5 Types of Bird of Paradise Plants

Bird of Paradise Varieties and Care Tips

Pulled out view of bird of paradise plants

The Spruce / K. Dave

Very different species of plants can sometimes share the same common name, and nowhere is this more true than with the flowering plants known as bird of paradise. Species from two entirely different plant genera share this common name, and that's almost the only thing similar about them. One type of bird of paradise plant is a low-growing jungle plant with unique exotic flowers, a relative of the banana plant, while the other type is a member of the pea family, a thorny shrub or tree that loves desert environments.

If you know the bird of paradise mainly as a florist's flower, you're probably thinking of the Strelitzia genus. These plants, indigenous to warm, humid areas of South Africa, can be grown as outdoor perennials in USDA cold hardiness zones 9–11 or as houseplants elsewhere.

An entirely different genus, Caesalpinia, includes a number of broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs that also carry the common name "bird of paradise." The shape of these plants and the appearance of their flowers is starkly different than Strelitzia species. They are generally desert dwellers.


All of the types of bird of paradise plants are considered toxic to humans and animals.

Bird of Paradise Care Tips

Though the Caesalpinia bird of paradise varieties grow well in part shade when planted outdoors, they need as much light as possible when grown as houseplants. A sunny window is ideal, but avoid chilly drafts—they resent temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If no direct sunlight is available, make sure the artificial light is as bright as possible. Mist the plant in very dry conditions.

The Strelitzia bird of paradise varieties grow tall, sometimes 6 feet in height, so they may be best outdoors in bright light and climates with higher humidity than Caesalpinia. If growing Strelitzia indoors, keep the humidity and temperature high over 60 degrees Fahrenheit in your home and mist frequently if your home has dry air.

Here are five different species from two disparate plant genera, each commonly known as "bird of paradise."

  • 01 of 05

    Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)

    Closeup view of bird of paradise

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    This bird of paradise variety, which is native to South Africa and known as the crane flower, has long leathery leaves reminiscent of those on the banana tree, to which it is related. The leaves are stiff clumps that sprout from a ground-level base, while the flower rests atop a rigid stalk and is composed of orange sepals and blue petals. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the head and crown of a bird, the blooms appear sporadically through the growing season—as many as 25 times per year.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-12; often grown as a houseplant
    • Mature Size: 40–48 inches
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, loamy
  • 02 of 05

    White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)

    Closeup of white bird of paradise

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    White bird of paradise, a native of South Africa, is a considerably larger species than most of the Strelitzia genus, with flowers that closely resemble the traditional bird of paradise plant. But it has white sepals forming the crown and a bluish-purple tongue. The large gray-green leaves can easily be confused with its relative, the banana tree.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9–11; often grown as a houseplant
    • Mature Size: Up to 20 feet; up to 7 feet as a houseplant
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, moist
  • 03 of 05

    Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

    Closeup of red bird of paradise

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Plants of the Caesalpinia genus that carry the common name bird of paradise are much different than the Strelitzia species. Caesalpinia pulcherrima, sometimes known as red bird of paradise, pride of Barbados, or peacock flower is a fast-growing, broad-leaved evergreen shrub native to arid regions of tropical Americas. It blooms repeatedly with red-orange flowers. At the northern end of its range (zone 9), this bird of paradise plant can be deciduous. Its prickly stems make it useful as a barrier plant. This plant and Caesalpinia species have much smaller flowers than the Strelitzia bird of paradise plants. The blooms somewhat resemble azaleas, appearing in clusters. The red bird of paradise—which prefers a desert-like environment—belongs to the legume (pea) family, which is evident from the shape and arrangement of the leaves.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9–11
    • Mature Size: 10–20 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, moist
  • 04 of 05

    Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana)

    Closeup of Mexican bird of paradise

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Closely related to the red bird of paradise, the Mexican bird of paradise, a native of northern Mexico, is another broad-leaved evergreen tree but with flowers that tend toward yellow. It has somewhat better cold tolerance than C. pulcherrima, remaining evergreen down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It blooms repeatedly with clusters of yellow flowers that resemble azaleas, and the leaf shape and seed pods make it obvious that it is a member of the legume family.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8–11
    • Mature Size: 10-15 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, tolerates poor soil
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)

    Closeup of yellow bird of paradise

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Caesalpinia gilliesii, commonly known as yellow bird of paradise, poinsiana, or bird of paradise bush, is a shrub-like form of Caesalpinia native to Argentina and Uruguay It is evergreen in warmer climates and has red or yellow azalea-like flowers that bloom in July and August. The fernlike leaves identify it as a member of the legume family. The seeds are expelled when the pods dry out; this plant self-seeds very easily and can escape and naturalize into surrounding areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8–11
    • Mature Size: 7–10 feet
    • Light: Full sun but tolerates some shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, tolerates rocky soil

Bird of paradise plants in the Strelitzia or Caesalpinia genus are typically easy to grow in warm climates as ornamental plants or indoors in colder areas. Whether the flowers look like the heads of birds or sport more azalea-like blooms, the plant is a showstopper.

If you're interested in other unusual tropical plants like bird of paradise, check out lobster claws (Heliconia) and bromeliads, which might just be one of the easiest and showiest tropical houseplants to grow.

Article Sources
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  1. Bird of Paradise Plant: Pretty and Low Human Toxicity. Poison Control.

  2. Bird of Paradise. ASPCA.