Strelitzia Nicolai, Wild Banana Bird of Paradise
The Strelitzia nicolai, sometimes also called the Wild Banana, Giant Bird of paradise or White Bird of paradise grows the largest out of the 5 different species of Bird of paradise.
Over the years its popularity has grown, becoming a common houseplant, adored for its size and ability to add a tropical flare to any room.
When it comes to the Bird of paradise, more is better. Your plant needs 6+ hours of bright sunlight to thrive.
Where possible, provide your plant with bright indirect light, as direct sunlight may be too harsh for your plant.
Like all Strelitzias, the nicolai does not like sitting in soggy soil and is prone to root rot.
To ensure this does not happen, provide your plant with rich, well-draining soil. Always check the dampness of your soil before watering again.
Avoid letting your soil dry out completely, as this will cause your plant a lot of stress.
To check the moisture content of your soil, you can simply stick a finger into the soil. If it feels mostly dry then go ahead and water your plant. If you can feel the soil is still quite moist, you may want to check back in a few days.
The Nicolai is hardy when it comes to heat. This tolerance increases with maturity, and a grown Bird of paradise is considered drought tolerant. In their native South Africa, they can tolerate temperatures of up to 38°C.
This isn’t to say it’s ideal for your plant to remain at this temperature, as being exposed to such high temperatures long term may put your plant into survival mode.
Your Nicolai will be happy with anything above 21°C.
When it comes to the cold, Strelitzias are a bit fussier. They have almost no tolerance to the cold and when exposed to temperatures below zero, they suffer extensive damage.
Damage to leaves and buds can occur in a matter of hours, so if you live somewhere that experiences cold winters, it’s best you bring your Bird of paradise indoors until the spring.
The Wild banana will tolerate normal household humidity levels but may need some extra help during the wintertime. This is especially true if you run a heating system, which dries out the air.
It will tolerate a humidity level of 50% but will thrive if you can provide it with 70%.
The nicolais roots are fast growing and can cause damage if planted near paving or structures. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you plan to plant your Strelitzia in the ground.
Expect to repot your plant every few years as it outgrows its container.
Choosing the correct pot size is important. Always choose a pot that is only one or two sizes bigger than the one your plant is currently in.
Avoid picking out a big pot, as this will increase the soil drying out time and may lead to root rot.
You will be able to tell when your plant has outgrown its current pot by observing the drainage holes beneath the current pot. Roots will begin to creep out, or, cracks may even begin to form along the side of the pot.
The Strelitzia nicolai is poisonous to humans, dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses when ingested. If you suspect poisoning, seek the help of a licensed medical, or veterinarian.
Never induce vomiting unless instructed to by a licensed healthcare professional.
The Strelitzia nicolai can be propagated using division and from seed.
Division by propagation involves slicing a section of the plant, including a piece of the rhizome to form a second plant. It is essential to include the rhizome as the stem, leaf, and flowers are incapable of forming their own root systems.
Propagation via seed involves the scarification and soaking of the fluffy, orange seeds. Germination takes place in 8 weeks.
The Bird of paradise requires little maintenance. Unlike most plants, it doesn’t drop its dead leaves so you’ll occasionally need to trim dead or damaged leaves off. When pruning, only remove what is necessary.
You can always trim more later, but there is no going back if you chop a bit too much off.
The Bird of paradise is considered a watery savvy plant that can be considered drought tolerant once mature. This is thanks to its tuberous root system which stores water for the plant.
This allows the plant to survive long periods without being watered. If you live in a water-scarce area, then this may be a good option for your garden.
The tearing that takes place in the leaves is an adaptation that protects the plant from harm. Splits allow wind to safely pass through the leaves without causing any damage to the plants.
If these splits did not form, then it’s likely the plant would tip over, or the stems could suffer damage and end up bending or breaking.
If you are keeping the plant for its aesthetic value, consider placing it somewhere that experiences minimal wind as the excessive splitting will cause your plant to look untidy and may then require some pruning.
Another characteristic of the Bird of paradise is that it is salt spray resistant. This means if you live by the coast, this plant won’t be bothered too much by receiving an occasional mist coming off the ocean. It also can be planted around a pool.
Disease and pest resistant
The Bird of paradise is considered both pest and disease-resistant. Although it rarely comes under attack, if you do discover your plant has a pest infestation, it will likely be a sap-sucking insect.
To get rid of these, pick up some neem oil at your local nursery. Follow the directions for use as instructed on the bottle for the best yield in results.
Potentially damaging roots
The plant does however have a pretty fast-growing root system. Avoid planting near buildings, boundary walls, or pavements as the roots can cause extensive damage, breaking through concrete. If you are limited when it comes to space, consider planting your Bird of paradise in a pot instead of in the ground.
The Giant Bird of paradise is a must have for all plant enthusiasts. With its easy maintenance and large size, it can turn any part of the house into your very own tropical oasis. Adding instant height, it’s sure to get heads turning.