From South Africa. Evergreen plants with long-stalked, leathery leaves. Remarkable blossoms are produced intermittently throughout year; they are long lasting on plant and as cut flowers. Good for poolside; plants produce no litter and withstand some splashing. Resist deer damage. Hardy to about 28F.
S. nicolai. GIANT BIRD OF PARADISE. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Clumping, treelike plant to 30 ft. tall and wide. Grown mainly for its dramatic foliage, similar to that of banana (Musa): gray-green, 5- to 10-ft.-long leaves arranged fanwise on erect or curving trunks. Flowers are larger than those of S. reginae but not as colorful. Floral envelope is purplish gray; flower is white with dark blue tongue. Feed young plants frequently until they reach full dramatic size; then give little or no fertilizer. The goal is to achieve and maintain maximum size without lush growth and need for dividing. Cut off dead leaves and thin out any surplus growth.
S. reginae. BIRD OF PARADISE. Zones CS (protected), TS; USDA 9-11. This old favorite is grown for its spectacular flowers, which bear a startling resemblance to the heads of crested tropical birds. Blooms combining orange, blue, and white are borne on long, stiff stems. Flowering is best in cooler seasons (though blooms appear year-round). This species is trunkless, growing 56 ft. high and about as wide; blue-green leaves are 112 ft. long. Benefits greatly from frequent, heavy feeding. Divide infrequently, since large, crowded clumps bloom best. Good in containers. Recovers slowly from frost damage.