Strelitzia reginae (stre-LITZ-ee-a ray-JEEN-ie)
Bird-of-paradise, Crane flower, Crane lily
Birds-of-paradise have long-stalked leaves and thick stems,
which can grow 3 to 4 feet long. The evergreen, blue- to
gray-green leaves are oblong and leathery. Beautiful,
featherlike flowers emerge from hard, beaklike sheaths that grow
at right angles to the long stalks, making these flowers look
like exotic birds.
Birds-of-paradise are among the few flowers that have a
contrasting color harmony in one bloom. These orange-and-blue or
orange-and-purple flowers are enclosed in a green, boat-shaped
bract edged with red.
Birds-of-paradise will last in vase arrangements and floral
designs using floral foam for seven to 14 days, if the vase
water is changed regularly and the area where arrangements are
displayed is well lit.
Most markets have birds-of-paradise in good supply year-round.
Optimum refrigeration temperature for storing
birds-of-paradise is 55 F. They are sensitive to cold
temperatures, which can cause them to blacken, so never expose
them to temperatures below 45 F.
Birds-of-paradise are not ethylene sensitive.
Birds-of-paradise are members of the Strelitziaceae family.
They are indigenous to Africa, where they grow wild on the
Eastern Cape. Birds-of-paradise were formerly classified in the
Musaceae (banana) family.
The scientific name, “Strelitzia,” is derived from the
family name of George III’s queen, Charlotte Sophia, of the
House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The species name “reginae” means
Bird-of-paradise foliage usually is sold separately from the
flowers. The large, linear, gray-green foliage lasts well and
can give a dramatic look to arrangements. The leaves also can be
contorted or abstracted by cutting out sections or stapling them
into tubes without affecting their lasting quality.
If desired, hang the leaves upside down in a dry place. As they
dry, they will take on a golden color and develop into
long-lasting twisted shapes of rhythmic beauty. They can be
painted for further design versatility.
Long vase life makes birds-of-paradise a good choice for
commercial designs and other arrangements that are expected to
last a long time.
When purchasing birds-of-paradise, check the sheaths. They
should be puffy and closed or show only one petal section open.
Make sure there are no signs of florets having been removed.
If the flowers fail to emerge, the first flower can be eased out
by squeezing both thumbs gently along the edges of the sheath.
When one exposed flower fades, remove it, and then another one
can be pulled out. All of the florets can be pulled out at once
for greater show. Each sheath should contain four to six
Some information provided by:
The Hawaii Tropical Flower Council,
Chain of Life Network®,
SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual
Reach “Fresh Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD,
at firstname.lastname@example.org or by
phone at (415) 239-3140.
Images courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission and the
Flower Council of Holland.
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