Strelitzia is a genus of five species native to South Africa. They are called Bird of Paradise because they resemble an exotic tropical bird. South Africans call them the Crane Flower because they resemble the head of a crane. Bird of Paradise grows in a trunkless clump of stiff, green leaves that limit training potential through pruning.
Limits of Pruning
Because it grows in a clump, not with a trunk and branches, there is only so much you can do by pruning to manage the size of a Bird of Paradise. Your best option is to carefully select the most appropriate species for your space. The common Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) grows up to 6.6 feet (2 m) high and up to 3 feet (90 cm) wide. The largest species, Strelitzia nicolai, grows up to 20 feet (6 m) tall. The White Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia alba, is a tree-like plant that can reach up to 33 feet (10 m) tall and is unsuitable for a small garden. The slow-growing Strelitzia juncea grows up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and has leaves that disappear over time, giving the plant appearance of a waterside reed or rush.
Pruning Suckers and Rhizomes
Underground rhizomes, a form of stem, grow from Bird of Paradise's base, forming clumps of shoots. The clump can quickly overwhelm a small space if you allow the rhizomes to grow unchecked. Decide how far you will allow the plant to spread, then slice into the soil with a sharp shovel blade to cut the rhizomes.
Pruning Stalks and Dead Flowers
Two or three Bird of Paradise flowers grow on top of tall stalks, among the long leaves. Prune spent flowers and flower stalks in the early spring. However, removing the stalks will also remove the flower buds, destroying what makes the plant striking.
Pruning for Height
If you want to limit a Bird of Paradise's height, you can selectively prune its taller leaves and stalks when it is dormant in the winter.
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