Bird of paradise - The Strelitzia Reginae

The Strelitziaceae family is host to the Strelitzia reginae, which is a well-known South African plant that is identifiable for its striking colours and unique shape. Strelitzia reginae is also known as the bird of paradise (resembling the colours and shape of an exotic bird), the crane flower or the orange strelitzia.

Did you know? Strelizia is also known as the bird of paradise, the crane flower or the orange strelitzia.

The vivid orange and purple flowers are large, hardy and spiked. This beautiful flower has made this one of the most popular plants in South Africa, and it can be found flanking the major national roads and in gardens all over the country.

It is an evergreen plant that reaches about 1.5 metres in height and two metres in diameter. The leaves are about 10 centimetres wide and 50 centimetres long and are arranged in a fan-like shape. The fruit is a woody capsule and contains black seeds, which bursts open to release these seeds.

Flowering time

Between the months of May and December, the countryside of South Africa bursts into colour as the Strelitzia reginae blooms freely. The fruit comes between August and February.

Use in the garden

The Strelitzia reginae has been used to treat inflamed glands and sexually transmitted diseases in some KwaZulu-Natal cultures. In addition, those African cultures in the Cape are known to put the seeds into milk to accelerate the souring process.

The flowers attract bees, which are important members of any garden. Sunbirds are known to drink the nectar out of the flowers. It is also, simply, an ornamental flower that is a popular addition to bouquets and arrangements.

Natural distribution

South Africa is the only country in the world in which Strelitzia reginae occurs naturally. They are found in abundance from the KwaZulu-Natal province on the east coast, throughout the Eastern Cape and in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Growing Strelizia in your garden

In addition to open gardens, this plant also does well in pots. It favours full sun, but can be found in some shady regions (usually along the forest edge).

Seedlings should be replanted into soil that is well-drained and healthy and moved from a semi-shaded area into full sun soon.

They do not do well in the cold and should be protected from frost. Once it is established, it takes relatively little care, making it quite an easy member of your garden.

Propagation

The best way to grow Strelitzia reginae is by planting seeds or by dividing existing plants and replanting the cutting. Repotting, transplanting and dividing should be done in autumn for the best results. A cutting will take between two and three years to begin flowering again, but the resulting flower is well worth the wait.

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