Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae, Palm Beach

The massive clumping perennial bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae ht 1.8 m) is a stunning accent plant for a tropical-style Sydney garden. It comes from South Africa. It has bold paddle-like foliage and amazing flowers that really do resemble an exotic tangerine and blue crested bird. These begin during autumn in Sydney, and continue over a long period through winter and into spring, making it one of the most long-flowering plants in our climate.

Strelitzia reginae with autumn leaves in the background

In autumn, it looks effective against a backdrop of colourful autumn leaves, and contrasts vibrantly with deep purple-flowered Tibouchina lepidota shrubs. It enjoys well-drained soil with organic matter mixed in, and prefers to be drier during the cooler months. It probably flowers best in full sun, but I recall reading somewhere that in its native habitat it can be seen in part-shaded sites growing with Clivia, which could look stunning if both are in bloom in late winter. I have planted it in such a situation, and it started to produce its first flowers after a couple of years. It should be placed carefully, as it is extremely difficult to remove an established clump (width can reach 1 m). A more refined-looking version (Strelitzia juncea ht 1.8 m) has similar flowers amongst slim, reed-like foliage, and I have recently planted a piece of this species. There is also a giant form (Strelitzia nicolai, ht 6 m) - probably not suited to domestic gardens!

Flowers in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November.

 Out now in my Sydney Garden.