White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise
White Bird of Paradise

White Bird of Paradise


Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai)

Everyone has their own idea of what paradise on Earth looks like. To some, it’s Hawaii. To others, it’s the Bahamas, or the French Riviera, or the left field bleachers during a day game at Wrigley Field (hey, no judgement here). For us, it’s anywhere we can be surrounded by the leaves and blossoms of the Strelitzia, better known as the Bird of Paradise.

The Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai) is slightly less well known than its sibling, the legendary Strelitzia Reginae. But in an indoor setting, where neither plant is likely to blossom, S. Nicolai is arguably the more impressive of the two. It’s taller—not 30’ high like it can get in the wild, but 6’-8’ high—and its massive, paddle-shaped leaves can each grow to 3’ in length and half as wide. The result is a baby elephant of a plant that’s just so big, so alive, so bursting with vibrant green life that you can’t help but feel like a barely-tamed piece of the South African jungle has come to live with you. It looks phenomenal as a specimen plant, especially with a spotlight on it to highlight its striking shape. 

And if it does bloom, maybe from spending time outside on a sunny patio? Whoa. We can’t think of a single flower that makes a bigger impression than a Strelitzia blossom. Sure, roses will always be special to lovers, tulips and daffodils are fantastic in spring, and who doesn’t love a pure, white lily? But nothing, and we do mean nothing, blows a plant lover’s mind like the first time you see a Strelitzia blossom.

The easiest way to envision the flower of a Bird of Paradise is to imagine the head of a bird with a long neck and beak, such as a stork or heron. In Strelitzia Nicolai, the “head” of the bird is the flower spathe, a thick, boat-shaped outer petal of purple-black up to 12” long. Then imagine our bird has a vertical row of feathers, alternating between long white ones and shorter purple ones, fanning from the top of its head like cards in a gambler’s hand. It’s exquisite. It’s ridiculous. It’s amazing. And only a Bird of Paradise looks like this – well our website logo looks like it too.

Happily, Strelitzia Nicolae is remarkably durable as a houseplant. They prefer the same indoor temperatures as people, and can handle cold down into the 40s before taking damage. They do best in bright indirect light, but can also handle medium light, or even full sun in all but the hottest, sunniest locations. They’re fond of moist-but-not-waterlogged soil and letting the top inch of soil dry out before their next drink, and have simple fertilizer needs: a half-strength dose of liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer is enough. They can be difficult to propagate, but we’ve already done that part, so no worries there. All you have to do is give this bird a home and let it fly. 

Characteristics and traits of a Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai)

Scientific Name: Strelitzia Nicolai

Genus: Strelitzia

Family: Strelitziaceae

Common Name: Giant Bird of Paradise, White Bird of Paradise, Giant White Bird of Paradise, Bird of Paradise Tree, “The White Bird”, Wild Banana (inaccurate), Blue and White Strelitzia

Indoor:   Year round in temperatures above 60F

Outdoor Zones: 9b-12

Type: Perennial evergreen; propagated by division or seed

Mature Height: 15’-30’ (7’-8’ in a pot)

Mature Width: 6’-10’

Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX

Growth Rate: Medium

Flower: Yes - Amazing black-green “bird’s bill” base with several pointed white and purple bracts fanning up from it like ornate feathers.

Foliage: Thick, gray-green oval leaves up to 3’ long and 18” wide.

Plant Care and Advice for Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai)

Grown In:  Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 9b-12

Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade outside (may need slight sun protection in very hottest locations), Full sun to medium indirect inside (bright indirect is best).

Water Requirements: Keep moist but not saturated in spring and summer, watering when top inch is dry. In cooler months, wait for top 2 inches to dry.

Drought Tolerance: Good

Temperature:  Likes indoor room temp. 65-90F. Outdoors can handle warmer or cooler temps (down to 40F), but won’t love it. Bring indoors if possible when temps regularly fall below 45F.  

Air Purification: Good

Toxicity: Rare seed pods can cause mild discomfort to pets if eaten. Safe otherwise

Fertilizer: Liquid at half strength once per month in spring and summer.

Container Friendly: Yes - But good drainage is a must


The Giant White Bird of Paradise accepts a wide variety of soil types but does best in rich, moist soil that drains well. As such, a base of peat mixed with sand or perlite will yield excellent results. The plant itself is very easy to repot and takes to its new home quickly. Repotting is also the best time to propagate the plant via division. This is arguably the most reliable method, though the newly divided plants can sometimes look sparse until they “fill out” with new shoots of their own, which can take a while. 

Plant Care:

Bird of Paradise plants appreciate a lot of light. They do best in bright indirect light, but in zones where they can survive year-round outside (mostly in California and Florida) they are often planted in full sun. There is still a chance that the leaves can scorch, though, so if you’re considering planting your Strelitzia in a full sun location, we’d recommend letting it stand in that spot while still potted for a while, to make sure the plant can take the direct sunlight. They can also handle medium indirect light (light shade if outdoors), though they’ll grow more slowly and be less likely to bloom.

Although the leaves of Strelitzia Nicolai are rugged and much more resistant to tearing than the leaves of, say, a banana plant, they can nonetheless tatter if placed in a windy location. When inside, they also dislike being placed near A/C or heat vents, which can dry them out. Incidentally, strelitzias don’t require higher than normal humidity, but they do appreciate it. Misting the plant regularly, placing it on a tray filled with pebbles and half-filled with water, or placing it near a humidifier are all great ideas, but not usually necessary.

Bird of Paradise plants prefer to have their roots always moist, but never waterlogged. In the spring and summer, water thoroughly, then allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. In fall and winter, allow the top 2 inches and water slightly less thoroughly.

Speaking of water, Giant Bird of Paradise is sensitive to additives such as fluoride and salt, which can be introduced via tap water or excess fertilizer. It’s a good idea to use distilled water or captured rainwater, or to let tap water sit for 24 hours before using to let unnatural additives dissipate out.

Expert Advice:

Yellowing leaves on a Strelitzia are usually an indication that the plant would like more light, whereas burnt leaf tips are an indication to offer less fertilizer (and flush with fresh water to remove what’s already in the soil).

As long as it’s not allowed to sit in swampy, waterlogged soil (a breeding ground for fungal and bacterial infections), Strelitzia Nicolai is almost completely immune to disease. It is also highly resistant to pests. It can get scales, mealybugs, or spider mites, but all of these are easily treated with a simple, daily wipe-downs with a spray bottle and light soap mixture. Avoid pesticides, which can damage the leaf’s finish.

Strelitzia Nicolai can be challenging to propagate. The seeds require a bloom, which rarely happens in indoor “birds”, and are difficult to germinate even if they do exist. Suckers, or “pups” that sprout alongside the main plant are quite easy to separate from the main plant and repot, but the owner has no control over when and if they appear in the first place. Simple root division can be done at any time, but if the divided parts end up too sparse, it can be quite some time before they fill out again with new growth. 

There’s another, closely related but less common strelitzia also called the “white bird of paradise”, Strelitzia Alba. The two are nearly identical, but S. alba flowers less often and produces fewer pups, so it tends to not look as “full”. It has a slightly smaller maximum height in the wild (18’ as opposed to 30’), but this is rarely a factor in a houseplant situation.