Plant Spotlight: Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae or bird of paradise flower originates from South Africa where it flowers every Summer, as it is a plant from the Southern Hemisphere its flowering period is therefore during our winter and spring. Its flowers are very striking, with 3 bright orange petals with a blue flash which resembles a bird of paradise bird in flight. It has its own family called Strelitziaceae.

Strelitzia reginae is named after King George III consort Queen Charlotte who came from Strelitz in Germany. It was Sir Joseph Banks who named Strelitzia when it was introduced at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in 1773. Sir Joseph Banks was a renowned plant hunter and botanist of his time.

Strelitzia reginae is an evergreen perennial which is not reliably hardy in Britain and it is best grown in a glasshouse or conservatory. If left outside over the winter it would die. At Winterbourne our Strelitzia plants are grown in the lean to glasshouse and we are very lucky to have it flowering throughout our British winter and into the spring; at the moment it is actually flowering with its beautiful, bright orange and blue flowers.

Strelitzia can be grown outside in the summer which we sometimes do at Winterbourne with great success as long as it is taken back into the glasshouse or conservatory before the frost sets in around early November. It is a very welcome addition to anyone’s plant collection and it is a popular plant with our visitors. It also has an RHS award of garden merit, an accolade in itself. They can be a successful house plant provided they are positioned in a nice, bright lit room.

Strelitzia can be grown in full sun to partial shade although they do best in full sun. They require moist but well drained soil. The compost we use at Winterbourne is loam based with plenty of added horticultural grit to ensure that the plants have good drainage. We grow ours in large terracotta containers with added broken crocks to keep the holes in the bottom of the pot open and not blocked. They need to be watered regularly during the growing season (between March and September) and fed with a balanced fertiliser such as Chempak Number 3 which we use at Winterbourne. Should you want to repot them then that can be done in autumn. They can also be sunk into a border in their pots then lifted again in winter.

Strelitzia can be propagated by seed in spring sown in a good seed compost, (we use Petersfield peat free compost) the seeds need to be kept between 18 and 21 oC. They can also be propagated by division in spring from suckers with roots on; this is something that we have done here at Winterbourne and had success from.

Strelitzia are also used as a cut flower which are very dramatic, beautiful and long lasting.

I highly recommend that you try these beautiful, strikingly exotic plants for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

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