it a bit so as to make the differences between the two species easier to see at a glance

S. nicolai -
semi-common in cultivation, trunks to 10m, freely clumping, and regularly flowering each spring once mature.
leaf stem (petiole) to 2m, leaf blade to 80cm wide by 2m long
Floral stalk (inflorescence) shortly branched to allow 3 to 5 40-45cm chestnut-red, pruinose spathes per inflorescence
Calyx white, corolla usually light purple-blue, occasionally white but always boat shaped rather than tongue shaped, in addition the
corolla margins are involute, meeting together at their bases.

S. alba -
rare in cultivation, trunks to 6m, rarely clumping, shy or intermittently flowering in the spring once mature.
leaf stem (petiole) to 1m, leaf blade to 60cm wide by 2m long
Floral stalk (inflorescence) unbranching to produce a single 25-30cm purple-red, glaucous spathe.
Both calyx AND corolla are white with the corolla tongue shaped - and the corolla margins overlap at base of the flowers.

Positive stainglassman On May 17, 2008, stainglassman from Nokomis, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Five years ago I planted 1 Giant Bird of Paradise. Since then I have planted 20 offshoots in my yard, and given dozens away. They are beautiful accents to any garden or landscape. In winter here in Sarasota Florida they can turn to looking as if dead in really cold temps. They always come back in the spring bigger than the year before.

Positive cazieman On Oct 29, 2007, cazieman from Seattle, WA wrote:

i planted my giant bird of paridise in my back yard last year in seallte sept 06, it has been doing good, i had to cover it with a clear plastic bag for last years snow storm in november, but it did great no noticable damage and i got 2 big leafs this summer, its about 4 ft tall now!

Positive Opoetree On Aug 10, 2007, Opoetree from Oak View, CA wrote:

We have this plant growing on the west side of our house. We also have the shorter orange and blue-flowered variety. We enjoy the black and white blooms and the foliage is tantalizingly tropical. We had a VERY hard frost last year and the plants were bitten...but not smitten...they have come back with green power!

Positive Gardenings On Mar 5, 2007, Gardenings from Rochester
United Kingdom wrote:

I have a lovely strelitzia, but I do not know how to prune it. Do I remove the leaf that the flower grows from as well as the flower itself? Anyone out there know ?

Positive harold1 On Dec 6, 2006, harold1 from Weymouth, MA wrote:

I have been growing mine in a pot in the Boston area in its 5th year. I bring it in and out as the seasons dictate. Its stems and leaves now streach up to 12 feet, but as of yet, no flowers. Mabye this Spring.

Negative TerranNavigator On Apr 10, 2006, TerranNavigator from Lilburn, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I am in Atlanta, Georgia and just bought the White Bird of Paradise a week ago. I have watered it and it was doing fine until today. I set it out in the sun for about two hours when I noticed the leaves began to roll up. Has this harmed the plant? Will they return to normal again? What do I need to do? Help!

Positive MzMunchken On Mar 8, 2006, MzMunchken from Crestview, FL (Zone 7b) wrote:

I have had my plant 8 years now, 6 of those years it was in the ground. When I moved I placed it in a very large pot and placed it down in a very swampy area of my yard that received partial shade. This past year, year 7, is the first time it has bloom. Although it is fairly hardy for a tropical, it was pretty much zapped with our temps in the low 20's as the plant was too large to bring in.

Even when not in bloom the large leaves certainly lend a tropical look to the landscape.

Positive desertgrandmas On Mar 6, 2006, desertgrandmas from Palm Desert, CA wrote:

I live in Palm Desert and was told the plant was iffy here(zone13). In 2.5 years it has gone from 6 ft to about 12 ft tall and has it's first flower bud. Yeah!!! It is over 100 degrees all summer long here, so I planted it on a North east wall a few feet from the house. It gets about an hour of sun in the morning and is in the shade the rest of the day. It gets trimmed regularly by the gardeners and watered twice a day on a drip system in the summer. We have a lot of wind here and the leaves do get a bit tattered but I love it. We can see it from our living room window and it is impressive. I will upload a photo of the new bud.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Oct 19, 2005, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

For fast growth fertilize heavily,and abundant water. It DOES make a difference. Also if planted in the cool Bay Area shade, growth comes to a crawl. A sun lover that thrives on reflected heat from south or western facing walls. They make great houseplants-fast growing inside given enough light.

Positive Kelli On May 16, 2005, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Easy to grow here. Plants in pots stay relatively small. Plants in the ground grow quickly. Mine produces seeds but the critters (squirrels?) get them before I do. Strong wind tears up the leaves, but replacements grow in quickly, so it doesn't look shabby for long.

Neutral mvclb3 On Feb 7, 2005, mvclb3 from Sacramento, CA wrote:

I give this plant a "neutral" rating because I've only had it for one year and know little about it. I live in Sacramento, CA (don't know the zone) and I am new to the world of gardening. I spotted this plant at Home Depot and thought it would look great behind our pool's waterfall... which it does. I am at a loss on how to prune this plant. Do I cut back the leaves that have died or heavily torn due to wind? How far to cut back? What else is needed to keep it healthy besides water and fertilizer? It looks great so far! No blooms yet, but I love the plant for it's big leaves, tropical feel, and so far... no mess.

Positive NativePlantFan9 On Nov 17, 2004, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Very attractive for landscaping! Grows well in Florida as far north as zone 9a.

Neutral ETHOM On Aug 27, 2004, ETHOM from Leander, TX wrote:


Negative udigg On Jun 19, 2004, udigg from PH
Israel (Zone 10b) wrote:

Mature plant tend to become a mess and need pruning and cleaning. There are much more impressive plants for tropical effect. Like Ravenala.

Positive gardenbyme7 On Jun 19, 2004, gardenbyme7 from American Canyon, CA wrote:

I have lived in this house for 13 years and have never seen this tree bloom and didn't even know or care what the name was until it started to bloom. I live in American Canyon, California, near Napa. The weather does get into the 100's at times but mostly mild temps and I do have to deal with the wind. There are 5 blooms and it is a beautiful site, but it was planted too close to the house, so it will have to be cut down.

Positive wildkatz888 On Feb 14, 2004, wildkatz888 from Ormond Beach, FL wrote:

Birds of Paradise normally only bloom after the plant is 3 to 5 years old.

I live in Ormond Beach, Florida. My plants are outside and doing great this year.

I have 6 plants. Two are 4 year old plants and, they are already blooming. I have 8 blooms between them.

I have 4 2-1/2 year old plants and they are about 5 feet tall. No Blooms at all this year.

Also, I have discovered a way to keep the deer away from your plants. Last year I had my first blooms and the deer ate them.

So here it is.........

Cut a bar of Dial soap in half. Place each half in each leg of a pair old panty hose. Knot panty hose at the top of the legs and cut away excess.
Place on plant so Dial soap is on either side of plant. This works on any plant that deer tend to favor.

Don't laugh it works. The Deer have not touched my blooms year this.

Try it. It works

Neutral dogbane On Feb 13, 2004, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant will grow in New Orleans, though it rarely flowers here. Even in protected locations, it seems to get knocked down every seven or so winters. Usually recovers from roots, but is a slow grower. Great for foliage, which gets to be about four to seven feet (one to two meters) tall before getting knocked down.

Positive Katelliff On Feb 12, 2004, Katelliff from Port Isabel, TX wrote:

I'm in zone 9b (?) in deep, deep south Texas, USA. I aquired this plant less than two years ago and it's still relatively small (4-5'). It still hasn't bloomed but then neither has my "regular" size bird that's about the same age. It's planted in clay soil that has been amended and is in full sun from dawn to dusk. The leaves are beautiful and handle the wind in our area, sometimes strong, quite well. I'm patiently awaiting our first flowers....

Positive suncatcheracres On Sep 2, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I grew White Bird of Paradise in the ground in St. Petersburg, Florida, zone 9b, for about 10 years and never once had a flower. It had a partly sunny location, protected under the eaves of the house, facing southwest, in a corner where a six foot tall fence met a corner of the house. It survived 18F degrees cold, hurricane wind and rain, hail, and a small tornado, probably due to its sheltered location, but I think we sacrificed flowers for this shelter.

It was a georgous, green vertical accent in the front yard. I've read that it can grow to 30 feet tall and will survive down to about 28F degees. Eventually this plant got too large for it's location, touching the eaves, and as I was moving, I sold the plant to a new homeowner with a much sunnier location, where hopefully it finally flowered.

When I bought my first plant in the 1980's they were quite rare and expensive, but the one I have now, growing in a pot in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b--where it has to be overwintered in a greenhouse--was purchased at WalMart for $12.95. It was about four feet tall when purchased last year, and is now about five feet tall, with several new leaves. And although it's spent the summer in full morning sun, it still hasn't flowered. I fertilize frequently with a balanced fertilizer, and water daily, as the clay pot dries out rapidly, and has great draiage. Next year I might try to push the plant to flower with specialty bloom fertilizer.

This current plant in a pot has a baby, and they will soon have to be divided and repotted. I think I will probably try division next Spring, to give the plant the whole Summer to recuperate. I never divided the one in St. Petersburg, and eventually it grew to a huge clump of stalks and leaves.

I hope someday to see this beautiful flower, if I'm patient enough! I've never had any problems with bugs or disease, but occasionally the wind tatters the leaves.

Positive Lenai On Sep 1, 2003, Lenai wrote:

I am a recent new owner of a "White Bird of Paradise". I fell in love with this plant because of the beautiful leaves and that it is perfect for the sun conditions in which I live. However I came home today and noticed that there were little black (I think bugs); they wiped right off but I don't know what they are, when I wiped them off with just water they turned red (not blood but a reddish/pink color.)

Positive simsusan On Jun 15, 2003, simsusan from Pittsburg, CA wrote:

I have five "Bird of Paradise" plants that I bought from a nursery. They were originally about 18 inches high when we planted them 11 years ago.

I live in the hills of Pittsburg, California (U.S.) where the soil is very heavy clay. We added soil amendments, and were lucky enough to get flowers the first year afterwards. Each plant puts out several flowers, some double blossoms. Of the five, two are under a C. mexicana ("Mexican Bird of Paradise") tree, receiving morning sun and then partial shade. Those two are the top producers. The others are in full sun. The stalks get to be 5 to 6 feet high.

We rarely get freezing here but summers can get to 105*F and even 110*F. The wind here can be very strong, and the plants have also weathered the wind well, although the leaves get a bit torn.

I am going to try dividing them, and would like to know what is the best time of year to do that in this climate.
I just read that some of the plant could be poisinous, and I have a young pug dog that unfortunately likes to chew.

Positive annieann On Oct 12, 2002, annieann wrote:

We bought a house with four of the biggest "Giant Bird of Paradise" plants I've ever seen; they have approximately 20 or more blooms on each plant. The stalks and leaves are at least 8 feet tall and so thick that we can't see the blooms, and we don't know how or when to trim them.

The hummingbirds are even having problems getting to the flowers! I want to thin them out but I'm afraid I'll do the wrong thing.

Positive IslandJim On Sep 22, 2002, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Useful tropical for height. Blooms are an added attraction. Big, banana-like leaves tatter less in the wind than bananas do and it is not as messy. Also called "White Bird of Paradise". Few seeds set; don't know why. Added in 2007: Sets seeds fairly regularly now. Also note--canes are now up to 12 inches in diameter at base and about 4-6 inches at 6 feet. Really like this plant.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Dauphin Island, Alabama
Mesa, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Surprise, Arizona
Sparkman, Arkansas
Canoga Park, California
Carlsbad, California
Cazadero, California
Chula Vista, California
Fresno, California
Hayward, California
Irvine, California
Oak View, California
Oceanside, California
Palm Desert, California
Pasadena, California
Perris, California
Pittsburg, California
Ramona, California
Rancho Mirage, California
Reseda, California
Riverside, California
Sacramento, California
San Diego, California
San Jacinto, California
Santa Barbara, California
Simi Valley, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Upland, California
Venice, California
Visalia, California
Alva, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Bradenton, Florida
Cape Coral, Florida
Fruitland Park, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Miami, Florida
Naples, Florida
Nokomis, Florida
Ocoee, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Ormond Beach, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Safety Harbor, Florida
Saint Cloud, Florida
Sanibel, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Titusville, Florida
Venice, Florida (2 reports)
Vero Beach, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Honomu, Hawaii
Wailuku, Hawaii
Round Lake, Illinois
New Orleans, Louisiana (3 reports)
Weymouth, Massachusetts
Saint James, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina (2 reports)
Bluffton, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Saint Helena Island, South Carolina
Brownsville, Texas
Canyon Lake, Texas
Cypress, Texas
Deer Park, Texas
Dilley, Texas
Galveston, Texas (2 reports)
Houston, Texas (2 reports)
Missouri City, Texas
Port Isabel, Texas
Richmond, Texas
Shoreline, Washington

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