Bird of Paradise Plant Care at Home

The Bird of Paradise plant takes some beating when it comes to adding a touch of ‘tropical’ to your home.  This easy-to-care-for plant has huge, blue-green, lush foliage growing to an imposing height. Here, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to grow and care for the famed Strelitzia reginae

Bird of Paradise Plant Care at Home (Essential Guide)

The Most Common Strelitzias to Grow as Houseplants

  • Strelitzia reginae is the most popular Bird of Paradise plant. It has blue and orange flowers and grows to around 4ft (1.5m).
  • Strelitzia nicolai is a giant Bird of Paradise. It has blue and white flowers and can grow to as much as 33ft (10m) tall! In an indoor setting, it is more likely that its height will remain at around 6ft (2.8m).
  • Strelitzia alba is another very large Bird of Paradise. This one is quite rare; it has pure white flowers and also grows to around 33ft (10m) in height.
  • Strelitzia reginae ‘Kirstenbosch Gold’ (previously known as ‘Mandela’s Gold’) is a very rare, yellow flowering form. It grows to a height of around 4ft (1.5m).

How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plants at Home

A bird of paradise plant growing in a bright room indoors

4 Things to Do Before Planting:

  1. Plant selection – When choosing your plant, check it over thoroughly to make sure there are no signs of pests or disease. The most obvious signs are the presence of insects and discolored or drooping leaves. You should also be aware that, as mentioned before, a plant that comes at a cheaper price than expected may be a young plant. This is fine as long as you know that it may not flower for the first few years.
  2. Consider where in your home you would like to place your new Bird of Paradise plant. You should plan for a height of at least 6 feet (1.8m) and a width of around 4 feet (1.2m). An ideal location is free of draughts and is away from any heat sources such as radiators. Natural light is essential. A location within 3 feet of a window is best. (See below for further details on lighting needs)
  3. Choose a decorative pot or planter with drainage holes and a saucer to match. Your pot should be large enough to comfortably hold the root ball, plus a couple of inches of excess space all around. If your plant is of a flowering age (5 years+), you can reduce the amount of space in the pot. Rootbound Strelitzias flower more readily than those with lots of space in the pot.
  4. Buy in plenty of good quality potting compost. Bird of Paradise plants are not too fussy, so a standard houseplant mix will suit it just fine. (See below for the ideal potting mix)

The Best Soil Mix

The best soil mix for a Bird of Paradise plant is loam-based compost. The Royal Horticultural Society describes a loam-based potting mix as a mixture of clay, sand, and silt that avoids the extremes of clay or sandy soils. Loam-based composts are both fertile and well-drained.

Light Preferences

Bird of Paradise plant growing next to a window in a bedroom

Bird of Paradise plants need lots of light to flower well. The best location for Bird of Paradise plants is within 3 feet of a window.

The best aspects are east and west-facing windows. South-facing windows are also good but shield young plants, in particular from midday and summer sun, as this can scorch the leaves. Rooms with only north-facing windows are not considered suitable for Bird of Paradise plants.

Temperature & Humidity Preferences

Bird of Paradise plants like a warm, humid atmosphere. They need a minimum temperature of 50-54F (10-12C) but don’t like to get too hot. If the temperature in the room reaches more than 68F (20C), it is advisable to ventilate the room a little.

Bathrooms are ideal locations for them if they have an adequate light source (as described above). Strelitzias can really struggle in very dry environments, which is why it is essential to keep them away from any heat sources in the home or air conditioning units.

Misting your plants is not recommended, as it is the air around the plants that needs to be damp, not the leaves themselves. Wet leaves are a magnet for pests and diseases.

Placing a water-filled gravel tray underneath your plant is the best way to increase humidity. You could even buy an indoor water feature at a place nearby! As the water evaporates into the air, it will increase the humidity around your plant.

How big and Fast will my Plant grow indoors?

Bird of Paradise plants are relatively fast-growing indoor plants. They can reach a height of 5-6ft (1.5-1.8m) and spread of 3-5ft (1-1.5m) in around five years.
 


Bird of Paradise Plant Care

A very large bird of paradise plant in a white plant pot in a contemporary living room
Credit: Léon & George

How to Water Bird of Paradise Plants

Bird of Paradise plants need regular watering during the spring and summer growing seasons. They like their soil to be consistently moist but dislike their roots stagnating in water.

This sounds tricky to achieve, but actually, it’s pretty simple as long as your pot has drainage. When the soil in your pots begins to feel a little dry, water it until the water runs out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Then, empty away any water that is left standing in the saucer. 

From late autumn until early spring, the soil should be allowed to become quite dry between waterings.

Feeding & Fertilizing

Houseplants that are regularly re-potted do not usually need feeding (see below for re-potting regime). However, the Bird of Paradise plant is considered by some to be a heavy feeder.

So, if you notice any signs of nutrient deficiency, such as discolored leaves or a reduction in growth rate, you can begin feeding with a balanced, general-purpose houseplant feed.

Depending on the brand, these are usually applied every 2-4 weeks. Discolored leaves will not re-color, but new growth will be green and healthy.

How and When to Prune

Bird of Paradise plants do not need any specific pruning. If you wish to, you can remove any old leaf or flower stalks by cutting them right down to the base.

How to Propagate Bird of Paradise Plants:

  • By division – The easiest way to propagate Strelitzia is by dividing the rhizomes (roots). The best time to do this is when you repot the plant. Remove the plant from the pot and gently pull the roots apart. Separate any roots with shoots or stems attached to them and pot them up into new pots.
  • By seed – Bird of Paradise plants can also be grown from seed but patience is required. Strelitzia seeds are slow to germinate, and seed-grown plants can take 5-10 years to flower.

Here’s how to do it…

  1. Before sowing your seeds, you need to place them in a refrigerator for two weeks. This is because the seeds need to experience a period of reduced temperatures (as they would have in the wild) to start the germination process.
  2. Remove the orange fluff and mix the seeds into a handful of compost. Place them into a small sealed tub or plastic bag and pop them into the fridge.
  3. After two weeks, remove the seeds from the fridge and soak them in warm (but not hot) water for 2-3 hours.
  4. Remove the seeds from the water and gently nick the seed coat with a sharp knife. Alternatively, you can scratch the seed coating with sandpaper. Breaking down the outer coating helps to speed up germination.
  5. Sow the seeds into small pots of either a general-purpose or a seed-growing compost. The seeds should be sown half an inch deep and at a spacing of at least 1 inch apart.
  6. Water the compost and place the pot into a heated propagator* set to 65-70F (18-21C). You should not need to water them again unless the soil begins to dry out.
  7. When germination has occurred (usually 4-8 weeks later) and you have 2-3 sets of leaves, you can remove them from the propagator and pot them on into individual pots.

*If you don’t have a heated propagator, you can cover the pots with a plastic bag and place them in a consistently warm area. Push cocktail sticks or similar into the soil to hold the plastic bag up, preventing it from contacting any emerging seedlings.

How Often Should I Repot my Bird of Paradise Plants?

A mature bird of paradise plant with large green leaves indoors

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that Bird of Paradise plants should be re-potted every other year, preferably in Spring. Repotting in spring gives the plant a boost of fresh nutrients that will see it through the growing year ahead. Your plant will likely outgrow its pot in the first few years, so increase the pot size by a couple of inches each year.

To repot your Bird of Paradise plant:

  1. Gently remove it from its pot and shake off any loose, old compost.
  2. Add a layer of new compost (a couple of inches deep) to the bottom of the pot, then replace the plant.
  3. Add more compost around the sides of the root ball so that the pot is evenly filled.
  4. Press gently to firm the plant into place and water thoroughly.

In the year that you do not repot you can simply remove and replace the top couple of inches of soil with new compost. This is known as topdressing.

It is worth noting that Strelitzias flower best when their roots are congested. Therefore, once your plant has reached around five years old, it is not essential that you increase the pot size every time that you re-pot.


Common Problems & How to Treat Them

A bird of paradise plant in a black plant pot next to a window in a living room

When plants are unhappy, early signs often show up in the leaves. Brown or yellow leaves, brown tips, leaf deformities, and drooping are all common signs that something is not quite right. Here are a few common questions, with solutions, to common problems in Bird of Paradise plants…

Why is my Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling?

Curling leaves are a sign of underwatering. To solve this problem, increase the frequency of watering and/or make sure that when you do water, you do so until the water runs freely from the bottom of the pot. This ensures that all the compost is soaked thoroughly and all roots have access to water.

Why are my Bird of Paradise Leaves Fading to Yellow?

Leaves can turn yellow for a wide variety of reasons. The odd leaf turning yellow, especially if old, is a normal part of the plant’s natural cycle.

If it’s more than that, then the main things to check for are:

  • humidity levels are correct.
  • the plant has been re-potted/fed correctly. Yellow leaves can be a sign that nutrient levels are low.
  • the plant has been watered correctly. Yellow leaves that occur towards the outside of the plant are a sign of underwatering.

Are Slits and Breaks in the Leaves Normal?

Yes, they are. It’s totally normal. This is how the plant has adapted in its natural environment. The slits develop as the leaf grows so that the wind can pass through without damaging the plant. Slits and tears will be more noticeable if your pot is moved outside for the summer and has been exposed to the wind.

Why Are My Bird of Paradise Leaves Turning Brown?

Brown, dry and crunchy leaves are a sign that your plant may be being overwatered. To remedy this, there are a number of things to do:

  • Reduce the frequency of watering. Only water when the top inch or so of soil becomes dry to touch.
  • Make sure your plant is growing in a pot with drainage holes. If it is, check that the holes have not become blocked. Water must be able to drain freely from the pot. The roots can rot away if left waterlogged for too long.
  • Gently remove the plant from its pot and inspect the root ball. If the soil looks to be soaking wet, as in there is water present rather than just damp soil, replace it with new compost and do not water for a few days to allow the excess to soak up. You can even leave the root ball out of the pot for a few hours to dry up a little.

Common Pests & Diseases

Common Bird of Paradise pests include scale insects, red spider mites, and mealybugs. If you find any pests affecting your plant, apply insecticidal soap or the leaves or use a systemic pesticide.

Bird of Paradise plants are generally disease-free. They can be susceptible to grey mold, especially if you mist your plant. Grey mold can be clearly seen growing on the leaves or flowers. Remove any affected parts with a clean, sharp knife and ensure the plant has good airflow.

Will my Bird of Paradise Bloom Indoors?

 An orange Bird of Paradise flower in bloom

There is a common misconception that Bird of Paradise plants don’t bloom indoors. The truth is that they take around five years to be mature enough to be capable of flowering. Many people, opting for what they see as a low-priced, bargain plant, unknowingly bring home a juvenile plant. They then become disappointed when it doesn’t flower.

Given perfect conditions, a Bird of Paradise plant can flower intermittently throughout the year. Although, the more common flowering period is late winter into early spring.

Bird of Paradise flowers are suitable for cutting and will usually last around a week in a vase. The flowers, along with the large glaucous leaves, are an excellent choice for use in exotic floral displays.

Bird of Paradise Plant Care FAQs:

How much sun does a bird of paradise need?

Bird of Paradise plants enjoy bright light conditions. The best aspects are east and west-facing windows. South-facing windows are also good but shield young plants, in particular, from midday, and summer sun, as this can scorch the leaves. Rooms with only north-facing windows are not considered suitable for Bird of Paradise plants.

How do you take care of a bird of paradise plant?

Bird of Paradise plants are generally considered easy-care plants. To successfully nurture at home, aim for bright, indirect light conditions, water frequently to maintain some moisture in the soil, and feed sparingly with an all-purpose plant feed (every 4 to 6 weeks during spring and summer months).

How much are birds of paradise plants?

Younger, smaller Bird of Paradise Plants from large-scale production plant nurseries typically start from around $30. There are numerous options up to $300+ if you’re looking for a larger and more mature (3 to 4 years old) Bird of Paradise plant, complete with potting mix and planter.

Can bird of paradise grow in pots?

Yes, Bird of Paradise plants grow well indoors and outdoors in pots and planters. Just ensure your potting vessel has drainage holes as stagnant water caused by over-watering can lead to root rot and fungal infections.

Are birds of paradise poisonous to dogs and cats?

Bird of Paradise Plants are toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion can lead to irritation throughout the digestive system.

How do you get birds of paradise to bloom?

Patience is key. With ideal growing conditions and plenty of exposure to bright light, the bird of paradise plant will typically bloom after 4 to 5 years.

Are birds of paradise easy to grow?

Yes, Birds of Paradise plants are generally considered easy to grow at home, either indoors or outdoors. As with all plants, the key is to ensure your plant has exposure to suitable light conditions and receives a well-balanced watering and feeding cycle to provide the plant with the best opportunity to thrive in your home.

Wrap Up

Bird of Paradise plants really are a beautiful addition to any home. As long as you have the space for their huge tropical foliage that is. They are easy to care for and produce the most stunning blooms! All you need to remember is…bright light, warmth, and deep, regular watering!

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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One Comment

  1. I grew a strelitzia from seed and have still got it after over thirty years in my conservatory in Northumberland.

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