Strelitzias are commonly known as the ‘Bird of Paradise’ plant and are distinguished by their showy flowers. The tree-like Strelitzia nicolai, or ‘Giant White Bird of Paradise’, differs from other Strelitzias in that it has a compound flower-head that usually has blue petals with white sepals and a dark blue purple sheath. This tree flowers throughout the year with a peak during spring and summer.
Growth is moderate until the roots have become established, after which the trees grow very fast, up to 12 m in height, under the right conditions. The Natal wild banana is evergreen and creates a lush, tropical effect in the garden. Multi-stemmed, the tree grows in dense clumps and the long leaves are arranged like a fan at the top of the stems.
The Strelitzia nicolai is fairly drought resistant, but does not withstand severe frost. The tree grows well in semi-shade or sun and needs a moderate amount of water. It is a good feature plant in coastal gardens as the tree can tolerate salty, coastal winds. Care should be taken when positioning the tree as it has an aggressive root system that could compromise paving, pools and walls.
The Natal wild banana can be a wonderful specimen tree in a bigger garden, but can also be planted in pots in a smaller garden, where the root system can be a problem.