When thinking about plant care, water and sunlight usually are the first issues plant lovers consider. But there is actually much more to raising a healthy Bird of Paradise than light and water can provide. Since your plant’s roots are critical to its well-being, it should come as no surprise that the soil and container in which they reside deserve attention as well.
A Bird of Paradise does best in loamy soil made up of sand, silt, and a small amount of clay. When it comes to containers, choose one with a drainage hole roughly two inches larger than the pot it currently lives in. Make sure your soil and container won’t hold excess water as a Bird of Paradise hates sitting in soggy soil.
Your choice of planters and potting mix will play an important role in providing nutrition and stability for your Bird of Paradise. Want to learn some important strategies to keep your Bird of Paradise in the best condition? Keep reading to learn how soil and container selection can help your plant with everything from creating big blooms to sustaining the perfect moisture balance.
A Quick Word on Watering and Drainage
Although this article isn’t specifically about watering strategies, it’s hard to discuss soils and containers without discussing plant hydration. Your choice of planters and potting mix will help determine how well your plant absorbs the water it’s given, and since Bird of Paradise does not thrive in soggy soil, potting mix and containers help lay the groundwork for the health of your plant.
Native to South Africa, Bird of Paradise is a tropical evergreen related to the Banana Tree. Outside of tropical locations, such as Southern California, Hawaii, and Florida, Bird of Paradise rarely grows outdoors in the United States.
However, as a potted plant, Bird of Paradise can reside beautifully in many homes, reaching heights of 6 feet tall and producing colorful blooms. And while the consistent warmth of indoor conditions benefits Bird of Paradise, living in a container can pose challenges for any plant.
Without access to the insects and compost that enrich outdoor soil, potted plants can struggle for nutrients. Additionally, when confined to a pot, it’s easy for plants to become waterlogged – a condition that can become fatal for your Bird of Paradise.
This situation can become compounded by soils that trap water against the roots and containers that allow water to accumulate at the bottom. In fact, even the best watering habits can be offset by a poor choice of potting mix or a container that doesn’t properly drain.
What Type of Soil is Best for Indoor Bird of Paradise Plants?
Rainwater, worms, and other natural factors continually renew the soil in outdoor gardens, balancing its pH and adding nutrients. This can keep outdoor plants healthy for years without added fertilizer.
However, for indoor plants, potting mix is the primary source of nutrients. And as we mentioned earlier, indoor plants deplete these minerals quickly. But repotting your plant with a well-chosen soil can supply it with the energy it needs to continue growing and flowering for a year or two.
With this in mind, Bird of Paradise plants prefer dense, well-draining soil. A gardening term that is sometimes used to describe Bird of Paradise soil is “loamy,” which refers to blends containing clay, sand, and silt, as well as nutrient-rich organic matter.
Usually, loamy soil contains equal parts sand and silt and a little less clay. Sand and silt allow the soil to drain thoroughly, while clay retains water and provides stability. As a result, the potting mix slowly drains away water while offering enough density for the tall plant to stand tall and upright.
It is common for evergreen plants to prefer a bit of acidity in their soil, which can help with the absorption of nutrients. Bird of Paradise is no exception and prefers a soil pH of 5.5-6.5.
And while there are ways to add acidity to your indoor plant’s soil, such as watering with rainwater, one of the simplest ways to introduce acidity is through a specially formulated potting mix. Choosing a store blend can simplify your plant care routine and take the guesswork out of soil selection.
Best Store-Bought Soil Options for Birds of Paradise
Some soil blends are explicitly created for Bird of Paradise plants, taking into consideration their specific nutritional needs. Brand options such as Soil Sunrise offer hand-blended varieties that mimic the exact soil conditions, from pH balance to mineral content, in which Bird of Paradise naturally thrives.
However, a potting mix doesn’t have to list Bird of Paradise on its label to offer support for your plant’s nutritional needs. Armed with the understanding that loamy, well-draining and slightly acidic soils are best, you can find a variety of options that your Bird of Paradise will love.
FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil is a well-respected name in organic potting mix. This soil contains organic matter, such as bat guano and earthworm castings, which provide a nutrient-dense environment for flowering plants.
Keep in mind that some garden retailers and greenhouses may also offer their own mixes to serve the needs of specific plants. This option may help you bypass the cost associated with brand names while still feeling confident that you are offering your Bird of Paradise the best options for its health.
DIY Solutions for Bird of Paradise Soil
Ready to get your hands dirty? Consider making your own Bird of paradise potting mix! It’s easier than you think.
The simplest approach to creating a soil blend for your Bird of Paradise is to start with store-bought soil and enhance it on your own. Add in sand or silt to loosen up the mixture and allow water to drain through it quickly. Then, add in organic material such as compost to boost your Bird of Paradise growth.
If you feel especially creative, you can create your own blend from scratch, purchasing components like silt, sand, and clay from a greenhouse or online. These can be mixed with the ratio mentioned above of equal amounts of sand and silt and slightly less clay. Organic matter like compost can be added as a finishing touch.
Remember that Bird of Paradise plants are known for their hardiness, and you don’t have to get the mix flawlessly balanced for your plant to thrive. The goal is to provide a well-draining environment with a strong mix of nutrients and let nature take its course. Rest assured, your efforts will be rewarded!
What Containers are Best Suited for a Bird of Paradise?
Bird of Paradise is known for growing tall. Able to reach heights of 6 feet, and capable of producing leaves over one foot in length, your Bird of Paradise will need some room to grow. And while it is common for plant lovers to allow their Bird of Paradise to become “root bound,” this can be problematic.
Rootbound refers to a condition in which a plant has overgrown its container, cramping its roots. This can result in blooms from some flowering plants, such as Bird of Paradise, because the plant will believe that it may not survive. As a result, it will quickly produce seeds to propagate.
However, when a plant has started to overgrow its container, it is at risk of depleting its soil of nutrients and incurring damage to the root system. It is wise to repot your Bird of Paradise every 1-2 years into a container that is 2 inches wider than the current planter.
But remember that bigger isn’t always better. Repotting your plant in an excessively large container can allow water to accumulate beyond the reach of the rhizomes. This can lead to saturated soil and root rot.
Additionally, always make sure that your plant’s container has unplugged drainage holes. This is the single most important feature of your plant’s container and, without these drainage holes, overwatering is almost unavoidable.
But now that we’ve covered the basics, what else should you know about your plant’s container?
What Material Should You Use?
Most people select a planter based on its appearance. And while that is understandable – after all, it is part of your décor – the container material can play a role in the health of your Bird of Paradise.
For example, clay and terra cotta can be excellent choices for those concerned about overwatering. These materials are highly absorbent, wicking away moisture from the roots of the plant. While this doesn’t mean that you can continually overwater your plant, it may provide a bit of additional protection for your Bird of Paradise.
But what about those who forget to water their plants? Ceramic can be a good choice for those who might tend to underwater. This is because the glaze on ceramic pots prevents the material from absorbing water, keeping more moisture in the soil.
Plastic is also a popular material for containers because it is lightweight and difficult to break. Additionally, since it is easy to drill/cut plastic safely, you can add additional drainage holes. If the plastic is thin, such as a nursery pot, you may also be able to cut the plant from the container when it is time to repot, reducing trauma to the plant as it is pulled from the container.
When and How to Repot a Bird of Paradise
So, now that you know the basics of Bird of Paradise soil and container selection, let’s put it all together by looking at how to safely repot your Bird of Paradise.
While repotting a plant as large as your Bird of Paradise can seem like quite an undertaking, it’s a great way to keep your plant looking beautiful. And by introducing fresh soil and a bit of increased space every 1-2 years, you encourage your plant to grow by focusing on its long-term health.
If you are thinking about repotting your Bird of Paradise, it is best to start that undertaking in the spring. The Bird of Paradise growing season extends from spring until fall. During this time, your Bird of Paradise absorbs the maximum amount of energy from the sun and uses this energy to heal and produce new foliage.
After the growing season, most plants enter a period called “dormancy,” which is similar to hibernation. During dormant periods plants are less able to adapt to changes in their environment. Since repotting can cause some injury and stress to the plant, waiting until the plant is better able to adapt is a smart choice.
If your Bird of Paradise is heavy, you may want to gently lay the planter on its side, but don’t hesitate to ask for help if the planter is heavy. You can injure yourself or the plant if the container tips over or breaks.
Once the plant is on its side, run your finger around the inner rim of the pot. Gently wiggle the container back and forth, pulling on it slightly, and tapping the bottom of the container until the plant comes free.
Now fill your new planter with fresh potting soil – either a store-bought blend or your homemade version – and create space in the center to lower in your Bird of Paradise. Press gently on the top of your plant’s rhizomes and ensure that your plant is standing firmly upright.
After repotting, your Bird of Paradise will likely experience shock, which can lead to slowed growth, limpness, and possibly a yellowing leaf. This is natural and will lessen as the plant heals.
Be especially careful about overwatering during this recovery period and protect your Bird of Paradise from drafts and extreme conditions. Soon your Bird of Paradise will recover, and your plant will be on its way to a healthy, happy growing season.
For more information on repotting your Bird of Paradise, read this article.
Putting it All Together
Your plant’s container is its home and should be thoughtfully chosen. A pot that is too big or too small won’t allow it to grow at its best. Instead, look for a pot that is no more than 2 inches bigger than the previous container, and always make certain it has drainage holes.
Remember that potting mix is like a well-balanced diet for your Bird of Paradise – it’s necessary for beauty, growth, and longevity. Choose a well-draining blend designed for flowering plants, or make your own, if you like to get messy! Just make sure to repot your plant every 1-2 years to keep its soil fresh and filled with nutrients.
So, now that you know how to choose the best containers and soil blends for your Bird of Paradise, get ready to put your knowledge to use. Grab a planter and some potting mix and treat your plant to a wonderful new home!