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Bird of Paradise Leaves Turning Brown (9 Causes and Solutions)

Brown leaves on bird of paradise are a common indicator of sunburn, insect infestation, and fungal infection. Additionally, insufficient humidity, poor water quality, and incorrect temperatures are all possible causes. Water your plant only when the topsoil is completely dry and keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent the foliage from turning brown.

The bird of paradise comes in a rainbow of colors. The red, blue, yellow, and orange hues of the showy flowers were perfectly complemented by the dense green foliage. You don’t want any brown on your bird of paradise leaves, though.

Paradise Leaves Turning Brown
Paradise Leaves Turning Brown

What Causes Bird Paradise Leaves to Turn Brown?

[1] Is Your Bird of Paradise Too Thirsty?

Birds of paradise are indigenous to South Africa’s tropics. As a result, they prefer an evenly and consistently moist soil medium. But not soggy or excessively wet.

Crucially, Strelitzia reginae does not like it when the soil completely dries out. This is especially true when plants are freshly planted, repotted, or transplanted. It’s even worse if the air around your plant is drafty or excessively dry.

The foliage will absorb more moisture than it absorbs from the soil. So, the edges and tips will begin to crisp up, dry out, and brown.

Dehydration for an extended period of time will cause the entire leaf to brown. Increased foliage splitting is also possible. The splits emerge from the leaf margins and move horizontally towards the midrib.

Other revealing signs of an underwatered bird of paradise include:

  • Curled up, shriveled, or wrinkled foliage
  • Stunted growth due to hampered photosynthesis
  • Soil looks light gray, dusty, and feels loose
  • Pot feels more lightweight than normal
  • Wilting leaves (usually starting from lower ones)
  • Leaf drop (in case of severe dehydration)
Underwatered Brid of Paradise Leaves Turning Brown
Underwatered Brid of Paradise Leaf Turning Brown

How to Fix an Underwatered Bird of Paradise

Browned leaves usually appear when the soil has become extremely dry. Fortunately, you can check soil moisture with your index finger every 5-7 days.

If the soil has dried out completely, a good soak is your best bet.

  • Prepare a soaking bath of 3-4 inches of water in a sink or basin.
  • Make sure to remove the saucer or drip tray before soak-watering. 
  • Stand your bird of paradise in the bath. Ideally, the water level should reach at least ¾ the height of the pot.
  • It should take 45 or more minutes for the soil to become adequately saturated. If it takes too long, water from the top. It’ll help the soil become saturated faster.
  • Drain the sink once the potting medium is well-saturated. Allow it to rest for around 10-15 min to drain excess water.
  • Once done, replace the saucer and put your bird of paradise back to its original position.
  • More water may drain into the saucer. Dump it immediately.

A consistent watering schedule will help prevent the recurrence of leaf browning.

  • For ground-grown birds of paradise, I find that once-in-a-week watering is ideal during warmer months.
  • For potted plants, you should kick the frequency up. Ideally, this should be once every one to two weeks.

As a pro plant, however, I don’t recommend counting days. Just wait until two inches of soil below the surface feels slightly dry. Then irrigate again.

I use my 3-in-1 moisture meter (check the latest price on Amazon here). It takes the guesswork out of reading moisture level, ambient light, and soil pH.

[2] Overwatering and Root Rot

You’d be surprised to see brown foliage on a bird of paradise that’s been overwatered, too! Overwatering and underwatering frequently share symptoms. Wilting, browned leaf edges, stunted growth, and defoliation are all common symptoms.

The primary distinction is found in the soil. If you stick your finger in the soil, you will find it to be overly damp or soggy. If the roots have begun to rot, your nose may detect an unpleasant odor.

Overwatering causes leaf browning in two ways.

Because the soil is so moist, the roots will initially accelerate water uptake. Look for galls and water-soaked bumps on the leaf margins. These are signs of excess water gathering on the leaf tips and edges.

Cells will burst if left untreated. As a result, the leaf tips and edges turn brown.

Simultaneously, excess water in the soil drowns the roots. It’s also a breeding ground for fungi that cause root rot. They cause root dieback and decay when combined.

Your bird of paradise’s ability to absorb water from the soil decreases as the roots die off. The foliage will begin to wilt, dry, and brown. In an ironic twist, your Strelitzia plant will begin to die from dehydration while sitting in a pool of water.

Remember that an overwatered plant is usually weak and attracts diseases and pests. The majority of them are leaf spot diseases that cause brown spots or leaf browning. Some pests may hasten the browning of leaves.

How do I tell if I have overwatered my bird of paradise?

  • Presence of water-soaked blisters on the foliage
  • Leaves start to yellow, go limp, or droop
  • Presence of water-soaked brown spots
  • Browned or blackened, soft stems due to rot disease
Signs of Overwatered Bird of Paradise
Signs of Overwatered Bird of Paradise

How to Save an Overwatered Bird of Paradise

It is best to unpot and inspect your plant for root rot first.

You’re in luck if the roots are still healthy, white, and firm. Allow the soil to dry before re-irrigating. That’s all!

Root rot has infiltrated the roots if they are gray, brown, or black and mushy. Unfortunately, repotting is your only viable option in this situation.

  • You must first snip away affected roots and foliage
  • Treat your plant with a fungicide solution. 
  • Use hydrogen peroxide to treat the new potting mix. You can also blend in some activated charcoal or cinnamon.
  • Birds of paradise do best in a rich, free-draining potting medium. I prefer using an all-natural, ready-to-use mix (Check for the latest price on Amazon here). Add some crushed stone or gravel to boost aeration and drainage.
  • You can also prune away any dead or spent flowers before repotting
  • Once repotted, keep off fertilizing. Maintain staple soil moisture and feed again when new growth emerges.

Your bird of paradise won’t spring back immediately. Give it two to three weeks for the root system to re-establish. New shoots and foliage are a sure sign of recovery.

Once established, your Strelitzia isn’t too finicky about water. However, you should irrigate when the top two inches of potting mix feels a bit dry.

A good self-watering pot is a handy solution if you’ve got a brown thumb. The same goes for frequent travelers and ever-busy plant parents.

[3] SunBurned Leaves Turn Brown

Birds of paradise are sun-loving houseplants. However, they enjoy the partial sun during the hottest hours of the day. The same is true of summer months when the sun is too scorching.

Sunburned Strelitzia leaves are usually crunchy and browned all over. They may also experience some blotching and mottling. Browning is often seen on exposed foliage surfaces facing direct sunlight. 

Sun-scorched leaves are brittle, extremely dry, and completely withered. They’ll soon blacken and fall off.

A sunburned bird of paradise will typically exhibit aggressive leaf splitting. Of course, growing medium dries out quickly. Leaves are also dusty and may become bleached.

Sunburned Bird of Paradise Leaves Turning Brown
Sunburned Bird of Paradise Leaves Turning Brown

Solution

Severely sun-scorched leaves rarely resurge. So, trim off and dispose of them properly. They thrive outdoors in full sun when they are used to it. This plant was not used to it. It’s sunburned. Those burned leaves will not recover and should be removed.

If you are going to place your indoor plants outdoors for the summer, you have to do it gradually, in stages and it’s easiest to do starting early in the spring when the sun’s rays are not so strong. Potted plants should be sheltered outdoors during the hottest days of summer. 

[4] Browning of Leaves Due to Heat Stress

Birds of paradise are tolerant of short bursts of low temperature up to 24°F (-4°C). However, cold drafts, frostbites, and prolonged exposure to cold will cause temperature stress. It will react to it through leaf browning, splitting, wilting, and yellowing.

If you don’t act, the foliage will gradually turn dark brown then wholly black. Too much cold stress results in en masse defoliation. I’ve seen it kill outdoor Strelitzia plants. 

Solution

You can quickly undo the effects of cold temperatures. Simply relocate it to a warmer location. When winter arrives, I immediately bring my birds of paradise indoors.

 [5] Lack of Humidity

During the rainy season, the air is frequently humid enough for birds of paradise to thrive. The air in rooms with central heating, on the other hand, can be drier. As a result, the humidity is too low for them.

It’s a problem when there’s not enough humidity in the air around your plant. The leaves will begin to dry out, crisp up, and wilt. They will turn brown quickly, starting at the edges.

Bird of Paradise Leaf Turning Brown Due to Low Humidity
Bird of Paradise Leaf Turning Brown Due to Low Humidity

Solution

I know it can be tough to regulate humidity around your bird of paradise. With climate control in action, the air is drafty and dries out quickly. 

That’s why I recommend regular misting. Spritz the foliage early in the morning. This way, the leaves will get ample time to perk up yet not remain wet.

Alternatively, install a reliable humidifier near your plant. I recommend doing so during winter when you kick off your central heating. 

A pebble tray can also work its magic.

Huddle up humidity-loving houseplants. They will provide your bird of paradise with a humid microclimate.

[6] Frost Damage

Frost is one of the things that birds of paradise despise the most. Browning leaves on plants near entry doors and uninsulated windows are likely. The same effect can be seen in plants placed in drafty areas.

When frostbite strikes, the foliage often turns brown, wilts, and softens. They become soggy in extreme cases. This is due to the fact that cold temperatures harm cells and tissue.

Control and Management

When winter arrives, it is always a good idea to bring your birds of paradise indoors. Indoor plants should be kept away from windows.

Stay away from drafty areas. A consistently warm but relatively humid nook in your house is ideal for overwintering.

[7] Poor Water Quality

Most plants don’t mind the quality of their water as long as they get enough of it. Strelitzia plants, on the other hand, do not. They are extremely picky about poor water quality, particularly tap or softened water.

Salts, fluoride, minerals, and chlorine are commonly found in tap water. They typically build up in the soil. When there is a significant buildup of these deposits, the foliage burns, and browns at the tips and edges.

Solution

The best solution is to use a water filter.

If you don’t have a water filtration system, using rainwater or distilled water will suffice.

I frequently leave tap water in a sink or an open jar overnight. The chlorine will dissipate. I can then irrigate with chlorine-free water the next day.

[8] Diseases 

Birds of paradise are less susceptible to diseases than other houseplants. That’s not to say they are immune to disease.  

Root Rot

The most common bird of paradise disease is root rot. It usually appears when you overwater your plant. When your plant stands on “wet feet” for an extended period of time, it creates ideal conditions for fungal root infection.

The majority of fungi that cause root rot are carried on seeds. Some are carried by soil, while others are carried by irrigation water. Whatever the cause, root rot is bad for water absorption.

Too much thirst causes the leaves to wilt and turn brown. Meanwhile, there is too much moisture in the soil.

Brid of Paradise Root Rot
Control and Management

Follow the step-by-step solution I provided above for treating overwatered birds of paradise with root rot. Note that if all roots have rotten, it’s best to throw away your plant. Then resort to propagation.

I recommend soak-treating seeds if you are growing from seeds. First in room temp water for a day, then in 135°F (57°C) for 30 minutes. Remember, the problem starts from seeds, so sanitize them. 

Good sanitization practices can also go a very long way. Trim off dead or diseased parts immediately. And don’t wet the leaves.

Leaf Spots 

Leaf spots on bird of paradise often appear when there’s too much humidity. Aside from cosmetic blemishes, they often don’t pose much danger to your plant if caught early.

They are typical fungal leaf spots. They can be irregularly shaped or appear as circular spots. Most fungal leaf spots are light gray from the back. When viewed from the front, they are yellowish or dark brown and may even appear black. 

In later stages, they cause leaves to wither and turn completely brown. Eventually, they will collapse or drop.

Leaf Spots on Bird of Paradise
Leaf Spots on Bird of Paradise
Control and Management
  • Prune away any infected foliage. Remove and discard any fallen or dead leaves.
  • By all means, don’t wet infected foliage. This will go ahead and fuel the rapid spread of the leaf spot disease.
  • Use a systemic fungicide to keep the leaf spots under control. I find three-in-one products to be effective (Check the latest price on Amazon here).
  • Sanitization practices and cultural methods will help keep fungal leaf spots at bay. Ensure good aeration and space out your indoor plants.
  • Neem oil is an organic, non-toxic alternative that’s equally effective

Leaf Blight

Leaf blight first appears as white spots on the foliage. These lesions are usually surrounded by an off-color green ring. The leaves will eventually turn tan or brownish.

Control and Management

Most leaf blight diseases are tough to control once full-blown. It’s thus best to catch the infection early.

Treating the soil with copper or sulfur-based fungicide should help keep it under control.

[9] Pest Infestation

Birds of paradise have few pest issues. However, spider mites, scale insects, Opogona crown borer, and mealybugs can pester your plant and cause leaves to turn brown. 

Peel your eyes out for the following signs of bugs:

Name of PestDescription
Opogona crown borerThese boring bugs drill small holes in the base of the foliage. They leave brown blemishes and cause leaf tissue. Widespread infestation can result in many leaves turning brown or yellow.
AphidsAphids are sap-suckers. They drink vital fluids from the foliage, causing emaciation and leaf browning. They also secrete honeydew that encourages sooty mold cover.
ScaleScale bugs also drink the nutrient-containing sap out of the foliage. They typically form small brown blotches or clusters on the backs of leaves. Aside from drawing nutrients, they leave brown spots with yellowing.
Spider MitesSpider mites leave soft cottony webbing, mainly on the undersides of leaves. They often thrive in dry and hot environments. They often manifest as small brown spots that spread and expand as infestation progresses.
WhitefliesIf you see some fuzzy clusters of eggs on the backs of leaves in early spring, then you’ve got whiteflies on your hand. They suck sap, injuring the leaves and causing them to turn brown.
Bugs on Bird of Paradise
Bugs on Bird of Paradise
Bugs on Bird of Paradise

Control and Management

  • Birds of paradise have large, brown leaves. So, it’s easy to wipe them down using cotton swabs, or soft cloth dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
  • You can also reduce large infestations using a good blast of water. It’ll help knock some of them off the plant.
  • Follow up with an insecticide application. Use either neem oil or insecticidal soap spray.
  • Repeat the application weekly or after ten days until you eliminate these little bugs. (Source: University of Wisconsin)

How to Prevent Bird of Paradise Brown Leaves?

Brown leaves will do a number on the ornamental value of your bird of paradise. Use the following tips to stave off leaf browning:

  • Keep your Brid of paradise plant well-watered. Irrigate once two inches of soil is slightly dry.
  • Practice good sanitation practices. Clean up dead plant matter and use sterilized cutting tools.
  • Make sure your plant is potted in a rich, fertile, free-draining growing medium.
  • Keep your plant away from cold drafts, frosty conditions, and cold temp
  • Regular misting or use of a pebble tray/humidifier can help boost humidity