Bird of Paradise Root Rot: How to Spot and Fix It?

Because most of the damage lies beneath the soil, root rot is not always so easy to spot at first. A foul smell coming from the soil, together with leaves yellowing or turning brown, is almost a sure sign you have root rot.

When the roots begin to die, the plant is unable to absorb any nutrients. This is the reason for the change in foliage color. The leaves may also begin to curl as the plant dehydrates from lack of water.

Healthy looking roots are white and turgid. Any that appear mushy, brown, black, or gray are a sign of unhealthy roots.

These roots should be removed from the plant with a sterilized pair of secateurs so that the root rot does not spread.

Wilted leaves 

When root rot sets in, you may notice your Bird of paradise beginning to wilt. This is because your plant becomes dehydrated, so it is unable to absorb any water.

Discolored leaves

Leaves begin to turn yellow as the root rot spreads.

Brown leaf tips

Leaves begin to turn brown at their tips. They may also begin to brown along the edges.

Blackened roots

Healthy roots are white in color. In cases where root rot is present, they turn brown, gray, or black in color.

Swollen stem

A swollen, soft stem is a sign your plant is battling with root rot. A normal stem is typically firm, but the swelling progresses from the roots upwards into the stem of the plant, making it soft and mushy.

Dying shoots

If there is root rot present, shoots may die. This makes it hard for your plant to absorb any nutrients.

Stunted growth

Your plant is unlikely to be producing big foliage if root rot is present. If your plant is producing new growth, it is likely slow and unimpressive.

How to treat root rot

Remove the damaged parts

Using a pair of sterilized secateurs or a pair of scissors, cut any damaged parts of the plant. In the case of root rot, you only want to leave the good parts.

Trim the damaged roots

Damaged roots will need to be removed. To do this, loosen the soil around your plant. Be gentle during this process, working with your hands. You don’t want to damage any healthy parts of the plant, as this can further delay its progress.

Soak the roots in water or hose them down to remove the excess soil. This will help you identify the damaged roots. Cut the mushy, black or brown roots.

Always sterilize your tools before use to prevent the spread of fungi.

Dip the roots in a fungicide

Dip your roots in a copper fungicide to kill any fungi that may be lurking on your plants roots. Alternatively, you can make a homemade fungicide.

Different types of homemade fungicides for root rot

For a cheaper, more eco-friendly option that you may have in your pantry, is to create a DIY fungicide to help your Bird of paradise.


Activated charcoal is a great fungicide because it not only kills fungi, but it also removes impurities from the soil, repels pests, and prevents pathogens.


The common kitchen spice, cinnamon, contains what is called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde is a naturally occurring antifungal that can help plants with root rot.

Once you have removed any damaged parts of the plant, apply a generous amount of cinnamon to your plants’ root system. You can also mix some cinnamon into the soil.

How to avoid root rot

Root rot occurs when your soil becomes waterlogged and your plant sits in damp conditions. To avoid root rot, allow your top few cm of soil to dry out completely before watering again.

Provide a container with sufficient drainage

If you have chosen to plant your Bird of paradise in a pot, it is essential that the container has a drainage hole at the bottom. Failure to provide your plant with a drainage hole is almost a guaranteed way to end up with root rot.

Avoid overwatering

Bird of paradise is susceptible to root rot so be sure to keep an eye on your soil. The top few cm of soil should be dry before you water your plant again. You can check this by sticking your finger knuckle deep into the soil. You can check your soil every 5–7 days to establish the moisture content.

Provide the correct soil mix

Bird of paradise are fussy about sitting in soggy soil. It needs a rich, well-draining soil. A mixture of soil, perlite, and vermiculite can help to increase your soil drainage abilities.

Occasionally, you can slightly loosen the soil, or poke holes in the soil to aid with drainage and reaching the roots.

In closing

To avoid root rot, avoid overwatering your Bird of paradise. Ensure a proper soil mix with good aeration.

Leaves turning yellow, browning, soft stems, and stunted growth are all indicators of root rot and should be tended to as soon as possible.