Answer: Bird of paradise can easily be grown as a houseplant to bring a touch of the tropics to our cold climate. It needs a sunny spot indoors during the winter and does best when moved outside for the summer (but be careful to acclimate it to the stronger light outdoors or it could get sunburned). One of the most common reasons mature Strelitzia do not bloom well is insufficient light. They require nearly full sun in the summer and as much light as possible in winter to bloom. Be sure to bring the plant in before first frost (although it can tolerate a limited amount of time down to about 28?F).
Keep the soil moist in the summer, but allow the pot to dry out between waterings when indoors. These plants are heavy feeders, so fertilize every 2 weeks throughout the summer, and monthly in the winter with a water-soluble fertilizer (Miracle Gro, Shultz's or Peter's).
Plants tend to bloom more profusely when pot-bound, so don't be too anxious to repot your plant once it has about 3 feet tall ? just replace the top soil every year or so. Also, do not plant too deeply. Exposure of the top of the roots supposedly encourages flowering. Early spring is the best time when repotting is necessary (i.e. the roots have cracked open the pot). Plant in any well-draining soil or soilless potting mix in a large pot or tub.
Strelitzia does not have many pest problems, but mealybugs, scale and spider mites may infest the plants. It is easy to wipe the large leaves off with a soft cloth (do not use any leafshine product, as that could damage the natural matte finish). Houseplant insecticides can also be used.
Bird of paradise is usually disease free so I wonder if the color change on the leaf margins is a reaction to environmental conditions. If all of the leaf tips are exhibiting the same symptoms, it could be a result of overly dry air or soil that's keep too moist. If only some of the leaves are affected, it could indicate reaction to drafts or a result of water remaining on the foliage for extended periods of time. I'd remove one of the affected leaves and take it the local cooperative extension office for positive diagnosis. Look in the white pages of your phonebook for county offices and then look for cooperative extension in the listing. If that fails, look for a local 4-H office. Sometimes 4-H is easier to find that cooperative extension! Contact helpful folks there for possible controls for the problem with your bird of paradise.
Good luck with your plant!
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