This herbaceous perennial is rare in northern climates, but prevalent in gardens and on roadsides in Zones 10-12 and sometimes in warmer areas of Zone 8B as well. It can reach heights of 20' Feet tall in the right conditions. Named for its stunning white flowers, the plant grows slowly in clumps as its underground stem divides, while the foliage grows in a fan-like pattern and is a species of the banana plant. A healthy, mature plant can produce up to 36 flower spikes each year. In ideal conditions, plants can bloom year-round. Flowers are produced in groups of one to three on long stalks.
The seeds look extraterrestrial with wild orange fuzz on the ends as pictured above. Bird of paradise plants is also known as crane flowers, a more precise description of the shape of their blooms. The plants bloom off and on year-round in suitable climates. Mature, healthy plants can produce up to 36 flower spikes a year, which will last for weeks. Once considered part of the banana family, these plants have escaped this lowly fate and now have their own family – the Strelitziaceae.
These plants are low maintenance which makes them valuable for urban landscaping. They are commonly seen growing in traffic islands and in gardens in apartment complexes in California. Even better is their tendency to stay put. Unlike tree roots that will eventually lift sidewalks, bird of paradise roots does not thicken as the plant age. Bird of paradise plants grow wild among other shrubs along riverbanks in many parts of South Africa and are important sources of nectar for birds.