A-Z Gardening in Zone 3-4

For the organic gardner struggling in the short season climate

The bird of paradise house plant

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Rare twin bird of paradise

rare twin blossom emerging from first blossom

The first picture shows the bloom for 2008, the next two pictures the bloom for 2009.  The twin blossom was produced in 2010 along with four other flowers. This bird of paradise plant resides in my friend Linda’s dinning room. It’s a division from my bird of paradise plant, affectionately called, “the bird”.

In the  fall of 2007, I decided to divide it when it grew much too big for it’s pot. I wasn’t sure if I could divide it or not, however, since I had previously cut back the fleshy root on numerous occasions in order to give it a little more room in it’s pot, I felt it would survive the surgery.

I used a very large butcher knife, I’m sure a pruning saw would also do a good job, to cut it in half. It wasn’t easy because the plant is basically a group of plants that grow very close together and it has a very dense fleshy root. I made three divisions, because while I was potting them up, two plants fell off of one of the divisions. I gave that plant to one of Linda’s friends. I potted the two largest birds in a 14″ diameter by 12″ high pot. I use potting soil that had fertilizer in it mixed with some of my garden soil.

Linda’s bird sent up a flower spike at Thanksgiving of 2008,  and it started blooming at Christmas. Right now the flower spike has three blossoms on it and there are more to come. Since then her bird has sent up 2 more flower spikes in January 2009, one bloomed on Easter Sunday, March 23 that year, the other one never bloomed it just turned brown and dried up.  My bird usually sends up a flower spike in March, probably because it lives on my front porch. The porch has an east, south exposure and it is heated by keeping the door to the laundry room open at all times. Even in -30 degrees it never gets any colder than 50 degrees at night and on a day with full sun will easily get to 70 degrees in winter. The difference between Linda’s more constant and even temperature and the wide swing and cooler temperature of my porch probably explains the difference in bloom time. Some seed catalogs say that the bird will flower when it gets 9 leaves. What they don’t tell you is that it never gets 9 leaves until it is at least 10 years old. The older leaves just dry up and turn brown. Linda’s success in getting her bird to bloom so well is probably due to the fact that she keeps it moist and in a more constant temperature.

My bird finally sent up three flower spikes in January, 2010.  Today is March 17 and the spikes are getting ready to bloom and the spikes are beginning to turn downward and change to an orange color.  It takes months for them to bloom, however, the blossoms last for a very long time and are well worth the wait.  I believe my bird started to bloom because I started to keep it moist, not wet, like Linda does.  To think I missed out on having more blooming because I did not give it enough water is really sad.

In late June I put the bird outside to enjoy the summer sun and rain. I bring it back in when frost threatens.

This house plant is not for those who want fast results. I started my plant approximately 35 years ago and it has had four blooming periods, sending out flower spikes for a number of years in a row; followed by long stretches of not blooming.

Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co., has plants of the orange, deep blue dwarf variety only. I probably bought my bird from Gurney’s. When I received it in the mail it was about 3″ high and had 3 or 4 leaves. The growing directions at that time were that the plant liked to be dry between watering, and that is how I have always treated it. Now Gurney’s says that the plant likes moist soil and indirect light. My bird is thriving on tender loving neglect.

For those of you who like to keep tropical plants as house plants, Logee’s Tropical Plants has a catalog with a very nice selection including the lobster plant, a relative of the bird of paradise.

Author: tbenkovitz

I have been gardening for over 50 years, 38 of them as an organic gardener in the short season climate of upstate New York.

One thought on “The bird of paradise house plant

  1. I wasn’t sure if I could divide it or not,same here,so I have 3 large ones about 5/6 feet and 3 small ones less then a foot ,there in the house right now ,they all have 3 plants in one pot,so if I divide as one plant will it be better for them…thanks!


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