A crown of banana-like leaves atop a palm tree trunk, combined with huge, uniquely beautiful flowers, is deserving of the name, "Bird of Paradise tree." Related to the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia regina ), this close cousin is a much larger plant forming huge clumps of stems to 30 feet in comparison to S. regina's 3 to 4 feet height.
The 6 - 8' leaves are grey-green and arranged in fans atop the trunks. Plants form clumps of several variably-sized trunks that may grow to 18' in width under optimal conditions. The inflorescence are composed of a dark blue bract, white sepals and bluish-purple "tongue". The entire "bird" can be as large as 7" high by 18" long and is typically held just above the point where the leaf fan emerges from the trunk. Flowers are followed by triangular seed capsules.
The foliage on this plant will typically die back in areas with a hard frost, though the plant itself can be kept alive as far as zone 8a with a good mulch. With additional protection, you may be able to grow it in the ground even further north. Any time it dies back to the ground however, the plant basically has to restart its growth - so flowering is very unlikely this way. Only mature plants typically flower, so you must pot the plant up if you live above zone 9-10.
This is an easy to grow, very non-messy, low maintenance plant that is a good choice for use near pool and patio. Plants are inexpensive, available in a range of sizes, and grow rather quickly and so are a great choice for new home landscapes in warm areas. Bird of paradise tree is just the ticket when you want tough, durable beauty and unique form in a large plant. If kept potted, they can bloom. If given enough sun even a pot won't stop this beauty from doing it's thing. Read more in our Getting the Bird of Paradise to bloom blog entry.
There are two species of the Giant White BOP; Strelitzia nicolai and Strelitzia alba. Here are the differences between the two:
Semi-common in cultivation
Trunks to 30 ft
Regularly flowering each spring once mature
Rare in cultivation
Trunks to 18ft
Rare or intermittently flowering in the spring once mature
Cultivar: None Identified
USDA Zone 8a: to 10 °F
USDA Zone 8b: to 15 °F
USDA Zone 9a: to 20 °F
USDA Zone 9b: to 25 °F
Height 15-20 ft.
Height 20-30 ft.
Light - Full Sun
Light - 10% to 40% Shade
Rate - Moderate