Bird of paradise Leaves Curling Causes, Signs, and Fixes

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The most common reason for the bird of paradise leaves curling is underwatering or any reason that causes moisture loss or hinders water absorption and normal plant physiology (functioning). Such causes include cold drafts, low humidity, heat stress, overwatering (root rot), or root pound plant.

Others are nutritional deficiencies, overfeeding, pests, and too much light. But some cases like transplant shock or unfurling leaves remaining curled for some time are expected.

How does each of these reasons result in your crane flower or white bird of paradise leaves curling? Here is how they cause the curling, other signs to expect, and how you can quickly fix the causes.

Bird of paradise Strelitzia reginae left and Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise)
Strelitzia reginae left and Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise) right: Check prices.

Bird of paradise (Strelitzia spp.)

Bird of paradise (Strelitzia spp.) is an adorable plant native to South Africa. It has large, broad paddle-like leaves and showy, colorful flowers. There are about six accepted species. But Strelitzia nicolai (wild banana or giant white bird of paradise) and Strelitzia reginae (crane flower) are what people grow as houseplants or in gardens.

S. reginae is smaller. It can grow up to 6.6 feet (2m). On the other hand, S. nicolai grows larger, i.e., it can reach 20 to 30 feet (6 to 10m) high and spread about 10 feet. But in most instances, it only grows up to about 20 feet (6m).

Last but not least, the name bird of paradise may refer to Caesalpinia ssp. Some plants in this genus include Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Red Bird of paradise), Caesalpinia Mexicana (Mexican bird of paradise) Caesalpinia gilliesii (Desert or Yellow Bird of paradise).

Bird of paradise care and grow requirement

We understand that you came here looking for reasons why your bird of paradise plant leaves is curling. But unless you know the various care and growing needs, it will not be easy to tell where you are going wrong.

Did you know that some care and growth requirements like watering, light, or temperature may be why the bird of paradise plant leaves curl? Now you do.

Here are the Strelitzia care and growing needs

Care levelEasy or low
USDA hardiness zone10 to 12
Temperature65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 18 to 27 °C)
HumidityAt least 50% but can adapt to average household humidity
LightBright, indirect light but can adapt to medium
Best soilFertile or nutrient-rich, slightly acidic, well-drained potting mix or soil
WaterMedium. Water after the top 50% or 2-3 inches of the soil dries. Use filtered or leave tap water in an open container overnight
FertilizerMedium. Fertilize once a month with a liquid fertilizer for indoor plants during spring and summer  
Pruning and groomingPruning will involve routing cutting dead leaves and flowers, and a more intensive removal of some stalks and stems from controlling shape and growth, preferably in spring.
Potting and repottingPot after 18-24 months or if root-bound. Use a pot that is a 2 to 4 wider inches diameter  
ToxicityBird of paradise plant is mildly toxic to humans but toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets, with its flowers most poisonous.

Bird of paradise plant leaves curling causes, signs, and fixes

It is time to look at the various reasons for paradise plant leaves curling. We will tell you the cause, give you other possible signs, and then solutions or fixes.

Bird of paradise Leaves Curling Causes, Signs, and Fixes
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1. Underwatering and bird of paradise leaves curling

Underwatering is the most common reason for the bird of paradise plant leaves curling inward or upward. When thirsty, they will curl leaves. This is to reduce their surface area to minimize water loss by transpiration.

Signs

Besides birds of paradise curled leaves, the soil will be dry, and the leaves will have crispy, brown tips and edges or margins. Also, the plant may wither or wilt – the leaves will droop.  Other signs are leaf yellow and stunted growth. If you don’t rectify the issue, leaves may drop, and your plant will eventually die.

Fix

Feel the soil with your finger. If it is dry past your first knuckle, water your plant immediately. A better way will be using a soil moisture meter. Contrary to what many may say, soil moisture meters like Gouevn or XLUX are very accurate. You should water your plant when the reading is in the red or dry zone, usually three or less.

When watering your bird of paradise, slowly saturate the pot with water until excess comes from drainage holes. Discard what collects on this saucer.

Alternatively, immerse the pot in a basin with water up to 3 to 4 inches, let it slowly absorb the water for up to 45 minutes. Feel if the potting mix is moist at the top with your finger. If not, add a little water from the top. Then let the water completely drain out.

Next, adjust your watering routine. Move from watering after some days to when the top 50% or 2 to 3 inches of the soil is dry. Why? Because factors such as humidity, temperature, plant size, light, and season affect water intake. Of course, you have to reduce the water in fall and winter.

Lastly, check to be sure your soil holds moisture for some time. Very sandy soils dry quickly and may contribute to the underwatering problem.

2. Low humidity

The second most likely reason for the bird of paradise leaves curling is low humidity. These subtropical plants thrive in warm places with high humidity. When humidity drops too much, the potting mix and leaves will quickly lose water and start curling. They are doing so to reduce further loss.

Signs

Signs are similar to those of an underwatered bird of paradise. They include yellow leaves, browning of edges and tips, stunted growth, and dry and crispy feeling leaves. Also, expect the curling upward, and the leaves may droop or curl downward. If you don’t correct the problem, it will wilt and eventually die.

Fix

Use your humidifier to determine if the soil is dry. If low, here are some ways to raise humidity:

  • Buy a humidifier – it is the best way to control humidity.
  • If you have a large room, buy LEVOIT Humidifiers Top Fill, 6 Liter, Cool Mist. It has extensive coverage, up to 505 ft², will run for up to 60 hours and has many features. From auto shut to Vesync APP. Did you know it’s connectable to Alexa (Amazon) and Google Assistant? However, we recommend AquaOasis™ Cool Mist Humidifier, Amazon’s best seller for smaller rooms.
  • Make a pebble tray
  • Mist your plant a few times a week. It will work if the humidity isn’t too low.
  • Group plants together – it will help create a microclimate with high humidity
  • Move your Strelitzia to rooms with higher humidity, like your bathroom or kitchen.
  • Adjust the watering to cater for the much loss by transpiration and evaporation from the potting mix.

As large plants, especially the white bird of paradise, we don’t think a greenhouse cabinet or terrarium will be a brilliant idea.  

3. Overwatering and root rot

Overwatering will not cause a direct cause for the bird of paradise leaves curling. But a constantly soggy or wet soil will increase the chance of root rot. Your plant won’t absorb oxygen, and the roots will be weaker. Also, these conditions favor some fungi or bacteria, which will multiply and attack the roots.

When root rot sets in, your plant won’t be able to absorb water and other nutrients. So, it will end up with curled leaves because it doesn’t get enough moisture.

Signs

The first sign is the yellowing of leaves and a wet or molded potting mix. Also, leaves may curl, have brownish splotches, and your plant will look limp. As it gets serious, expect signs like an excessive leaf dropping, a mushy stem base, stunted growth, wilting, and death.  

Fix

Check if the roots are mushy, brown, or black, and immediately repot your plant if that is the cause. As you repot, use sterilized pruning shears to cut the black for brown roots (rotten). Also, tap the plant to get rid of any adhering old potting mix. Never reuse the old potting mix.

4. Cold drafts and chilly condition

Cold wind or air blasts may make your Strelitzia may make its leaves curl. This occurs in several ways:

  1. Dry, drafty winds will strip away moisture from the leaves or potting mix, making its leaves curl just as they do when thirsty.
  2. Cold or chilly drafty winds will freeze the stems and leaves, making them not transport water and nutrients. The result will be curly leaves and other signs.
  3. The plant is reducing surface area exposed to coldness. There are other theories too like prevent rapid thawing after freezing, which could damage the plant.

Signs

Besides curling, the leaves may get discolored (fade, turn brown or yellow), with some turning brown overnight (cold burnt). Other signs are wilting and drooping leaves.

Fix

 Move your plants from any area with cold drafts to less drafty, warmer ones. These places include near air conditioning vent, patio or porch doors, and windows blasted with cold air. Also, remove any damaged or yellow leaves.

5. Heat stress

If your home is sweltering or your plants are near heat sources, the leaves may start curling upwards or inward. Why? Too much heat will mean faster water loss, and plants will respond by curling leaves to reduce the loss.

However, if the heat goes way too high, your plant’s normal physiological function will cease to work usually. This means nutrients and water won’t reach the leaves, and they will also curl.

There are other explanations too. It could be to protect itself from much heat,

Signs

Signs will resemble those of low humidity or a thirsty plant. Besides leaf cupping and rolling, you will see brown tips and margin edges, leaf or flower drop, and wilting. If ignored, your plant may die.

Fix

Move your plants away from the furnace, radiators, fireplace, or heating system vents to cooler places. Also, do this during hot summers and heatwaves. If you have a south-facing window, radiant heat from the hot sun may cause some heat. Move any plant near to this window.

6. Too much light

Birds of paradise can withstand full sun, bright, indirect light, or even medium light. However, too much direct sunlight is a possible sign of leaves curling inward. The hot sun will cause a lot of water evaporation, and the leaves will curl to reduce the loss.

Also, it may be a means to reduce the area exposed to light and consequently heat. When plants absorb light, they convert excess to heat.

Signs

Leaves will look pale, washed out, or yellowish except on the prominent veins. Also, the leaf margin and tips will become crispy, brittle, and turn brown. Other signs are leaves dropping and dropping.

Fix

Move your plant from too much direct sun. Also, ensure you water them adequately to help compensate for the excessive water loss.

7. Rootbound

If you don’t often repot your plant, they get pot or rootbound characterized by tangled, curled, and dense root mass with growth room. This will choke the plant, meaning it will not get enough nutrients or water, and the leaves will start curling.

Signs

Apart from the bird of paradise curled leaves, expect to see some roots growing from the drainage holes. Other signs are yellowing and dropping leaves, especially those closer to the bottom, and stunted growth. Also, if blooming time, it may not flower, and leaves will be smaller.

Fix

If this happens during the growing season, go ahead and repot your birds of paradise. Take a pot that is 2 to 4 inches wider in diameter. If during the non-growing season, wait until early spring.

8. Pests

A heavy infestation of the sap-sucking pests like scale, mites, and trips like Chaetanaphothrips signipennis is a cause for Crane flower, or white bird of paradise leaves curling. This happens because they will suck the juices depriving the leaves of moisture. Some have toxins that deform and make leaves curl.

Signs

The sign will depend on the exact bug your Strelitzia plant has. These telltale signs include holes, spots (brown, yellowish, or black), webbing, honeydew, and sooty mold. More signs are distorted and curly leaves.

Fix

If you see any of the above signs, check for the presence of any of these bugs. If few are, hose your plant or clean them off with rubbing alcohol and a cotton pad.

On the other hand, if the infestation is heavy, we use Garden Safe Brand Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer, which kills aphids, mites, scale insects, whiteflies, thrips, mealybugs, leafhoppers and other pests by contact. 

If you prefer horticultural oil sprays, go for Bonide All Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil, Insecticide. It will kill these pests and help control rust, powdery mildew, botrytis, greasy spots etc. 

The other way is using neem oil. Buy Bonide Ready to Use Neem Oil. This 3-in-1 formulation kills egg, larvae, and adult stages of various insects. 

Lastly, if you want to use a systemic insecticides, make sure you pick a brand that is indoor-friendly.

9. Overfeeding

Fertilizers will promote health and lush leaves. However, too much, especially those rich in nitrogen, may make your bird of paradise leaves curl downwards. The leaves will also be too dark and dull.

Also, many plant food will encourage quick root growth, making your plant pot bound or affecting the usual microorganism balance (may alter normal absorption).

Signs

Signs include crusts of fertilizer appearing on the soil, yellow leaves, stunted growth, and leaves dropping. If you apply too much fertilizer, expect some wilting, very dark leaves. Also, the leaf tips and edges may turn brown.  

Fix

Feed your Strelitzia with a liquid balanced indoor plant food once a month when they are actively growing. In winter and fall, please don’t feed them.

If you prefer slow-release fertilizers, begin feeding at the start of spring. Afterward, follow what manufacturers recommend.

10. Nutritional deficiencies

Last but not least, if you don’t change your potting mix and fertilize your plant, your plants may have nutritional deficiencies. Lack of calcium, boron, potassium, nitrogen, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus may cause leaves to curl. But it is an uncommon reason for the bird of paradise leaves curling.

Signs

The signs to expect will vary as they depend on the lacking nutrient. Some of these signs are deformed leaves, stunted growth, chlorosis, and leaf loss. Others are leaf necrosis, curling, thickening, and so on.

Fix

Regularly feed your plants with balanced, indoor plant food. We recommend J R Peters Jacks Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer. This balanced formula has boron, zinc, iron, manganese, copper and molybdenum. Use a 1/2 a teaspoon per gallon of water bi-weekly.

The usual reason for the bird of paradise curled leaves

Not all cases for the bird of paradise curling leaves should worry you. Here are some usual issues:

1. New unfurling leaves

When they emerge, new Strelitzia leaves will remain curled as they grow longer. Afterward, they will start unfurling. This process can take some time. It is normal. Just ensure it happens to the new, light-green leaves only.

2. Aging

Older aging leaves may be yellowish then brownish. Also, some parts may curl. If the upper leaves are healthy, prune the yellow and dying leaves. These leaves depend on the plant, yet they no longer contribute.

3. Repotting, transplant or moving shock

If you recently repotted, transplanted, or moved your plant, it may suffer from a bit of shock. This will cause the leaves to curl.

If that is why leaves on your bird of paradise curling, give it a little time. It will adjust and start growing as usual. But ensure you maintain the right conditions.

Bird of paradise leaves curling and turning brown

Reasons for the bird of paradise leaves curling and turning brown are most of what we have seen. For instance, leaves will have brown edges and tips when underwatered and root-bound or in places with low humidity, heat stress, cold drafts, or too much light. Also, the leaves will be crispy or feel dry.

On the other hand, curling leaves with brown splotches commonly occur from overwatering, and if spots, it may be pests.  Also, cold drafts may cause the whole leaf to turn brown.

Lastly, while very rare, some diseases may make this plant’s leaves curl and turn brown. It may occur on edges, like spots or splotches.

Bird of paradise leaves curling and turning yellow

Bird of paradise leaves curling, and turning yellow may indicate underwatering, overwatering, low humidity, cold drafts, heat stress, and so on. Almost every reason we have a look at often causes some yellowing, including nutritional deficiencies.

If too much light, you may notice yellowing not occurring along veins. On the other hand, pests will most likely leave yellow spots. Thus, always look at the other present signs to help identify the cause of the curling and yellowing of leaves.

Last but not least, browning without curling leaves may indicate a buildup of salts in the soil from the water (if high in chlorine, floured, or salts) or fertilizers. Use filtered water or leave tap water on the open water overnight. Some chlorine may dissipate.

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