Harvest when the first flower emerges from the bract. Grow in areas where temperatures seldom go below 60F nor above 80F for extended periods as decreased flowering and/or flower quality can result.
Formally a member of the banana (Musaceae family), it now has been reclassified in the Strelitziaceae (bird of paradise family).
Subtropical South Africa and South America.
While banana and heliconia used to be related, there are no common relatives. However, there is one very interesting relative named Ravenala madagascariensis that is better known by the common name of “traveler’s palm”, so-called because of the water that collects in the leaf bases which provides water to travelers.
Each thick stem can reach 4 feet in length.
Flower head composed of a boat-shaped bract (modified leaf), green-purple in color, from which emerges a succession of orange flowers. On average there are five flowers per bract. Species is classed as a monocotyledon, leaves mostly parallel veined.
One of the petals in each of these flowers is modified into a blue structure called the tongue, which houses the male and female parts of the flower.
Flowers are not fragrant.
Can be stored at 55-65F when held for three or less days. However, use 44-46F when held over three days. One researcher recommends 50F at which flowers can be held for 14 days and perform best thereafter if they are treated upon removal with a 40% sucrose solution for 24 hours.
One of the only flowers actually pollinated by birds, the Strelitzia is named “Bird of Paradise” because its blossoms, when fully opened, resemble the wings of a bird in flight.
The scientific name derives from the family name of George III”s Queen (Charlotte Sophia) of the House of Mechlenberg-Strelitz. The specific epithet name “reginae” also means queen.
The overall effect is a striking crest of orange and blue with a definite tropical look.
If tight buds must be used, first soak in warm water for 20 minutes. Cut a 1/2 inch slit in the back of the enclosing bract near the stem, reach in and pull out flowers into a fan-shaped display.
To do so, soak the flower head in room temperature water for about 20 minutes; insert your thumb inside the unopened sheath through the slit on the upper side and gently lift up a new flower; finally, gently remove the thin white membrane that separates each flower and cut it off.
Recent Research Findings:
While not recent, Halevy et al. (1978) demonstrated that pulsing with a 10% sucrose flower food solution for two days at 70F resulted in the longest lasting flowers. To make a 10% pulse solution, mix up your normal flower food at the recommended rate, which should result in an approximate 1.0% sugar level. To this solution, add table sugar at the rate of 12 ounces per gallon. While this solution can and will work, it also can be messy to deal with, especially if spilled. Hello ants!