Drooping Bird of Paradise (Causes And How to Fix)


So your bird of paradise is drooping and looks a little limp. Don’t panic yet, as this is usually normal and can be easily fixed. Your first move is to figure out exactly what’s causing your bird of paradise to droop, and I’ll show you how.

Underwatering is the most common cause of drooping bird of paradise. If the soil is bone-dry, water your plant deeply and thoroughly. Leaves can also collapse under their own weight or droop in response to light, humidity, disease, pest, or temperature stress.

Whenever possible, prevention is always the best policy. But I’ll take you through how to treat each cause, so you can help your drooping bird of paradise bounce back to life.

Is it Normal for a Bird of Paradise to Droop?

Yes, the bird of paradise is a tropical evergreen plant treasured for its gorgeous coarse-textured foliage and showy blooms. However, sometimes it’s normal for older leaves on your bird of paradise to naturally age, droop, and eventually die off.

More often than not, drooping is a way of your bird of paradise asking you to give it a drink. It can also be a normal response to transplant or moving shock. No biggie — just give it some time to readjust.

Reasons for Bird of Paradise Dropping

Indoor potted bird of paradise is drooping

[1] Underwatering

As a tropical native, the bird of paradise thrives in soil that’s consistently moist but not wet. So, if your bird of paradise appears to be drooping, you should ensure you’re not underwatering it. You should check the soil to make sure it isn’t completely dry.

If the potting mix is bone-dry, you may see leaves go limp and start drooping. The leaves may also start browning starting from the tips and edges. Over time, leaves will become dry, crispy, and start wilting — especially the older/lower foliage.

The finger test is the easiest way to check if you’re underwatering. If the top one to two inches of the soil is dry, it’s time to give your plant a drink. In reality, drooping may not show up until at least half of the soil is dry.

Solution

If the soil is completely dry, the best solution is to give your bird of paradise a water soak.

  1. Remove the saucer and put your bird of paradise in your bathtub or sink. Start filling the basin up until the water depth reaches three to four inches.
  2. Water will saturate the soil through the drainage holes. Let your bird of paradise soak up water for no less than 45 minutes.
  3. Stop soaking once the top 1-2 inches of soil are evenly moist. You can speed up the process by watering lightly from the top.
  4. Once the soil is uniformly moist, drain the basin. Let your plant drain excess water thoroughly.
  5. Replace the saucer and move it back to its sweet spot.

[2] Overwatering

As a tropical plant, the bird of paradise hates standing in ‘wet feet.’ And wouldn’t you know it, overwatering is the leading cause of root rot in the bird of paradise plants.

Too much moisture or sogginess in the soil will literally choke off the roos and cause them to die. Well, did you know that roots require oxygen to breathe and function properly?

Drooping and wilting leaves are often a telling sign that root rot has occurred below the soil. If you dig up your plant, you’ll find rusty brown or black, soft, and soggy roots.

Other signs that you’ve overwatered your bird of paradise include:

  • Yellowed leaves, both new and old
  • Leaves develop brown, water-soaked spots rounded by a yellow halo. This is an indication of bacterial infection due to excessively damp conditions.
  • Wilting and dropping of leaves
  • Stunted or distorted growth

Solution

You must first stop watering immediately and check your plant for root rot.

If the roots are okay, let your bird of paradise’s soil dry out before the next irrigation. You can move it to a brighter spot and improve aeration to accelerate moisture loss.

If there are signs of root rot, you’ll need a more drastic solution:

  1. Wash the soil off the roots in the shower. Be gentle lest you damage the root system.
  2. Trim away affected roots.
  3. Bird of paradise is a hardy plant, so you’ll still find a good number of healthy roots. They look white, feel firm, and bouncy. Dip them in a fungicide treatment.
  4. Repot using fresh soil with some hydrogen peroxide mixed in.

[3] Loss of Turgor Pressure

Turgor pressure is a vital physiological mechanism that helps your bird of paradise maintain its elegant shape and stability. It’s the force between the cell wall and cell membrane, giving non-woody parts like foliage their firmness.

Loss of turgor pressure causes your leaves to wilt, curl, and droop. It usually happens when the plant is using more water than it can absorb through the roots.

As such, the major cause is underwatering. But root rot, sunburns, overwatering, low humidity, and edema can also be responsible for loss of turgor pressure.

Solution

Because underwatering is the main culprit, your plant will spring back to life when you water it. Use the proper watering technique, making sure liquid drips out of the drainage holes then dump out the excess.

A general rule of thumb, don’t wait until the potting medium is completely dry. Water again when two inches of topsoil is dry.

[4] Over-Temperature and Extreme Cold  

Both extreme heat and cold will cause the leaves of your bird of paradise to droop. Over-temperature and hot drafts will drain moisture from the foliage quickly than your plant can absorb water. This may lead to loss of turgor pressure and tissue damage.

You must not allow the ambient temp to fall below 65°F (18°C), including the night air temperature. If it does, the foliage will start drooping and ultimately collapse. That’s a big no-no for your precious bird paradise and may lead to its eventual death.

Cold drafts and frostbites, on the other hand, cause tissue damage that may destroy cell walls. This is especially seen in tender parts of the plant. This will cause leaves to wilt, droop, and possibly fall off.

Solution

The bird of paradise prefers warmer environments. Ensure night temps of 50-55°F (10-13°C) and day temps of 65-70°F (18-21°C). (Source: Clemson University)

Bring your potted bird of paradise indoors when the air temperature drops below 55°F (13°C).

Make sure to move it away from sources of heat and cold drafts. These include open window sills, radiators, entrance doors, hot-air vents, and fireplaces.

[5] Low Humidity

Bird of paradise plants are pretty hardy but they need a lot of humidity to replicate their native tropical conditions. If the surrounding air is dry, the leaves will lose more moisture then wilt and drop.

If your plant isn’t well-watered, the leaves will become dry, crispy, and droop. The wilted foliage will eventually collapse due to dehydration and die off.

Yellowed leaves and browned leaf margins are also other signs of low humidity. The soil also loses moisture faster in low humidity. Therefore, your bird of paradise will show symptoms of underwatering, which includes drooping.

Solution

Your bird of paradise will appreciate a boost in humidity. 

  1. Give your plant a proper misting twice a week or use a water tray with pebbles to ensure constant humidity.
  2. Of course, placing a humidifier close to your plant will do the trick.
  3. Consider grouping your houseplants to have a humid microclimate around your plant

[6] Bird of Paradise Drooping After Repotting

Bird of paradise roots

Most bird of paradise plants suffers a mild shock or stress when repotted or transplanted. Drooping results because the roots have not re-adjusted enough to absorb water properly.

The roots may have also suffered damage when unpotting or repotting. Until the roots are well-established, the leaves may turn yellow, wilt, brown, or even fall off.

Solution

  1. Your plant is just reacting to being repotted or transplanted. In most cases, you have no choice but to wait as it bounces back.
  2. It pays to be careful with the root system when unpotting, prepping, and repotting your bird of paradise.
  3. Give optimum conditions and avoid fertilizing until you see new growth.

[7] Water Quality

If the drooping continues after you have corrected watering issues, water quality may be to blame. Tap and softened water typically contain fluoride, minerals, chlorine, and salts.

These compounds can accumulate in the soil Affects photosynthesis, respiration, distribution of nutrients. If not treated timely, they will lead to drooping in the bird of paradise.

If salt buildup is the issue, the leaves will turn brown and burn. You may spot white salt deposits on the surface of the soil.

Solution

  1. The best way to avoid this is to use filtered or distilled water. Invest in a decent water filtration system to help your bird of paradise thrive.
  2. Alternatively, you can leave tap water in your sink, bathtub, or open container overnight. This will help evaporate chlorine and other impurities before you water.

[8] How Much Light Is It Getting?

Your bird of paradise cherishes a bright, brightly lit spot. While some varieties will appreciate part shadow, low light will cause leaves to become leggy and flop. In some cases, the leaves will become too large and collapse under their own weight.

In either case, you’ll notice foliage droop if you expose your plant to too little light. On the other hand, too much light (especially direct sunlight) will scorch the leaves. This will lead to leaf browning, wilting, and drooping.

Solution

  1. The solution is simple. Be sure to pick an area where it’ll get plenty of bright, indirect, or filtered (such as draped) light.
  2. When summer sun arrives, move it indoors, preferably to a west-facing window.

[9] Is It Getting Enough Nutrients?

As a tropical plant, strelitzia needs a steady supply of nutrients and minerals. If it looks unhealthy and drooping, your plant may be suffering from nutrient deficiency. The most common cause of drooping in bird of paradise is magnesium deficiency.

If the drooping leaves are yellowed, they may be lacking nitrogen, manganese, or iron. Pay close attention to any discolorations

Solution

  1. You should repot your bird of paradise at least once every 2-3 years with a fresh potting mix. Add some sure the soil is rich in organic matter.
  2. These tropical plants are heavy-feeders. Feed your bird of paradise every 2 weeks during spring and summer using half-strength houseplant fertilizer. Stop fertilizing during the dormancy period, which is throughout winter. (Source: University of Wisconsin)

[10] Insect Infestation

A bird of paradise is typically trouble-free, but it can be susceptible to a few pests. Insects like mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, and scales suck the sap out of the leaves. They literally drain moisture from your bird of paradise, causing leaves to wilt and droop.

Some sap-sucking bugs leave a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew on the leaves. This will attract pathogens like fungus gnats that cause infections, leading to drooping.

Solution

  1. Generally, you can remove bugs from your bird of paradise by spraying them with a powerful blast of water.
  2. Trim away any heavily affected materials. Use rubbing alcohol to treat trim zones.
  3. Spray using homemade or commercial insecticidal soap like neem oil every 5-7 days until the pests are eliminated.

[11] Diseases

Diseases like bacterial wilt, stem rot, and root rot thrive in damp conditions. They not only cause tissue damage but also hinder your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water.

The most common disease among the bird of paradise plants is leaf blight and it thrives in wet conditions due to overwatering or overhead watering.

The disease shows itself in the form of white spots on the foliage encircled with green rings. With time, the leaves will wilt and droop.

Bacterial wilt, another common bird of paradise disease, will lead to leaves turning pale green. They will also wilt, droop, and die off. 

Solution

  1. Remove and discard diseased parts to avoid further spread of the disease. Sterilize cutting tools using rubbing alcohol.
  2. Most cases of stem rot and bacterial wilt result from overwatering. Unpot your bird of paradise, rinse off all old potting mix, and repot your plant in fresh soil.
  3. Use copper or sulfur-based fungicides. You can also prepare homemade baking soda spray with a little insecticidal soap.
  4. Diseases like bacterial wilt can be easily prevented by using copper-based fungicides and using well-draining potting mix.

[12] Has It Outgrown Its Container?

If your plant becomes root bound, it will struggle to grow due to stiff competition for nutrients and moisture. In fact, bird of paradise will deplete the potting mix of its nutrients if it has outgrown the container.

This may also exacerbate the symptoms of nutrient deficiency and poor watering habits, both of which include drooping leaves.

Solution

When your bird of paradise outgrows its container, you can either repot in a larger pot or separate it into smaller divisions to thin your plant.

  1. Your best bet is to repot in early spring right before new growth emerges. Use a rich, well-draining potting mix.
  2. For thinning, unpot your bird of paradise then carefully creates smaller divisions by splitting the shoots. Separately replant the divisions and ensure they’re evenly moist for three to six months.

[13] Lack of Roots Development

If your recently transplanted or repotted bird of paradise is drooping, check the roots. Lack of roots development can be due to a number of reasons. It can result from root damage, root rot, transplant shock, hypothermia, or attack by root pests.

Without the ability to take up nutrients and water, the leaves will start wilting, yellowing, and browning. You see leaves go limp and droop.

Solution

Your best course of action may be to propagate to develop new roots. Use as several divisions, with each stem division having at least four tubers/rhizomes and few leaves.

Dust the divisions with some powdered rooting hormones and plant them in small containers. Don’t water until the cuts heal. Keep them consistently moist for between 3 and 6 months until they’re robustly rooted.

[14] Fertilizer Application Mistake

Any excess fertilizer that isn’t absorbed by the plant will deposit close to the root ball as salts.

As the fertilizer salts build up and become concentrated, they’ll hinder the roots’ ability to absorb nutrients and water. The leaves will become yellowed, browned, and wilt, eventually drooping and falling off.

Solution

Make sure to water your plant deeply until the liquid oozes out of the drainage holes. This will help flush out excess fertilizer salts from the soil.

As mentioned above, only fertilize your bird of paradise in spring and summer once every fortnight. Stop fertilizing during winter.

You can consider changing the soil if it is polluted with too much fertilizer. 

Final Words

Drooping in a bird of paradise can be normal, but often caused by overly dry soil. Ensure the soil is consistently moist by watering when the two inches of topsoil is dry to the touch.

Maintain temperatures above 50°F(10°C), provide ample humidity, and park in a sunny (indirect), brightly-lit spot.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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