December 7, 2023

Wicker armchair. Sun mirror. Scandinavian sideboard. Balinese style rattan lamp. Demijohn vintage. Bird of paradise… Visualize it. This sequence x-rays the here and now in trends in interior decoration. Also —and above all— for its living element: the strelitzia or bird of paradise In the era of Instagram (that global showcase where images of the interior design described above abound tagged with #urbanjungle), the mission of choosing a plant to decorate our houses is inevitably conditioned by the bombardment of photos of what is taken. From the cinema, the advertisements, the restaurants, the bars and the best-groomed stores we receive pictures of idyllic plant scenery that make our gaze lean towards a taste for one or another plant species.

Decades ago they were the trunk of Brazil (Dracaena fragrans) and the kentia palm tree (Howea forsteriana). Later, the much hackneyed rib of Adam (Monster delicious)mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) and ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). Lately, if there is a plant that has conquered homes with its tropical air, it is the strelitzia. “10 years ago not one was sold. In the last three years, demand has skyrocketed,” says Pedro Tabernero, owner of the Flores Madrid flower shop. “He boom It has been triggered because many interior designers began to use it in the decoration of luxury hotels in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Canary Islands, the Maldives and other tropical destinations. And through magazines and social networks, this fashion has moved to Europe, ”he explains.

The strelitzia It is a genus native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa. With large, intense green leaves reminiscent of those of the banana tree, it is known as a bird of paradise for its extraordinary flower that resembles a crested bird’s head with its shape. “Aesthetically, its structure and foliage convey an exotic air that instantly transports us to a paradisiacal beach, making it perfect for infecting any space with the good vibrations of an eternal tropical spring,” says Natalia Sáez, architect and landscape designer. , author of the book Indoor plants don’t exist (2022) and from the blog In April leaves a thousand. The gender strelitzia It has five species. The most common in decoration are the reginae —small size and orange flower—, the nicolai —with a white flower that, when planted in the ground, can reach up to five meters in height— and the augusta —the largest, most suitable for growing outdoors. “It is important to choose the species that best suits the space of our house,” adds the expert.

Due to the plasticity of its leaves, the elegance of the foreshortenings of its long petioles and its majestic upright posture, the Strelitzia nicolai It is ideal as a single plant in interior decoration. Like a designer lamp or a work of art, its irresistible magnetism creates a lush focal point in any space. “I recommend placing it in as spacious a room as possible so that it shows off its large size and putting it in a heavy pot to prevent the plant from tipping over when it grows and gains weight and height. A very practical trick is to place the pot on a plate with wheels to facilitate its movement”, continues the landscape designer. As for the flowerpot, the bird of paradise cries out for an ornament to match: “A large terracotta jar, a rattan flowerpot cover or a self-watering flowerpot with modern lines are good options.”

A specimen of 'Strelitzia nicolai' beaming outside a house in Fuerteventura.
A specimen of ‘Strelitzia nicolai’ beaming outside a house in Fuerteventura.Natalia Saez

Torn sheets are one of the attributes that define the unique appeal of the strelitzia. There is no need to fear this beautiful imperfection. “Plants are fascinating beings. In thousands of years of evolution they have modulated their structures to adapt to the environment. The bird of paradise, for example, is very elastic to resist strong gusts of wind without breaking”, explains Sáez. Its leaves crack to cope with the buffeting of rain and wind in their tropical ecosystems of origin. “If the leaves were held as smooth as sails, the plant would be at risk of breaking.” Indoors we tend to see them impeccable, but outdoors the torn leaves are part of their charm.

Although it is easy to care for, there are gestures that must not be lost sight of to ensure its well-being. “The most important thing is to place it in a very bright place where it receives direct sun in the morning or filtered in the afternoon,” says Natalia Sáez on her Instagram profile, where she has almost 110,000 followers. For those people who forget to water, it is a very grateful plant, since it requires the substrate to dry between waterings. Spraying it is another advisable nod in dry climates. In fact, “the bathroom can be a very good place for the bird of paradise thanks to the humidity that accumulates there. But it is essential that it not be a dark bathroom or one without windows, because light is vital, ”she insists Sáez. In winter it must be protected from frost. “In the Canary Islands they are used for hedges on the roads and they grow wild and are wonderful,” says Pedro Tabernero, indicating that their natural habitat is mild climates. “They also do very well on the Spanish coast, even in Galicia, where the winters are mild and the cold is humid,” he adds. Do not despair if it does not bloom, because indoors and in a pot it is common for this not to happen.

If the expressiveness of a strelitzia Alone it is difficult to beat, accompanied by other species it will create an invaluable sensation of colour, texture and vitality in the interior of any house. For those who want to bring the trend home #urbanjungle, One recommendation is to compose corners of different plants playing with the heights. “The key is to accompany it with shorter specimens, about a third of the height of the bird of paradise, to create a dynamic composition and prevent the plants from competing with each other. Another possibility is to take advantage of its size to place next to it species that should not receive direct sun, letting the shadow of the leaves of the bird of paradise protect the small ones from the sun”, suggests Sáez.

Benefits aside, it is fair to say that the strelitziaespecially the nicolaiIt is an expensive plant compared to other large species such as the kentia, the trunk of Brazil, the dracaena or the ficus. “The price of plants grows exponentially as their size and, therefore, their age increase,” says Sáez. “A mini plant of four euros can reach 50 euros in a medium size. This is because they are living beings that are difficult to raise. That is why I think that paying 70 or 80 euros for a specimen of almost two meters is justified ”, he reflects. In addition, the investment is profitable because “the bigger, the more resistant and the easier to maintain”. For someone who does not have such a budget, the advantages of buying a strelitzia small are savings and the satisfaction of seeing it grow.

Rattan lamp. Demijohn vintage. Wicker armchair. Bird of paradise… Cleared up all the unknowns of the plant that has become the quintessence of the boom #urbanjungle.

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