The beautiful Bird of Paradise, a collective name used for the five species that make up the Strelitzia genus, is beloved by all for its tall foliage and gorgeous blooms. Surprisingly, these beauties can be propagated, not only from cuttings, but directly from seed harvested from the flowers themselves. So, how do you harvest and grow a Bird of Paradise from seed?
To grow a Bird of Paradise from seed, you’ll need to carefully score the seed and remove the tuft of orange hair from the top. Next, you’ll have to soak the seeds in warm water for several days. Once the seeds have been soaked, you can plant them in moist, well-draining soil. Given the right conditions, a Bird of Paradise seed will germinate in about two months.
This article will cover the process of harvesting and preparing Strelitzia seeds, including tips on germination and transplanting your freshly grown sprouts. Bird of Paradise plants can be extremely slow to grow, so be ready for a long process. Once they’ve had a chance to develop, these plants are always worth the effort.
Where Are The Seeds on a Bird of Paradise?
To find the seeds on a Bird of Paradise, you’ll need a plant that has some blooms. The seeds are stored within the flower, so a Strelitzia that doesn’t have any flowers won’t have any seeds yet.
Inside the flower, you’ll find several small seed pods that each contain black seeds with small tufts of orange fuzz. The seeds are about the size of a rounder watermelon seed. The seeds are a little bit easier to access if the flower has had a chance to dry out, though it’s recommended to harvest them while the flower is still fresh. Don’t worry too much about that, though!
Once the seeds have been harvested, they have to go through a brief pre-germination process to prepare them for planting, due to the hard casing that protects each seed.
How to Harvest and Collect Bird of Paradise Seeds
To harvest the seeds from a Bird of Paradise plant, you’ll need a fully-matured Strelitzia with at least one flower. Ideally, that flower should be beginning to die back. The flower will begin losing its color, either white or orange, and turning a pale brown. Once you’ve identified a good candidate for harvesting, remove it from the plant and allow it to dry fully.
Drying the flower is only a recommendation, though. It likely won’t impact the germination process, but it will make harvesting and sowing a little bit easier. The seed pods open up as they dry, which makes removing the seeds go faster. Plus, dried seeds are easier to store if you find you have more than you need.
If you decide not to dry the flower, you can begin harvesting by removing the various layers of the flower. You’ll need to break through the darkly colored bottom part (the “body” of the bird). Continue to peel away at this—you’ll eventually find inner seed pods surrounded by the flower’s petals.
To open the seed pods, use sharp shears to cut the top off carefully. Try not to cut too far down, as this can damage the seeds. From there, you should be able to peel the pod open and collect the seeds inside!
How to Plant Bird of Paradise Seeds
The seeds of the Strelitzia are hard, black, and have a bright orange fuzz on the top that is similar in color to the flowers. Because of how hard the seed’s casing is, they will require some pretreatment before being planted in soil.
To get started preparing the Bird of Paradise seeds, begin by removing the orange tufts on the top. These should be easy to pull off. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to score the outer layer of the seed carefully. This cut doesn’t need to be deep. Its purpose is to allow the seed to soak up water more efficiently.
Once you’ve removed the tuft and scratched the surface of the seeds, soak them in water for several days. Generally, 1-2 days should be sufficient. You’ll know they’re ready when they’ve swelled in size.
Once they’ve been soaked, your Strelitzia seeds are ready to plant! Bird of Paradise seeds require very specific conditions to germinate: lots of indirect light, at least 75° F temperatures and high humidity. The easiest way to achieve all of this is in a grow tray placed in a greenhouse. If that isn’t an option for you, a domed seed starting kit with a heat mat should do.
Using well-draining soil, plant your seeds ½ to 1 inch deep. If not in individual pods, be sure to space them several inches apart. Inadequate spacing can delay or prevent germination.
How Long Do Bird of Paradise Seeds Take to Germinate?
There are varying timelines on how long it takes a Bird of Paradise seed to germinate. The shortest length of time you may see sprouts is in eight weeks. However, this is a generous estimate.
Strelitzia seeds are incredibly slow-going. Unless they are given absolutely perfect conditions, it is much more likely that you’ll see beginning sprouts well after eight weeks.
Presoaking the seeds in very hot water (142° F) for thirty minutes may increase the likelihood of germination within the first eight weeks. This information comes from a single study, so it may or may not work for you. Anecdotally, the researchers that performed this experiment found that the hot water decreased the likelihood of the plant succumbing to mold or mildew during germination.
The Best Time to Plant Bird of Paradise Seeds
It’s best to plant Bird of Paradise seeds at the beginning of fall. This doesn’t necessarily make a difference in the likelihood that the seeds will germinate and sprout, but it makes transplanting seedlings easier later on.
Regardless of the season you choose to plant your Birds of Paradise seeds, it’s important to remember that they need to have specific conditions met. Not providing the proper conditions for your seeds will prevent them from growing, regardless of when you plant them. Planting them in the fall allows the seeds all winter to grow. Then they can be transplanted, either to a larger pot or outdoors, in the spring.
If You Want to Plant Your Seeds Outside
Planting Strelitzia seeds outside can be difficult because of the specific requirements they need to thrive. If you prefer this method, however, you should plan to germinate the seeds indoors first.
Follow the basics of preparing the seeds: score them, soak them, and then plant them. It’s vital to do all of this in the fall so that the seedlings are strong enough to replant outside when the weather is warm enough.
Once the seeds have sprouted and had a few months to develop, they can be planted outside in an area with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil. Ideally, seedlings shouldn’t be planted before temperatures are consistently between 65° F and 80° F. Anything colder can damage the seedlings, potentially killing them.
Keep in mind that these are plants that require a USDA hardiness zone of 10-12. Anything below 10 will get too cold in the winter, damaging or killing the plant. Zone 9 can support a Bird of Paradise in the summer, but you should bring it inside during the winter months.
Alternative Methods for Propagating Birds of Paradise
There are alternative ways to grow a new Strelitzia from an existing one. These tend to be an easier way to grow a new plant without the headache of dealing with seeds.
The easiest way to do this is through division. Division involves unpotting a mature plant and very carefully splitting it into two at the roots. While that summary is simple, the process is a little more tedious.
You can also propagate Bird of Paradise plants from a single stem with a rhizome attached. This process is pretty similar to other propagation methods. However, propagation this way can be tricky for anyone that isn’t familiar with Strelitzia anatomy.