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The bird of paradise plant - Strelitzia species is arguably one of the most exotic flowering that you can buy. Furthermore, because of its relative hardiness, is is like to be the MOST exotic flower that you can grow in your garden - although it will need to come in under protection over winter if temperature get below freezing for prolonged periods.
The bird of paradise flower is fairly tolerant of most soil conditions and will need little water once established making them ideal for drought tolerant conditions. If cared for well, they will flower several times in a year once established.
While they will grow in poor conditions, they will positively thrive in a rich loamy soil, especially when they get plenty of water throughout the year. They do well in full sun to semi-shade and respond well to regular feeding and a seasonal top dressing with a rich compost.
How to grow the Bird of Paradise plant from seed
Stratification involves keeping the seeds in cold storage to bring them out of dormancy, and scarification refers to breaking the outer husk of the seed to help the juvenile shoots break through and grow. Bird of Paradise plants thrive outside in a Mediterranean environment, similar to USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. If you live in a cooler climate then you can still grow them indoors as an exotic house plant.
First soak the Bird of Paradise seeds in a bowl of lukewarm water for between 24 and 48 hours. Afterwards, drain the water away and wrap the seeds in a damp paper towel. Place the seeds in a re-sealable plastic bag and store them in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Fill small planting pots or a planting tray with a mixture of equal parts moss peat and perlite. Press one seed into each pot or tray section to a depth of 1/2 an inch. Cover the seeds with some more of the compost mix and water until completely moist.
Place clear plastic planting tray covers on the trays. If you used pots, wrap each one with a clear plastic bag or cover the tops with plastic wrap. This helps retain moisture and heat, both of which are needed to get Bird of Paradise seeds to germinate. Place the trays or pots in a warm room with indirect sunlight.
Water the soil regularly to keep it moist while the plants are germinating. Transplant the Bird of Paradise seedlings to larger pots or to a permanent location outdoors after two to three months. If you transplant them outdoors, dig holes as large as the containers and space them about 2 to 3 feet apart. Fertilise the area with a slow release fertilise such as osmocote according to the instructions on the packaging.
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Based on an article by By Jarrett Melendez, eHow Contributor
Bird of Paradise seed photo by Molokai Girl and me and http://www.total-gardening.com/02-09-2008cr.html and http://www.vendio.com/stores/janstev/item/yard-garden-outdoor-living-pla/1-x-strelitzia-parvifolia-smal/lid=26086302