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Bird of Paradise Troubleshooting: Why are my Leaves Curling, Splitting, Yellowing, or Browning?

Posted on April 20 2021

Bird of Paradise Troubleshooting: Why are my Leaves Curling, Splitting, Yellowing, or Browning?

The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae) is known for its striking yet streamline foliage and bird-like blossoms. While indoor blooms are rare, this plant reserves a place in our hearts with its pillowy leaves. So, if your Bird of Paradise’s leaves has started curling, splitting, yellowing, or browning, you’re probably scrambling to fix the problem. That’s the thing: What exactly is the problem?



First: Let’s Talk Origins

Understanding your Bird of Paradise’s natural habitat is always the first stepping-stone for proper care, preventing unsightly curling, splitting, yellowing, and browning leaves. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Reginae) is native to coastal South Africa. This beauty was discovered in the 1700s and became widely popular, being grown outdoors in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. So, how does this translate into the care you provide for your Bird of Paradise? Warm temperatures, high humidity, and well-draining soil are all key!


Second: The Basic Care Requirements

Light

Your Bird of Paradise requires bright direct, or indirect light. Basically, place your plant in your home’s sunniest location. Ideally, this would be nearby a Southern-facing window that receives direct sunlight.


Water

What about water? Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry completely out before rewatering. Depending on your home’s environment and the dirt you chose, this could be once every 1-2 weeks. Let your plant dry out even further during dormancy.


Bird of Paradise plants are sensitive to chemicals. If you are using tap water, you should let your water “rest” overnight, which will allow some of the harmful chemicals to evaporate. Using filtered, distilled, or rainwater are also excellent alternatives.


Humidity

Bird of Paradise plants can survive with normal household humidity levels. However, higher humidity is required to produce a thriving, lush specimen. How can you achieve this? 


  1. Summer Vacation: Outdoor humidity is often much higher outdoors during the summer than within your home. Place your Bird of Paradise outside during these warm months. If you live in Hardiness Zones 9-11, you can leave your plant outdoors year-round. 

  2. A humidifier: Investing in a filterless humidifier is a simple way to boost your home’s humidity. All your houseplants will thank you, including your Bird of Paradise.

  3. Create a Cluster: Plants produce humidity. So, group a few plants to create a mini-ecosystem. 

Fertilizing

You should fertilize your Bird of Paradise every two weeks at the beginning of its growing season in the spring. During the summer months, “back off” to once a month. Do not fertilize during dormancy.


Soil

While there is a wide variety of suitable soils for this easy-going plant, its favorite is nutrient-rich and well-draining. If you are using a traditional potting mix, add additional peat moss, sand, and perlite for extra drainage.


Temperature

During the growing season, your Bird of Paradise enjoys 65-70 degree temperatures, dropping as low as 50 degrees at night.


Why are my Bird of Paradise’s Leaves Curling?

Inward curling leaves a sign that your Bird of Paradise lacks moisture: in both the watering and humidity departments. You should not allow more than 50% of the soil to dry out during the growing season before rewatering. 


Set reminders on your phone to check the soil moisture more frequently.  If you have a large plant and have difficulty gauging the moisture levels, use a clean chopstick to venture where your finger cannot. How does it work? It’s similar to testing the “doneness” of a cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it’s time to water. 


Thoroughly drench your plant each time you water by using one of these two methods:


  • Bottom water by setting your plant in the bath, filling it halfway up the pot with luke-warm water. Let it sit for 45 minutes; if the topsoil is not moist, overhead water your plant in addition.
  • Overhead water your plant by thoroughly drenching the soil until water drains out of the bottom for 2-3 minutes.

Increase humidity levels by grouping your plants or placing your Bird of Paradise in a room with a humidifier.


Why are My Bird of Paradise’s Leaves Splitting?

Because they’re supposed to! That’s right: your Bird of Paradise naturally creates horizontal splits on its own leaves. You’re not doing anything wrong! 


Why do they do this? Their big parachute-like leaves could easily get damaged by wind gusts, so they go ahead and make the split themselves. This means that wind can easily pass through without causing trauma to your plant.


If these splits are messing with your decor aesthetic, there are a few ways you can “slow down” the process: 


  1. Keep your Bird of Paradise away from drafts and vents.
  2. Boost your humidity.
  3. Stick to a healthy care routine.
  4. As your plant produces fresh leaves, cut off the unattractive ones ½ inch above where it grows from the plant. The older a leaf gets, the more likely it is to have several splits. 

Why are my Bird of Paradise’s Leaves Yellowing?

If an odd leaf here-or-there yellows, you should not be overly concerned. Bird of Paradise plants can be extra sensitive to moisture fluctuations, which are sometimes unavoidable. (Let’s be honest!) Elderly leaves will also naturally yellow.


Is your plant suffering from several yellow leaves? This is most frequently a sign of watering issues, but humidity and fertilizer can also come into play. 


  • Have you boosted the humidity around your plant?
  • Have you fertilized your Bird of Paradise recently? 
  • Is your plant root-bound?
  • Do you water you follow a healthy watering routine? Yellowing that stops at the leaf’s edges indicates a lack of water. Leaves that turn entirely yellow (or yellow bottom leaves) indicate overwatering.

  • If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, make the proper adjustments. (Tips on how to do so are above, in case you missed it!)


    Why are my Bird of Paradise’s Leaves Turning Brown?

    Curling and yellowing may not be your Bird of Paradise’s only leaf problem: what about browning? When we think of “brown tips,” a few things usually come to mind: underwatering and humidity issues. But the Bird of Paradise has an exciting plot twist: brown edges can indicate overwatering in some cases. How can you tell the difference?


    • Brown outer edges with a yellow “halo”: if your brown edges are outlined with yellow, this means that you are overwatering your plant. These symptoms are usually accompanied by drooping. Water your plant less frequently. In severe cases, inspect your plant’s roots for signs of root rot. At that time, if your soil feels soaked (appearing muddy), allow the root ball to dry out for a few hours before repotting. Ensure that your container has proper drainage and that you repot your plant in well-draining soil.

    • If your Bird of Paradise’s leaf edges are curling inward, crispy tips, and completely brown, shriveled bottom leaves: this signals underwatering, which is relatively easy to bounce back from. Increase your watering frequency, ensuring that you thoroughly soak the soil each time you water. To rehydrate the dirt, bottom water your plant.

    • Bird of Paradise’s with leaves that are curling (almost creating a spiral, with the tip of the leaf curling towards the stem) and shriveled big leaves: indicate a lack of light. These symptoms are hard to miss because some of the large leaves will look distorted. This is usually accompanied by new growth that is disfigured, brown, or that refuses to emerge. 

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    We wish you the best in caring for your Bird of Paradise! With the right conditions and a little TLC, you’ll bring a little piece of the tropics right into your living room: Break out the Pina Colada and enjoy your staycation!

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