Strelitzia Progress

As you may know, Strelitzia Reginae (Bird of Paradise) is one of my favourite plants. A good few years ago, I sowed a whole bunch of seeds, out of which only one germinated. This lonely, vulnerable seedling was nursed through repeated black fly infestations, protected from freezing winters and sheltered from withering sun as it struggled to survive and grow.

But survive and grow it did and years later, I would say that the original seedling has now moved out of the toddler years and into young kiddie years:

Young Strelitizia

Among the mass of all the other patio pot plants, the Strelitzia is the large-leaved tropical looking thing in the foreground.

It has grown two whole new leaves this year, each one bigger than the last. The latest leaf still is not adult sized yet (they’re much bigger) so there is still a lot of growing to do. I can’t really be sure when it will flower, perhaps 2015? 2016? as a lot of bad weather is due between now and then. Although this plant really isn’t earning its keep on the patio, it requires such little maintenance now that I don’t mind. It gets watered along with the rest of the patio pots and beyond that there’s nothing else that needs doing to it. That’s a far cry from when it was a tiny seedling on life-support and I was checking on it almost daily, pandering to its needs and trying to keep it alive.

I have several long-term seedlings and plants like these so I am used to timescales of several years as opposed to just one or two (or even same-season). I believe I am at the halfway point with the Strelitzia. The secret is that it doesn’t take a lot of care or attention, it just sits there and I may take a slight-longer-than-normal glance at it every few weeks but other than that, it’s out of mind.

The next time the Strelitzia will get any real attention is when it has to come in for the winter and so I count another year down, that’s one year less until it sends up that first magical flower spike that represents the culmination of all the work and care since I bought the original seed packet. Until then, I’m content to let it sit on the patio, slowly growing away, as it has done ever since it germinated three or four years ago.


  1. I’m impressed that you’re growing tropical plants in England. Bird of Paradise is a common plant in California and I remember it from my childhood. Aren’t the flowers sticky? I was always trying to make sure they didn’t stick to my clothes when I ran around outside.


    1. Hi Tammy, sometimes I think managing to grow anything successfully in this fickle UK climate is an achievement in itself. I do find it funny that Streiltzia and other tropicals grow like weeds in the warmer parts of the world whereas I have to struggle, try hard and wait for years in the UK. On the other hand, plants that grow easily here would be nigh on impossible where those tropicals grow. You might wonder why I’m bothering with Strelitzia and I might wonder why you’re trying so hard with daffodils.


  2. Sunil, you are the most inspiring gardener! I’m much more laissez-faire, and not at all inclined to nurture something so carefully. I think part of that is just the growth stage of my garden (and me) right now, where I’m still learning desert plants and trying to find things tough enough to fill in blank spots in the main beds while being responsible with water. In, say, 5 years, though, I will aim to be cherishing dream plants like your very healthy looking, beautiful Strelizia.


    1. Hello Stacy, always wonderful to hear from you. I have to really like a plant in order for me to take this much care and attention over it and Strelitzia happens to be one of my favourites. You wont see me fawning over and tending alpines or sedums this way as they’re just not my thing. You never know, you yourself might suddenly, by chance, come across the most stunningly captivating and beautiful plant that you simply must have at all costs, and then you’ll be in the same boat as me!


  3. Hi Sunil. You are a very patient gardener. Now I’m going to start counting down the days until you see the Strelitzia flower.


    1. Hi Jason, I suspect you’ll be counting to over a thousand and I will be well into middle-age at the rate it’s growing. Having said that, I’ve spotted another new leaf coming through so it may be accelerating as it gradually gets bigger until it reaches flowering size. No doubt there will be frequent updates until the big event.


  4. I am very impressed with your patience and persistence. Think of how magical that first bloom is going to be after so many years of anticipation.


    1. Hi Jean, it had better be – the amount of time I’ve already spent waiting for it, by the time is does flower, we’ll all have a party in the care home I’ll be in.


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