If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, large plant with a tropical flair that will make a statement in your home, Strelitzia nicolai is the plant for you.
Strelitzia nicolai is an exotic plant better known as the Giant White Bird of Paradise plant, Crane Plant, or Wild Banana Plant. It’s native to Southern Africa and is renowned for its large, lush green foliage.
Giant White Bird of Paradise is related to Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise). The two are sometimes confused as both plants have flower heads that resemble exotic birds – hence the name.
Strelitzia reginae is a standard-sized houseplant with sword-shaped leaves and orange flowers. Strelitzia nicolai is much bigger, with large leaves like boat paddles. In fact, the common name Wild Banana came about because of how closely the foliage resembles that of a banana plant.
Is Strelitzia nicolai easy to grow?
Generally, yes. Crane plants are easy to care for and don’t require too much time and effort to grow. They are fast growers, and you’ll notice a difference in the height of your plant between the start of spring and the end of summer.
How big will my giant white bird of paradise plant get?
In their natural habitat, Strelitzia nicolai can reach up to a whopping 20ft tall. However, as an indoor plant, their ultimate height is usually between 3ft and 8ft, which is still plenty big enough to make a dramatic statement in a room.
Strelitzia nicolai shoots up quickly during the growing season (April to September). Although Wild Bananas can take up to 6 years to fully mature, it won’t be long until your plant grows to an impressive height.
Where to put a white bird of paradise plant
Your White Bird of Paradise plant will love a bright spot, ideally near a south-facing window. Bear in mind that plants can also suffer from sunburn, so keep your Strelitzia nicolai out of strong direct sunlight to prevent the leaves from scorching. Full sun in the morning or evening is fine, but move the plant into partial shade when the sun is at its strongest.
Choose a position away from air vents, draughts, and dry heat sources such as radiators. Strelitzia nicolai flourishes in high humidity, but tolerates average household humidity levels well. Placing a pebble tray underneath the pot will help keep your White Bird of Paradise happy.
How often should I water my Strelitzia nicolai?
White Bird of Paradise prefers its soil moist, but well drained. Ensure the pot has plenty of drainage holes to prevent the plant from becoming water logged, which can lead to root rot (nobody wants that!)
There is no real schedule for watering a Crane plant. Watering frequency will largely depend on the conditions, the plant’s size, and the time of year. When the top 3-4cm of soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water again. The plant’s watering needs reduce during the winter months, and you can afford to let the soil dry out a little more outside its growing season.
Avoid over-watering your plant by using the soak and dry method. Soak the soil until the excess water pours from the drainage hole, then let the top layer of soil dry out before watering again.
Should I mist Strelitzia nicolai?
As mentioned above, Wild Banana plants thrive in increased humidity. If the room has average to low-level humidity then your plant will benefit from regular misting.
As well as providing a humid environment for your plant, misting helps keep the beautiful foliage smooth and shiny and also helps with photosynthesis.
Feeding Strelitzia nicolai
Your Strelitzia nicolai will benefit from high-quality plant food occasionally. An all-purpose houseplant feed is fine for Wild Banana plants. As a general rule of thumb, feed every fortnight during the summer months. However, be careful not to overfeed as too much fertiliser can burn the roots and damage the plant.
Will my White Bird of Paradise flower?
Wild Banana plants can produce beautiful white flowers resembling boat sails. However, while these are a relatively common sight in Africa, Mexico and Florida, where outdoor conditions are ideal, you would be incredibly lucky to see flowers appearing on an indoor Strelitzia nicolai plant.
If your plant is to flower, it will need the perfect mix of heat, light and humidity. Strelitzia nicolai doesn’t flower until it reaches maturity, so you’ll likely have to wait at least 3-4 years before the blooms appear. Flowering can happen at any time of year but is most likely between July and November.
Strelitzia nicolai makes a striking focal point even without flowering, and is most often grown indoors for its huge leaves and tropical appearance.
Re-potting a Crane plant
As Strelitzia nicolai grows quick, you may feel it needs to be re-potted more often than your other plants. However, Giant Bird of Paradise prefers to be slightly pot-bound, meaning you don’t have to re-pot it quite as often as you first think. Transplanting your Wild Banana into a slightly larger pot every 20-24 months will keep it healthy and give it space to grow.
Wait until spring or summer when the plant is in its growing phase, and choose a well-draining soil suitable for houseplants. Due to their size and weight, larger floor plants can be tricky to re-pot, so ensure you have plenty of space to replace the soil and check the roots for damage.
Common issues with Strelitzia nicolai
As with most indoor plants, your Strelitzia nicolai may throw up the odd issue that baffles you a little. Here we look at some of the most common issues Crane plants have, and how you can deal with them.
Some people get a little freaked out when they notice splitting leaves on their Strelitzia nicolai. However, it is perfectly normal and a natural occurrence in these striking plants. Crane plants have evolved so that their leaves spilt to let strong winds blow easily through them and prevent breakage. If the splitting seems extreme, increase humidity levels through misting or using a humidifier.
Drooping foliage or leaves that won’t open
Crane plant leaves emerge as a stem before unfurling to their full potential. If you notice leaves that haven’t opened out or existing leaves that are looking a bit droopy and turning brown, this is a sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough light. White Bird of Paradise plants require lots of bright natural light. Move your plant into a spot with plenty of bright indirect light and you’ll notice it start to perk up.
Brown and/or yellow edged leaves
Along with droopy leaves and extreme leaf splitting, brown or yellow-edged leaves are a symptom of overwatering. Use a fork or a chopstick to aerate the soil and help dry out soggy roots. Reduce the amount of water you’re offering the plant and ensure the drainage holes are not blocked to prevent the problem recurring.
On the other hand, brittle or crispy leaf edges are a sign that your plant isn’t being watered enough. The good news is that it’s easier to deal with under than over-watering.
Give the soil a good soaking until excess water pours through the drainage holes. Adjust your watering schedule to suit the needs of the plant.
Strelitzia nicolai care tips
While Strelitzia nicolai is relatively simple to care for, these tips will help your plant flourish.
Giant Bird of Paradise plants have huge leaves and, as we all know, surfaces like that tend to gather dust. Wipe each leaf down whenever you’re dusting your home, and they’ll keep their shiny appearance for longer.
Like many plants, Strelitzia nicolai will begin to lean towards the sun. Rotating your plant every few weeks will help encourage even growth as all sides will get a chance to veer towards the window, where the light comes in.
Crane plants are tall, so they often need some extra support to maintain their upright shape. Use gardening ties to attach the stems either to each other, or to a stake in the middle of the pot. You can leave the plant to its own devices, but adding some support will help keep a more streamlined look.
Strelitzia nicolai is a striking plant that works well in most settings and brings an exotic feel to a room. It’s great for filling a large space, easy to care for and, if you’re lucky enough for your mature plant to bloom indoors, you’re in for a special treat!