Known for vivid, tropical flowers and massive, fan-like leaves, Bird of Paradise is a striking and substantial plant. Able to achieve heights of up to 6 feet indoors, Bird of Paradise consists of numerous stems, which grow tall and straight without support. However, like many plants that achieve significant heights, the Bird of Paradise is prone to leaning.
If you notice that your Bird of Paradise is starting to look lopsided, there are several possible causes, including shock, root rot, uneven exposure to light, or a need to repot or prune. Addressing the underlying causes of leaning will quickly restore the beautiful appearance of this tropical plant.
If not corrected, leaning can distract from the beautiful appearance of your houseplant, or even result in broken stems. Ready to help your leaning Bird of Paradise? Keep reading to understand the potential causes. With a bit of work, your plant will be standing tall in no time!
Why Birds of Paradise Lean
Native to South Africa, Bird of Paradise is a tropical plant known for its tall and stunning appearance. The exotic flowers resemble a brightly plumed bird, giving the plant its name.
Bird of Paradise features tall, slender stalks with large leaves that form at the end of its stems. Often, these stems will fan out slightly, resulting in a plant that is up to 4 feet wide at the top. While the plant can achieve its maximum height and remain self-supporting, its leaves’ width and weight can result in a top-heavy appearance.
Sometimes a large plant may begin to lean or exhibit bent, limp stems. A severely leaning plant is not only less attractive, but it puts stems at risk of breaking. If allowed to continue leaning, a large plant can tip over a pot harming the plant or breaking the planter.
The Most Common Reasons Why a Bird of Paradise Might Lean
You can take steps to diagnose why your plant is beginning to bend and correct the situation. Below are common reasons your Bird of Paradise is leaning, as well as tips for restoring your plant to a tall, vibrant appearance.
Reason 1: Shock
Shock is a common cause of bending, drooping, and leaning in plants. This is especially true for plants that have been recently purchased, transported, repotted, or that have undergone a significant environmental change.
Shock results from a plant adjusting to differences in habitat and establishing its root system in new soil. Usually indicated by overall limpness and minor leaf drop, it may briefly appear that your plant is dying. Shock is natural and usually self-corrects within a couple of weeks. As your plant recovers, it will begin to straighten as firmness returns to the stems.
However, if you did not recently repot your Bird of Paradise, and there have been no significant environmental changes, then there may be a different cause for the change in your plant’s appearance. If leaning and limpness in your Bird of Paradise stems appear quickly, you may have a health issue to address.
If you did recently make a change to your Bird of Paradise, shock is the most common cause. And the best thing you can do for a plant in shock is to leave it alone. As long as your Bird of Paradise is not in a location that is actively causing it damage (think near a drafty door or window), then leave it be and wait a few weeks before making any more changes.
Reasons 2: Root Rot
The most common ailment to affect a Bird of Paradise, or almost any other houseplant for that matter, is root rot. Root rot is just what it sounds like: a condition, caused by bacteria, where the roots of your plant have rotted or died. Root rot is almost always a result of overwatering.
The limpness and leaning that comes from root rot can be distinguished from other causes by significant yellowing of leaves, persistently damp soil, and, in advanced cases, mushy or blackening stems. As long as the stems are simply limp and have not started to visibly decay, you can likely address the overwatering issue with a change to your watering practices and some pruning.
When it comes to watering, it is common for plant owners to water their plants on the same day every week, but that strategy can do more harm than good. The amount of water your plant requires can fluctuate significantly from season to season, and even week to week, depending on the conditions that surround the plant. Watering on a schedule often leads to root rot.
Instead of adding water once a week, develop the habit of checking the soil of your Bird of Paradise before each watering. At least once or twice a week, insert your finger into the plant’s potting mix. If you notice that the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry, it is time to water your plant.
When you water your plant, water it thoroughly until the excess runs from the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the roots will be adequately hydrated. Then, do not add more water again until the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry.
If, rather than just being slightly too wet, the roots of your Bird of Paradise have actually rotted, you’ll need to remove them from the plant. To do this, take your Bird of Paradise from its container and gently push away as much dirt as you can to get the best view of your plant’s roots.
Once you can see what you’re working with, prune back any affected roots. Healthy roots are white and crispy, while those suffering from root rot are brown, black, or grey and mushy. Clip away all unhealthy roots with clean, sharp scissors and repot your Bird of Paradise in a new container with new soil. Then only water again in the future when the soil is dry.
Reason 3: Uneven Sun Exposure
Unless your plants are kept in a solarium or under grow lights, your plant is likely to receive the majority of its light from a single direction. Even when a plant is placed near a South facing window receiving a significant amount of daily light, not all stems and leaves will receive the same benefit.
Plants are highly adaptable and always grow toward the sun. As a result, a plant will usually grow in the direction of the nearest light source. You may notice that your Bird of Paradise leans in the direction of a window or grow light.
For a plant that has been leaning for years, this condition may not be as easy to correct. However, rotating your plant and allowing a different section to receive light exposure will help. Try to rotate your Bird of Paradise frequently to correct leaning and to prevent future lopsidedness.
Keep in mind that leaning due to uneven light distribution is a gradual process. If your plant has suddenly begun to lean, your lighting is likely not the issue.
Reason 4: It’s Time to Repot
Many Bird of Paradise owners have heard that their plants like to be “root bound.” This term refers to plants that prefer to have higher root density in their container. For some species of plant, being root bound triggers increased growth or flowering.
These plants do not need to be repotted annually. But that does not mean you should never repot them. Repotting provides fresh nutrients, but it also ensures that the plant’s container is not too small to support the plant’s width at the top of its stems. If the planter is too small to provide adequate support, leaning and even falling can result.
In the case of Bird of Paradise, consider repotting every 18 to 24 months and choose a container that is 2 to 4 inches larger in diameter to provide stability for your plant.
Reason 5: It’s Time to Prune
Leaves play a vital role in photosynthesis – the process through which plants absorb sunlight and create energy. Different plant species use different strategies to keep their leaves and root systems healthy. Some plants have a lot of leaves, which they shed and replace regularly. Evergreen plants, like Bird of Paradise, may keep their leaves for years.
Bird of Paradise leaves are quite large and may begin to show signs of age, so it is not uncommon for older leaves to display small slits and appear droopy as they mature. These limp, older leaves may contribute to a leaning appearance in your plant. If this lopsided look is undesirable, you may want to consider pruning.
When pruning a Bird of Paradise plant, use sharp pruning shears and trim the limp leaves as close to the plant’s base as possible. In other words, make your cut at the bottom of the stalk, removing the old leaf, as well as the entire stem.
You may also use this strategy to remove any stems that are leaning due to damage. And while you are welcome to prune away damaged or dying foliage at any time, reserve heavy pruning for the spring at the start of the growing season. That will give your Bird of Paradise ample time to recover and produce new leaves.
Should You Stake a Bird of Paradise?
It is not uncommon to see tall plants held into an upright position using garden stakes, especially if they are fragile and prone to collapse. For indoor plants, this strategy typically involves inserting a stick into the center of your plant’s pot and using non-wire plant ties to secure stems to the stake. Multiple stakes can be used if needed.
While there is no reason that you cannot gently stake your Bird of Paradise plant, most healthy plants with suitable planters do not need to be staked. The risk of harming the stems of your plant while staking might outweigh the rewards.
However, if you wish to correct a leaning appearance without risking damage to the stems, many online retailers and garden centers sell plant support rings, like these on Amazon. These structures are inserted into the plant’s pot and provide a metal border that can encourage upright growth.
The best plan for encouraging your Bird of Paradise to grow tall and full is a combination of consistent care and a stable environment. If the conditions are right, nature will take its course, usually with beautiful and resilient results!