Strelitzia juncea

narrow-leafed bird of paradise
Upright clumps of leafless cylindrical spikes make a mesmerizing backdrop for iconic bird of paradise flowers. Nice in pots. Slow and rare.
Strelitzia junceaStrelitzia juncea
height 3–5ft
width 1–3ft
tolerates Drought, Pots, Wind
Low – Moderate
While this bird of paradise looks tropical, don’t underestimate its durability. When you repot your bird of paradise you’ll see many succulent taproots; these make this plant incredibly drought tolerant. Once established, this plant easily grows with no additional water (in coastal California). They want deep regular watering to establish for several years, especially during dry months. Moving forward they prefer be watered when mostly dry.

Some muse that this bird of paradise has evolved a leafless form to conserve water, likely making it better for a hot dry spot, but at this point its just too rare in cultivation to say for sure.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing All Purpose
origin E South Africa
15–17, 19–24, H2

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

This plant is notoriously slow, so be sure to fertilize it during planting and during the spring and summer to nudge it along.
The narrow-leafed bird of paradise blooms from fall through spring. While this plant can tolerate a hard frost, the winter blooms are damaged.
Mature clumps can be divided, but they are so slow and SO pretty when mature... why would you?
Often immature plants will have small leaves at the tips of their spears. These go away as the plant matures.
This plant is fairly variable. Some individuals are more upright, while others have slight arches to their leaves. Some are thinner, others thicker...

Special Interest

The species name comes from ‘juncea’ in the Greek meaning ‘rush-like’.

The common name of this plant refers to its flower resembling a crested tropical bird. Coincidentally, the plant is also pollinated by sunbirds its native range. Occasionally you’ll see the flowers drip nectar, which attracts these birds.

Technically this plant is not ‘leaf less’; the spears are a leaf petiole (stem) that lacks a blade.