How to Grow and Care for Bird of Paradise, a Tropical Plant With Stunning, Avian-Like Foliage

The popular houseplant has orange or yellow blossoms that jut out over paddle-like leaves.

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Tropical flowers add eye-catching intrigue to both indoor and outdoor gardens, which is especially true for bird of paradise plants. Native to South Africa and found in destinations like Florida, the plant is easily recognizable by its orange or yellow blossoms that hover over paddle-like leaves; its foliage closely resembles the avian it's named for (the striking spikes resemble the bird's wings when it is in flight).

Though it's a tropical plant, bird of paradise is commonly grown as a houseplant in colder zones, where it's beloved for its colorful foliage and fast growing habit. Though the plant is relatively low maintenance, it does require some basic care in order to thrive. 

How to Plant Bird of Paradise

Bird of paradise plants are commonly grown in containers as houseplants, rather than in the ground. "They make wonderful container plants," says Adrienne R. Roethling, the director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "Either bring the plant indoors during winter months or grow the plant outside in warmer climates."

If you live in a warmer climate and want to plant bird of paradise in a container, do so during summer in a sunny location. Make sure you know your plant's species so you give it enough room to grow; some types of bird of paradise can reach up to 30 feet at maturity. 

  1. Water the plant thoroughly before planting. 
  2. Gently remove it from the container. 
  3. Dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball. 
  4. Place the plant in the hole. 
  5. Add soil to the hole around the plant. 
  6. Water thoroughly.

Growing From Seed

While you can grow the plant by seed, germination can take up to two to three months—and it might be six to seven years before you see the mature plant.

Bird of Paradise plant in vase

Liudmila Chernetska / GETTY IMAGES

How to Care for Bird of Paradise Plants

Encourage healthy foliage by meeting the basic sun, soil, water, humidity, and fertilizer requirements of bird of paradise plants.


Bird of paradise plants prefer a mix of sun and shade. "Keep plants in south- or west-facing windows when growing them indoors," says Matt Peterson, the West Conservatory manager at Longwood Gardens. "Help facilitate blooming by moving bird of paradise outdoors to a shady spot, then slowly transitioning it to a sunny spot." In warmer climates, it should be protected from the hot afternoon sun, which can burn its leaves. 


While bird of paradise plants aren't fussy when it comes to soil, they don't enjoy getting their feet too wet. "They like good drainage in loamy or rich soils," says Roethling. "In containers, simply provide potting soil amended with soil conditioner or pine bark."


How frequently you your water bird of paradise plant may depend on the weather.  "As they become more pot bound, these plants may require daily watering while outside during the summer," says Peterson. "But that may decrease dramatically when the plants are moved indoors to only weekly watering." No matter the season, you should allow the potting media to dry slightly before watering.  


Bird of paradise plants like hot, dry, or humid conditions. "They can tolerate some cold temperatures, but will only thrive when the temperatures are right." The plant should only be moved outdoors once conditions are favorable. They will not survive in locales that experience below-freezing temperatures in winter; some species can't withstand temperatures below 45 degrees. 


Feed bird of paradise plants during the growing season with a slow-release fertilizer. To encourage a good flush of flowers, you can also feed both indoor and outdoor plants osmocote or an organic substance, like compost tea.  

Bird of Paradise plant
Angela Bax / EyeEm / GETTY IMAGES

Types of Bird of Paradise Plants

There are a few different types of bird of paradise plants, but only two are commonly grown as houseplants.

Strelitzia Reginae

The most popular type of bird of paradise plant available, Strelitzia reginae has large, paddle-like foliage and orange flowers. Its blue-green leaves can reach about 5 to 6 feet tall and wide. "Flower stalks rise to the same hight or slightly above the height of the leaves," says Roethling.  

Strelitzia Nicolai

An excellent option for large summer containers, Strelitzia nicolai produces huge white flowers held tightly against the thick stems. "Its large foliage may remind you of banana foliage, but its growth rate is considerably slower," says Peterson. “While not a selection for cut flowers, its dramatic appearance in a tropical landscape is a sight to behold.”

How to Propagate Bird of Paradise Plants

The easiest way to propagate a bird of paradise plant is through division. "As your plant gets older, it will generate more crowns, or growing points, that can be divided to generate new plants," says Peterson. 

  1. Remove the fleshy rooted plant from its large container. 
  2. Use a large pruning saw to cut the plant down the middle, preserving the upper growing points. 
  3. Use the pruning saw to cut through the crown and fleshy roots.

How to Repot Bird of Paradise Plants

If you divide your bird of paradise plant, it will have enough space to continue growing in the same pot after being cut. But if you let it grow, eventually it will need a bigger home. Regardless, you should replace every one to two years. 

  1. Turn the pot on its side and gently pull the plant out from the pot.
  2. Gently break the soil away from the roots, trying to remove as much old soil as possible.
  3. Place the plant in a slightly larger pot than the current one.
  4. Fill the pot in with fresh soil.

Common Problems With Bird of Paradise Plants

The leaves and stems are formed from the center of the stalk—providing safe harbor for unwanted pests. "Be on the lookout for common indoor pests with bird of paradise plants, including mealybugs and scale," says Peterson. "These can be easily washed off with a strong stream of water. Warm, dry air invites pests to cohabitate with your houseplants; therefore, a cool shower often rids them prior to their numbers increasing."

If your plant can't go in the shower, wiping the foliage with an alcohol swab can remove any remaining pests. Generally, a healthy bird of paradise plant that's monitored frequently should be safe from pests and diseases.

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