How to grow and care for Strelitzia nicolai

Strelitzia nicolai in flower. Getty Images

Closely related to Strelizia reginea (the orange flowering bird of paradise), Strelitzia nicolai is native to eastern South Africa and is known as white bird of paradise, wild banana or crane plant. It’s larger than Strelizia reginea and has white flowers rather than orange flowers.

Strelitzia nicolai makes a great indoor plant, especially for those wishing to bring a taste of the jungle into the home, thanks to its large, banana-like leaves, which naturally become shredded as they age. Although it’s grown mainly for its foliage, mature plants may occasionally produce a striking white and blue flower. In its native habitat, this flower is pollinated by birds.

How to grow Strelizia nicolai

Grow Strelitzia nicolai in a sunny spot such as near a south-facing window or conservatory. Mist regularly to increase humidity and feed monthly in spring and summer with a dilute liquid fertiliser. There’s little need to prune Strelitzia nicolai beyond removing dead and dying leaves. Repot only when the roots become visible at the top of the compost.

Where to grow Strelitzia nicolai 

Strelitzia nicolai growing in a living room. Getty Images
Strelitzia nicolai growing in a living room. Getty Images

Strelitzia nicolai thrives in warm, sunny and humid conditions, so position your white bird of paradise plant in a sunny spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day, with an average temperature of 18-27ºC in summer and a minimum temperature of no less than 10ºC in winter. A spot near a south-facing window, in a humid room such as a bathroom or a conservatory, is ideal. Avoid placing your white bird of paradise near an air vent, open chimney or other source of draught as this can reduce the ambient temperature and cause the plant to suffer.

How to plant Strelitzia nicolai 

Repotting white bird of paradise plant
Repotting white bird of paradise plant

Plant white bird of paradise into well-drained, peat-free house plant compost.

How to care for Strelitzia nicolai 

Washing white bird of paradise leaves
Washing white bird of paradise leaves

Strelitzia nicolai care is easy. Water sparingly, allowing the compost to almost completely dry out between waterings, but give the rootball a good soak when you do. Take care to ensure any excess water drains from the pot and that the plant never sits in water as this can cause root rot. In rooms with low levels of humidity you can raise the humidity by misting regularly or standing the pot on a tray of pebbles and water, ensuring the water sits just below the pebbles. You can also use a humidifier, setting it to around 60 per cent humidity.

Like other bird of paradise plants, Strelitzia nicolai does well when slightly pot bound so repot only when you see roots appear at the top of the compost. Replant into fresh compost in a slightly larger pot, in spring. For those growing in the same compost for several years, you can replace the top layer of compost with fresh material, to rejuvenate the compost and the plant.

White bird of paradise doesn’t need regular pruning but you may want to remove dead or dying leaves to improve its look.

How to propagate Strelitzia nicolai 

White bird of paradise propagates itself by developing shoots at the base of the plant, which can be removed and potted on individually. Simply remove the whole plant from its pot and use a sharp knife to gently separate a small shoot, with at least three leaves, from the main plant. Plant the shoot into its own pot of free-draining, peat-free compost and water well.

Pests and diseases

White bird of paradise doesn’t suffer from many pests and diseases but, like all indoor plants, may attract aphids, red spider might and mealy bug. These are easily removed by hand, while red spider mite can be eliminated by increasing humidity.

Brown, crispy leaf edges may be a sign that humidity levels are too low. Increase humidity before changing your watering regime.

Advice on buying white bird of paradise

  • Bird of paradise is an expensive plant, so make sure you have the right growing conditions for it before buying. It needs plenty of room as it can grow to 2m tall 
  • Only mature plants produce flowers so if you’re keen to get your bird of paradise to bloom, buy the largest plant you can afford
  • You may find plants at the garden centre, otherwise buy from a specialist house plant retailer or online

Where to buy white bird of paradise



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