Bird of paradise plant care: repotting, pruning & more

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

With its colourful, bird’s head-shaped flowers, the bird of paradise plant is a stunning addition to any home. In summer, it can even be placed outdoors to give your garden an exotic feel. Find out all about bird of paradise plant care.

Orange and blue Strelitzia flower
The bird of paradise is a truly striking plant with unique flowers [Photo: Karolina Grabara/ Shutterstock.com]

In our climates, the beautiful bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae) flowers in early spring, but displays its large, paddle-like leaves all year round. Read on to discover our top bird of paradise plant care tips on pruning, overwintering, pest control and more.

Bird of paradise plant care: watering

Despite their quite extravagant appearance, the bird of paradise is a relatively low-maintenance plant. Aside from needing plenty of light, all they need to stay happy and healthy is for their water requirements to be met.

Bird of paradise plants require quite a lot of water due to their large leaves and the fact that they like a bright location. While they require regular watering, they do not tolerate waterlogging either, so remove any excess water to prevent root rot. It is best to use rainwater to water strelitzia, but tap water that has been left out for a few days is fine too. How much you water your bird of paradise depends on the size of both the plant and the pot. Always allow the surface of the soil to dry slightly between watering. A tell-tale sign that the bird of paradise is thirsty is if it starts to curl up its leaves. We cover how much to water your bird of paradise plant during the winter months later in this article.

Withered bird of paradise flower
Once the bird of paradise flowers have withered, they can simply be removed [Photo: Snehalata/ Shutterstock.com]

Fertilisation

During the summer months, bird of paradise plants are in their growth phase, during which they require plenty of nutrients. It is best to fertilise your strelitzia with a fertiliser made specifically for flowering plants, such as our Plantura Flower Food. This slow-release fertiliser is ideal for bird of paradise flowers as it provides the plant with all the necessary nutrients and releases them over a long period of time. As bird of paradise plants have sensitive roots that should not be repotted too often, a complete granular fertiliser is better suited than a liquid fertiliser. Simply sprinkle the granules around the plant in spring, lightly work it into the soil and water. Then cover the soil with a layer of mulch to ensure the soil does not dry out too quickly.

Plantura Flower Food
Plantura Flower Food

With a long-lasting effect, for healthy soil, child & pet friendly

Pruning bird of paradise plants

To keep your strelitzia looking beautiful, remove any brown and dead parts of the plant regularly. Simply cut off brown parts of leaves and pluck out any withered flowers. If your bird of paradise is getting too large for your liking or your space, you can also cut it back more generously by removing several outer leaves at the base.

Repotting bird of paradise plants

The best time to repot your bird of paradise is in spring, around March or April. However, due to the sensitivity of its roots, only repot when absolutely necessary – when you can see roots beginning to grow out of the bottom of the pot.

When repotting strelitzia, opt for a pot that is just slightly larger; too large a pot will lead to increased leaf formation, but fewer flowers. To repot, carefully lift the bird of paradise plant out of its current container, remove the old soil and, if necessary, rinse the roots with lukewarm water. Place a drainage layer at the bottom of the new pot, followed by a layer of soil. Then place the plant on top and fill any gaps with soil. Finally, press down firmly around the plant and water generously. We recommend using a high-quality permeable soil that retains water well and stores nutrients, releasing them to the plant slowly. Our Plantura Organic Flower Compost is ideal for this. For even better soil structure and water retention, you can mix in clay powder and expanded clay balls.

Rootbound Strelitzia in need of repotting
Once the roots of your bird of paradise plants run out of room, it is time to repot! [Photo: theapflueger/ Shutterstock.com]

Caution: Repotting can stress your bird of paradise plant, specifically the roots. Whilst this can mean your bird of paradise may skip a flowering, regular repotting every three to four years is nevertheless necessary.

Strelitzia leaves turn brown: What to do?

There are many possible reasons your bird of paradise plants could be getting brown leaves. Here we list some possible causes and ways to remedy them. As always, finding a suitable location and making sure you give your bird of paradise the right care is a good place to start.

Discoloured bird of paradise leaf
Discoloured leaves can be a sign of underwatering [Photo: faithie/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Waterlogging: The most common mistake, and therefore most likely cause for browning leaves, is watering too much. Overwatering can easily lead to waterlogging and subsequently to root rot. Repot your plant and water less in the future. A drainage layer and a permeable soil are essential to avoid waterlogging. It is also important to remove excess water after watering.
  • Drought: If the strelitzia has curled leaves that turn brown, this is probably due to drought. To be on the safe side, repot the plant into some fresh soil and water more frequently. Use a high-quality soil that stores water well.
  • Draught: Draughts can also cause your bird of paradise’s leaves to discolour. If you put your plant outside for the summer, opt for a sheltered spot where wind will not be an issue.
  • Sun: Although the bird of paradise plants like direct sunlight, it needs to be slowly acclimatised to the bright sunlight before being placed outside in summer. Too much sunlight too fast can burn the leaves and cause brown spots due to the plant’s inability to photosynthesize efficiently. To slowly accustom your bird of paradise to its new environment, place it in the shade first and gradually move it somewhere brighter.

Tip: Bird of paradise plants enjoy humid conditions, so do yours a favour and give it the occasional misting with lime-free water to increase the humidity. This can also help to prevent pest infestations, especially during the winter months.

Browning tips of bird of paradise leaves
Browning leaves are often due to improper care or a unsuitable location [Photo: Radhavar/ Shutterstock.com]

Common pests and diseases

Bird of paradise plants are fairly robust and rarely suffer from pests and diseases. If your plant does become infested, this usually happens in winter and the situation is often exacerbated by the dry air in a heated home.

  • Spider mites: A tell-tale sign of spider mites is fine webbing on your plants. These pests feed on the plant’s foliage and cause small holes to appear in the leaves.
  • Scale insects: These usually hide in the leaf axils and suck out the plant sap, so it is important to wash scale insects off the plant as soon as you spot them.
  • Septoria fungi: A Septoria fungus infestation manifests as brown spots with red edges. If you notice this on your bird of paradise, remove the infested leaves straight away.
Strelitzia outdoors in the sun
Bird of paradise plants need plenty of light, so will appreciate being put outside during the summer months [Photo: kelifamily/ Shutterstock.com]

Bird of paradise not flowering?

Is your bird of paradise not blooming? In the following, we outline some of the possible causes for this and give you a few tips on how to encourage your strelitzia to flower.

  • Winter care: The most common reason your bird of paradise won’t flower is incorrect overwintering. Bird of paradise plants need a bright, cool resting period in winter to stimulate flower formation.
  • Root damage: If the sensitive roots are damaged when repotting, this too could lead to a lack of flowering. If this is the case, just be patient, take good care of your bird of paradise and allow it the time it needs to recover.
  • Pot size: Strelitzia have thick roots that require space and a lot of nutrients in order for the plant to flower. Therefore, if the pot is too small, the roots will become too constricted and there may not be enough soil available to supply the plant with the nutrients it needs. If this is the case, carefully repot your bird of paradise into a slightly larger pot in spring. Be careful not to use too large a pot though, as too much room for roots encourages the bird of paradise to focus its energy on producing leaves rather than flowering.
  • Too little light: Strelitzia plants like it bright and sunny. If the plant is not getting enough sunlight, it may not flower. Place the bird of paradise in a bright location where it can get around 6 hours of sun per day.
  • Oversupply of nutrients: If the bird of paradise is given too much nitrogen and phosphorus, or too much fertiliser generally, this can also inhibit flower formation.
Bird of paradise leaves
There are several possible reasons your bird of paradise plant is not flowering [Photo: Ostanina Anna/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Allowing your bird of paradise to spend the summer outdoors to bask in the sun can help strengthen the plant and therefore also help it to bloom.

Overwintering Strelitzia reginae

In the UK, the bird of paradise is not considered winter hardy. It must be overwintered indoors as temperatures below 10 °C are problematic and could weaken the plant. Nevertheless, strelitzia should be kept in cooler conditions in winter than in summer, as flower formation is stimulated while the plant is dormant. Overwinter your bird of paradise plant somewhere bright with temperatures between 10 and 15 °C. During this time, do not fertilise and only water occasionally, just enough to prevent the soil from drying out completely.

Thick Strelitzia roots
Bird of paradise plants have extremely sensitive roots [Photo: Amverlly/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Bird of paradise plants can also be overwintered somewhere warm as long as it is very bright, for instance in a conservatory. In this case, you should fertilise your bird of paradise in autumn with a slow-release fertiliser and continue to water it a little more than you otherwise would in winter. Please note, however, that overwintering in this way may reduce the plant’s flowering.

Passiflora, or passion flowers, look just as exotic as the bird of paradise. Both are excellent plants to keep in your conservatory. Now that you have read all about bird of paradise plant care, check out our article on how to plant and care for the passion flower.

Subscribe to the Plantura newsletter