Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: White Bird of Paradise, White Strelitzia
Strelitzia alba

Family: Strelitziaceae
Genus: Strelitzia (stre-LITZ-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: alba (AL-ba) (Info)

Synonym:Strelitzia augusta

12 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 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 Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring


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:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel
Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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14 positives
5 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive MrPlants On Apr 7, 2010, MrPlants from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

This plant grows fairly easily in in Southern California. I purchased a couple of small plants for my house after I saw a pair that I planted at my parents house about 4 or 5 years ago, They are beautiful and now reach 10 or 12 ft. The plants I just purchased have been planted for about a week now and are starting to brown. Its a strange browning, its not from the edges but from the center of the leaf and they look a little see through. Luckily its very limited at this point.

This is an old flowerbed and the soil was very hard like rock. Prior to planting I loosened and fertilized the soil and have been watering the plant every other day.

After some research, I believe this is where my problem began.

This plants prefers dry environments, too much water makes the roots rot, and the rich clay soil that I have probably holds a lot of water. I will def reduce the watering of the plant to about once a week.

I also read that it doesn't like fertilizer, which is too bad since I added some miracle grow to the soil. Yikes.

I might remove the plant all together this weekend, introduce some soil that drains well and replant it in the same area.

Whenever I see this plant it reminds me of Belize, its tropical and very beautiful. One thing I advice is to plant it in an area that gets lots of sun and that is possibly protected from the wind. Constant wind will make the leaves ratty.

Hope this helps.

Mr. Plants.

Positive ctobey On Feb 9, 2010, ctobey from New Port Richey, FL wrote:

Looking for advice. I have two white birds planted outside in full sun. They are 6 to 8 years old, about 15 feet high and have lots of blooms every year and are spreading. Base is 3 to 4 feet. The one at my parents house is almost 30 feet tall! I live in Pasco county and every year alot of the leaves, especially the upper ones turn brown and die in the winter and it takes until the end of summer before they return to their former glory. They are too big to move indoors and too big to cover. I tried. I am trying to find out if there are any tips on getting them to recover sooner. Should I trim the dead leaves? Are there any feritilizers I should be using? Any help would be appreciated.

Positive alyx_c On Aug 23, 2009, alyx_c from San Antonio, TX wrote:

I have a cluster (about 3) white Birds's of Paradise in the front of my house in San Antonio, TX. Initially it was about 2 feet tall and every winter it would disappear and then return in the spring. I had no idea what it was. We first added red lava rocks to the area and eventually white rocks. I water it for about 1 hr every month due to the drought in the summer and then once every 2 or 3 months. It is on the east side of our house which is the front and it's covering our front window. I'm from the Caribbean so things just grow. Once I got use to taking care of my other tropical plants in my yard I started covering the smaller ones in the winter. I did this with the Bird of Paradise by using a sheet, then two sheets as it got bigger. On a trip to the coast of Mexico I saw a larger version of my plants and found out it was a Bird. It kept growing but never had any flowers.

This year I was looking at the plant and saw something white. On closer inspection I rrealized it was a flower. I was really confused and thought it was going to change colors or maybe it was missing a mineral. Then another one came and another. I took pictures which I will try to post here.

After finally seeing the Bird that produces the purple and Orange blooms I realized my plant was different and started searching to see if a white one exisited and that how I got here. My neighbor planted a small one hoping it would get like mine but she never covered it. So every year in the winter it disappears and in the spring it returnd but it never gets any bigger. She planted 3 but not together, only one has come back year after year.

My plant is about 10 years old now and I now realize I got flowers the year before but did not know what they were. Since there are 3, last years blooms were not from the same plant so I sort of expect the center one to bloom next year unless it did and I missed it. Now I will be watching them all like a hawk to see if I get blooms on all of them. In talking to other San Antonio natives I am so far the only one that has gotten flowers.

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. 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.

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.

Positive Upir On May 13, 2008, Upir from Jupiter, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

About two months ago, somebody had thrown this (and another) plant out in the trash in the building where I work. I brought them both home, and so far this plant, after a quick repotting and some real sunlight, has already begun to grow several fresh, green leaves and has perked up beautifully! Can't believe somebody would trash it just because they were either too lazy to care for it or figured it was dead, but WOW! Very, very easy to care for and can't wait until it blooms!

Positive SoFlaJosh On May 13, 2008, SoFlaJosh from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

I am pretty sure that I have a White Bird of Paradise, but I'm not quite sure - it may be a Traveler's Palm. I bought this plant a few years ago and this past fall decided to put it into the ground in an area that gets a good deal of afternoon sunshine (zone 10b - Fort Lauderdale, FL).

After transplanting it from a container to the ground, it has grown rapidly and is now nearly 6 feet tall. But lately, it has been getting a white burning around the edges of some leaves - as well as a few darker splotches on some leaves. It receives sprinklers during the night, but I'm not sure how much actually permeates into the soil (I live in an apartment complex). Are these conditions indicative of any over- or under-watering?



Positive CAgary On Sep 10, 2007, CAgary from Trabuco Canyon, CA wrote:

I'm really wondering if everyone who has posted here has a genuine Strelitzia augusta (alba) and not just a common S. nicolai. I sent away to their native South Africa to get seeds. So I am reasonably sure I am growing S. alba.

What is the difference between S. alba and S. nicolai? The bottom line is the leaves, flowers and other parts of the plant appear to be different enough so that botanists have given them different names. The photos I've seen don't seem to help.

My plants are only about two feet tall and I don't see any difference yet. I also have S. caudata from S. A.

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

What do I do if the leaves of my plant roll up? The plant has been watered and was doing fine until I set it out in the sun today. The leaves rolled up after two hours. Have I damaged my plant? Will they return to normal?

Positive keonikale On Jul 12, 2005, keonikale from Lexington, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

We also just purchased our first WBOP for our new apartment. After seeing them grow in abundance in Hawaii I knew they'd make a perfect fit for the tropical look I was decorating for.

Our WBOP is about 4-5 feet tall and is in a 16" pot; we purchased it from the Home Depot last weekend. Currently it's in a room where we get mostly afternoon Summer sun (from the west), so I'm having to make sure it's protected from the hot sun in the afternoons. During the day however it gets a good deal of indirect light from the window. We may move it closer however, as I've read the plant prefers more light than I think it's getting.

It definitely has added a tropical feel to the room it's located in; it's a beautiful plant with it's banana like leaves and seems easy enough to maintain; guess I'll know for sure in a few months. We water it about once a week, and will adjust to give less/more as I get used to its needs; it's a pretty big plant.

I think I'm going to get some split-leaf philodendron to compliment it this weekend. In the winter I'll also bring my Hawaiian Ti's back inside, which should look great beside it.

Positive youoledawg On Jul 8, 2005, youoledawg from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I have a large white bird of paradise growing in the ground in my front yard, zone 9A. It grew like topsy in one year, after being released from a pot. It has bloomed several times since the spring. There is a gooey substance on the flowers, however. It gets morning sun.
They get big here in New Orleans, in the ground. They are hardier than the reginae.

Neutral sisterhawk On Mar 22, 2005, sisterhawk from Houston, TX wrote:

I live in Houston Texas. I bought a WBOP at a garden discount store last fall. We are sometimes wearing shorts during winter here and I felt like it would be OK to plant it in the ground . On the southwestern side of the shed is where it resides. Of course IT SNOWED on Christmas Eve. There are no leaves on it now but hope springs eternal in our yard .Any chance of saving the root ball in a planter?

Positive CrystalBeachbum On Feb 20, 2005, CrystalBeachbum from Crystal Beach, FL wrote:

We had two white birds of paradise growing on the west side of our house. Both over 10 feet high. Two weeks before the hurricanes of 2004, we had them moved to the northern side but they still get plenty of light. The one is closer to the house and during the hurricanes, that one was ok, but the other isn't as well protected and it got pretty beat up. It had several pups on it, they have all died, all the leaves of the main plant have died and had to be cut off, I had one shoot coming up and it took forever to unroll but it finally has. Is there anything I should be doing to help it along? It gets watered with a drip irrigation soaker tubing for 5 minutes each morning, what and when should I feed it?

Positive sahnja On Oct 19, 2004, sahnja from Myakka City, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

We recently moved into a house with two white bird of paradise in built-in planters on the lanai. They have done wonderfully except lots of leaf splitting during the hurricane winds.

I don't do anything except trim off dead leaves. Considering the status of other plants around the house, I doubt these have ever been taken care of, yet they are doing well. I'm going to try misting, as mentioned by another member, on these and my hibiscus. I'll report the results!

The larger one - about 7 ft. tall - has bloomed twice. Truly exotic looking blooms! I'm concerned about the future - they will surely outgrow their homes and moving them is not something I look forward to doing. They may not survive!

Neutral palmbob On Oct 5, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

only seen a few of these plants labeled as such in southern CAlifornia... not sure exactly how they differ from S nicolai. The one in Huntington gardens (zone 9b bordering on 10a) looks healthy and old, and some old blooms still on it, but no new flowers... flowers look very similar to S nicolai, too. What's the difference?

Positive suncatcheracres On Nov 20, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I grew a white bird in the ground for about nine years at my home in St. Petersburg, Florida, zone 9b. It grew from an under two foot tall plant bought in a pot, to an over eight foot tall plant in the ground that was higher than the eaves of the house, but it never bloomed, perhaps because it was in too much shade. I had planted it against a Southern wall of the house, painted white, which I thought would give it both protection from the cold, but reflected light, but I had a giant laurel oak growing nearby and apparently it kept my plant too shaded to bloom.

I now have a plant in a container, over five feet tall with a new "pup," and it did get some splits in the leaves due to wind damage, as it was outdoors all Summer here in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b. It survived being protected under a tarp with a drop light for warmth, when we went down to 22F degrees twice last Winter, but it didn't like those cold temps and was slow to get growing again this past Summer. It supposedly can "endure temperatures to about 28F degrees." I have recently moved it into a small temporary "make-shift" greenhouse which I can heat with either drop lights or a small heater if we get more extreme cold snaps like last Winter, our coldest in over 100 years, and I'm glad to know the plant likes high humidity, because I don't have a lot of ventilation in this greenhouse and the walls "drip" during warm weather. The plant can grow to thirty feet tall in its native South Africa, and originating from there I had thought it would like dryer conditions.

I would love to see my plant bloom, as I have never seen an actual flower--just pictures of them. When I bought my first little plant in the late 1980's, it cost $25.00, but now these plants can be found in the big discount garden centers for half of that price, and these are four feet tall, or taller.

June 19, 2004

I finally got around to taking down the makeshift greenhouse, and getting all of the plants that over wintered there outside into their various Summer positions, and I am amazed at how well my white bird responded to the high humidity and heat in the greenhouse over the winter--it has a lot of new green growth, without any fertilizer at all over the winter.

I garden under huge live oaks--200 to 500 years old, so I have a lot of shade all year round, and my temps are five to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas in the Summer, and slightly warmer in the Winter--the large trees protect me from frost--so I also have slightly different growing conditions than my surrounding area, and this plant cannot go into the ground here in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b. But my greenhouse had a lot of shade the past few months, so I was able to delay taking the greenhouse down until late May. Besides we had some very late cool nights--highly unusual for here--and every time I decided it was time to take it down, we would have another late "cool spell."

I have read that this plant likes dryer conditions, since it is from South Africa, but my experience now, like another writer, is that it responds to high humidity quite well. The University of Florida information on this plant says it does well near the shore, so perhaps it lives in the more humid areas of South Africa?

Positive tropicaldane On Nov 19, 2003, tropicaldane from Corinth, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

I'm stationed in Central Texas, and have a number (around 30 in the last year) of tropical plants ranging from Gingers (Red, White, Awapuhi, and Kahili) and Hibiscus, to two Bird of Paradise. One of them I'm growing from seed, the other is a 3' sub-adult (I'm guessing). I don't look for this one to bloom for another year or two, so no disappointments. One thing I've found with all of these plants (at least the ones that, in their native habitat, can be found in the forests and other humid places), is that they respond incredibly to misting. I was having problems with browning and curling leaves on the Gingers, the Gardenia, and both of the Bird of Paradise. Since I started misting them numerous times per day (before I go to work, when I get home, and again early evening), all of the new greenery has been healthy and most of all GREEN. I had read somewhere of the health debits of certain plant's respiration. Evidently these guys while respire moisture, especially when put in the sunshine that they love so much. But by keeping them moist a little bit of the day, it cuts down on the amount of moisture their leaves will lose, and keeps them happier. So I won't go into what happened to my Red Ginger when I was gone and my friend watered but didn't mist (sob)..............

Positive jamesNmary On Jun 29, 2003, jamesNmary wrote:

We bought a 3-4 foot White Bird of Paradise, which is now 5 1/2 feet tall. We keep it in the house in a 16" drained pot near a south-facing door in Jacksonville, Forida (U.S.) where it gets a little sun. We crack the blinds, as minimal sun causes the BOP to stay small. The leaves grow up in a spindle and unfurl a supple dark green. They tend to become drier afterwards; easy to tear and do some splitting accompanied with browned edges. The splitting is minimal and not on all the leaves. If we handle freely we can split the leave easily, so we believe splitting will occur more easily if grown outside because of the wind and possibly drier non-shade outside climates. This seems to be normal. Our leaves maintain a shiny gloss. We have heard that it won't bloom unless it gets its full amount of sun. We water twice each week, fertilize monthly with a balanced plant food.

Ours incurred a problem resulting from some sort of small worm that gets inside the new leaf shoots and excretes something that makes the leaf edges seal shut. The result is that the leaf only partialy unfurls or half unfurls and gets damaged, ripped due to the restriction. If this has happened you can unfurl the leaf by hand. Once you first get the part of the leaf edge that is still furled loosened the rest unfurls easily. The leaf can unfurl but you have to help it, by gently forcing it. The leaf will be partially deformed and bent. That portion will also be a very pale green or yellowish color, but after it has been unfurled a couple days it will start getting its color back.

It's been about week since we loosened and unfurled the leaf and it is now deep green as the rest, the deformed and puckered shape has been restored to be as uniform as the rest of the leaf. It still kept a split on both sides caused by unfurling and has more of bend near the leaf base compared to the other leaves. A new leaf is on the way.

To prevent the worm problem, the nursery suggested Thoricide - take the plant outdoors to spray if you have it as indoor Insecticidal Soap, then put some Hi-Yield Di-Systom Granules on/in the dirt to keep the mites and worms away. (The plant will absorb the systemic ingredients.) There are likely comparable products in other areas.

Positive Margparfrey On Jun 29, 2003, Margparfrey from Round Lake, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have this plant and mine is also curling a bit, even though I water once a week.

My plant is about 5 1/2 feet tall, and I have had it about eight months. It definately doesn't take to kindly to the cold drafts so if you have your plant outside, you had better bring it in when the temperature drops, and keep it away from cold drafty windows.

I have been carefully studying my plant and I recently found an earwig bug inside the wall of this plant. I killed it with the Raid bug spray for earwigs and it died, but since then a new leaf is having trouble uncurling. My suggestion is to watch out and spray for earwigs. This earwig was on this new leaf and now this new leaf isn't doing very well. (Brown spots and slightly discolored.)

Neutral Monocromatico On Jun 29, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Coming from tropical regions, this plant requires moist soil; it should be watered once a week, or even every five days.

Some monocots only show that they need water when the plant dries up. Its not very common to see monocots with wilted leaves.

Neutral rosrosa On Jun 29, 2003, rosrosa wrote:

I have a large White Bird of Paradise plant that I bought about a month ago. I repotted it in a clay pot and placed it in front of a window that receives about an hour or two of direct light but mostly indirect light. In general the plant is beautiful, I just want to make sure it lasts. Since I bought it one new leaf has unfurled. All of the leaves though are a tiny bit curled toward the bottom. I only water it when the soil is dry for fear of overwatering (I'd say about once every 1 1/2 weeks). Also, some of the leaves have a bit of brown in them and I wonder if they are being burned by the sun.


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

, (2 reports)
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama
Coto De Caza, California
Delano, California
Laguna Niguel, California
Los Angeles, California (2 reports)
Redwood City, California
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
Santa Barbara, California
Whittier, California
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida (2 reports)
Bokeelia, Florida
Boynton Beach, Florida
Bradley, Florida
Casselberry, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2 reports)
Gainesville, Florida
Kathleen, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Kissimmee, Florida
Largo, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Ruskin, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sanford, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Sebastian, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Solsberry, Indiana
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Corpus Christi, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Round Rock, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Shoreline, Washington

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