White Bird of Paradise Care and Grow Guide

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The White Bird of Paradise plant is a showstopping plant with long arching foliage that will bring tropical flare to any location. 

Learn more about how to care for the White Bird of Paradise, one of the more popular bird of paradise varieties.

White Bird of Paradise Overview

Botanically known as the Strelitzia Nicolai, this beautiful plant belongs to the Strelitziaceae family.

Popularly, it is referred to as the Wild Banana Plant, Giant Bird of Paradise, or as the Giant White Bird of Paradise because of its banana-like foliage and clumping stalks.

A native of South Africa, it thrives in locations like California and Florida but can be cultivated in containers as well. 

The White Bird of paradise can be cultivated outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 where it will be ideal for patios, pool areas, and beautiful outdoor gardens.

If you reside in a cooler climate, grow your White Bird of Paradise as an indoor houseplant. In optimal conditions, this plant will contribute to a lush tropical atmosphere wherever it is positioned and will definitely attract attention.

The White Bird of Paradise will feature several stems that grow from a single base, causing it to resemble a palm somewhat, only thinner.

This is a large plant with a moderate growth rate. It can grow to 20 to 26 feet tall and spread as far as 11 feet with woody upright arching stems. Leaves can grow to almost six feet long and boast a grayish-green tinge with a fan-like position and design at the top of plant stems.

Giant White Bird of Paradise

Stems may be approximately a foot thick and will show leaf scarring as the plant ages. It is a favorite for landscaping due to its exotic appearance.

The plant’s inflorescence or bloom is a dark blue bract with white sepals and a purplish-blue tongue. Main flower colors are white, cream and gray. The flower itself can grow to seven inches in height and eighteen inches in length. When flowers fade, they are followed by seed capsules that form in a triangular shape.

One unusual characteristic of this beauty is that it contains Bilirubin, a pigment compound generally found in animals and not in plants.

White Bird of Paradise Care Guide

Keep in mind when selecting a location for your White Bird of Paradise outdoors that the foliage is somewhat fragile, and leaves can tear when exposed to strong winds. Root systems are not particularly aggressive.

While not a small plant, it does grow upright. So, when cultivated indoors, it can fit into what might be considered tighter spaces despite its size. Landscapers will use multiple plants to create a fuller landscape design as a result.

Plants need to mature several years before flowering, and indoor plants will generally not produce blooms. When cultivated outdoors, these plants normally bloom, producing a single bract, shaped a bit like a boat, sometime between July and November.

The bract will open slowly to reveal five to ten white flowers. Blooms are followed by seed pods with three lobes that contain blackish seeds and yellow-red tufts.

Soil for the White Bird of Paradise

Whether in a container indoors or outdoors in the garden, it needs well-draining soil. It also should be rich in organic matter.

The Strelitzia Nicolai can tolerate most soils in various environmental conditions, including sandy, clay, loamy, slightly alkaline, and acidic with the exception of wet or soggy soil. 

When planting outdoors, add organic peat humus, cow manure, or topsoil to the hole you have prepared. Do not mulch near the base of the plant to prevent excess moisture from building up. When planting more than one plant, space them four to five feet apart.

To mix your own blend for container growing, use one part potting soil with one part perlite or coarse sand to guarantee drainage. Amend this with peat moss, manure, or leaf mulch for organic matter content whether cultivated indoors or outside.

If you are cultivating the White Bird of Paradise as a houseplant, repot your plant once every three years with a new container that is one size bigger.

Light for the White Bird of Paradise

The White Bird of Paradise thrives in full sunlight, but will manage well in bright indirect light with partial shade, should the local climate be harsh. This is important to consider as the foliage is prone to scorching when subjected to very intense direct light.

When cultivated indoors, it needs to have as much bright light as possible.

Water and Humidity for the White Bird of Paradise  

Watering properly is crucial to the well-being of the White Bird of Paradise. This plant is a heavy drinker. The soil bed can be soaked and then allow the excess to drain.

The soil should not be allowed to dry out completely between waterings. The soil should be kept relatively moist. Once the soil is dry to one inch deep, you can water it again.

Water the plant and let the excess water to drain. If the water doesn’t drain out of the pot’s drainage holes, it can be at risk for root rot due to overwatering. A soil moisture probe may be a handy tool in helping you with how dry the soil is if you need it. 

Ideally, avoid using tap water as it usually will contain chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. Opt for collected rainwater, distilled water, or filtered water. Reduce watering in the winter months during its dormant period. 

Moderate to high humidity is appreciated so if you are cultivating indoors, and your air is somewhat dry, consider using a pebble tray or humidifier to aid your plant.

Temperature for the White Bird of Paradise

The White Bird of Paradise can survive in temperatures that fall to 32°F, but not any lower and not for long periods of time. 

The ideal temperature range is between 65° and 75°F in the daytime, and between 50° and 60°F in the nighttime.

Fertilizer for the White Bird of Paradise

For the White Bird of Paradise, use a standard liquid NPK plant fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season in the spring. In the summer, reduce fertilizing to once monthly. It may be wise to dilute the fertilizer to half-strength to avoid overfeeding.

Too much fertilizer will stunt the plant’s blooming and encourage foliage growth instead. Overfertilizing will also cause salt buildup in the soil bed. This plant has a low salt tolerance.

For outdoor cultivation, fertilize three times annually, in the spring, summer, and fall with a quality granular fertilizer.

Giant White Bird of Paradise

Pruning the White Bird of Paradise

Pruning is generally not necessary for this plant except to remove dried out, damaged, yellowing, or dying foliage.

Outdoors, foliage is sensitive to winds, so split and ragged-looking leaves should be removed because they’re damaged. 

Propagating the White Bird of Paradise

While this plant can be propagated by seeds, the easiest method is to divide the plant’s rhizomes at the start of spring.

If you choose to use seeds, know that this method is very slow. Propagation can be accomplished more easily through rootball division.

However, with root division, the plant requires more time to rebound and regain its attractive appearance.

Learn more in the Bird of Paradise Propagation Guide.

White Bird of Paradise Toxicity and Pets

The White Bird of Paradise is considered to be toxic to humans and pets if ingested. Avoid placing them in areas that your pets and small children can get to. 

White Bird of Paradise Pests, Diseases, and Problems

Should your plant exhibit dry leaves or crispy leave tips and edges, your plant is most probably underwatered. The same is true if foliage curls, splits, breaks, or withers.

It is resistant to most common diseases and pests with a few exceptions. Root rot is a risk for the White Bird of Paradise and is almost always caused by overwatering or by insufficient drainage. Make sure the pot used when cultivated as a houseplant has a good number of drainage holes.

Common house pests to be on the lookout for include:

  • Spider Mites
  • Mealybugs
  • Aphids
  • Scale Insects
  • Whiteflies

These pests may arrive from other houseplants with infestations. Mealybugs and scales can be removed manually. Aphids can be washed off with jet sprays of water.

In any case, treat your plant with insecticidal soap or organic neem oil if you see any pests appear.

White Bird of Paradise Final Thoughts

This unique White Bird of Paradise is a striking showpiece when used as a landscape plant, a tropical backdrop, accent pillars at a property entrance, or as a striking container plant in a home or lobby.

These plants are big, so do plan ahead for maturation and growth.

Here are other bird of paradise articles to check out: 

Fast Growing Trees and Plants

Photo of author

Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

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