Answer: Bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a native of South Africa and one of the most unusual and attractive members of the banana family.<br><br>The inflorescence is borne atop long scapes, or pedicels, that grow to 5 feet or more in height. The floweris the most unusual part. A series of highly colored bracts, or modified leaves, are formed into green, red, and/or purplish canoe-like structures. Bracts vary between 4 and 8 inches in length, depending upon the age and size of the plant.<br><br>Each bract contains two or more protruding florets of bright yellow or orange elongated petals and a bright blue tounge. The female part of the flower is the long extension of the blue tongue which is extended well away from the stamens.<br><br>Blooming season lasts from September through May. Healthy, mature plants can produce as many as three dozen flower spikes, which will last up to two weeks when cut.<br><br>Bird-of-paradise thrives in most soils, but does best in rich loamy soils with good drainage. Thebird-of-paradise is salt tolerant and can be grown near the ocean, but not on the dunes. For good flower production, place plants in sunny or partially shaded locations. In full sun, plants are smaller and flowers are on shorter stems.<br><br>For best growth and flowering, bird-of-paradise requires fertilization. Slow release fertilizers or a complete fertilizer such as 6-6-6 can be used.
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