With their enchanting blooms and coarse-textured foliage, bird of paradise (Strelitzia) plants are quite a sight to behold. No wonder they symbolize love, faithfulness, and magnificence. But you may not feel that way when your plant has yellow leaves.
Overwatering is the most likely cause of leaf yellowing in a bird of paradise. Other common causes include pests, transplant shock, temperature stress, pests, underwatering, low humidity, fertilizer burn, or too much light. Knowing the exact cause is always a matter of trial and error.
Thankfully, I’ll help you work out what’s causing the leaves of your bird of paradise to turn yellow. I’ll also explain how you can fix each problem. Your plant should be able to restore the vibrant blue, green foliage and thrive once again.
Causes of Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
The leaves of your once lush, leafy green bird of paradise are turning yellow. Is this an imminent sign of your plant’s path to doom? But hold your horses; don’t panic yet!
First of all, you must note that older leaves on a bird of paradise may naturally turn yellow before dropping off. It’s your plant’s way of creating room for new leaves. You shouldn’t worry, especially if your bird of paradise appears to be otherwise healthy.
However, if many leaves are suddenly turning yellow at once, that’s a telltale sign that something is definitely wrong. If you keep a closer eye on your bird of paradise plant, you’ll soon spot where the problem seems to be happening.
Keep reading for how to diagnose the root cause of the problem. You’ll also learn how to do it and restore your bird of paradise to health.
1- Overwatering May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Overwatering is the most likely cause of yellow leaves on your bird of paradise. In fact, if many leaves are turning yellow, your plant may be suffering from root rot. And guess what; overwatering is the primary cause of root rot in a bird of paradise.
When you water too much, the soil becomes waterlogged. This means the roots can’t breathe or obtain enough oxygen. Tip your plant out of the pot, and check the potting mix and root system.
If the soil is wet and soggy, you should ease up on the watering. If all roots are black, soft & mushy, the game’s over and you may not be able to revive your plant. However, if some of the roots are still white and firm; your bird of paradise still has a chance.
How to Fix
First, dig up your bird of paradise to assess the severity of root rot. Again, if the whole root ball is brown/black, soggy, and squishy, your plant may be a goner. You may get a waft of rotting smell from the roots.
Thankfully, the bird of paradise is hardy, so some of the roots will still be healthy. Robust roots are usually firm, white, and bouncy.
- Gently wash the soil off the root system.
- Trim off all affected roots.
- Dip the remaining root system in a fungicide or organic anti-fungal. A solution of activated charcoal, cinnamon, or chamomile should do the trick.
- Let the soil dry out before repotting. You may of course use a fresh potting mix if the waterlogging is irreversible.
- Only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil has dried out a bit, but not completely. In most cases, this should be once every one or two weeks.
2- Nutrient Deficiency May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
If your bird of paradise leaves are turning yellow, the soil may be low in certain nutrients. The most commonly deficient nutrients are nitrogen, iron, sulfur, magnesium, or zinc.
|Nitrogen||If the leaves on the lower part of the plant are yellowing, the soil may be low in nitrogen. The yellowing may progress upwards over time. It often impacts older leaves, resulting in stunted growth.|
|Iron||If you notice that the tips, veins, and edges of the leaves are turning yellow, your bird of paradise may be lacking iron.|
|Magnesium||Magnesium deficiency causes the leaves to turn yellow on the edges. This makes the leaves appear like arrowheads.|
|Zinc||When zinc is deficient, newer leaves usually turn yellow between the veins|
If newer leaves are yellowing earlier than older foliage, you may be dealing with sulfur. If the other way around is true, check for deficiency of molybdenum or manganese.
How to Fix
You must tailor the treatment course depending on the deficient nutrient:
- For nitrogen deficiency, supplement with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer. Alternatively, you can re-pot with fresh soil.
- For iron deficiency, you don’t need to supplement. Ensure the soil is slightly acidic, ranging from pH 5.5 to 7.5. This pH range will avail more iron.
- For magnesium, zinc, or sulfur deficiencies, use a houseplant fertilizer that lists these nutrients. Just do so once, preferably in early spring. You can also add zinc chelate, Epsom salt, or dolomite.
- For molybdenum deficiency, add a little limestone or chalk to the soil.
3- Underwatering May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
I want to make one thing clear. Your bird of paradise leaves will more likely turn yellow from overwatering than underwatering. But both ails of poor watering habits will affect your bird of paradise.
If underwatering is the issue, some leaves may turn yellow and drop off. You will see this mostly in lower and older leaves. Other symptoms of underwatering include:
- Leaves may turn brown and wrinkled.
- Browning of leaf tips.
- Wilted leaves will feel crispy, dry, and scaly.
- Dry soil
How to Fix
- Give your bird of paradise a good soaking. Water until it comes out of the bottom drain holes.
- Let your plant sit in the drench to soak for five to ten minutes
- Dump out the excess water to prevent waterlogging
4- Mineral Deposits May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Mineral salts can build up in the soil over time. This is particularly the case if you use tap water, underground water, or softened water. These deposits result from chlorine, fluoride, or calcium accumulation due to poor city water quality.
The mineral salts compete for moisture in the soil and eventually burn the plant tissue. You will see this in the form of brown spots and yellowing leaves. What more, these deposits may alter soil pH and cause nutrient deficiency.
How to Fix
- Leach the mineral deposits by letting water drain through the soil
- If the salt build-up is severe, you’d be better off re-potting with fresh soil
5- Pests May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
If leaves are turning yellow all over your bird of paradise, you should inspect it for pest infestation.
|Aphids||You can spot aphids with a naked eye. They drink sap and leave honeydew behind, which is why you may see ants covering your plant.|
|Spider mites||These pests thrive on dehydrated bird of paradise plants. They appear as tiny brown spots and then the leaves turn yellow.|
|Scale||Scales appear in the form of small brown patches on the underside of the leaves. They suck sap and leave spots that turn yellow due to chlorosis.|
|Whiteflies||In early spring, you may notice a fuzzy collection of whitefly eggs on the underside of the leaves. They suck sap, an action that injures the leaves and causes them to turn yellow.|
|Opogona crown borer||These invertebrates bore into the bracts of the flower and crown of the plant. As such, they cause damage to leaf tissue, resulting in the yellowing of the leaves.|
How to Fix
- Take your bird of paradise to the bathtub, shower, or open space. Hose the pests down by spraying the plant hard with water.
- Dub the affected areas with cotton balls containing rubbing oil.
- Use insecticidal soap, neem oil, or a good horticultural oil to treat the plant.
- Repeat this every week until you eliminate the pests
6- Diseases May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Your bird of paradise may seem like a hardy plant, but it’s susceptible to a range of diseases. Most of these fungal or bacterial diseases cause tissue damage. And, as a consequence, the leaves turn brown, yellow, or both.
|Leaf spots||Fungal leaf spots start as small brown spots (0.1-2 cm wide). Over time, the spots will coalesce and form larger patches. You’ll see a yellow halo around the spots. They thrive in warm, humid conditions.|
|Root rot||Root rot is a fungal disease that thrives in waterlogged soil. This suffocates and kills the root system. Leaves turn yellow from lack of essential nutrients and enough moisture.|
|Leaf blight||This bacterial wilt will cause the leaves to turn either yellow or pale green. Eventually, the leaves will wilt and drop off.|
How to Fix
In most cases, you can revive your bird of paradise if you detect the disease early. Generally, you can use a commercial fungicide or anti-bacterial. But they may cause more harm than good.
That said, you can use organic methods like baking soda. Spray generously once every week until the disease is gone. You can also use chamomile, cinnamon, or charcoal.
7- Oedema May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Edema may turn your bird of paradise leaves yellow as a secondary cause. This normally goes hand in hand with high humidity or overwatering.
Edema occurs when your plant takes up excess water, causing the cells to engorge with moisture and rapture. This results in soft, watery blotches surrounded by yellow halos.
How to Fix
You may not be able to save the leaves already damaged. Your best course of action is to get rid of affected leaves. Make sure to fix the root cause, such as overwatering.
8- Sunburn May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Your bird of paradise is a tropical plant, which means it thrives in the sunshine. However, too much sunlight can scald the leaves. The leaf tips will turn brown first, followed by the yellowing of leaves.
How to Fix
- Move your bird of paradise to a shaded area until the issue is resolved.
- Remove any extensively sunburned leaves.
- Water or mist the plant accordingly
9- Low Light May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Your bird of light prefers a bright spot that receives 6+ hours of sunlight. If the light is too low, the leaves will develop chlorosis and turn yellow. Low light also exacerbates the effects of overwatering, edema, high humidity, root rot, etc.
Leaves also become floppy and leggy in shaded areas.
How to Fix
Ease your bird of paradise to a well-lit area. If you’re using a light meter, make sure it’s in the 2000-5000 FC range.
Ideally, your plant should get 3-4 hours of direct sun, or at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight
10- Over-fertilizing May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Yellow leaves on a bird of paradise can indicate an accumulation of fertilizer salts. If that’s the case, leaves may also wilt and turn brown, especially at the tips.
How to Fix
- Leach away excess fertilizer salts by flushing the soil with distilled or filtered water.
- You should re-pot with fresh soil if the salt buildup is excessive
11- Temperature Stress May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Your bird of paradise prefers warmer temperatures in the 65-80 °F (18-27 °C) range. But can tolerate conditions slightly outside of this temp range. However, extreme changes can cause distress to your plant, leading to yellow leaves.
How to Fix
- Move your plant to a warmer spot in the temperature range of 65-80 °F (18-27 °C)
- Ensure there’s no source of heat or cold draft
12- Low Humidity May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Your bird of paradise loves higher humidity in the range of 60-70%. It can tolerate lower levels of humidity as long as the soil is kept fairly moist.
Symptoms of low humidity include yellow, sickly leaves with brown edges or tips. This happens especially during winter when the air inside is dry and crisp.
How to Fix
- Give your bird of paradise daily misting during winter. Or take it to a humid spot, perhaps close to the bathroom.
- Bring your houseplants together to create a humid microclimate.
- Let it sit close to a water-filled saucer or tray
13- Repotting Shock May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
The leaves of your plant may turn yellow soon after repotting. It’s experiencing re-potting or transplant shock.
How to Fix
Find the most ideal spot for your bird of paradise. Perfect temperature, light, humidity, and moisture conditions will allow your plant to acclimatize faster.
14- Frost Damage May Cause Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves
Frost’s damage on the leaves turns them yellow. This may be accompanied by brown spots, brown leaf tips/edges, and wilting.
How to Fix
- Remove your plant away from the cold draft.
- If it’s winter, move it indoors or in a sheltered area.
How to Prevent Bird of Paradise Yellow Leaves?
– Ensure Proper Watering Habits
You should avoid both overwatering and underwatering. In theory, you should water your plant once every 1-2 weeks. But the frequency should vary depending on factors like the season, temperature, plant size, pot size, and so forth.
In practice, you should water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is slightly dry. You’ll get the best results if you water early morning or late in the evening.
– Provide Plenty of Light
The bird of paradise is a plant of sunshine. Give your plant at least 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight. Or, use grow lights that deliver light in the range of 2000-5000 FC (21,500-53,800 lux)
Ideally, your bird of paradise should get part sun (3-5 hours daily of direct sunlight), part shade.
– Use Well-Drained Soil
The bird of paradise does well in a rich, organic potting mix. To avoid waterlogging, add some vermiculite, perlite, sand, or compost to improve drainage and soil aeration. Ensure pH stays in the 5.5-7.5 range for optimal nutrient availability.
– Use Proper Pot
Pick a pot that isn’t too large or too small for your bird of paradise. The rule of thumb is to make sure the container is an inch or two bigger than the current size of your plant.
– Make Sure There’s Good Aeration
Poor aeration is the playground of pathogens that can pester your bird of paradise. This helps spread pests and disease faster. Ensure there’s good spacing in between plants.
– Make Sure your Bird of Paradise Plant is Comfortable
Healthy plants are more resistant to diseases and pests. To ensure optimal growth and robust health, you should try to ape tropical conditions of its native region. Keep temps in the range of 65-80 °F (18-27 °C) and relative humidity of 60-70%.
When your bird of paradise turns yellow on the leaves, you should diagnose the problem and act quickly. I must recap the following points:
- Overwatering is the most likely reason for leaf yellowing
- Other reasons include temperature stress, diseases, pests, and low humidity
- Stick to proper watering habits and provide your plant with ideal conditions to prevent the yellowing from recurring.
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