White Bird of Paradise Guide: Bio, Care, & Facts
What’s everyone's favorite tropical houseplant that instantly transforms any indoor space to a lush, jungly vibe-- the Bird of Paradise, of course! The White Bird of Paradise (or BoP) is fairly easy to care for and has the potential to produce creamy, bird-like blooms in ideal conditions. Starting as a smaller tabletop plant, the White Bird of Paradise can eventually (indoors) reach 6 foot plus. This plant is most popular as a statement piece, to enliven the workspace, to fill out an empty corner, or as a host gift.
Scientific Name: Strelitzia nicolai
Common Names: White Bird of Paradise; Giant Bird of Paradise; Strelitzia alba; White Crane Flower
Origin: Native to South Africa
You might be familiar with the more common Orange Bird of Paradise, but the white version is equally as beautiful and grows enormously larger! The White Bird of Paradise displays extravagant, smooth, glossy leaves that resemble banana leaves in shape and size. In the wild of coastal regions of South Africa, the leaves of the White BoP can reach 5 feet in length! While the plant itself can grow to heights of 20+ feet, don’t expect your plant to reach that far indoors. Conditions inside simply won’t support that level of maturation. Winds in the native habitat are known to tatter the leaves, leaving a tropical split-leaf look. Indoors as a houseplant, the White Bird of Paradise may experience natural slits in the foliage as the leaf grows larger.
As the name implies, the magnificent blooms resemble a bird. The blooms are a creamy white color that form out of a dark blue, almost purplish bract. Despite which part of the Reddit debate you take– whether you see the bloom as a bird in flight or as a bird’s beak and feathers– it’s all birdy. We consider nature’s creations a form of art, so like artwork, we believe the bloom is up to your interpretation!
With upright growth, the Bird of Paradise makes a stunning contribution to add height within the home. As for its growing habit, this plant produces clumping stalks from which new growth emerges. Leaf production is moderate to a bit slower in this houseplant, especially as the plant gets larger.
The White Bird of Paradise is fairly low-maintenance and can be quite forgiving as an indoor plant. Since this plant is from South Africa and is now naturalized in parts of Australia and Mexico, we know that it likes warmth and sunlight. So indoors, it will enjoy similar conditions– like temperatures around 70-85°F. While springtime brings blooms in the wild, this plant is less likely to bloom indoors. We’ll dive deeper into how to encourage blooms indoors below.
Buy Online: White Bird of Paradise— 6 Inch
Given the origins, the White Bird of Paradise enjoys bright levels of sunlight. Unique for a houseplants favored conditions, this plant actually thrives with exposure to direct sun. The best location for the White Bird of Paradise will likely be the sunniest spot in your house– that’s typically near a south-facing window. If direct sunlight isn’t available, the BoP will also tolerate moderate levels of indirect light.
Allowing the White Bird of Paradise to partially dry out between waterings is key to its survival and thriveability. Specifically, the top couple of inches of soil should be dry to the touch before supplying the plant with more water. When watering, make sure that it’s a thorough drench with water overflowing through the bottom holes of the pot. We generally recommend that you take smaller plants to the sink to water them. For larger plants, make sure you empty any excess water that has accumulated on the drip tray (to prevent root rot). Remember that houseplants will usually require more water as warmer weather arrives in the spring and summer months.
The root system of the White Bird of Paradise can eventually get thick and prominent. Once the root system has started to coil at the base of the pot or you notice roots shooting out of the bottom holes of the pot, then it’s time to repot. Repotting is usually necessary about once every 2 years. But it’s important not to repot until necessary and the plant is absolutely ready. Remember when repotting to use a well-draining soil and only pot up to a planter that’s roughly 2 inches larger in diameter. Also for the BoP in particular, it can be helpful to “shallowly” pot the plant with roots close to the top of the soil. A deep planting can slow growth, especially bloom potential! Here’s our guide on repotting for more information: Repotting 101.
Nutrients are also imperative for your White Bird of Paradise to sustain and continue growth. A slower-release, granular houseplant fertilizer will work wonders and provide the plant with what it needs. Since too much fertilizer can be detrimental to the health of your plant, make sure to dilute or only use half of the recommended amount. Also, reserve fertilizing for the active growing months of spring and summer. Since some houseplants can go semi-dormant during colder seasons, you’ll want to avoid stressing the plant further.
Time and patience top the list for tips to support White Bird of Paradise blooming. Your plant will need to be about 3-5 years old before it even can develop blooms. To encourage blooming, having the preferable conditions indoors (listed above) is the first actionable step to assisting the BoP for inflorescence creation. Brighter sunlight will be most essential for blooms and insufficient light is the number one cause of a bloomless BoP. Next on the checklist is ensuring warmth, humidity, fertilizer, and proper watering.
Repotting will discourage bloom growth, so again, remember to only repot when absolutely necessary. And as mentioned, deeply potting the plant will inhibit blooms. Another helpful trick, is to move the potted plant outside during the spring and summer– assuming that it’s warm and humid where you live (bring inside if temperatures drip below 55 or above 90). By the time the plant needs to be brought back inside around autumn, you may notice buds starting to form!
With new growth, you may notice that the leaf seems stuck or takes forever to unravel. To help the leaf unfurl, we’ve found that misting the coiled leaf daily (or as often as possible) can move the process along faster. The boost of moisture (or alternatively you could add extra humidity) seems to support the plant by gently lubricating the leaf structure.
Scale, spider mites, and mealybugs are the most common houseplant pests that the Bird of Paradise experiences. But since the leaves are manageable, we recommend a monthly foliage wipe down. You can use a mixture of water, castile soap, and neem oil to make the plant look shiny (and pest-resistant) in 5 minutes! Always check the undersides of the leaves for any pest presence and treat them immediately. While pests aren’t a common occurrence with the Bird of Paradise, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Bird of Paradise plants are considered slightly toxic to mammals. However, the unsafe portion of the plant is found in the fruit and seeds.
Bilirubin was discovered within structures of Strelitzia nicolai in 2009– one of the handful of plants that contain this pigment. Previously, it was believed to only be present in animals! This discovery progresses the field of horticulture and biology; plus it could help with breeding and color manipulation in the future.