No tropical fantasy is complete without a stunning Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai). These gorgeous beauties look right at home next to a warm pool or in a posh hotel. But can they handle a winter vacation with more snow and frost than sand and sun?
Bird of Paradise plants can’t withstand freezing weather. Your plant’s leaves will be damaged or even killed if the temperature drops below freezing. So make sure they aren’t exposed to temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) and bring them in for the winter if it is a potted plant.
How Cold Can a Bird of Paradise Tolerate?
The subtropical regions of South Africa are home to the Bird of Paradise, a truly tropical plant. The weather is warm and wet all year, with consistent rains and mild winters.
Therefore, your Bird of Paradise is ill-equipped to deal with freezing temperatures. All of their biologies are designed to take advantage of the subtropical conditions they live in.
A mature Bird can survive temperatures of up to 100°F (38°C) in the wild, making them far more tolerant of extreme heat than extreme cold.
Temperatures below 50°F are not ideal for the Bird of Paradise. So bring them inside for the winter if they’re sitting on a porch that gets plenty of suns. Even though they can withstand temperatures as low as 24°F (-4°C), these cold snaps still hurt the plant.
Keep your Bird of Paradise at 50-77°F (10-25°C). This increases its chances of producing healthy leaves and flowers. (Source: University of Florida)
Freezing temperatures will cause the plant’s water to freeze. Ice expands as it forms, slicing through the plant’s tissue and causing extensive damage. Here are some warning signs to keep an eye out for:
One of the first signs that something’s wrong is a sudden color change that appears out of nowhere one night.
Slight yellowing begins at the leaf margins, and eventually, larger dark blotches appear on the plant’s leaves.
Damaged leaf edges can also be seen as rapidly developing tatters. Leaves that have been frostbitten appear almost fringed, with numerous small splits.
Frostbite can also be detected by the presence of unusually bright leaves that are soft and soggy. Liquids accumulate inside the plant because ice crystals in its leaves tear the tissue’s cell walls apart.
As a result, the leaf’s pigments move to the surface, and water flows freely through the damaged tissue. When pressed, it may feel spongy or even like a small blister.
Ice crystals also wreak havoc on the support structures that hold the Bird’sBird’s sail-like leaves upright. As a result, the tissue within the stem becomes soft and soggy, and the leaf droops.
The buds on your Bird of Paradise are likely to die from frostbite if you keep them in a pot. The droop may also set in as they begin to darken around their stems.
Damage to the stems and trunks of plants can cause them to turn black and mushy. This is because the usually firm tissue gives way when pressed or becomes spongy and soft with a rotting one.
As a result, it will turn black or blotchy and lose its distinctive blue-green color.
Treatment of Freeze Damage
- Relocate the Paradise Bird to a warmer location.
- Allow time for the plant to thaw and for damage to manifest.
- To preserve surviving tissue, carefully trim damaged leaves with sterilized garden shears.
- Flower buds that have been damaged should be removed.
- Inspect the roots for damage if the damage is severe, with more than a third of the plant’s foliage impacted.
- Roots that have been damaged must be removed. Trim away soft and disintegrating roots with clean shears and repot into a smaller vessel.
- A dilute dose of balanced liquid fertilizer should be applied to the soil. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
The simplest way to keep a Bird of Paradise safe from frost is to bring it inside before it gets cold enough to harm it.
If you live anywhere else in the continental United States than Hardiness Zone 11, you should not leave a potted Bird of Paradise out in the cold. It’s time to bring the thermometer indoors if the temperature drops frequently.
If you live in regions 9 and 10, you may be able to leave it outside in a few specific locations. For example, east-facing porches and terraces have the potential to warm quickly at dawn, and thicker-walled pots will help protect root systems from damage overnight.
Placing them near structures that retain heat, such as thick garden walls or clusters of other plants to protect them from driving winter winds, is another good option.
The best thing to do would be to bring them inside. But, unfortunately, there are risks and long-term damage to trying to get the maximum amount of sunlight onto your poor tropical darling during the darker days of winter. In the case of a stricken Bird of Paradise, recovery will be a slow process.
Keeping an eye on the growing conditions is also essential, as an indoor environment can become too cold for a Bird of Paradise to thrive.
There are places in even the most well-heated homes where the air is icy cold. In addition, central heating may not get the job done in some house areas because of poor ventilation or a lack of window glass.
Indoor environments are frequently heated for our benefit, so the plants we leave behind are subjected to rapid change when we aren’t there.
On weekends and overnights, many places of business, including offices and cafes, and educational institutions, turn off their heating.
Unfortunately, temperatures drop rapidly when the primary heat source is turned off, putting any plants inside at risk. To avoid the formation of cool air pools, keep these plants away from windows and doors.
Ventilation systems must also be kept away from Bird of Paradise, like the first morning flush of air when they are turned back on will bathe them in the air that has been chilled overnight. So remember to bring your Bird of paradise home for the holidays every year!
A Bird of Paradise will take some time to recover from a minor injury. Slow-growing plants require patience from their owners. However, if you catch it early and treat it effectively, your Bird should be able to make a full recovery.
You’ll have to wait a long time for the damaged leaves and flower buds to grow back after you remove them.
But, as long as the damage isn’t too severe, it’ll only be a matter of time and good care before the plant begins replacing its foliage. My article goes into great detail about the best Strelitzia care practices.
But if you freeze your root system, you’ll probably lose the plant altogether. A severe frost would likely kill your bird of paradise if its roots were exposed; the growing medium would protect them from freezing temperatures.
As soon as the plant is thawed, I’d recommend loosening the roots and inspecting them for any damage.
Soft, mushy roots and soil that oozes clear watery fluid with a solid vegetal aroma both indicate that your plant is probably too damaged to recover from its injuries.
A bird that has been repeatedly frostbitten will sprout new leaves in the spring. On the other hand, these leaves will be smaller and will typically appear around the plant’s perimeter.
It may take several seasons for the Bird of Paradise to begin producing those large, glitzy leaves for which it is famous.
When birds of paradise are well fertilized, they produce more leaves. So after you’ve treated the frostbite, you can help your tropical diva by adding dilute liquid fertilizer to your watering can regularly. This will cause it to grow more leaves.
Even in the best of circumstances, getting an indoor Bird of Paradise to flower is difficult, and a frost-damaged plant will prioritize recovery over blooming.
So you’ll have to wait until its leaves have recovered before attempting to coax it into blooming.
Roots that have been damaged by frost may become breeding grounds for fungi and bacteria once the soil thaws out. The stage is set for serious trouble when the dead roots rot naturally.
Monitor your bird of paradise closely in the weeks and months following a frost event. Rehydrate your plants only when they are dehydrated to avoid root rot.
Even if a plant has been meticulously cleared of damaged roots as instructed above, it is still vulnerable. When growing tropical plants, frost damage is a serious issue that must be taken very seriously.
However, if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to protect these majestic plants from harm. Preventative measures are always better than cures.