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Bird of Paradise Care

The bird of paradise plant, aka strelitzia reginae, is a stunning, dramatic-looking, and extremely popular houseplant. Learn about bird of paradise care to help your plant thrive in your home!

Bird of paradise is an extremely popular houseplant, so I have no idea why it has taken me this long to write about it. Maybe it’s because I bought my first bird of paradise as an outdoor patio plant, so I didn’t really associate it with houseplants?

No idea. Because it is a real stunner, and I’ve loved having mine indoors this fall. The upright nature of the plant—much like the snake plant—makes it good for smaller, more compact spaces. I didn’t think I’d be able to fit another large floor plant in the house, but this one fits nicely!

Although I had my bird of paradise outdoors for the spring and summer, I’ll focus mostly on indoor care for this post. It’s something I’ve researched a lot to ensure the transition from the patio to the dining room was smooth. So let’s talk about this gorgeous tropical queen.

gorgeous orange and purple bird of paradise flower

Where is this plant from?

But first let’s go over a bit of background. A bird of paradise is actually a strelitzia reginae. It is the only plant I have from the strelitzia genus, and it’s really the only one I am familiar with! It is closely related to musaceae, though (aka banana plants).

Strelitzia reginae hails from South Africa, and it’s an evergreen perennial that is famous for its flowers. The flowers also give it its common name—bird of paradise—because the flowers themselves look a shocking amount like real tropical birds.

But the striking flowers aren’t the only reason to get the plant. It has large tropical-looking leaves that grow up and out, giving it a bit of a leafy palm look. It doesn’t flower often indoors, but the leaves themselves are dramatic!

Is bird of paradise an indoor or outdoor plant?

Well, I’d say all plants are outdoor plants 🙂 They do come from nature, after all! But the bird of paradise does well in both environments. That’s probably one of the reasons it is such a popular houseplant choice.

bird of paradise indoor houseplant

How much sun does a bird of paradise need?

Bright, indirect light is best for bird of paradise plants. I have mine by our south-facing sliding glass door, which gets plenty of light. In fact, the light is so strong on some days that it has burned some of my hoya plants. So it’s perfect for the bird.

Bird of paradise plants are quite tolerant of sunlight, even direct sunlight. I had mine outdoors in full sun, though it was eventually shaded by the large leaves on my banana plants. If you’re moving your plant outdoors for the spring and summer, make sure to acclimate it by increasing the light it gets daily.

How often should I water a bird of paradise?

Bird of paradise is not a thirsty plant. Generally it’s best to let the soil dry out before watering the plant again. Outdoors in the summer, this might mean daily. Indoors in the summer, this might mean weekly. Indoors in the winter…maybe once every 2 or 3 weeks.

huge strelitzia reginae with orange and purple flowers

Why is my bird of paradise turning yellow?

As with many houseplants, if your bird of paradise is turning yellow, it’s likely a result of overwatering. When the plant’s roots are drowning and never have a chance to dry out, they will begin to rot. 

Yellowing and wilting foliage is often a sign that the roots are not in good shape. If you are sure you aren’t overwatering your plant and notice that the yellowing leaves are older leaves, that’s totally normal! Older leaves can and do die off on plants. Don’t panic.

Why are the leaves on my bird of paradise dry and curling?

If your bird of paradise plant’s leaves are curling in—and potentially have some browning along the edges—your girl is thirsty! Give the plant a good drink, and it will rebound.

bird of paradise in a white pot

Should I cut the brown leaves off my bird of paradise?

Speaking of brown spots on leaves—if you just have a bit of browning around the perimeter of a leaf or two, I wouldn’t worry. However, if a leaf yellows and browns, it’s dead. I would cut it off to help the plant focus more on new growth. A little maintenance is a good thing to add to your bird of paradise care routine.

What is the best soil?

Any well-draining houseplant soil will work just fine. When I potted mine, I only had some heavier garden soil on hand. So I mixed it with a bunch of chunky perlite and coco coir to enhance drainage and lighten it up.

Having a well-draining soil is key, though. I mentioned that these aren’t thirsty plants and the don’t like their roots sitting in water. So ensuring that all excess water is able to flow freely through the soil and out of the drainage holes is really important.

I also generally throw some organic worm castings into my soil mixtures for houseplants to add nutrients. I mostly use these instead of fertilizer, but you can use a diluted houseplant fertilizer if you’d like.

large bird of paradise plant at a nursery
large bird of paradise plants at a nursery

Temperature & humidity needs

Bird of paradise is a real heat lover, so that means they do best with temperatures above 70 degrees F. They’ll also be fine in the 60s. Things begin to get dicey in the 50s, though. 

And these plants are not cold- or frost-tolerant, so they can be grown outdoors year round only in U.S. growing zones 10, 11, and 12. They also do fine with regular household humidity, but they enjoy extra humidity if you have it!

gorgeous orange and purple bird of paradise flowers
shiny bird of paradise leaves

How fast does a bird of paradise grow?

Bird of paradise seems to be a slow grower. I had mine in ideal conditions all summer: very bright light, well-draining soil, high humidity, and hot temperatures. However, it only threw out a handful of new leaves the entire growing season.

I was a little disappointed by this. But in reality, each new leaf on the bird of paradise has a BIG impact on the plant’s look. So my plant nearly doubled in height from only two new leaves.

Overall, bird of paradise plants can get up to 6 feet tall…or even taller. My dad rescued a bird of paradise from a curb on trash day, and it is MASSIVE! It had scale, so they had to cut off some of the bottom leaves.

But the new growth is super tall, and the plant is over 6 feet tall for sure. I’m 5’10” and it dwarfs me! 

bird of paradise, philodendron, and pothos plants indoors
new leaf unfurling on a strelitzia reginae

I also recently got some awesome pictures of a bird of paradise growing at the U.S. National Botanic Garden. If you’ve never been, the atrium area has multiple levels that you climb with stairs. I had to two two pictures from two different levels to capture how truly massive their bird of paradise is.

The picture on the left below is the base of the plant. Then I climbed to the top floor of the atrium to get a picture of the top of the plant. Incredible to see!

How do I get my bird of paradise to bloom?

Ideal care conditions, plenty of light, and…sadly…time. Bird of paradise plants must be established before blooming. Meaning several years old. Mine has not flowered yet, nor has my mom’s. One day!

You might think that the best chance of blooming would be in the summer, but guess what? It’s not! I’ve read that bird of paradise flowers are the most likely to bloom in winter and very early spring. 

gorgeous orange and purple bird of paradise flowers

Why are my bird of paradise plant’s leaves ripping?

When a new bird of paradise leaf unfurls, it will be a bright, shiny green with a perfect border—no rips or tears. It’s easy to think that this is what all bird of paradise leaves should look like, though.

But while they emerge looking like that, the leaves will eventually develop rips, tears, and splits. This is something the plant has evolved to do to protect itself again harsh winds in its natural habitat.

Think about it: if a leave has cuts along the edges, it will be much less likely to snap under the force of a strong gust of wind. So, embrace the rips. It’s nature’s way of protecting itself. 🙂

ripping bird of paradise leaf
ripping strelitzia reginae leaf

How can I clean its leaves?

Much like snake plants and rubber plants, bird of paradise plants have big leaves that collect a lot of dust. The worst! It’s easy to keep them clean, you.

If you move your birdie to the shower or bathtub to water with a handheld shower head, simply rinse off the leaves. If you can’t rinse the leaves, never fear—it’s also really easy to clean them by hand.

Just grab a damp microfiber cleaning cloth and gently wipe the leaves down, front and back. If you’d like to, you can also add a teeny bit of very diluted neem oil. This helps to enhance shine and create an unwelcome environment for pests. See my post about cleaning houseplant leaves for more.

Is bird of paradise toxic to cats and dogs?

Yes, this is another plant you want to be careful with if you have pets. Ingesting any part of the plant, including its leaves and its flowers, can lead to gastrointestinal issues.

I always recommend keeping plants away from nosy nibblers, whether animal or human. For more on this topic, check out my post about 16 non-toxic plants to have around pets.

large bird of paradise plants at a nursery

Can you propagate it?

Yes, you can propagate a bird of paradise. Propagation can be achieved by division. Take a look at my plant—it’s clear that there are actually two separate plants in there. Simply take them out of their pot, separate as gently as possible, and replant. 

Where can I buy a bird of paradise plant?

My bird of paradise was actually a clearance shelf rescue at a Walmart. So it took it a while to begin looking nice. But you can often find really lovely bird of paradise plants at big box garden centers like Lowes and Home Depot.

Then there’s always your local nurseries and online (affiliate link)! While they are a bit more expensive, their plants are generally healthier and better taken care of.

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pinnable graphic with text that says bird of paradise care guide including images of the plant

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