Many people are very familiar with the Bird-of-Paradise with orange flowers. The iconic flowers of this plant have a fostered a loyal following. However, another relative in this plant family is the White Bird-of-Paradise. To me, the White Bird-of-Paradise has equal value, not only with its unique, exotic white flowers, but also its classic five foot long, banana-like leaves and palm-like trunks.Fitting in from small specimens in containers on patios to larger landscape beds, the White Bird-of-Paradise is a premium plant for our area.
The first White Bird-of-Paradise you may have ever seen was likely a small specimen used as an indoor foliage houseplant or floor plant.I have seen some small enough to even be used in larger terrariums. As a landscape subject, consider this plant as a large shrub growing over twenty feet tall and ten feet wide. It is a multi-stemmed plant with a number of canes often growing at different heights. Smaller specimens are mostly leaves, but as they grow, the palm-like trunks are very showy. A mature plant will look like a tight grove of palm trees with banana-like leaves. The leaves will tend to rip along the veins when blown about by high winds, but this damage does not take away this plant’s attractiveness.
The White Bird-of-Paradise flowers are not to be overlooked. Mostly white with a blue, central petal, individual flowers can be up to twelve inches long. The showy flower bracts are a bit hidden, but can be seen emerging from the base of leaf stalks. Be patient as the White Bird-of-Paradise plant will have to be several years old to begin to flower.
While small White Bird-of-Paradise specimens can be enjoyed in large containers, they do best in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Very adaptable to a wide variety of soils, White Bird-of-Paradise is moderately drought tolerant once established, but has low salt tolerance. You may notice some freeze damage if temperatures go to twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, but they will quickly recover. Large stems can be reduced which will cause more sprouting and a bushier look.
While abundantly available at local garden centers, the White Bird-of-Paradise can be propagated by dividing suckers from the mother plant if you need additional plants. They can also be started from seed, but it may take months to germinate.
This relatively fast-growing plant is a joy to behold and is easy enough for even a beginner gardener to handle.For more information on all types of landscape plants suitable for growing in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don't forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times - http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design, 1st ed. (2010). The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Gilman, G. F. & Watson, D. G. (2015) Strelitzia nicolai: White Bird of Paradise. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS
Culbert, D. F. (2001) Traveler Trees & White Birds for Tropical Tastes. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS – Okeechobee County.