Are you seeking a little tropical flair? Look no further than the Bird of Paradise – a bold, colorful plant that can fill your home with glossy foliage and beautiful flowers. But, like many tropical plants, Bird of Paradise can require a bit of extra care. And providing proper light is crucial to helping them thrive.
So, how much light does an indoor Bird of Paradise need? Your Bird of Paradise should receive at least five hours of bright, direct light each day. Try placing it beside a south-facing window or a bright and sunny porch for best results.
Ready to learn about the best lighting strategies for your Bird of Paradise? Want to know how to mimic this plant’s natural environment? Keep reading for tips on making sure sunny days are here to stay!
Bird of Paradise Plants in the Wild
Bird of Paradise is a big, beautiful plant native to South Africa. Although it’s a cousin of the banana tree, neither the Bird of Paradise, nor its seeds, are edible. However, it is widely loved as an ornamental plant and is known for producing large flowers shaped like the plumage of a tropical bird.
When grown outdoors, some Bird of Paradise species can grow up to 30 feet tall, while as an indoor plant, a Bird of Paradise can reach average heights of 6 feet.
In the United States, this tropical evergreen can be seen growing outdoors, primarily in tropical locations, such as Hawaii and Florida. Outside of those hot, humid locations, it is typically grown inside, and adapts well to an indoor setting.
While the concept of a “tropical evergreen” may be unfamiliar to those accustomed to the pine trees of the Northern United States, evergreens are a diverse category of plants. In fact, palm trees, ferns, and other flora can qualify as evergreens, and this term simply means that the plant’s leaves remain green and attached, often for multiple years. Subsequently, leaf health is vital to the wellbeing of these plants, which may produce new leaves very slowly.
Furthermore, with leaves that can reach 18 inches long and the potential for dozens of colorful blooms over a growing season, Bird of Paradise requires quite a bit of energy to sustain growth. Proper lighting is vital to achieving this growth potential and makes a key difference in determining your plant’s height and vibrancy.
How to Mimic the Conditions Your Bird of Paradise Needs Indoors
Tropical plants often need the right blend of warmth, humidity, water, and light to grow lush and full. Keeping your home warm, watering only when the soil is dry, and adopting the use of a humidifier can help your Bird of Paradise stay healthy.
Sunlight, however, is one of the most important variables in your plant’s health and is not quite as easy to produce as warmth and humidity. That said, there are some ways to make sure your plant gets the right amount of light, regardless of your geographic location.
As you might remember from science class, photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert sunlight into energy. Different species of plants may require different amounts of light to meet their needs. For example, Philodendrons and ZZ Plants can thrive in lower light areas and may be harmed by sustained, direct sun upon their leaves and stems.
Bird of Paradise, however, is very different. Its large, waxy leaves are perfect for helping it capture UV light, and this plant thrives with significant sun exposure. Bird of Paradise can even tolerate the heat of direct sunlight, which might be too intense for some other flowering plants.
Since sunlight is so crucial to Bird of Paradise development, a plant receiving inadequate light will not produce flowers, even if mature, and may be slow to generate new leaves.
So, is the solution to place your plant on a sunny porch? Possibly. But there is a technique to giving your plant what it needs, and not all forms of light exposure are the same. While certainly, some bright light is better than none, making sure that your Bird of Paradise gets the right type and duration of light is a solid strategy for producing a healthy plant.
How Much Light Should a Bird of Paradise Get Each Day?
Bird of Paradise likes the light and should receive at least five hours of direct sun daily, though it can certainly receive more, if available. While five hours may not seem like much sunlight, most North American locations receive roughly seven hours of sun a day during the summer, with only four to five hours being peak sun exposure.
Many locations in your home do not regularly receive direct light, and even outdoor locations may not be touched by peak sun. But why does this matter?
Ultimately, sunlight is the catalyst for a plant’s energy production. But while all non-parasitic plants demonstrate photosynthesis, not all plants need the same amount of energy. As a result, some plants can absorb large amounts of direct UV light, while other plants can become overwhelmed by the same amount of UV exposure.
Conversely, for those plants that require direct light, indirect sunlight may not offer all the energy required for ideal growth.
But how can you tell the difference between direct and indirect light?
That is a good question, and even some experienced gardeners can become confused by light levels. But there are some tips for telling the difference between direct and indirect light, and using this understanding to support your Bird of Paradise.
The Difference Between Direct and Indirect Light
Officially, direct sunlight refers to unfiltered, outdoor sunlight, such as the light your plant might receive if placed in the center of an unenclosed porch. If that light passes through any medium, even glass, it is technically filtered.
That said, when most gardeners refer to direct sunlight in colloquial terms, they usually consider strong sunlight, passing through a window, as acceptable to meet your plant’s needs. This is especially true for a South-facing window, which will receive sustained light throughout the day.
If you want to increase the energy absorption of your Bird of Paradise, you may want to consider moving it outside on bright, sunny days. This can provide your plant with a bit of a UV boost without exposing your plant to potential environmental dangers, like the cold night air. But, keep in mind that just because a plant is outside doesn’t mean it is getting direct light.
Indirect light is diffused by passing through another medium, such as the leaves of a tree, the canopy of a patio or pergola, or an indoor curtain. East-facing windows are also considered to provide indirect light since the light’s rays are faint when they pass through.
One simple way to tell if your plant receives direct or indirect light is to look at its shadow. A crisp and clearly outlined shadow suggests direct (or sufficiently direct) sunlight, while a hazy shadow indicates indirect sun.
Another indication of direct sunlight is heat. If you place your hand between your plant and its light source and feel the warmth of the sun on your hand, it is in direct light.
Even in an air conditioned space, a plant experiencing sustained, direct sun, will exhibit noticeably warm leaves while receiving UV light. However, if the light that touches your plant produces no heat, the light is indirect.
The Best Location for Your Indoor Bird of Paradise
So, now that you know that your Bird of Paradise requires direct sun, what are the best locations for your plant? As previously mentioned, windows that receive direct and sustained sunlight can offer the necessary UV exposure. But, if you choose a window location, be certain to rotate your plant regularly to allow light to fall on all sides of the Bird of Paradise.
Your Bird of Paradise may also be placed in a warm, all-season room or enclosed porch provided that direct light is received for most of the day. A combination of indoor and outdoor placement can be a great idea during the warm summer months, provided that the outdoor location provides adequate UV exposure.
However, the “best” location for your Bird of Paradise is not only a sunny location, but also one that addresses the other needs of the plant, such as humidity.
Originally grown in rainforest climates, Birds of Paradise plants can tolerate humidity of 50% but can thrive in much more humid environments. In fact, if you can keep the humidity around 60% to 70%, you will likely see positive impacts in both growth rate and foliage appearance. (Find more information on humidity and Bird of Paradise houseplants in this article.)
What does this mean for establishing a great location for your Bird of Paradise? A large South-facing window in a bathroom, kitchen, or other room that tends to hold natural humidity can provide an ideal space for your plant.
However, if the space that provides the most direct sun is also arid, you would be wise to introduce a humidifier to counteract the dryness. This will ensure that your plant receives the energy it needs without experiencing the dehydration of its leaves and blooms.
Can a Bird of Paradise Survive in Low Light?
The answer to this question might depend on how you define “low light.” For instance, a shady spot in your yard or a darkened corner of your home will not provide your Bird of Paradise with adequate UV exposure. As a result, your plant may appear limp and sickly, or may even die.
However, Bird of Paradise can survive in partial shade. In gardening terms, this means that your plant can survive with two to four hours of sun daily, which may be the case in a home with smaller windows.
That said, partial shade is not ideal for this tropical plant, and survival alone is probably not your goal for your Bird of Paradise.
The result of reduced sun exposure may be a plant that does not flower or is slow to produce new leaves. But, if partial shade is all your location can provide for your plant, you can consider artificial options to increase exposure to UV light, which can make an incredible difference in your plant’s health.
How to Add More Light to Even Your Darkest Rooms
Living in a space that lacks natural light does not mean you need to give up your indoor garden dreams. Grow lights, such as those used at garden centers can provide a great alternative to direct sunlight, offering the benefits of UV light without excessive heat. Furthermore, these lights are available in tremendous varieties, aligning with your needs, budget, and décor.
Grow lights are specially designed for supplementing sunlight to plants, and you should not attempt to substitute a reading lamp for a UV lamp. Most desk lamps use bulbs with low light levels and still produce a fair amount of heat.
At The Healthy Houseplant, we absolutely love the Sansi 15W LED grow bulb and always suggest it for anyone needing to add more light to their plants. This bulb fits into a standard lamp base and has done wonders for my houseplants at home. For more information on how grow lights work and which ones we like, read this article.
Signs Your Bird of Paradise Needs More Light
Since energy is essential in producing new growth, and plants create energy through absorbing light via photosynthesis, a Bird of Paradise that does not receive enough light will likely stop growing.
Depending on the deficiency of light, the plant may simply cease to increase its height, as well as stop producing blooms and new leaves. However, if the deficiency of light is severe, the plant may begin to turn yellow or lean in the direction of the nearest light source. Drooping can also be a sign of a plant that is receiving too little light.
If your Bird of Paradise soil is perpetually damp, that can also point to an inadequate amount of sunlight. Light plays a role in your plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, so if the Bird of Paradise does not receive proper light, it cannot process water efficiently. This can quickly result in overwatering, which can be fatal for a plant.
Can a Bird of Paradise Get Too Much Light?
The answer to this question is technically “yes,” though it is unlikely that you would provide your Bird of Paradise with too much light under most conditions. Two exceptions to this rule might be if the plant is immature or if you are using grow lights.
If your plant is still very young, consider shielding it from direct light behind a thin curtain. This will protect the plant’s delicate leaves as they continue to develop. Direct sun on fragile leaves can result in yellow and brown spots, dried foliage, dehydrated soil, and, in extreme cases, the death of the plant.
The use of grow lights can also occasionally lead to excessive light exposure. Since they can provide UV light 24 hours a day, it may be easy to leave them on continuously. But plants have their own internal regulation systems, and too much light can actually interfere with the creation of blooms.
While grow lights do not typically produce enough heat to burn your plant, plants do need a bit of darkness to rest and recuperate. Remember, we’re constantly trying to recreate a plant’s natural habitat, and when in the wild, Birds of Paradise are used to daytime and nighttime schedules. As a result, it is wise to turn off the grow lights at night or program it to do so with an outlet timer.
Putting It All Together
Remember, the simplest way to help a plant thrive is to closely mirror the conditions of its native habitat. Since Bird of Paradise is a tropical plant, bright light is central to its success. However, you don’t have to live in a tropical region to achieve the amount of light required.
By ensuring that your Bird of Paradise receives at least five hours of bright direct light daily – either through natural or artificial means – you should be well on your way to keeping your plant vibrant and strong.
Prioritize brightly lit locations, and supplement your plant’s sunlight exposure with time outdoors. If your plant appears to be a lush and uniform shade of green, and produces new height and foliage during its growing season, you are likely providing it with the light it needs for long-term health.
Conversely, stunted growth, yellowing, wilting, and a lack of new leaves, is an indication that more light is needed.
By paying attention to what your plant’s growth and coloration communicate, you can help keep your Bird of Paradise healthy and strong. And remember, plants are resilient – and no plant care routine must be perfect. But with a consistent effort to provide your plant with what it needs, your Bird of Paradise will reward you with beauty, growth, and years of gardening fun.