Orange Bird of Paradise
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT
Strelitzia reginae Banks is the correct and accepted name for this plant. The genus and species were both named by Joseph Banks on an engraving to be used in William Aiton’s first edition of Hortus Kewensis in 1789. Before Mr. Aiton’s book could be published, Mr. Banks was distributing copies of the plates in 1788. Therefore, Joseph Banks got the credit for naming the genus and this species even though it was not described until Hortus Kewensis was published by William Aiton in 1789. So, Strelitzia Banks and Strelitzia reginae Banks are the accepted names, Strelitzia Aiton and Strelitzia reginae Aiton are isonyms. Anyway, the genus was named by Joseph Banks after Queen Charlotte (Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), wife of King George III. She was an amateur botanist and helped expand Kew Gardens. You can read more about this story (although not complete) in an article written in the Kew Bulletin (Vol. 66: 475-477) by David J. Mabberley by clicking HERE.
*Although the article indicates that Mr. Banks named the genus Strelitzia after the Queen, Mecklenburg-Strelitz was her birthplace. Many websites say the species was named after her birthplace and not the queen.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 5 species in the Strelitzia genus (as of 2-24-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Strelitziaceae with 3 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.
THERE ARE A FEW LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
I bought this Orange Bird of Paradise from Wellspring Gardens in the spring of 2012 while living at the mansion in Mississippi. When I first started working for Dr. Skinner in May 2008, she needed me in California before we moved to Mississipi. I was amazed at beautiful landscaping everywhere and there were A LOT of the orange-flowered Bird of Paradise. So, while I was ordering plants in 2012, I decided to give it a try as well as the flowered species, Strelitzia nicolai.
Origin: South Africa.
Zones: USDA Zones 9b-11 (25 to 40° F).
Size: 3-6’ plus.
Light: Sun to part shade.
Soil: Well-drained, organically rich, loamy soil.
Water: Moderate water. Likes soil somewhat moist.
Strelitzia species are very easy to grow and one of many plants that make a nice tropical atmosphere. Where winter hardy, they make great plants in flower beds but do well in pots in other areas. Strelitzia are very sensitive to frost, so they will need to be planted in a sheltered area where frost could be a problem for short periods.
The Strelitzia reginae love moist, organically rich soil in bright light. Once established they can be fairly drought tolerant, though. Water them frequently if you can during the summer, but lighten up in the winter. If you bring them inside for the winter you need to make sure you have well-draining soil and allow it to dry somewhat between watering.
They like bright light but may look their best with a little afternoon sun. Inside, although they need bright light, they may not like direct sun. You just have to experiment somewhat.
I grew my plants in the backyard at the mansion where they received a good amount of morning sun and afternoon shade. While in the sunroom for the winter, they received bright light but there were trees shading the glass a big part of the day.
The Strelitzia reginae makes a good choice if you are looking for a tropical plant that doesn’t get that large. Well, some websites say to 6’ or more but I’m not so sure about that. In pots they are probably more likely to grow 3-4’ tall. The Strelitzia species and many other plants make great tropicals, but some can get quite large.
I sold the mansion and moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in 2013 and gave up many plants. I gave this one, and most others, to a good friend and fellow plant collector from Greenville. Maybe someday I will try another one or two.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.