Happy Sunday Residents!
I'm feeling free as a Bird...of Paradise! In fact, see below stage right for actual footage of me vibing as you read this. Why, you ask? Because you're here and ready to give your Bird of Paradise the tender, loving care it deserves!
No secret, I'm a Bird of Paradise SUPERFAN. I own three (in order from largest to smallest): Biggie, Bella, and Bebe! Since we've been getting along gingerly for quite a while, I think it's as good a time as any to share how I keep mine happy at The Plant Penthouse! I would love to help you do the same, Residents, so it's time to soar!
For the Bird of Paradise (BoP), or any other plant you add to your residence, step one is to understand where your new family member originates from. History is oh-so important to keep your babies flying high! Because this isn't a research assignment, I'll give you my BoP highlights!
*Excitedly puts on fake glasses and opens book*
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Did you know the Bird of Paradise, scientifically given the family name of Strelitziaceae, was named after Queen Charlotte, the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (so regal, right)? The most common house plant varieties include the Strelitzia nicolai and Strelitzia reginae. In the right climate, the Bird of Paradise has the ability to produce exotically colorful flowers, who's likeness resembles that of tropical birds, hence the name! You clearly have an eye for the finer things in life, so let's keep your Royal Highness happy!
Now that you know the family lineage, let's talk climate! The Bird of Paradise plant originates from South Africa. This means that your regal family member LOVES humidity (a weekly spritz works wonders!), well draining soil (which means they do not like to stand in lukewarm water...but, I mean...would you?), and appreciate lighting that resembles your favorite tropical getaway (more on this below!). The Bird of Paradise may produce splits/rips in the leaves, but never fear! This happens because in nature, the splits help wind pass through this intelligent being to keep them firmly planted. What a leader.
LET THERE BE LIGHT...AND WATER!
Forever the fun, fine print, am I right? The primary reason I have such a deep love for the Bird of Paradise is because Sir Finicky is not usually in their royal court. These plants are relatively straight-forward to care for, so here are my key factors to keep in mind:
LIGHTING: Lighting impacts your BoP. Think about the total number of hours the sun will shine on your beauty. Remember when we learned the Bird of Paradise is native to South Africa? This tells us they can handle direct sunlight (think 6-8 hours of light, from a southern or western facing window!), or bright, indirect light (we're talking partial sun - the kind of sun that allows you to feel it's warmth but won't leave you with sunburn)! If you cant give them this lifestyle, I would recommend keeping this relationship in the admiration phase, at your favorite plant shop. :)
WATER: Keep it lukewarm to prevent shock and keep an eye on things. I use tap-water, but if you notice burning of your leaves, this could indicate high salt content, which means distilled water would be best. Remember, they can have an appreciation for the finer things in life and we are here to serve! Depending on the sunlight within your Penthouse, your Bird of Paradise may require more, or less, frequent waterings.
TIP: Because BoPs like to dry out in-between waterings, here's a measurement factor I use to determine if it's watering time: When I stick my finger in the soil, if it is dry up to my knuckle, it is time for a watering! If that depth (which is about an inch) still has moisture, your plant is hydrated and basking in the sun!
Early on, I was VERY heavy handed. To prevent drowning your majestic investment, I recommend using a base tray, or a planter with a drainage hole, to best monitor if you went a little too far. If I still see water in the base tray after 10-15 minutes, I use a towel to soak up the excess. Keep calm and carry on!
HUMIDITY: Who doesn't want to feel the essence of tropical air?! When misting, to prevent burning of your leaves, I do this either early in the morning, or after sunset so they water has a chance to evaporate before the sun can cause any scorching damage. Once a week is a-ok!
SOIL: The Bird of Paradise likes well-draining soil that can retain moisture (you don't want the water to run right through it!). A MiracleGro pearlite mixture (with those little white puffs) is my easy go-to to help control drainage, and you can buy potting soil already formulated for adequate drainage at any home improvement or plant shop!
TROUBLE IN PARADISE?
There are a few red flags to look out for when nurturing your tropical beauty.
First up: your Royal Highness carries a secret, and potentially lethal, weapon: they can be poisonous to cats, dogs, and horses. And for your tiny humans (because I don't foresee you trying to get a taste), mild gastrointestinal symptoms like dehydration, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea can occur if they try to make a meal of your greenery. Poison Control is a wonderful resource to keep in mind if you have any serious concerns, because as we know, I am no Doctor!
Second: Do you see yellowing or curling leaves? DON'T PANIC! Plants are all about survival of the fittest, and those lower, smaller leaves, or that elderly leafy limb may have reached it's end of life journey, which will provide that much needed energy to newer growth. Prune and keep it pushing! Now, if you are consistently seeing these symptoms on non-basal leaves, yellowing is a key indicator of over-watering or inadequate light. Curling leaves, you say? Your BoP is most likely thirsty! Keeping a constant eye on your regal beauty is the best remedy to catch any deterioration in the act.
Lastly: In this royal family, appearances matter so you'll want to keep the leaves clean! Think of your Bird of Paradise staring back at you and saying, wipe me down (...in a Boosie voice, no less lol). This will help prevent pests (mealy bugs, whiteflies, aphids, oh my!), because who wants those around?! For preventative maintenance, I spray my foliage with a Neem oil mixture monthly, but warm soapy water works wonders, too. It smells like garlic, but hey, I have no pesky pests! Another option is a pre-made insecticide you can purchase from a local greenhouse or specialty plant shop. At a pest sighting, you can increase frequency to weekly, or however often your insecticide of choice indicates. You've got options!
READY TO FLY
Because I could write a book, repotting will be saved for another day!
So, I'll wrap this up with encouragement *hands on your shoulders and eye contact* that I believe in you and your plant parenting abilities! If you have any additional questions or any advice that has worked for you, leave them in the comments below!
As your Concierge, I am forever here for you! All my love! <3 Shayla