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Houseplant Help - Ravenea rivularis

or Majesty Palm, Bird of paradise or Strelitzia reginae, and Kentia palm or Howeia forsteriana
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski


Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.

February 6, 2011

Q.- I have just recently purchased a majesty palm and do not know anything about this species. I have searched the net and have not found any specifications such as light and water requirements. Could you please advise or suggest a reference to educate me on my new plant, "Maggi".

A.- The majesty palm or Ravenea rivularis originates from Madagascar and this feather-leaved species is ideally suited for a bright spot in the home. It grows in the wild on river banks so the water requirements are higher than many indoor plants. With very bright light or some sun and bright light, along with regular watering and fertilizing, the majesty palm should do well.
It is not drought tolerant and likes lots of water but, at the same time, does not like constantly soggy soil. Good luck with “Maggi”.

Q.- We purchased two bird of paradise plants a month ago and they were doing fine for a while but now they've begun to wilt. My wife and I just repotted both of them and would like to know how we can save them from further destruction.

A.- Bird of paradise or Strelitzia reginae requires as much light as possible. It also will not tolerate wet soil at all. When watering water thoroughly and then leave until the soil surface is dry. Water very sparingly during the winter but ,mist the leaves occasionally. 
This plant is also intolerant of salts found in many fertilizers. It is best to stay away from fertilizers with this plant. You can try organic fertilizers such as compost. 

Q.- I fell in love with the bird-of-paradise plant during a recent trip to the conservatory. I bought one and was wondering what I need to do to make it bloom? Right now it is about 2 feet tall and growing quickly.

A.- Bird-of-paradise or Strelitzia sp. is a large choice for a houseplant. It actually requires a tub to grow in when it gets larger because it won’t bloom until it reaches some size. In the winter, give it only moderate amounts of water and good, rich soil that is well drained. It prefers full sun but no feeding when it is semidormant. 
Sink the pot and all into the ground up to the rim in the summer and feed it regularly. When it is ready to bloom it usually flowers in late summer and fall.

Q.- I have a 7 year old Bird of Paradise that is about 8 feet tall. It just finished blooming for the first time. The flower is all dried up now and my question is should I cut off that stalk? If so, how low down? I have read that the first bloom does take up to 7 years to happen. Will that always be the case or is there something I can do to encourage further blossoms? Thank you.

A.- Many people give up waiting for the plant to gain maturity and begin blooming. First, a little background on the Bird of Paradise. 
The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a member of the banana family and is the official flower of the City of Los Angeles. Once it reaches maturity and begins blooming it should bloom regularly if the conditions that it enjoys are maintained . It likes as much light as possible in a brightly lit room but not in full sun during the summer months.
Water moderately, then let the soil surface dry before watering again. Keep evenly moist year round and keep the temperature during the winter at around 8-15 C. Feed the plant every 2 weeks. You can repot the plant after it has bloomed. It does prefer a heavier but well drained soil. 
I would not cut off the stalk after blooming. Let it die back on its own then remove it.

Q.- I have received a beautiful, large Kentia Palm. Can you please tell me how often I should water it and how do I know when it needs water?

A.- The Kentia palm (Howeia forsteriana) like most palms cannot tolerate severe dryness or continual over watering. The first need is for good drainage – all palms detest stagnant water at the roots. 
During winter keep the soil slightly moist. The soil should never become totally dry. Water more liberally in spring and summer.
Keep an eye open for spotting on the upper leaves. This can sometimes mean it is in too bright a light, or there is an excess of certain chemicals in the water (fluoride).

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