Bird of Paradise – are these roots?


Hello – I got this amazing bird of paradise plant for my birthday this past March – it had a new leaf coming in which unravelled itself in April – no signs of new leaves since. I’m not sure how often they should come given that it is already close to 6 feet now. It is in a SW window – I’ve heard some people have a bop that loves being outdoors in the summer but mine does not, even in very indirect sunlight outdoors the stems start to droop and then when brought back inside to it’s window it straightens up. Some of the leaves are curling slightly.
BUT it has always had this spiky thing in the top of the pot which I am wondering if they are roots – they are dry and don’t appear to grow – but make me worry that it should be repotted (which terrifies me slightly)


Thank-you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners with your question about Bird of Paradise. These are such fantastic plants!

It is a little difficult to see from your picture, but the spiky dry material coming up next to the stems of your plant is probably left-over material from older stems that have died away or been cut back. Your plant may have been an off-shoot of a more mature plant and those bits could be the remains of some old leaves or flower stems that were pruned. The roots of the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)  are large, fleshy rhizomes. Your plant seems to have just a couple of leaf clusters, so it is unlikely that it is root bound yet. Birds of paradise roots do become substantial, so you may find that you need to repot after a year or so (and then afterwards every 12 to 18 months). You can gently lift your plant out of its pot to check on whether it is root-bound. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if you want your plant to flower, once it is about 4 to 5 years old, it will need to be pot-bound.

These tropical plants appreciate being outdoors in the warmer months. Yours may have been reacting to a sudden change in its climate. It is best to place the pot in a shaded location for a few days before exposing it to filtered sun. As the leaves age, they will naturally curl and sometimes split. This is normal, but if the leaves are yellowing or browning, the plant may be suffering from over- or under-watering. During the growing season (summer), the plant will need plenty of water and some fertilizer. During the winter make sure to stop fertilizing and reduce watering because the plant is not growing.

The following links are to websites with some useful information about the cultivation of these beautiful plants: