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Why is my Bird of Paradise dying?

I have had a bird of paradise for 13 years and it’s grown strongly over that time. I’ve recently moved house and now my plant is dying. Stems are falling over and bending, leaves are browning and turning inwards. Please help!

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  • TeTe Posts: 193
    Firstly look at the differences, you say you have recently moved house, is the environment different in any way compared to where you lived prior moving, is your plant near a radiator 
    "There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true"
  • It was in a conservatory before so light levels were much better. I think I had probably been watering it less before and I think the water is different in my new house. I’ve tried moving the plant to a more lit room and have stopped watering which seemed to stabilise it for a few days after losing multiple stems but now this stem has dropped and the leaves are turning again.
  • TeTe Posts: 193
    "There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true"
  • They're very tough, and wouldn't do this just because of light levels (whether high or low), or water quality. I did once kill one, but that was by leaving outside too far into winter. I still see some healthy leaves in the photos, but maybe it would be useful to see the whole plant, especially the 'crown'. Definitely continue holding off with the water - shortage won't do any harm, but excess might.

    Mine over-winter in a room that's pretty much unheated, and I don't water them at all in winter. They spend the summer outside (avoiding full sun). They'd be in the cool greenhouse, but it's already full! I'm not saying that warmer in winter, and with more water, would be harmful, but I don't have a warmer space for them.

    I can only really think of rot due to overwatering. Maybe even worth unpotting it to see if it's got live white roots, which are still attached.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,465
    Was it a cold day when you moved? It's been barely above zero here for the last couple of weeks. Maybe the plant wasn't protected enough on its journey. Most non-hardy house plants hate cold draughts or sudden changes from warm to cold.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • JennyJ said:
    Was it a cold day when you moved? It's been barely above zero here for the last couple of weeks. Maybe the plant wasn't protected enough on its journey. Most non-hardy house plants hate cold draughts or sudden changes from warm to cold.
    No, not too cold. We wrapped it up but it could have been that it wasn’t warm enough/the change was too drastic. It is used to really warm temperatures from when it was in the conservatory before.
  • They're very tough, and wouldn't do this just because of light levels (whether high or low), or water quality. I did once kill one, but that was by leaving outside too far into winter. I still see some healthy leaves in the photos, but maybe it would be useful to see the whole plant, especially the 'crown'. Definitely continue holding off with the water - shortage won't do any harm, but excess might.

    Mine over-winter in a room that's pretty much unheated, and I don't water them at all in winter. They spend the summer outside (avoiding full sun). They'd be in the cool greenhouse, but it's already full! I'm not saying that warmer in winter, and with more water, would be harmful, but I don't have a warmer space for them.

    I can only really think of rot due to overwatering. Maybe even worth unpotting it to see if it's got live white roots, which are still attached.
    Thank you for your reply! Here’s a picture of the roots. Some of the small stems are those which have broken over the last week or so which I’ve tried to cut down as low as possible. 
  • So difficult to tell. The remaining leaves look fine (I prefer calling them 'leaves' or maybe 'leaf stalks', as the actual 'stem' is just the thing at the base of the plant). Not sure I see anything like a healthy root there - they look a bit shrivelled and dead - of course there could be other roots further down in the soil, or at the bottom of the pot. I'm adding photos of a plant of my own, but here https://www.reddit.com/r/plantclinic/comments/c4fw6s/my_bird_of_paradise_has_developed_root_rot_do_you/ is a link I found with a photo of someone's plant showing live white roots, and dead/rotted black ones. Even the white ones seem to have the black stuff towards their tips, maybe spreading upwards. The soil in that photo looks very wet - has it been standing in water, which would likely cause the rot?

    I'm hesitant to say to mess with the plant, in case little is wrong, but I think I'd be checking for life in those roots - if they're squishy, or just fall to bits, they're not alive, and better removed. If the 'crown' (the short 'stem' at the bottom to which the leaves are attached) is free of rot, then it might put out more roots. But if it's rotted, then the leaves would continue to die one by one as they find they're no longer attached to anything living. If it was me, I think I'd be taking out of the pot, and shaking the soil off (and if roots just fall off, then they were dead anyway). Depending on what's found, put back in pot, and keep dryish - no harm done either way.

    My photos (and comments between them, if I can get the text in the right place)

    The plant, with some of the soil removed. The is the small one of 4, which I got by dividing a large clump which a friend said had out-grown them (I intend giving them one of the resulting plants back again). As I grow them outside in summer (avoiding full sun, which can scorch the leaves) it's fairly compact, with leaves that stand up and don't flop.


    Closer up, you can see healthy roots (though a bit shrivelled - it's bone dry, as I keep in rather cold room over winter). I do sometimes wonder what the big fat roots are for - I imagine the plant actually feeds through the small roots, so why does it need these great fat 'storage organs'?

    And the bottom of the rootball after taking the plant out of the pot. The fat roots always end up coiling round the bottom of the pot, leaving a space with just roots and no soil, eventually pushing the plant out, or breaking the pot. I'll probably repot this one in spring - it's not a very large pot - but then people say they flower better if pot-bound (these 4 plants haven't flowered at all yet) - maybe 3 years since I divided from the friend's clump.

    The time I killed a plant (left in the frost), there were still healthy looking white roots at the bottom of the pot. You'd imagine maybe they'd be able to grow new plants (like e.g. potatoes) but they don't seem to.





  • So difficult to tell. The remaining leaves look fine (I prefer calling them 'leaves' or maybe 'leaf stalks', as the actual 'stem' is just the thing at the base of the plant). Not sure I see anything like a healthy root there - they look a bit shrivelled and dead - of course there could be other roots further down in the soil, or at the bottom of the pot. I'm adding photos of a plant of my own, but here https://www.reddit.com/r/plantclinic/comments/c4fw6s/my_bird_of_paradise_has_developed_root_rot_do_you/ is a link I found with a photo of someone's plant showing live white roots, and dead/rotted black ones. Even the white ones seem to have the black stuff towards their tips, maybe spreading upwards. The soil in that photo looks very wet - has it been standing in water, which would likely cause the rot?

    I'm hesitant to say to mess with the plant, in case little is wrong, but I think I'd be checking for life in those roots - if they're squishy, or just fall to bits, they're not alive, and better removed. If the 'crown' (the short 'stem' at the bottom to which the leaves are attached) is free of rot, then it might put out more roots. But if it's rotted, then the leaves would continue to die one by one as they find they're no longer attached to anything living. If it was me, I think I'd be taking out of the pot, and shaking the soil off (and if roots just fall off, then they were dead anyway). Depending on what's found, put back in pot, and keep dryish - no harm done either way.

    My photos (and comments between them, if I can get the text in the right place)

    The plant, with some of the soil removed. The is the small one of 4, which I got by dividing a large clump which a friend said had out-grown them (I intend giving them one of the resulting plants back again). As I grow them outside in summer (avoiding full sun, which can scorch the leaves) it's fairly compact, with leaves that stand up and don't flop.


    Closer up, you can see healthy roots (though a bit shrivelled - it's bone dry, as I keep in rather cold room over winter). I do sometimes wonder what the big fat roots are for - I imagine the plant actually feeds through the small roots, so why does it need these great fat 'storage organs'?

    And the bottom of the rootball after taking the plant out of the pot. The fat roots always end up coiling round the bottom of the pot, leaving a space with just roots and no soil, eventually pushing the plant out, or breaking the pot. I'll probably repot this one in spring - it's not a very large pot - but then people say they flower better if pot-bound (these 4 plants haven't flowered at all yet) - maybe 3 years since I divided from the friend's clump.

    The time I killed a plant (left in the frost), there were still healthy looking white roots at the bottom of the pot. You'd imagine maybe they'd be able to grow new plants (like e.g. potatoes) but they don't seem to.





    Thank you. I’ve just taken the plant out of the pot to check the roots. Unfortunately the other leaves have snapped off leaving me just one which is pretty heartbreaking. 
    Here are the roots:

  • The type of discolouration on the leaves makes me also suspect rot. The culprit will be the combination of overwatering in the plant’s resting season, and somewhat warmer temperatures which allow the fungus to grow faster than the plant can cope with them. Strelitzia are grown in Californian gardens as shade plants, so they can cope with a fair amount of drought but must have a cool (above zero) winter period. Imagine the Mediterranean climate and you get a sense. If you’re lucky your plant may pull through; let it dry to the point where the soil is just barely moist, keep it in as cool a place as you can manage, and try to water only if it really needs it, until mid-April when it will be coming back into growth again. Try to cut away any rotted areas, too, especially if you repot. 
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