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My Giant Bird Of Paradise

Giant Bird Of Paradise

My Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) is growing at the end of the driveway right next to the street – it’s a good marker for people trying to find the house for the first time.  I used to say “when you see the 20′ Bird of Paradise at the end of the street, turn right.”  The tallest stem was removed a few months ago ( it was starting to lean like that tower in Pisa!)  … chainsaw required.  Now it is only 15′ … a massive plant none the less.  The leaves fan out from multiple stems which rise from a single base making for a bold accent and the anchor plant of the front yard.

Unlike the more commonly known orange and blue Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) flowers commonly sold in the floral trade, the white and muted blue flowers of the Giant Bird are less showy.

The flowers grow in clusters and when the spent blossoms are removed you better have eaten your Wheaties that day because they are heavy!

The birds just love the sugary sap which oozes like vampire’s blood – Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, House Finches, Orioles and Hummingbirds all enjoy the elixir.

The winds tear the leaves so they resemble an Alligator with its mouth open.  When I saw the leaves off, only fit 3 or 4 in the green waste barrel because they are so large and heavy.

This bird requires a lot of space to grow and the sap secreted from the flowers can be messy – love it but one is enough for me!

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  1. Hey Nell,

    Thanks for this piece, really great imagery … very vivid and prettily written!

  2. Hi Lulu –
    Thank you so much! A world filled with plants & flowers is a wonderful one & we so appreciate your comment. Light & loveliness, Nell

  3. Renata Carlin, Vista, CA

    Every year the orioles come back to my giant bird of paradise. Now I know why! Thank you!

  4. Oh yes Renata, the orioles just love that sugary nectar! Nell

  5. How do I cut the leaves? Do I just pull off the dead bird flower pieces or cut the whole pod off? Does one use a machete or the long clippers? Are these plants okay to be planted close to a house? Or are the roots dangerous for a foundation? Is it true the black widows are attracted to the plant?

    -in over their head millennial home owner

  6. Hello, we live in South Florida and our next door neighbor has this plant in their yard. It was planted just outside of their pool cage to serve as a privacy screen. While it does serve as a great and lovely privacy screen, a few things should he considered before planting a Giant Bird of Paradise: It grows quickly and should be thinned out. When thinning out, if only the leaves, flowers, and stalks are cut back and not the roots/root ball, new shoots will emerge from the above ground root ball. (Large clippers can cut back the leaves but something larger is needed to cut the stalks.) This exposed root ball with stalks that have been cut back is NOT attractive and continues to get larger and larger if not cut back. To remove the root ball, in the very least a reciprocating saw with a large blade is required: the root ball cannot be removed without some type of electric saw. The root ball and also the large stalks are filled with water and are very heavy, even when cut up into 2-3 foot segments. Because of its rapid growth rate? Need for moisture and large root ball, I would suggest not planting this near a structure or water lines, due to damage to the structure and water/irrigation lines. Giant Bird of Paradise are large feeders and require fertilization to bloom and look their best. Pesticides are also required.

    The Giant Bird of Paradise is a beautiful lush tropical plant, but after watching the growth pattern and required maintenance on my neighbor’s plant, I have decided to enjoy this plant from afar.

  7. Hi – They do grow fast & get very large. I enjoyed mine close to the curb & so did the birds. Some plants are way too messy to be poolside. Nell

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