Bird of Paradise is loved for its vibrant, larger-than-life foliage and brightly colored flowers. However, Bird of Paradise is a tropical plant, and much of its striking appearance depends on a proper balance of water and humidity. Improper watering habits can result in discoloration, limpness, and ultimately the death of the plant.
Wondering if your Bird of Paradise needs more water? Bird of Paradise, like many flowering plants, can require frequent watering to sustain its blooms. Look for signs like dry soil or limp, wrinkled, and discolored leaves to know that it is time to add more water to your indoor plant. But remember, striking the right balance of water is essential because both overwatering and underwatering can result in an unhealthy plant.
While overwatering receives a lot of attention for its potential dangers to plant health, there is less information available on underwatering. With that in mind, we’ve created a quick guide to help you identify if your Bird of Paradise is underwatered and how you can keep it healthy and hydrated.
Why Underwatering a Bird of Paradise is Bad
Native to South Africa, Bird of Paradise is a tropical evergreen that is a cousin to the banana tree. While these plants can be found growing outdoors in the United States, they are typically relegated to warm, humid locations, such as Southern California, Hawaii, and Florida.
Outside of these semi-tropical locations, Bird of Paradise usually requires an indoor growing space to help protect it from dry air and cold temperatures. As a potted plant, Bird of Paradise can reach heights of 6 feet tall and can produce multiple colorful blooms over a growing season.
It is not uncommon for a flowering plant to require more water and humidity than non-flowering varieties. Failure to provide proper water can result in wilted blooms, a limp plant, discolored leaves, and, if unaddressed, can be fatal for the plant. However, Bird of Paradise does not tolerate damp soil, which can quickly result in root rot.
So how can you strike the right balance? Thankfully, plants often communicate their needs through visible signs, indicating a need for water, light, or another environmental improvement. By paying attention to what our plants are “telling” us, we can address their needs and help them achieve their full growth potential.
Signs Your Bird of Paradise Needs Water
Before we discuss the signs of a dehydrated plant, it is important to mention that a plant’s watering needs can change throughout the year. Growing season, location, humidity, exposure to light, and other factors, can impact the amount of water needed.
For example, your Bird of Paradise will likely require more water during the peak of its growing season than it will during dormancy. Since water needs can fluctuate, you may see the signs of dehydration in a previously healthy plant.
However, by paying close attention to the overall health of the plant, instead of relying on a routine watering schedule, you will be able to recognize your Bird of Paradise’s watering needs and adjust accordingly. Below are five signs that can help you figure out if your plant is asking for a drink.
Sign 1: The Soil is Dry
Are you seeing signs of the plant’s soil pulling away from the edges of the planter? Is your Bird of Paradise’s soil dry all the way to the middle or bottom of the pot? When you water your plant, does the water immediately run from the drainage holes without soaking in?
Dry soil is the earliest sign of underwatering and reveals that your plant’s roots do not have adequate hydration. Luckily, if you do not see any other signs of stress on the plant, you have probably caught the underwatering issue early.
For best results, always water your Bird of Paradise when the top two inches of soil are dry in the pot. Test the soil for moisture before adding more to get a feel for when it is time to water your plant
If you choose to water your plant from the top, make certain to pour in the water gradually, allowing it to be fully absorbed. Pouring the water too quickly, especially when the soil is very dry, can lead to the water running right back out of the bottom of the pot. This can result in continued dehydration, although you may feel like you just watered the plant.
Sign 2: Your Bird of Paradise is Droopy
A drooping plant is usually an indication of “shock,” which signifies that the plant has redirected energy toward its roots in response to an environmental change.
And while shock can be a response to a number of issues, from recent transplantation to lack of light, it can also be a key indicator of dehydration. This drooping may be evident in stems that begin to suddenly bend or flowers that look prematurely limp.
To be sure that dehydration is causing your plant’s limpness, check the soil for moisture. You can do this by putting your finger about two inches into the soil, or by purchasing a
Sign 3: Curled or Wrinkling Leaves
Another symptom of an underwatered Bird of Paradise is the presence of leaves that are wrinkled, wavy, or curled. While this can be a sign of other issues, if the curled leaves are present with dry soil and limp blooms, this is likely an indication of significant dehydration.
If unaddressed, the Bird of Paradise leaves will begin to discolor and fall. Water immediately and thoroughly, waiting until the soil is dry again before repeating.
Sign 4: Yellowing Leaves
Just like a yellow traffic light means “caution,” yellow leaves are almost always an indication that your plant needs immediate attention. Similar to shock, yellowing leaves can indicate different conditions from which your plant may be suffering. However, if other signs of dryness are present, you can feel confident that dehydration is the issue.
Also, keep in mind that while a yellow leaf may not feel dry or brittle, it can still mean the plant is underwatered. If this is the case, the dehydration has started to compromise the long-term health of your plant. This is because a yellow leaf will not return to green, even if the plant’s health improves. Once they have turned yellow, these leaves will soon drop.
Since Bird of Paradise plants can be slow to produce new leaves, yellowing leaves can impact the appearance of the plant, as well as its ability to engage in photosynthesis. Therefore, yellowing leaves are never a matter to be taken lightly.
Sign 5: Brown Leaves
Dry, crunchy leaves are a serious warning sign! While one or two dead leaves isn’t a crisis, it can be a sign of advanced dehydration, and that your plant may begin to die without immediate action.
If you see brown leaves or leaves that are starting to look dry at the tips, check the soil with your finger. If it is dry, the plant will need to be watered, but you may also have a more significant issue with remembering to water or offering needed humidity.
If you consistently underwater your plant, or you feel confused about how dry it needs to be before adding water, consider purchasing a moisture meter. These simple devices can be inserted into the soil and will show a reading from wet to dry on the condition of the soil.
You may also want to introduce a humidifier to the space, to help reduce natural moisture loss through the plant’s leaves and stems. For more information on humidifiers, click here.
By paying close attention to the signals your Bird of Paradise is sending, you can quickly diagnose the nature of watering issues, keeping your plant on track for a long and happy life!
How to Water a Bird of Paradise
If you’re thinking, “But I water my plant every week without fail,” then that may be your mistake. As we already discussed, your Bird of Paradise will experience continual changes in its watering needs.
Instead, make a point of testing the moisture in your plant’s soil by inserting a finger into the pot a couple times a week. Remember, as soon as you notice that the soil is dry 1-2″ down, it is time to water – even if that is more or less than once a week.
Also, make sure to water your plant until liquid seeps from the bottom of the container through the drainage hole. While this may seem like overwatering, it is essential to allow the soil to fully absorb the moisture. Failure to water thoroughly can result in superficial soil saturation, which will not fully hydrate the root system, and will compromise the health of your plant in the long run.
So, in short, how do you keep your plant healthy and hydrated? In a word, the goal is “responsiveness.” Don’t water on the schedule that works for you, but on the schedule that works for your Bird of Paradise. This may seem like a lot of work, but your plant is a living organism that is dependent upon you.
Your plant deserves attention and care, but the effort is worth it. When you see your plants thrive, you will feel like a master gardener. And your plant will love you for it! If you make a point of paying attention to your plant’s needs, you will be rewarded with a beautiful plant that can fill your home with joy for years to come.