Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling – Causes and Quick Fixes

The bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae) has broad waxy leaves with beautiful orange or blue flowers resembling a bird. In its full bloom, is immediately noticeable, making it a stand-out piece in any garden. However, the plant’s leaves sometimes curl when there are problems. So, what causes the leaves strelitzia to curl and how can you fix them?

Underwatering, overwatering, low humidity, and heat stress are the primary reasons bird of paradise leaves curl. These can be easily fixed by watering the plant correctly, installing a humidifier, and moving it away from heat sources.

Here’s a summary of the causes and fixes for curling leaves:

Cause of curling leavesBest fix
Underwatering Water immediately and more often
Overwatering Repot the plant
Cold temperatures and dry winds Move the plant to a suitable location
Low humidity Install a humidifier 
Heat stress Water frequently
PestHose or spray neem oil 
Excess direct sunlight Move the plant to a suitable location
Plant shock Harden and shade the plant

Reasons for curling bird of paradise leaves

Bird of paradise leaves curling

Identifying the cause of curled leaves in the Strelitzia plant is the first step to fixing the problem. Below are the most common reasons your bird of paradise leaves are curled.

Underwatering

Bird of paradise plant needs less watering to keep it healthy. The soil should be moist and not dry.

Infrequent watering deprives the plant of moisture to support physiological processes. Thus, the plant develops a self-defensive mechanism against water loss by reducing its surface area, leading to curled leaves.

An underwatered bird of paradise plant leaves turn yellow and brown and appear dry at the edges. The leaves wilt, and the plant grows slower than usual.

The underwatered Strelitzia plant finally dies if left untreated.

Overwatering

The bird of paradise does not only curl its leaves when underwatered but also when overwatered. When excessively watered, the plant develops root rot disease and encourages fungi and bacteria infestation.

Watering the plant too frequently provides excess moisture, making it difficult for the roots to absorb the nutrients and oxygen needed. Therefore, it becomes weaker and allows root rot disease to develop due to the soggy soil.

An overwatered bird of paradise plant also has yellow leaves and brown spots. The sick plant looks flaccid and eventually dies if not treated.

Cold conditions and dry winds

Cooler temperatures and dry winds increase plant transpiration, leading to curled leaves.

Lower winter temperatures freeze the roots and stems, preventing them from absorbing and transporting water to the leaves and other parts. When the leaves lack sufficient water, they curl to reduce their surface area for transpiration.

On the other hand, dry winds blow moisture from the leaves, pot soil, and surrounding areas. Therefore, the transpiration rate rises to balance water in the plant and environment. Subsequently, the bird of paradise curls its leaves to reduce surface area against the high water loss rate.

Cold temperatures and dry winds cause brown or yellow leaves, drooping, and wilting.

Low humidity

The Strelitzia plant prefers locations with higher humidity of 60-80 to thrive. It curls its leaves in low humidity areas.

Low humidity means the plant will have more moisture than its surroundings. Hence, the evaporation rate increases to balance the difference.

When water loss is higher than expected, the bird of paradise curls its leaves downwards to reduce its surface area.

Besides curled leaves, low humidity also caused large dry spots on the leaves and dropping.

Air conditioning and heating during winter are the primary reasons for low humidity, making the indoor Strelitzia plant curl its leaves.

Temperature stress

Bird of paradise thrives in temperatures of 65oF to 85oF. In higher temperatures, it curls its leaves upwards or downwards.

The hot summer temperatures make the plant curl its leaves, especially when near a south-facing window. Also, air conditioning and heating in winter cause higher temperatures in the house, leading to curled leaves. Plants near furnaces, fireplaces, and air conditioning vents bend more.

The high temperatures increase water loss; thus, the plant curls its leaves to reduce surface area.

A heat-stressed plant’s leaves become brown at the tips and edges and then wilt.

Pests

When sap-sucking species such as spider mites, mealybug, scales, and thrips invade bird of paradise, they make the plant curl its leaves.

These pests suck the sap from the plant, depriving it of enough moisture leading to curled leaves.

A bird of paradise plant infested with these sap-sucking pests also develops holes in its leaves and has brown or yellow spots.

Excess direct sunlight

Bird of paradise plant needs indirect, bright sunlight with only a few hours of direct sunlight exposure.

When placed in direct sunlight longer, the leaves curl inwards. Too much direct sunlight makes the plant lose water faster. Therefore, it closes its leaves to reduce its surface area.

Direct sunlight also causes yellowing, reddening, and pale leaves. The leaf margins and tips also become brown. Over time, the plant droops, wilts, and dies.

Plant shock

Potting, transplanting, or moving the plant to a different location shocks it, which is why it gets curled leaves. Sudden changes in the plant’s soil, sunlight exposure, and location make it react by curling its leaves before adapting to the new environment.

How to fix curling leaves in bird of paradise plant

Fix curling leaves in bird of paradise plants

Fixing the curling problem is easier after correctly identifying the cause. Below are the different methods to correct the curling of  Strelitzia leaves for the reasons identified above.

Water the plant immediately and more often

First, confirm if the top 2-3 inches of soil is completely dry or 50 percent dry before fixing the underwatered plant. Dip your finger or a stick into the soil to check.

Drip the plant immediately with water until it leaks through the drainage holes. Alternatively, place the pot in a water basin for about 40 minutes to wet the soil. When done, drain any standing water in the saucer.

Next, water the plant more often at different times to create a suitable schedule to keep the soil moist.

Repot the plant

Disinfect the leaves least damaged by root rot with diluted hydrogen peroxide. Repot the bird of paradise plant by following the 7-step procedure below.

1.      Gently remove the bird of paradise plant from the pot by holding its leaves or the stems.

2.      Shake the soil around the root ball to remove it.

3.      Check any black or brown damaged roots and cut them with garden scissors or shears.

4.      Rinse the remaining roots with a hose.

5.      Fill a new, clean container with fresh soil. The pot should have drainage holes.

6.      Place the plant inside the container, starting from the roots.

7.      Water the plant sparingly when the topsoil is dry until it roots after a few weeks.

Move the plant to a suitable location                                                  

Place the plant far from direct wind to unfurl the leaves. Relocate it to a site in the house receiving no winds.

During winter, move the plant to warmer locations to prevent freezing. The kitchen or bathroom are excellent locations because of their frequent heating and warmth.

Install a humidifier and mist the plant.

Create a microclimate environment in the house to prevent the leaves from curling because of low humidity. Place a humidifier near the plants when there’s low humidity. Alternatively, place a pebble tray half filled with water under the plant.

Misting the plant twice per week significantly moderates low humidity. If your plants are near air conditioning vents, move them to other areas with higher humidity.

Water the plant more often and move it away from heat sources.

Temperature stress in summer can be easily fixed by watering the plant often. Frequently irrigating the plants helps them have enough moisture despite the high transpiration rate.

If your bird of paradise plant is near a furnace or fireplace, move it to an area with moderate heat.

Hose the plant and spray oil to remove pests

Spider mite cobwebs and holes in the curled leaves of the plant indicate a pest infestation.

For a light infestation, remove the pests with a hose. Alternatively, eliminate them using rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs.

For heavy pest infestation, spray neem oil on the plant. Since pests might reinfest your plant, spread neem oil on it monthly to keep them away.

Shade the plant or move it away.

Provide a shade to correct curled leaves from excess direct sunlight. A shade diffuses the intense light, making it less harmful to the plant.

If the plant was near a window with direct sunlight, place it in an area with indirect sunlight.

Frequent watering also helps counter the water lost in the direct sunlight.

Water the plant more often and shade it.

Create shade to block direct sunlight. It’ll fix plant shock resulting from transplanting.  Also, water the plant more often after potting or transplanting before adapting to the new environment.

The best way to prevent plant shock is to harden it off before transplanting. Hardening involves taking the plant outdoors for shorter times and gradually increasing the period. The plant will get acclimated to the harsh outdoor conditions and wouldn’t curl its leaves when transplanted.

The table below summarizes the various causes of curling leaves of bird of paradise and the best way to fix them

 ReferenceWinson Horticulture: Root Rots on Houseplants.

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