Be patient with birds of paradise

Q: Ten years ago, I grew a bird of paradise plant from seed. It looks healthy but has never bloomed. What should I do? --Jeannine Denning, Madison, Wis. A: It's possible your plant just needs more time. Bird of paradise (Strelitizia reginae) usually needs at least four years to begin flowering, but it's not uncommon for blooming to take 10 years or more. To encourage your plant to bloom, allow it to become root-bound. Instead of regularly repotting it, keep the plant snug and happy by adding just a layer of fresh potting soil each spring. You also might consider supplemental lighting. While the foliage looks healthy, to produce flowers that bloom in late winter or spring, bird of paradise needs as much bright light in fall and winter as it does in spring and summer. Finally, evaluate your fertilizer schedule. Bird of paradise needs water-soluble fertilizer every other week in spring and summer. Too little fertilizer can inhibit flowering; too much can produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers.
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