Flashy and bold, the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) is a plant that people love because of its broad, bright leaves and giant flowers.
But can it be trained to be small? Is it possible to keep this mighty Bird in a cage?
Is It So Difficult To Keep Strelitzia Plants Small?
The Strelitzia is a massive plant. The size of a plant is influenced by its genetics and the environment in which it is growing.
To help it survive in the wild, it developed graceful sail-like leaves. Tall and beautiful flowers attract nectar-loving birds, and when they die, the long stems of the flowers spread seeds far from the parent plant.
As a result of these factors, the genes that allow it to grow so large are more likely to survive.
The environment is another factor that influences a plant’s size. Its biology may say that the Strelitzia can grow to a specific size, but it can’t reach that size without the building blocks it needs to grow.
On the other hand, the Bird of paradise has everything it needs to grow to its full potential, including plenty of sunlight, water, fertile soil, and room to spread out.
The genetic legacy of Strelitzia is unavoidable. It’s always going to have large, enticing flowers and leaves. But you can influence its surroundings.
How do you keep a Bird of Paradise small?
It is possible to slow the growth of a Bird of Paradise by reducing the resources it requires to reach full size.
You can also take more direct action to prevent its elegant spread of leaves from taking over your home or office.
Let’s look at the factors we can influence to keep a Bird of Paradise in check.
How To Keep Strelitzia Leaves from Growing
Regularly Cut Back the Bird Of Paradise
Snipping away the larger leaves is the simplest method for dealing with a large bird. Generally speaking, I prefer to start with older leaves, especially those with spots, damage, or faded coloring. In addition, older Bird leaves that have split are excellent candidates for the chop.
Cut a few inches above the soil with clean shears close to the leaf’s base. Leave about two-thirds of the leaves uncut, as it will not fuel the growth of new foliage if there is insufficient foliage.
Early spring is the best time of year to prune Strelitzia. Although the Bird is a hardy plant, it will be stressed by having its leaves removed.
Pruning with care at the start of the growing season gives the Bird plenty of time to recover from that trauma and produce younger, more vigorous leaves in the spring and summer.
Use As Little Water As Possible
Bird of paradise prefers consistently moist soil and will take advantage of any extra water available to fuel growth. Limiting the amount of water available to the plant will stunt its growth.
Photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight as a source of energy, requires water as a critical component.
Because it can use the sun’s energy to turn water and carbon dioxide from the air into sugars, a pigment called chlorophyll gives Bird of Paradise leaves their stunning appearance.
Those sugars are the building blocks of all plant growth. Limiting the amount of water your plant has will limit its ability to produce sugars and the new growth that they support in turn.
That being said, the Bird of Paradise does require some amount of water to survive, so there’s an essential distinction between limiting growth and killing it!
Constantly water it when the top two inches of the growing medium have dried out.
Restriction of Light Access
Strelitzias are true divas – they demand the spotlight! At least six hours of direct sunlight each day are required for a Bird’s optimal growth. At the very least, they benefit from nearly constant bright indirect light.
If there isn’t enough light, the Strelizia won’t produce the massive amount of energy required to have those magnificent leaves.
Monitor the moisture level in your growing medium if you decide to reduce the Bird’s light exposure.
Because low-light plants require less water, it’s essential to adjust your watering schedule to reflect this. This article will help you precisely understand the light requirements for your Bird of paradise.
Use Small Size Container
Smaller Bird of Paradise plants do better in a tightly-fitting container because their roots are more tightly bound.
Allowing your Strelitzia to expand its roots means more room for new leaves, which in turn means more nutrients for the plant’s dazzling foliage.
For the Bird, easy-to-manage pot size is essential. The Bird can thrive in a pot about 7-8 inches (20cm) deep but not so profound that it has room to grow too large.
Apply Fertilizer in Small Amounts
The final critical factor in Bird of Paradise growth is ongoing fertilization. Bird of these plants is voracious feeders, requiring consistent nutrition throughout the spring and summer to produce new foliage. Unfortunately, these beautiful leaves don’t come cheap!
A single diluted balanced fertilizer application is usually sufficient during the growing season. This will help healthy growth without causing it to go into overdrive.
I like a liquid fertilizer that can be mixed into the water. In small doses, it’s an effective way to feed the Bird of Paradise and keep it from getting too big. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
Select a Dwarf Variety
Of course, the best way to keep your Strelitzia from growing too big is to choose a dwarf variety in the first place. What’s the point of battling your plant’s genetics if you can instead work with it?
Compared to the orange-flowered Strelitzia reginae, the smaller Strelitzia juncea grows about a foot taller when fully grown.
It has longer, narrower leaves and takes up less space than the Bird of Paradise, but it still has the same glitz.