Why is my Bird of Paradise dying?

Last Updated: September 13, 2022

These tall glossy plants are great at bringing a piece of the tropics right to your home. However, if you’ve noticed that your Bird of Paradise is dying, then it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s going on straight away. 

There are quite a few different factors that might be causing your Bird of Paradise to die so below we will go through each of them alongside tips on how to diagnose and treat the issue properly.

Overwatering is a common cause of issues with Bird of Paradise plants

If your Bird of Paradise is dying and developing yellow leaves then watering issues may be the cause. You’ll often find that overwatering causes large yellow sickly patches across the leaves of your plant and they may be softer than usual to touch.  

To establish if watering issues are what is causing your Bird of Paradise to begin dying, take the plant out of the pot and take a look at the soil. If the potting mix is very dry and powdery or waterlogged and clumpy then watering is causing the problem. You just need to be a bit careful as these plants can get pretty large so in order not to hurt yourself, lie your plant on its side and remove it from the pot that way. 

If the soil is waterlogged replace it straight away and trim away any rotten roots. These will be dark brown/black in colour as well as soft and mushy to touch. Hold back from watering as much as before and you should see healthy new growth eventually appearing. 

In the future, make sure to monitor the moisture levels in the soil to avoid any watering issues. You want to hold back watering as much during winter as the cold darker months mean your plant will go dormant and not produce any new growth. This is when root rot and waterlogged soil become higher risk factors.

A dying Bird of Paradise can also indicate underwatering

Like overwatering, too little water can also be harmful to your Bird of Paradise, causing it to begin dying on you. Although it won’t die on you suddenly if you forget to water it every once in a while, if the problem persists for several weeks and months, then it will start to lead to issues. 

Signs that your Bird of Paradise is dying due to underwatering include light brown leaves, leaf loss, stagnant growth, crispy stems and very light soil that is coming away from the edges of the pot.

Stick a finger in the top few centimetres of the soil to check the moisture. You can also try lifting your plant as we mentioned earlier to see it if feels particularly light (though be careful with this).

If you find that your plant feels very dry, water it a little every other day for a week. Your first instinct might be to give it a bucket of water straight away but this can actually be harmful to your dying Bird of Paradise if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should solve the problem.

Moving forward, use a moisture meter to monitor how quickly the soil is drying out and adjust your watering habits accordingly. There are a lot of factors that can lead to the potting mix drying out quickly including high temperatures, more light, pot size and time of year.

A dying Bird of Paradise can also suggest low light

If your Bird of Paradise has been growing in darker areas of your home, then you probably need to adjust the light levels to revive it. Leggy or stunted growth is a classic sign of a lack of sunlight but symptoms can also include leaf loss and brown leaves on your dying plant.

When finding a new spot for your Bird of Paradise, be careful not to move it to direct sunlight as this will cause a whole range of other issues such as leaf burn and brown leaves. 

Moving forward, to properly revive your dying Bird of Paradise it’s important that you monitor the light levels and how they change throughout the day. Your plant might be getting the right amount of light in the morning, but much too much in the evening for example. To monitor the light level, and to be sure your plant is getting the right amount, use a light meter.

If you are struggling to find a better spot to revive your dying Bird of Paradise, then you might need to buy an LED grow light to supplement light levels. These are particularly useful in winter or when propagating plants.

Low humidity might also be causing your dying Bird of Paradise

Another reason why your Bird of Paradise is dying could be a lack of humidity as they struggle in homes with dry air. This is most commonly an issue during winter when we have the heating on for a lot of the day and ventilate a lot less, causing really dry air. 

Although we can’t reach the tropical humidity levels that Bird of Paradise plants love (and even if we could, it wouldn’t be very pleasant to live in for us), there are several things you can do to easily boost the humidity. 

  1. Mist the leaves on your Bird of Paradise

    One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your dying Bird of Paradise is to mist it with a spray bottle a couple of times a week. This is a really good habit to get into for your other tropical and humidity-loving houseplants.

  2. Give your Bird of Paradise a shower

    Another easy method which will instantly increase the humidity is giving your plant a shower. Although this is a short-term solution, it’s a great way to boost the humidity and also allows you to get rid of dust on the leaves which is a bonus!

  3. Buy a humidifier

    They’re relatively affordable little devices which keep a consistent humidity level in your home. This is the long-term solution (showering your plant will only increase the humidity for a little while) and will do all the hard work without you having to lift a finger!

A dying Bird of Paradise can also indicate pests

A slightly less common reason why your Bird of Paradise might be dying is pest infestation. If your plant spends any time outside then this risk is definitely increased so you want to inspect each of your plants thoroughly when moving them indoors to prevent the pests from spreading throughout your urban jungle. 

Although it is rarer than the other issues, it can happen that mealybugs take hold of your plant. The best thing to do is wipe down the leaves on your plant, remove the worst affected leaves and flush the soil through. This will help initially curb the size of the infestation. 

Once you’ve done this, we recommend treating your dying plant with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation. You also want to check over your other plants in the room to see if any other plants have pests. Make sure to keep your Bird of Paradise (and other infected plants) a good distance away from any of your other houseplants as you don’t want the infestation to spread.

Overfertilization could also be to blame for your Bird of Paradise dying

If none of the other causes seem to match up with what your plant is suffering from, then it may be due to over-fertilisation. 

Make sure you aren’t fertilising at all during autumn and winter as this is a more dormant growth period so your Bird of Paradise won’t need any feed. When you are fertilising during spring and summer, make sure you are using less than the recommended amount on the bottle about every 4 weeks is enough.

To solve the issue of over-fertilisation on your dying Bird of Paradise, remove any fertiliser spikes or replace the potting mix if you’ve used pellets in the soil. If you have been using a water-soluble fertiliser then it’s easier to solve as you just have to stop and flush through the soil once or twice in the shower. Moving forward, hold back fertilising for at least 6 months.

Those are the most common reasons why Bird of Paradise plants begin dying. As there are quite a few possible factors, we recommend going through each of them one by one whilst inspecting your plant’s leaves and soil. This will help you eliminate factors that don’t fit with what’s going on with your plant and hopefully you can come to the right diagnosis. 

After making changes to solve the issue, it’s vital that you keep a close eye on your Bird of Paradise to ensure its health is moving in the right direction and you’re able to revive your dying Bird of Paradise. 

Take a look through our Bird of Paradise care guide for more information on how to keep your beautiful plant thriving!

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