The Bird of Paradise can be absolutely show-stopping when its deep green leaves fill the corner of your home or office. But to get to this point, these tropical plants need space to spread out, both above and below ground. Without enough room in its container, the growth of a Bird of Paradise can be stunted. So, how do you transplant a Bird of Paradise into a new pot? And when is it time?
A Bird of Paradise should be repotted every two years or whenever it outgrows its current pot. To transplant a Bird of Paradise, carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently shake off any old soil. Place it into a prepared planter and fill it with soil. Complete the process with a thorough watering and return your plant to its original location.
In this article, I will cover the steps of repotting your Bird of Paradise in-depth, so keep reading! I’ll also talk about why you may need to repot your Bird of Paradise, what pot and soil to use, and the ways you can tell when it’s time.
When and Why To Repot Birds of Paradise
Houseplants do need to be repotted periodically. Given the proper care and nutrients, a Bird of Paradise will continue to grow until its roots completely fill the planter, which generally happens every two years or so. Once the plant runs out of room to expand below ground, it will most likely stop producing new growth above ground.
If you don’t repot every two years, your Bird of Paradise will run into more problems than just crowded roots. Plants left in the same soil for too long eventually deplete the available nutrients and turn pale green or yellow due to this nutrient deficiency. Repotting your Bird of Paradise will boost the nutrients, thanks to the additives found in most potting soil blends.
Another reason houseplants need repotting shows itself in the form of underwatering. When the ratio of roots to soil is off, and the amount of soil decreases as it gets displaced by roots, your planter will no longer hold enough water to keep your Bird adequately saturated. This results in drooping, wilting, or dry leaf tips, but it is most noticeable when the water you pour into your plant runs out through the drainage hole immediately (indicating that very little was absorbed by the soil.)
If you’ve noticed any of these above-ground signs, it’s time to take a look beneath the soil. The roots will let you know for sure if it is time to transplant your Bird of Paradise.
How to Tell if Your Bird of Paradise Needs Repotting
To be sure that your Bird of Paradise needs repotting, you’ll have to take a look at the roots. This can be tricky if your Bird of Paradise is especially large, so ask a friend or neighbor to assist you with the process.
First, before you tip your Bird of Paradise over, can you see any exposed roots? If you can see bits of roots poking up or growing out above the soil line, it’s most likely that your plant is rootbound and needs a bigger home.
Next, flip the pot over and check for roots protruding from the drainage hole. This is a dead giveaway that your Bird of Paradise needs more room.
Last, you can gently pull the Bird of Paradise from its pot and look at the roots. Are they coiled up and turned in on themselves, taking on the form of the pot? If so, your Bird of Paradise is definitely rootbound, and, come spring, you’ll need to move it to a larger container.
Do Birds of Paradise Like to Be Rootbound?
I hear this question a lot about plants: Do they like to be rootbound? The answer is: Not really; it stresses them out. Sometimes the result of this stress is desirable to plant-growers (like how cramped plants produce blooms), but no plant is comfortable or healthy when living in a compacted space for too long.
Sometimes, a Bird of Paradise will produce blooms when it is rootbound. The reason is explained well in this article, but to summarize: Birds of Paradise treat being rootbound as a sign that they won’t survive much longer. Rather than die back, they produce blooms with the hope of reproducing themselves.
Because of this, it is common to see suggestions to keep a Bird of Paradise rootbound. If your goal is to produce blooms, this is often the only way for an indoor Strelitzia to deliver show-stopping flowers. But no matter your goal, a Bird of Paradise should never be left chronically rootbound.
(It’s also important to remember that a Bird of Paradise can’t produce flowers until it has reached full maturity, between 4-7 years old. Before reaching this point, a Strelitzia should never be left rootbound.)
The Best Time to Repot Your Houseplant
As with many houseplants, the best time to repot a Bird of Paradise is just before its growing season starts. Strelitzias do most of their growing during the late spring and summer, making early spring the perfect time to transplant them.
Don’t worry if your repotting schedule doesn’t line up with this, but do know that your Bird of Paradise may take longer to bounce back and begin producing new growth if you replant it at an odd time. Just make sure that it is returned to its old routine as soon as possible and water it according to the season.
What Potting Soil is Best for a Bird of Paradise
A Bird of Paradise can thrive in most available indoor potting mixes you can find online or in garden centers. Just check that it has additives (like perlite) to lighten up the soil and ensure that water can drain freely. A Bird of Paradise in soggy soil will not thrive and will eventually suffer from root rot.
We have an entire article devoted to the subject of ideal soil mixtures for indoor Bird of Paradise plants. Click here to read and find options you can buy in stores, plus information on mixing your own blend at home.
What Pots Are Best for Bird of Paradise
Because Strelitzias require moisture to thrive, a pot made from plastic or glazed ceramic is best. These types of planters retain water better than the more porous alternatives, like terracotta or concrete, without sacrificing the plant’s drainage.
You should also consider the size of your Bird of Paradise when choosing a pot. While glazed ceramic is beautiful, it can make a large plant extremely difficult to move when combined with soil. Heavier planters work best for smaller plants. For an established, tall Bird of Paradise, a plastic container will make maintenance much more manageable.
Regardless, the most crucial part of picking out a planter is that it has adequate drainage. One drainage hole is enough for a small plant, but anything larger does better with three or more. Drainage holes can be carefully added with a drill and proper-sized drill bit, so don’t let this discourage you from a particular planter!
Preparing to Repot Your Plant
To prepare your Bird of Paradise for transplanting, you’ll first need to gather your supplies. Here is a list of what you’ll need:
- Your New Pot. Select one approximately 2-4″ larger than the one your Bird of Paradise is currently residing in.
- Potting Mix. As stated above, these Birds are not particular about potting soil; just make sure it is light and drains freely.
- Canvas or Tarp. This will help to contain the mess from replanting. While it is easier to take your plant outside, Birds of Paradise tend to get too large for that to be an option for long. Having a tarp makes for easy cleanup.
- Pruning Shears. You may find that you need shears once you’ve begun, so it’s good to have these on hand with a sterilizing agent. Rubbing alcohol and diluted bleach can both be used to clean your shears and decrease the likelihood of an infection.
Step-By-Step Instructions to Transplant Your Bird of Paradise
Before getting started, you may want to give your Bird some water. Watering a day or two in advance can help keep the soil in place as you move your Bird of Paradise to its new home. Just note that adding a lot of water to a large plant can make it much heavier and more challenging to handle.
Step 1: Remove Your Bird of Paradise from the Old Pot
To successfully remove your Bird of Paradise from its old container, place your hand at the base of the plant and turn its pot over so that the plant gently slides out. This doesn’t always work when the plant is particularly rootbound or too large to be held in one hand.
In those cases, the easiest way to remove your Strelitzia from its pot is to lay it on its side. Gently tap the sides of the pot to loosen the soil and disconnect any roots that have become attached. You may need to use your hand to gently pry the roots free or run a butter knife around the inside rim of the container to loosen it up.
Once it’s out of the pot, gently shake off the old soil, though this is easier if you skip the step of watering beforehand. Try not to disturb the roots too much but do break them up if they are tightly coiled.
Now is the time you may notice you need to prune back the plant’s rootball. If the roots show any signs of rot, cut away every root that isn’t light, crisp, and healthy. You can usually cut back up to one-third of the plant’s root system without risking any damage to the plant.
You can also prune back the roots if they are especially wound together or if you don’t want to move your Bird to a bigger planter. Having shears nearby makes this a little bit easier.
Step 2: Fill the Pot 1/4 With Soil
Before putting the rootball into the pot, fill it with a few inches of soil to pad the bottom. How much depends on the planter but aim to fill approximately 1/4th of the pot.
If you have it available, now is an excellent opportunity to mix in compost. The extra nutrients serve as a nutrient boost for your Bird of Paradise in addition to what is available in the potting mix. An inch or so added to the bottom of the pot is a great starting point. It can either be added directly or mixed in with the soil.
Step 3: Place Your Bird of Paradise in the New Pot
Once you have the first layer of soil in the planter, add your Bird of Paradise. This may be a little awkward depending on the size, but the process is the same. Set your plant in the pot, hold it at the base to keep it centered, and fill in around the rootball with new soil.
It’s vital not to overpack the soil so that the plant is too tightly contained in the planter. Packed soil makes it difficult for water to drain out and for the roots to properly oxygenate. It should be lightly packed but not compacted.
Step 4: Water Your Bird of Paradise
Once you’ve finished the process of filling in the soil, you need to thoroughly and deeply water your Strelitzia. Watering it will help it adjust to its new pot better and reduce the risk of transplant shock.
Be sure to water until about 20% of the water you pour in drains out through the bottom. Let the water finish draining, and then empty the saucer. Birds of Paradise should not be left to sit in standing water.
Caring for Bird of Paradise After Repotting
After you’ve repotted your Bird of Paradise, it’s important to ensure it gets the proper care. For the quickest recovery, return your plant to its old location and routine. If that isn’t possible because it has outgrown the area, put it somewhere with similar light and humidity.
After repotting, you may notice that your plant needs less frequent waterings because the soil retains moisture better. Adjust as necessary to make sure your Strelitzia is properly hydrated but not overwatered. Only water your plant when the top two inches of soil are dry.
Your Bird of Paradise will not likely need any added fertilizer for about six months. Remember that most potting soil comes fortified with nutrients, so your tropical beauty will have everything it needs for a long time to come.