Last updated on November 28th, 2023 at 04:16 am
So you want to bring a touch of the tropics into your home with a large-leafed plant, but can’t decide between the wildly popular Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree or the visually striking Bird of Paradise?
These statement-making plants have unique appeals but also require very different care. Read on as we unpack their key similarities and differences to help you choose the variety that best fits your lifestyle.
Table of Contents
At a Glance Comparison
Before diving deeper, here is a quick overview of how these plants compare across some key factors:
|Fiddle Leaf Fig (FLF)
|Bird of Paradise (BOP)
|General Care Level
|Bright, indirect light
|– Bright, indirect light
– Can tolerate more direct sun
|Allow soil to dry out between waterings
|– Water when top 1″ of soil is dry
– Sensitive to overwatering
|Prefers average to high humidity
|Appreciates average to high humidity
|Up to 50+ years indoors
|10-20 years indoors
|Mature Plant Height
|Up to 10 ft tall
|4-7 ft tall
|Toxic to pets
As you can see, while both offer gorgeous, specimen-sized leaves, the FLF requires a bit more diligent care while the BOP is slightly more forgiving for beginner plant parents. Keep reading for more details on choosing between these tropical statement plants.
Appearance and Size
When it comes to appearance, the Fiddle Leaf Fig and Bird of Paradise have distinctly different looks that set them apart.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Aesthetics
True to its name, the Fiddle Leaf Fig has enormous, vibrant green leaves that look like fiddle-shaped violins. The leaves can grow over a foot long on mature plants! Here are some key traits:
- Huge, glossy, deep green leaves with prominent veins
- Violining or fiddle shape
- Can grow to over 2 feet wide on mature plants
- Forms a lush, full, tree-like shape
Bird of Paradise Aesthetics
The Bird of Paradise flower is unmistakable and rightfully named! These are the standout features:
- Produces unique flowers that resemble tropical birds
- Blooms are orange, blue, and white and resemble birds in flight
- Large, wide leaves up to 18 inches long
- More upright and vase-shaped than FLF
- Commonly available in orange or white flowering varieties
So while the FLF is prized for its enormous, fiddle-shaped leaves, the BOP is loved for its beautifully bizarre blooms.
There is also a significant size difference between these statement plants when fully grown:
- Fiddle Leaf Figs can grow over 10 feet tall as houseplants. They take on a spreading, bushy shape closer to small trees.
- Bird of Paradise reaches a smaller 4 to 7 feet tall than houseplants. Their upright, vase-shape gives them a tidy, tailored look.
So the FLF steals the show with its huge, trailing vines of violining leaves, while the BOP captures attention with vivid orange and blue floral resemblances to tropical birds. Consider your space and visual preferences when deciding between them.
General Care Requirements
While both the Fiddle Leaf Fig and Birds of Paradise require bright light and warm temperatures to mimic their native tropical habitats, they do have some key care differences:
Proper lighting is crucial for both plants to help them thrive:
- FLF: Requires bright, indirect sunlight from a south or west-facing window is best. Their large leaves need ample light to photosynthesize. Direct hot midday sun will scorch leaves.
- BOP: Also does best in bright, indirect light but can better tolerate short periods of direct sunlight without burning. West and east-facing windows work well.
So when positioning these statement plants, place them near bright natural light sources but out of harsh direct sunlight. The BOP is slightly more forgiving of light mistakes.
Overwatering is the main killer of both plants, but the FLF is less tolerant of wet feet:
- FLF: Allow potting mix to dry out between waterings. Water less in winter. Leaves will yellow and drop if overwatered.
- BOP: Wait until the top 1 inch of potting mix dries out before watering again. Sensitive to overwatering – leaves brown from wet feet.
Use your finger to test moisture before adding more water. The FLF prefers slightly drier conditions than the BOP between irrigations.
Both plants thrive in regular household temperatures:
- FLF: Prefers consistent temps of 60-80°F. Cooler temps may cause leaf drop.
- BOP: Does well between 65-85°F. Can tolerate slightly warmer temps but avoid cold drafts.
Daytime temperatures in normal indoor living spaces suit both plants. Just don’t place them in cold corners or hot, dry vents for best results.
Humidity helps both varieties thrive but isn’t strictly necessary:
- FLF: Appreciates 40% humidity or higher. Mist leaves or use a pebble tray to boost moisture.
- BOP: Also likes 40%+ humidity but adapts better to average indoor levels. Added humidity keeps leaf tips from browning.
You don’t need special humidifiers or greenhouses for these plants. Just monitor leaf health and increase moisture if tips brown or crisp up. The BOP adjusts better to lower indoor humidity than the FLF.
Ongoing Care Tips
To keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig or Bird of Paradise growing strong for years to come, follow these care tips:
Check soil moisture before adding more water. Water less often in winter during dormancy. Soak the soil thoroughly when watering and let drain fully before returning to the decorative pot.
Use a soft cloth to gently dust large leaves once a month. This increases light absorption. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove stuck dust if needed.
Know Signs of Underwatering
Drooping leaves, crunchy brown edges, and premature leaf drop indicate under-watering. Soak soil fully and water more regularly.
Recognize Overwatering Issues
Wet, mushy leaves, molds, foul odors, and leaf spotting are signs of overwatering. Stop watering until mix dries out. Trim any rotten roots and transition to better-draining soil.
Turn the pot a quarter turn each week to ensure even light absorption on all sides for balanced, upright growth.
These plants don’t require much pruning once mature and improperly cutting back leaves can harm plants. However, pruning to shape younger FLFs into trees is beneficial. Always sterilize pruners before making cuts.
Report As Needed
Re-pot young plants annually using an orchid mix and progressively larger pots with drainage holes. Mature plants only need repotting every few years when root-bound.
Pros and Cons Comparison
To summarize key factors in deciding between these statement plants for your home, check out this easy pros and cons breakdown:
Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Gorgeous violining leaves with high visual impact
- Grows into small tree forms over time
- Purifies air effectively
- With proper care, lives 50+ years
- Demanding watering needs
- Dislikes having its leaves wet
- Sensitive to temperature changes
- Must be kept from pets due to toxicity
Bird of Paradise
- Unique, vivid bird-shaped blooms
- More adaptable to varied lighting and humidity
- Less finicky watering needs
- Non-toxic for homes with pets
- Requires bright light for flowering
- Takes several years to bloom
- Max height under 8 feet
- Shorter lifespan than FLF
Which one is best for you?
Good for the forgetful plant parent
If you lead a busy lifestyle and tend to let regular plant care slip through the cracks, a Bird of Paradise is more likely to thrive under inconsistent care. Their higher tolerance for missed waterings, lower light, and humidity fluctuations make them better suited for beginners or distracted plant parents. Their smaller size also makes moving them in and out easier if temperatures swing wildly between seasons.
Ideal for maximizing floor space
For small spaces like apartments or offices, a mature Bird of Paradise only reaches 6-8 feet tall, giving you more floor area for other furnishings and decor. Their tidy, upright shape also keeps their footprint contained. Meanwhile, sprawling 10-foot Fiddle Leaf Figs would overpower and hog visual space in tighter quarters when fully grown.
Perfect for greening up dim corners
Struggling with lower-light rooms or offices with only fluorescent overheads? A Bird of Paradise tolerates lower light levels better than the high-light demanding Fiddle Leaf Fig. So if tackling dimmer indoor areas, a BOP brings bright tropical flair without fussing over insufficient sunlight as much.
Top choice for high-light, high-ceiling rooms
Do you have soaring ceilings and expansive south-facing windows? Show off a statement Fiddle Leaf Fig to full advantage in bright, spacious indoor settings. Their towering height and spreading canopy luxuriate in indoor “sunrooms” with plenty of light and vertical room.
Optimal for low plant count homes
Minimalists with few houseplants will achieve maximum impact from ONE stunning Fiddle Leaf Fig. Their huge violining leaves and full, tree-like shape provide gorgeous green decor and visual interest all on their own. Two plants may overwhelm smaller spaces.
The safest choice for pet owners
For households with curious pets that like nibbling plants, the Bird of Paradise is the safest choice. Unlike the toxic Fiddle Leaf Fig, BOPs are completely pet-friendly for both cats and dogs. But their spiky-looking leaves may not please all felines!
Best for enjoying flowers & fragrance
Only the Bird of Paradise offers vibrant, tropical-themed blooms. And unlike the purely decorative FLF, Birdofe Paradise flowers also emit a lovely, subtle fragrance. Their uniqueness, rich colors, and sweet scent bring cheery, Hawaiian flair indoors.
No matter which statement plant you choose, providing the proper growing conditions suited to each variety helps ensure their health and longevity. Now that you know what sets the Fiddle Leaf Fig and Bird of Paradise apart, deciding which exotic beauty fits best is simple! Bring a lush, leafy look into your home.
Gardening is my passion and growing plants indoors has always been a stress relief for me. Grow a banana tree in my apartment once (although failed to produce bananas).