Deadheading Bird of Paradise: How to Remove Spent Blooms

There’s nothing quite like the blooms of a Strelitzia. Shaped like vibrantly-colored birds in flight, the flowers on a bird of paradise plant are uniquely gorgeous, transforming your patio or landscape into a tropical utopia.

But all good things must come to an end, and there will be a time in every Strelitzia flower’s life when it starts to fade and then die. As it becomes all brown and crusty-looking, a spent bloom makes the switch from “hot stuff” to “hot mess.”

A close up vertical image of a bird of paradise (Strelizia reginae) growing in the garden pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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Thankfully, this needn’t be a long-term issue. By deadheading Strelitzia flowers, you can save your birds of paradise from sporting sorry-looking blossoms, while stimulating additional botanical benefits.

In this guide to removing spent bird of paradise flowers, we’ll walk you through the Strelitzia deadheading process. Don’t worry – your birds of paradise will be shipshape in no time!

Here’s everything we’ll cover:

Why Deadhead Birds of Paradise?

Right about now, you might be thinking, “Ugh, more yardwork? Why even bother?”

I feel ya. But trust me, you’ll want to deadhead once you know the benefits.

Improve Aesthetics

This was briefly touched on above, but it bears repeating: a dead bloom is an ugly bloom.

A close up horizontal image of a spent bird of paradise flower pictured on a soft focus background.

Floral senescence shifts a Strelitzia flower’s resemblance to a tropical bird majestically soaring through the air to something more akin to compost. Not a good look.

By removing these eyesores, you can keep your bird of paradise looking fresh.

Reduce Disease Pressure

Spent blooms are prime entry points for pests and pathogens.

Without the defense mechanisms that come with healthy, vivacious growth that’s happily doing its thing, senescing Strelitzia flowers are at greater risk of infestation and infection, opening up the whole plant to potential issues.

A close up horizontal image of a bird of paradise flower in bright sunshine pictured on a soft focus background.

So by deadheading, you’ll eliminate a bird of paradise’s vulnerable spots and keep it healthier in the long run.

Stimulate Reblooming and Growth

As a living organism, a plant’s chief goal is to survive and reproduce. After floral senescence, the next step in the life cycle is seed production.

When you remove spent Strelitzia blooms, this forces the plant to have another go at flowering in an attempt to produce future seeds.

A close up horizontal image of bright bird of paradise flowers growing in the garden with foliage in soft focus in the background.

So the deadheading process, while removing a flower in the short term, also potentially adds one or more in the long term. Since lush, new blooms will replace the old and ugly ones, this is a pretty significant upgrade.

And that’s not all – despite appearing completely dead, spent blooms still demand energy from the plant that could otherwise contribute to new growth, while performing the reproductive function of producing seeds instead.

By doing away with these metabolically-mooching structures, resources can go towards those new flowers, along with additional roots and shoots.

What You’ll Need

In order to remove a bird of paradise’s spent blooms, you’ll require an assortment of sharp and sterile objects.

Since this is a deadheading guide for the entire Strelitzia genus, the tools you use will be determined more specifically by the size and species of the plants that you’re working with.

Hand Pruners

Hand pruners will come in “hand-y” for the skinnier-stemmed S. reginae and S. juncea species. Bypass pruners in particular are the best option to make clean cuts while prolonging blade sharpness.

A close up square image of two pairs of pruners set on a wooden surface.

Bypass Pruners

Need a set of ultra-sharp and rubber-gripped bypass pruners that come in either rose gold or sky blue? Then head on over to Garrett Wade.

A close up square image of a black leather sheath for pruning shears set on a wooden surface.

Leather Sheath

Want to add a black leather sheath as an accessory for storing your new pruners? You’ll find these at Garrett Wade as well.

Pruning Saw

A pruning saw will work nicely on immature S. nicolai, S. alba, and S. caudata plants, when they’re not fully grown and still accessible from ground level.

These will eventually reach a substantial height, but thankfully, these plants can be deadheaded in the earlier stages of development without vertical assistance.

A close up of a pruning saw cutting through the branch of a tree.

Pruning Saw

A pruning saw with a 12-inch blade and a protective sheath for storage is available from the good folks over at Gardener’s Supply.

Pole Saw

Once the tree-like species grow too tall for you to reach with your pruning saw, it’s time to switch to the pole saw, a tool that extends your sawing range without resorting to climbing up on any unstable ladders or stools.

A pole saw is exactly what it sounds like: a saw on a pole. The pole is usually hollow, which makes it easier on your muscles during long bouts of effort.

Adjustable models are either collapsible or easily disassembled into separate pieces, enabling length customization and convenient storage.

A close up square image of an angled saw with lightweight pole attachments set on the ground.

Hi-Reach Pole Saw

A pole saw that disassembles into three six-foot handles for a total reach of 19 feet is available from Garrett Wade.

Isopropyl Alcohol

As you deadhead your birds of paradise, any pathogens present on the spent blooms can end up on your pruners or saw blades. If you don’t properly sterilize your tools, these disease-causing hitchhikers can end up infecting the next plant that you work on!

Luckily, isopropyl alcohol provides a cheap and effective means of sterilization.

To sterilize, simply prepare a solution of isopropyl alcohol and water – with at least 70 percent of it coming from the alcohol – and apply it to your tools.

Either dip them into the solution directly, or apply the solution as a spray from an old squirt bottle. Wipe down the tools with a clean rag, and they’re ready for action!

Isopropyl Alcohol

Visit Amazon to purchase 16-ounce bottles of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol from Solimo.

When to Deadhead Strelitzia

You don’t have to wait for a specific season when it comes to these plants – check them regularly when you make your rounds of the garden, and deadhead blooms as soon as they start to senesce or visually decline.

A close up horizontal image of a dead bird of paradise flower pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background.
Photo via Alamy.

Since evaluating aesthetics is somewhat subjective, a good indicator to keep an eye out for is when the flower petals start to brown and become crispy.

Keep in mind that dead flowers will remain on a bird of paradise plant indefinitely, so it’s up to you to remove them.

How to Deadhead

Deadheading techniques can vary, depending on the species.

For S. reginae and S. juncea, the flowers are produced on separate stems, which sprout adjacent to the foliar stalks. To remove these blooms, sever their stems at the base with hand pruners.

A close up horizontal image of a Strelizia nicolai flower that is in need of deadheading. Frankly it looks disgusting.

When it comes to S. nicolai, S. alba, and S. caudata, you’ll want to saw off the spent blooms at their neck, or where the flower part stops and the stem begins.

The flowers of these tree-like species tend to jut out above where the leaf stems meet the trunk, right where the foliage starts to fan out. They don’t have readily visible stems, so just try and “decapitate” the blooms.

Dispose of the deadheaded detritus once you’re finished. Mission accomplished!

Removing Spent Flowers Is Like a Gardening Superpower

Once a gardener learns how to deadhead blooms, they gain the fantastic ability to influence a plant’s growth and development in order to improve its beauty – enviable prowess with a plant as gorgeous as bird of paradise.

Congratulations on gaining this Strelitzia skill! It’s an essential part of keeping these plants in peak ornamental shape, not to mention satisfying. Go forth and deadhead with pride!

A close up horizontal image of a bird of paradise flower growing in the garden with foliage in soft focus in the background.

If you have questions, anecdotes, or just random things to say, put it in the comments section below. I love to read and respond, so don’t be bashful!

If you enjoyed learning how to deadhead your bird of paradise, expand your Strelitzia know-how with these other guides:

Photo of author

About

As a native Missourian, Joe Butler grew up exploring midwestern forests and landscapes. Holding a BS in Plant Sciences from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Joe’s horticultural experiences include home gardening, landscaping, botanical garden work, and plant virology. When he’s not writing about or working with plants, Joe can be found buried in a book, performing stand-up comedy, or eating nutritionally concerning amounts of peanut butter.

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