Recently, I was in Sungai Buloh (a famous place to buy cheap plants) to pick up some starter herbs for my herb garden – and I saw a beautiful Bird of Paradise plant at their ‘indoor plant’ corner. It was a dark green colour with multiple leaves from 3 separate plants (2 small and one large) in one pot.
It was very leafy and the leaves are sprouting in a very beautiful manner, giving off some major tropical paradise vibes. I had to have it! Because the space next to my TV console was a little empty, and this plant looked like it would fit right in, giving my living room a resort-like feel. The shop mislabelled it as a Heliconia plant (which looks similar), but I confirmed with a few plant enthusiasts that it is in fact, a Bird of Paradise plant.
I won’t bore you with a ‘how to care’ guide because there are plenty of sites out there who give good, if not similar, advice. Instead, I’ll share some fun facts.
POISONOUS TO CATS
Yes, these beauties are poisonous to both humans and pets – but only if ingested. Some cats are known plant-chewers so best avoid having this plant if your cat is one of those. Mine goes for strings more than anything, so there isn’t much danger of her ingesting anything leafy. She came, she sniffed and she walked away after inspecting the plant and the pot. I think to most cats, large leaves look more like ornaments rather than toys, so they would hardly ever try to have a nibble on larger leaves. I can’t say the same about a mint plant though, my cat loves those. Also, having it planted into a tall pot helps too!
THE LEAVES WERE MADE TO SPLIT
The lines of the leaves tear quite easily, as though there were invisible dotted lines all over. Because the leaves are so big, they were designed to split easily to keep strong winds from pulling the whole plant out of the ground. I had my balcony door open once on a very windy night, I was enjoying the strong winds (air-cond turned off) until I noticed that my plant’s leaves were waving all over the place like crazy. Later on, I realised that this has caused a few tears on the leaves 💔 which didn’t hurt or break the plant, but it broke my heart. So if you want to preserve the pristine look of your indoor plant’s leaves, keep it away from drafts and windy areas.
NEW LEAVES GROW FROM THE MIDDLE
Like most plants with rhizomes, new leaves will sprout from the middle of the plant. I’m amazed as to how the plant manages to automatically push older leaves either to the left or right, to make room for the new leaf, in order to get a balanced looking plant. And every new leaf comes out bigger in size than the one before it.
When I bought this plant, it already had a short spear in the middle of the larger plant, if you notice from my first photo at the top. Being a plant newbie, I didn’t know what it was, so I just assumed it was going to be there for a few more months before something happens. Just 3 weeks after, the leaf grew much taller (I did not notice this at all!), and one evening, I came home to find that it had unfurled into a large, bright green leaf! It also had some interesting stripes of green, like a gradient.
INDOOR PLANTS WILL NEVER FLOWER
The bird of paradise is named as such because of its vibrantly colored flowers that looks like a bird. Unfortunately, I have confirmed with several owners, forums and blogs – an indoor one would never flower, due to the lack of direct sunlight. It would also grow to a max of 6ft indoors, as compared to doubling its size outdoors. However, it is not a really big issue for me as I am a fan of leafy plants, rather than flowers.
LEAVES ACTUALLY COLLECT DUST
Another plant newbie thing I learnt. Big leaves equals dust – seems like common sense but I never thought about it until now. Every 2 weeks, I wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth because dust can choke and block leaves from making food with light. Plus, leaves always look better when it’s all clean and shiny. The first time when I wiped them down after bringing them home, there was so much brown dust all over the poor plant. If it wasn’t so heavy, I would have brought it into the bath for a quick shower. Dust cleaning is very important, and it’s even more important that you use distilled water for this – because with regular tap water that’s hard, it will leave ugly white watermarks all over your leaves.
IT LOVES YOUR HOME HUMIDIFIER
At least, mine does. Because I live in sunny Malaysia, my plant is fine during the day where curtains are open and the room is moderately warm. In the evening, we NEED our air-conditioning, which is not only cold but drying. My plant initially turned a little brown at the edges, especially after an entire weekend of air-conditioning. So I turned on my humidifier on med-high, and I found that my plant could tolerate the air-conditioning better this way, and its leaf’s edges have stopped turning brown.
This wraps up what I’ve learnt from my plant so far. These are pretty laid back plants that are very beautiful to keep in your home, don’t you just want one in every corner?