The Bird of Paradise is characterized by broad, banana leaf-like leaves and unique, vibrant flowers and can be kept as an indoor ornamental plant. These plants grow to be big and tall, but sometimes they need a little extra input from us to do so. So, if you have a Bird of Paradise and haven’t seen much growth from it lately, what is going on?
There are several different reasons a Bird of Paradise might not be growing while kept inside: a lack of sunlight and too little water are the leading causes of stunted growth. Other factors, such as the type of water used, can negatively impact a Bird of Paradise’s development. Additionally, Birds of Paradises enter periods of dormancy that decrease plant growth.
So, what can you do if your Bird of Paradise isn’t growing? And what happens during a dormant period? This article will cover these questions, as well as other issues that might affect your plant.
How Much Growth Should You Expect from An Indoors Bird of Paradise
How much a Bird of Paradise grows varies from plant to plant. The conditions the plant lives in also play a role in how often it produces new growth. Plants kept indoors, for example, usually produce fewer leaves and flowers than ones kept outdoors.
How much growth can you expect to get from a Bird of Paradise kept indoors? Not as much as you might hope for—mature Strelitzias produce one new leaf a month during the growing season when kept inside. We have an article that covers what else you can expect from an indoor Bird of Paradise here.
Remember: this volume of growth only happens for the healthiest Bird of Paradises. Younger plants will grow slower, as will any that are recovering from pests or other problems. Not seeing a leaf every month isn’t ideal but may not indicate an issue.
If you’ve noticed that your Strelitzia has recently stopped growing, there may be an underlying cause you need to address. Water, sunlight, and a handful of other problems can keep a Bird of Paradise from growing well. These can usually be remedied if caught early enough.
Reasons Why Your Indoor Bird of Paradise May Not Be Growing
Like most plants, a Strelitzia may stop growing for any one of a number of issues. Environmental stress, sunlight, and incorrect watering habits are among the most common. But the size of its planter, the time of year, and the presence of pests are other reasons a Bird of Paradise might stop growing new leaves. While these are less likely culprits, these problems can cause a Bird of Paradise to slow down its growth.
Thankfully, a lack of new leaf growth is usually accompanied by other issues. These additional symptoms serve as clues that make diagnosing the problem much more straightforward. Read on to see the five most common reasons that Bird of Paradise plants stop growing, what other symptoms accompany these main concerns, plus what you can do to help.
Reason #1: Your Bird of Paradise is Dormant
Dormancy is an often-overlooked reason that Strelitzias stop producing new leaves. Like all plants, the plants of the Strelitzia genus enter a period of rest during the winter months called dormancy. Plants in this state don’t produce new growth.
The plant’s goal during dormancy is to conserve energy. In the winter, sunlight, warmth, and water are less abundant. Because of this, many plants shut down everything but their vital functions until the weather warms back up. Dormancy is an entirely normal process.
If you’re concerned about your Bird of Paradise not growing new leaves, but you’re currently in the fall, winter, or early spring season, don’t worry, your plant is most likely dormant. Continue to care for it the way you have been, and only add water when the top two inches of soil have dried out. Your Bird of Paradise will resume growing again when the days begin getting longer.
While a Bird of Paradise in a dormant state won’t put out new growth, it should be healthy otherwise. If you see signs like drooping leaves or discoloration, it is more likely that your plant is not growing for a different reason, like improper light exposure or watering habits.
Reason #2: Your Bird of Paradise Needs More Sunlight
A lack of adequate sunlight is the most common cause for a Bird of Paradise not growing new leaves. Strelitzias are particular about their sunlight. A lack of direct sunlight can disrupt the plant’s ability to grow.
Most houseplants thrive in bright indirect light, but the Bird of Paradise is different. This plant wants at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. That means that it is perfectly suited for a west-facing window where the light can fall directly on its broad green leaves.
You should be aware that if your Bird of Paradise is receiving tons and tons of bright direct light, you may need to keep an eye on it. Sometimes the intensity of light can actually harm the plant’s leaves resulting in discoloration, a sort of sunburn for houseplants.
Ideally, a Strelitzia should get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Less direct sunlight can be made up for with a lot of indirect sunlight, especially if the direct sunlight is too strong. In general, more sunlight is better when it comes to the Bird of Paradise.
If you’ve noticed that your Strelitzia isn’t growing and you know that it hasn’t been getting the recommended amount of sunlight, try moving it to a new location with more sunlight. Watch it for a few days to ensure that the leaves don’t burn.
Alternatively, you can slowly transition your Strelitzia to receive more sunlight over a few weeks. This will help prevent any shock from the plant and will help you to gauge when your Bird of Paradise is receiving enough light.
Reason #3: Your Bird of Paradise Needs More Water
Water is the other factor that can cause a Bird of Paradise to stop growing new leaves. Strelitzias prefer a chance to dry between watering, but soil that is too dry will keep the plant from producing new growth.
There are usually some indications your Bird of Paradise needs more water before it impacts the plant’s growth. Curling leaves, wilting, and browning are all symptoms of underwatering. You can read more about signs that your Bird of Paradise needs more water here.
So exactly how much and how often should you water a Bird of Paradise? A Bird of Paradise needs more water when the top one to two inches of soil are dried out. To check this, simply insert your finger a few inches into the soil and check for moisture. If the soil on top is still damp, wait a few more days before adding more water. If it’s completely dry, go ahead and water.
If you don’t like the idea of sticking your fingers into the dirt every few days, purchase a moisture meter. These small devices can monitor the moisture level in your soil for you and let you know when it is time to water by indicating when the soil is dry.
Watering your plant thoroughly is essential. To do this, water your Bird of Paradise until about 20% of the water you put in, runs out through the drainage hole in the bottom. Drain any water in the saucer so that the plant isn’t left in standing water. Thorough watering ensures that your Bird of Paradise’s soil gets evenly moist.
If you’ve checked your plant and the soil deeper than two inches is dry, or you’ve noticed browning on the plant’s leaves (particularly at the tips), you most likely need to water your plant more often, and normal growth will resume once it has had time to heal.
Alternatively, if you notice that the soil is always wet, you may have damaged the plant with overwatering. In that case, allow the plant to dry out and only add water when the top two inches of soil are dry.
Reason #4: Your Bird of Paradise is Rootbound
A rootbound plant is one that has outgrown its current container and no longer has room to spread out and grow. While some people believe there are benefits to keeping a Bird of Paradise rootbound, increased growth is not one of them. Strelitzias without sufficient room in their planters will often slow growth to a halt.
To determine whether your plant is rootbound, first check the drainage hole. Are there roots protruding from these holes? If you don’t see any roots growing from the drainage hole, go ahead and slip the plant out of its pot. Are the roots coiled in on themselves? If so, it’s time to repot.
When repotting, choose a container that is one to two sizes larger than the previous pot. You want to give your Bird of Paradise room to grow, but anything more than a 2-4″ increase in diameter will retain too much water moving forward.
If you’re interested in learning more about Bird of Paradises being rootbound, head over to this article. It covers the pros and cons of keeping a Bird of Paradise rootbound.
Reason #5: Your Bird of Paradise Needs Better Water
This may seem like a strange reason for a Bird of Paradise to stop growing. However, watering your plant with the wrong type of water can impact its ability to produce new leaves.
If you can, it’s always best to water your houseplants with rainwater. Rainwater can be collected during storms and is free of additives like those in spring and tap water. Rainwater also has trace nutrients that are collected from coming into contact with organic materials, such as leaves, that are great for plant development. (Find more on the benefits or rainwater here!)
Spring and tap water, in comparison, are full of different additives that can negatively impact a Strelitzia’s growth. Calcium and chlorine, two of the more common compounds found in municipal water, can build up around the plant’s roots. This build-up will eventually burn the roots, preventing them from absorbing water and nutrients.
If you can’t collect rainwater, distilled water is a good alternative. Distilled water is free of impurities, so it doesn’t have any extra nutrients. This makes it less ideal than rainwater. Still, it’s a better choice than tap water.
Putting It All Together
If you still aren’t sure what your Bird of Paradise needs to grow new leaves, you aren’t alone. These plants aren’t difficult to keep alive, but they are just demanding enough to struggle without the perfect conditions. While it isn’t a rule, water and sunlight are the most common causes of a struggling Bird of Paradise.
Don’t let Strelitzia’s challenging nature deter you from keeping one. Once acclimated to their environment and in a comfortable care routine, the Bird of Paradise can be a rewarding plant… it’s just getting your Bird of Paradise to that point that’s difficult.
If you are struggling with moisture or sunlight, you may find that investing in a few tools might make a big difference. A moisture meter, a small device that reads the moisture level of the plant’s soil, can help tell you when it’s time to water your Bird of Paradise.
Additionally, a grow light may be an excellent supplement to your BOP’s daily dose of sunshine. This is a perfect choice for anyone living in a far-north region or a home lacking enough sunlight. Grow lights won’t replace natural sunlight, but they will help. For more information on grow lights and our recommendations on the best ones, click here.