A healthy Bird of Paradise houseplant can look positively majestic. Its tall heights and luscious green leaves add beauty to any room. But what can you do when this queen of all plants starts to look a little less royal, with curled leaves instead of the broad flat ones you’re used to? How can you help your Bird of Paradise return to her former glory?
Curled leaves can indicate several problems with a Bird of Paradise, including exposure to drafts, poor lighting, and insufficient humidity. However, the most common cause of curled leaves in Birds of Paradise is underwatering. A Bird of Paradise needs regular, thorough watering to keep its soil moist but not wet.
This article will talk a little bit more about the other issues that can cause a Bird of Paradise to develop curled leaves, as well as situations where curled leaves might not be a problem.
What Does a Healthy Bird of Paradise Look Like
A healthy Bird of Paradise is an impressive sight! These plants are known for their broad, paddle-like leaves and showy, colorful flowers. The leaves are often described as being leathery. They grow to about 18 inches long and sit at the end of tall leafstalks. A mature Bird of Paradise may feature leaves with tears or slits, an adaptation that developed in response to the climate of their natural habitat.
The Bird of Paradise is loved for its unique blooms. Each variety boasts a different variation of the classic flower, which resembles a bird in flight. Commonly, Strelitzias kept as houseplants produce either white or orange flowers, though it may take many years for your indoor Bird to bloom.
Despite being a generally hardy plant, your Bird of Paradise may get a little dramatic if its needs aren’t met. Thankfully, if you’ve noticed issues, particularly ones related to the leaves, the Bird of Paradise is fairly straightforward to troubleshoot.
Why Do Bird of Paradise Leaves Curl?
For a Bird of Paradise, curled leaves almost always mean that the plant is being underwatered. Coming from a region with plenty of moisture and humidity, these plants require a lot of both.
However, there are a lot of other reasons that could be causing curled leaves. Other problems with watering, including overwatering, can cause leaf damage. This often results in yellow or brown leaves, as well as crunchy and curled ones. Incorrect humidity levels and poor lighting are other potential causes.
Do remember that new leaves on a Bird of Paradise are supposed to be curled at first. As the leaf grows in, it will lengthen and eventually begin to unfurl. The process can be very slow. If you notice light green leaves curled up like a scroll but otherwise healthy, they may be new leaves! Keep an eye on your plant, and as long as they unfurl in time, there is no need for concern.
Reason 1: Underwatering Your Bird of Paradise
Underwatering is the most common cause of curled leaves for a Bird of Paradise. Because these plants are native to subtropical South Africa, they need an environment with high moisture and warm temperatures.
If you’ve noticed leaf curling as well as brown, crunchy spots (especially at the tips), take time to review your watering schedule and technique. The problem may be quickly resolved by increasing how often or how much you water your Bird of Paradise.
Generally, a Bird of Paradise should be kept in moist but not soggy soil. If you suspect that underwatering is the problem, try checking your plant’s soil with your finger to check for moisture. If the first two inches of soil are dry, you’ll need to water your Strelitzia right away.
Keep in mind that watering schedules and recommendations are relative. You may find that your Bird of Paradise responds differently to what you’ve seen or read online—that’s totally normal! Each plant reacts uniquely to its environment.
When you find those top two inches of soil have dried out in your Bird of Paradise container, water your plant thoroughly. This means that you should add water to the planter until roughly 20% of what you put in, flows out through the drainage hole in the bottom. Thorough waterings make sure that all sections of the soil and roots have access to the water they need.
Reason 2: Overwatering Your Bird of Paradise
Confusingly, overwatering can also cause the leaves of a Bird of Paradise to curl and is often accompanied by yellow, limp leaves. Check the soil to determine whether your watering issue is due to too much or too little water.
Make a habit of poking your finger down into the soil of your Bird of Paradise and feeling for moisture before ever adding more water to the plant. If you find that your Bird of Paradise’s soil is still wet or that it isn’t draining, you’ll need to allow the plant to dry out.
Once the plant has had a chance to dry, you’ll need to reduce how often you water it. Try to only water your Bird of Paradise when the top few inches of soil are dry. Your plant may take time to adjust to this, so keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort.
In severe cases, the overly wet conditions can lead to root rot – a fungus activated by overwatering that will eventually kill your Bird of Paradise. If you suspect you’ve been overwatering for a long time, slide your plant out of its container and take a look at the roots. Healthy roots should be white and crisp; rotten roots will be brown, black, or gray and slimy, or mushy.
If you find your Bird of Paradise has been harmed by root rot, go ahead and cut back any portion of the roots that are unhealthy, sterilizing your shears between each cut to avoid transferring disease to the healthy parts of the plant. Then, repot your houseplant into a new container with new potting soil. Root rot can be very hard to cure, especially if it’s been going on for a long time, but pruning and repotting is your best chance at saving your overwatered plant.
Reason 3: Incorrect Light Conditions for Your Bird of Paradise
The Bird of Paradise needs lots and lots of lights. And too little light exposure can cause the leaves on your plant to curl. As a general rule, Strelitzias require at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight. Depending on your region, your Bird of Paradise may need more or less light. These plants can adapt to various conditions, but they may be slow to grow in settings with lower light levels.
A Bird of Paradise will do best in a west-, or south-facing window. Both of these positions should receive adequate light. However, a north- or east-facing window may not receive enough direct sunlight, so you may need to supplement with a grow light if you don’t have enough natural light to keep this beauty happy.
Reason 4: Your Bird of Paradise Has Pests
While it might seem like a worst-case scenario, a Bird of Paradise with curling leaves might have an infestation. Aphids, scale, and mealybugs are the most common pests that attack these plants. A Bird of Paradise that spends time outside may also be the victim of caterpillars and snails.
Luckily, all of these pests are easy to treat. Begin by removing any visible insects and points of infection, such as the white clusters that come from scale. Use the sprayer of a hose to knock off as many bugs as possible. Small bugs can be wiped off with a q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol. This is time-consuming, but it’s crucial to remove as much as possible before moving to the next step.
Depending on the issue, there are various pesticides available that are safe for your plant and home. Neem oil is often recommended for insect infestations. It can be sprayed onto the plant leaves regularly to both kill an infestation and prevent any future ones.
Once an infestation starts, it can take a few weeks to kick. Be diligent in caring for your Bird of Paradise, as well as checking for signs of reinfection regularly. For more information on the most common pests to infest a Bird of Paradise, read this article.
Reason 5: Your Bird of Paradise Is Stressed
The term “stressed” might seem confusing, but it’s the best way to summarize the other issues that may be plaguing your Bird of Paradise. If you’ve made adjustments to your Bird of Paradise and it hasn’t responded to the changes, you may need to take a closer look at the environment and your care routine.
Drafts and temperature changes can discourage growth and cause stress, resulting in leaf curling. If you suspect that this is the case, try moving your plant away from any windows, doors, or vents that might be blowing out cold or hot dry air.
Next up is temperature. Is your plant in an area with a temperature that gets higher than 85 or lower than 65? Inconsistent temperatures can stress your Bird of Paradise out and cause it to curl its leaves up.
In some areas, the water from your faucet may have too many additives or chemicals in it and can stress out an otherwise healthy Bird of Paradise. Tap water often contains compounds that can burn a plant’s roots, stunting growth and damaging the leaves.
If you believe this is the issue, try collecting rainwater or using a distilled bottled water. Spring waters usually contain the same compounds as tap water, so try to avoid these. Rainwater and distilled water are both filtered enough to prevent damage to the roots.
Putting It All Together
If you see curled leaves on your Bird of Paradise, check your watering habits. Are you watering too frequently? Are you letting the plant dry out too much? When you water, do you add enough so that the excess flows out from the drainage hole. Incorrect watering is the number one issue that causes leaves to curl.
If watering isn’t your problem, make sure your plant has plenty of bright, direct light and is free from bugs and pests. Finally, check the environment for stressors. Once you can pinpoint your issue, solve it quickly, and your Bird of Paradise will be back to its majestic self in no time.