Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' (Golden Bird of Paradise) – A semi-succulent evergreen perennial to 4 to 6 feet tall forms clumps to as wide rising from thick orange roots with long bluish-green waxy leaves that are held erect on 2 to 4 foot long petioles. From late fall through late spring appear orange and blue flowers that rise from reed-like, grayish leaf stalks that can reach up to 6 ft. tall. These stalks bear flowers of a most interesting floral structure with hard, beak-like green sheath-like bracts (technically a spathes) held singly at a right angle at the tip of the stalks. From this spathe, which can be 6 to 8 inches long and tinged on the upper surface with a pale pink color, emerge the flowers, one at a time, to display 3 golden yellow sepals and 3 blue petals, two of which are fused into a long arrow like structure and the third cupped downward as a nectary. Individual flowers last about a week and the spathe holds 5 to 7 flowers, so are showy over a prolonged flowering period. The flowers are often followed by the interesting seed capsules that split to reveal black pea sized seeds with orange tufts of hairs.
Plant in full sun or part shade in a well-draining soil and water occasionally to infrequently - though tropical looking and from a climate that generally gets year-round rainfall, this plant once established is quite tolerant of extended periods without irrigation. It is also hardy for short duration freezes down to 24° F, but flowers and buds may be damaged by these temperatures. Strelitzia reginae plants form a sturdy clump with attractive large glaucus leaves, resembling a small banana, making it a great plant in the garden when even not in flower and it is a dramatic sight when the flowers are present. These flowers are also great for cut flower use, lasting up to 2 weeks in the vase.
The typical orange flowered Strelitzia reginae comes from the Eastern Cape and Natal provinces of South Africa where it grows along the eastern coast from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in full sun within the coastal bush and along river banks. For more information about the species see our listing at Strelitzia reginae.
Strelitzia reginae was first imported into California in 1853 and while yellow-flowering Bird of Paradise had been known about with isolated cultivated plants observed worldwide, but it wasn't until Kirstenbosch curator John Winter actively worked on crossing yellow plants starting in the 1970s that an active breeding program was established with the goal to produce reliably yellow plants from seed.. After about 20 years this was accomplished and plants originally called 'Kirstenbosch Gold' were released in 1994. In 1996 the National Botanical Institute was granted permission to re-name it in honor of anti-apartheid activist and then president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. We first imported seeds of Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' from Kirstenbosch in 1998 but the plant we currently have for sale are a single clone vegetatively propagated by division from a plant received in the 1990s from the late Virginia Hayes, the first curator of plants at Madam Ganna Walska Lotusland Botanic Garden.
The information about Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' displayed on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources we consider reliable. We will also relate those observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments we receive from others and welcome hearing from anyone who has additional information, particularly when they share cultural information that would aid others in growing it.