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Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling: Yellow + Brown

Without up-to-date care, your houseplant will start facing problems. Leaves may curl inwardly, down or get a bit of twisted growth. Sometimes leaf curl will also occur after watering or repotting. As experienced by some gardeners, they could turn yellow or brown even when it is not dry. Consequently, they won’t bloom.

Birds of paradise are tropical plants with large and broad leaves. New leaves roll out in tube-like growths from the stalks. The leaves have a characteristic banana leaf shape. They are evergreen. Mature and healthy ones have natural growth curves along the edges.

Dehydration or Water Problem

One of the reasons for your bird of paradise leaf curl is due to issues with the water.

Underwatered Birds of Paradise

A bird of paradise grown outdoors

Underwatering is a very common reason why houseplants’ leaves curl. Irregular watering habits often lead to this problem. As such, it becomes a major cause of dehydration.

With dehydration, your bird of paradise has to shift metabolic activity for it to better adapt to these internal changes. A majority of its leaves will therefore curl inward. The leaf tips and areas along the edges will start to dry up.

While observing a regular watering schedule isn’t a bad idea, always watch out not to make the roots sit in flooded soil.

How to fix underwatering:

  • Sprinkle water evenly and thoroughly when 1/3 of the topsoil dries out
  • Ensure the soil saturates until excess water drains through the holes
  • Monitor your indoor plants more frequently
  • If tap water is the only reachable option, fetch it then allow it to settle over 2 nights

This will help determine a more accurate watering schedule for your bird of paradise plants.

Plants Served with Poor Water Quality

In addition to varying harmful chemical concentrations, cold and chilly water can impact your plant growth. At such high levels, the substances are capable of causing long-term growth effects.

I recommend filtered or distilled water for your bird of paradise plants.

Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling and Yellowing

Here is what leaf curl and yellowing could signify.

Too Warm and Low Humidity

Yellowing in houseplant leaves means a couple of things. First, 1 or 2 first leaves are expected to turn yellow. This is attributed to the fact that the plant’s growth cycle is entering its maturity.

Take note of the following signs:

  • A good number of leaves starting to turn yellow
  • Curling leaves
  • Droopy young leaves
  • Wilting

If you notice the above signs be a sign that the plant does not have ample humidity. It also means that your indoor garden space is getting too warm.

Bird of paradise prefers a constant but high humidity. The plant will also thrive in a warm environment. The optimal warmth for these tropical plants lies between 65 – 83 °F. Strive to keep the temperature anywhere between 60 – 85 °F. Keep the air temperature above 60 °F in the cold winter months.

Another handy tip is to mist the leaves early in the morning before leaving your home. Misting is pretty beneficial when it gets dry or your home environment is dry.

Other fixes:

  • Provide moderate to warm indoor garden conditions for your plants
  • Move your plants away from heat sources and air conditioning vents

Too Much or Little Light

Growing bird of paradise plants indoors will love being treated with very bright, indirect natural light. They can also thrive in moderate to filtered direct light.

Situating your plant in too much direct sun burns and scorches the plant. Leaves will tend to curl up in an attempt to offer self-protection. Placing them in locations receiving very little light causes wilting and leaf curl.

If you want to grow them outdoors, you ought to factor in a few issues. These may include:

  • Hardiness zones
  • Weather adversity
  • Amount of sunlight your location receives during the winter
Yellowing leaves is a sign your
Bird of paradise leaves curling and yellowing

The bird of paradise plant is best suited for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.

If you live within zone 9 in the US your outdoor plants can survive frost damage. This zone experiences a short period of cold temperatures. Just give them the protection they require to overwinter. Simply cut all of the stems leaving about 8 – 12 inches sticking out. Apply a thin layer of organic mulch. Then use leaf litter or straw to cover them.

10 - 11 are growing zones for strelitzia ssp. in the united states?
Plant hardiness zones in the United States

Fixing the issue indoors should be easy and cheap. Situate your bird of paradise plants in rooms that receive as much direct light as possible. During the winter dull months move them to get some direct light. However, keep your houseplant away from the direct midday sun during the summer.

Insects and Pests Infesting Your Plant

Insects can make a home on your indoor plants. These mainly consist of sap-sucking insects. Namely, mealy bugs, scales, mites, and thrips. They render your plants vulnerable to nutritional problems. As a result, your plants have little to feed on.

Sucking pests can cause leaf curling and yellowing
Pest and insect attacks and infestations can cause growth issues

With severe infestation, leaves may turn yellow and look deformed or twist a bit. Parts of the leaves starting to yellow (necrosis) are another sign to look for.

Birds of paradise can keep insects and pests at bay. One easy way is to keep them sturdy. To ensure a working up-to-date feeding program, regular watering, and cleaning. Always keep an eye on the plants regularly and track their growth progress closely after repotting.

Check for any signs of pests. Treat the plant with an insecticidal soap solution or neem oil immediately.

You may want to treat your birds of paradise. Treat them once every month as a preventative trick. You will also realize that it is part of tidying things up. So such simple gardening activities will play a motivational role.

It Signals a Soil Problem

A soil problem is more likely to occur on plants grown outdoors. A similar case is expected if you use soil with incorrect nutrients. Other crucial factors that hamper the availability and absorption of nutrients are the soil structure pH, and the presence of other elements such as phosphorus.

Nitrogen, potassium and sodium are all essential elements for healthy leaves and proper functioning. A lack or deficiency of these nutrients can lead to yellowing and possible leaf curl.

Fertility and soil ingredients can negatively impact growth of houseplants
Poor soil formulations can lead to growth issues

Being a heavy feeder, this plant requires a well-drained, nutrient-rich potting medium. Fertilize your bird of paradise from mid-spring and throughout the summer.

Select an all-purpose liquid fertilizer houseplant. Then dilute to half its recommended strength before applying. However, to avoid cases of over-fertilizing, stop feeding your plants during the fall and winter months.

Strelitzia ssp. prefers growing in slightly acidic soil. A soil pH range of 5.5 – 7.5 is suitable for growing birds of paradise outdoors. If the soil test in your area is more than 7.9, try adding sulfur or peat moss to your DIY mix. Alternatively, you can purchase a soil mix.

Otherwise to treat an over-fertilized bird of paradise, just remove the plant and flush its pot soil thoroughly. Let the soil drain for 3 or more hours. Then remove the top ¼ pot and replace it with an organic mix.

Leaves Curling after Watering (with Browning)

Houseplants are prone to be overwatered. An overwatered houseplant means its rooting system is diseased or such a condition is developing.

Cases of root rot are expected. This is because birds of paradise love moist soils almost all the time. Their leaves start to curl down and continue to worsen into the following weeks.

Since the bird of paradise enjoys moisture, there is always a chance that fungal infection can take hold. This is commonly seen as root rot or leaf spot.

Failure to identify root rot in good time can often lead to death or not being savable.

Otherwise, if you have identified the problem, you can go on to save your plant. First, remove it from the pot, disinfect it with diluted hydrogen peroxide, and replant (repot) into the new soil.

When your bird of paradise exhibits leaf curl, wilting and browning it has severe root rot.

To prevent cases of root rot, cut back on watering frequency during the fall and winter months.

Leaves Curling After Repotting

Transplant shock is likely to kick in having transferred your bird of paradise plant. A couple of things happen. These mainly include root disturbance and shifts in plant processes. Although they are temporary, these changes can result in leaves curling. Other common symptoms your plant could exhibit are yellowing and wilting.

Birds of paradise are slow-growing plants. These plants need to be repotted to minimize and possibly stop them from becoming root-bound.

Your plants will recover from this transfer effect in the second week. They will bounce back and pick up normally. So no need to panic.

Small pots can quickly become root-bound. Additionally, water and nutrient absorption is greatly hampered.

Top Tip: Repot your bird of paradise in spring before it starts blooming. I prefer using another pot.

Replant your bird of paradise if there are any signs of the plant being root-bound. There is no specific time limit for repotting since these are slow growers. Some take up to 5 good years to mature. Growth rates may slightly differ when grown indoors as opposed to outdoors.

To fix a transfer shock, while dividing up the plant, try not to disturb the roots. Situate your plant back to where it was initially. Keep the new pot soil moist and well-fertilized.

References and Sources

  1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “bird-of-paradise flower”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Sep. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/plant/bird-of-paradise-flower. Accessed 1 December 2021.
  2. Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae. Wisconsin Horticulture. https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/bird-of-paradise-strelitzia-reginae. Accessed 1 December 2021.
  3. Birds of Paradise. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/facts/birds-of-paradise. Accessed 1 December 2021.

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