Skip to Content

White Spots on Bird of Paradise (6 Causes And Solutions)

With their dazzling colorful flowers, birds of paradise can add a striking tropical ambiance to wherever you place them. They’re sufficiently hardy but not invincible. Sometimes their beautiful glossy leaves can be blemished by white spots.

Common causes of white spots on birds of paradise include pest infestations, powdery mildew, edema, White spots on birds of paradise are caused by pest infestations, powdery mildew, edema, malnutrition, and leaf spot diseases. Overfertilizing, frost damage, hard water, and insufficient light aren’t to be ruled out. It’s also possible that it’s just some dirt on the leaves!

I’ll provide detailed instructions on how to identify and treat each problem.

White Spots on Bird of Paradise
White Spots on Bird of Paradise Leaves

Why Does My Bird Of Paradise Have White Spots?

White blemishes on a bird of paradise aren’t caused by any single disease, pest, or problem. You must first identify the exact culprit in order to treat the symptoms.

[1] Powdery Mildew

When white fuzzy spots appear on any plant, powdery mildew is frequently the first culprit that pops to mind. Indeed, this fungal infection is the most common cause of white spots on a bird of paradise.

Break out your investigative glasses. If the spots appear as irregular grayish or whitish fluffy patches, then you’ve got powdery mildew on your hands! They can also take the form of whitish-gray, talcum-powder-like dusting all over your bird of paradise.

It first emerges as small, round white spots on the tops of the leaves. The areas will spread fast and may turn brownish-yellow or black as they age. Soon, they will cover the whole plant with a dusty white coating.

It also affects young stems, flower bracts, and undersides of newer foliage. Affected leaves will turn yellow, become distorted, and drop prematurely.

The disease can also hamper photosynthesis and cause extensive tissue damage. With time, your bird of paradise will wither, collapse, and die from the infection.

The fungal infection is highly contagious. That’s partly thanks to the spores that typically spread through fallen leaves. 

The fungus thrives in dry and hot conditions. It needs ideal temperatures of roughly 70°F (21°C). The spread is also aggressive in stuffy, damp, and low-light areas.

Control and Management of Powdery Mildew

  • It would be wise to isolate infected plants promptly. The sooner you separate, the more likely you’ll curb the spread of the spores.
  • Practice good sanitation. Pick up and dispose of dead foliage and plant matter properly. When watering, don’t wet the foliage. 
  • Avoid late-summer fertilizing. That will encourage tender growths prone to powdery mildew infection over the winter season.
  • Improve air circulation around your bird of paradise. I distance my houseplants, prune them regularly, and crack an opening to get aeration going.
  • Try chemical controls if cultural techniques don’t seem to work. You can use neem oil, potassium bicarbonate, triforine, or sulfur-based fungicides. I prefer ready-to-use fungicide (Check the latest price on Amazon here).
  • For nontoxic control, I use a blend of light horticultural oil like neem oil and baking soda. Add 2.5 tablespoons of neem oil and one tablespoon of baking soda into a gallon of water. You can use potassium bicarbonate in place of baking soda.
  • Make sure to spray thoroughly to coat all over the surfaces. Repeat treatment every one to two weeks.

[2] Edema

Edema is a condition in which your bird of paradise’s tissues retains an excessive amount of water. Environmental factors frequently cause or aggravate it. Overwatering, low light, and high humidity are the most common causes.

It usually happens when you re-irrigate your plant after a period of neglect. It’ll soak up a lot of water. Even so, less of it is lost as a result of respiration and perspiration.

Edema is generally a risk whenever your plant takes up more water than it expels. The most common signs are water-soaked bumps, blotches, or blisters. They appear primarily on the backs of the leaves.

These wet areas will expand and burst or erupt. As a result, they will leave crusty white spots along the underside veins of the leaves. The marks on top of the leaves can be white, gray, or yellow.

The spots will ultimately dry and drop out, leaving a bullet-spray appearance on the foliage. Affected leaves may dry out and fall off.

How to Treat

To treat edema, it’s crucial to know the causative factors. 

  • Start by adjusting your watering routine. Your bird of paradise should never sit on “wet feet.” So, let 2-3 inches of soil on top dry out between waterings.
  • Inspect your plant for drainage problems. Does the pot have enough drainage holes? Is the potting mix well-drained?
  • Ensure ample aeration. Prune your bird of paradise regularly. Don’t forget to create at least a space of five inches between your indoor plants.
  • Make sure it’s in a sunny spot to necessitate perspiration. It enjoys bright, indirect sunlight. The transition should be gradual to avoid stressing your plant.
  • Use a fertilizer rich in calcium and potassium. Their deficiencies make your plant prone to edema. Slow-release fertilizer pellets are ideal for birds of paradise.
  • Correct soil pH if other cultural methods don’t seem to do the trick. A bird of paradise prefers the soil to be slightly acidic.

[3] Pest Infestation

You’re not the only one that’s attracted to your bird of paradise. It can also play host to unwanted bugs. The most common trouble-makers include mealybugs, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spider mites, and scale insects.

The majority either munches on the foliage or feeds on vital sap. They often leave streaks, spots, or holes in the wake of their infestation.

Some of them appear as spots themselves. Meanwhile, others secrete a sticky substance that attracts ants. The honeydew usually results in the growth of black sooty mold.

Here’s how to identify these common bugs.

Mealybugs

Signs and Symptoms: Mealybugs love drawing sap out of the foliage. They often appear as fuzzy or waxy white patches. Colonies usually cluster at the bottom of the leaves.

They’re so tiny you won’t spot them with a naked eye. However, you may mistake a group of them with lumps on your bird of paradise.

Mealybugs excrete honeydew, which is a sticky, sugary substance. Ants may be spotted on or around your Strelitzia. It also causes black sooty mold to form as a result of fungi.

Other symptoms include turning pale or discoloration. Stunted growth and yellowing of leaves may also occur.

Mealybugs on Bird of Paradise
Control and Management
  • You can effectively eradicate mealybugs using cotton swabs or clean cloth with rubbing alcohol. Wipe all affected areas to squish and kill the bugs.
  • I also suggest a weekly application of insecticidal or neem oil spray 
  • As a big advocate for nontoxic methods, I urge you to use natural predators. It’s pretty effective in a garden. Available options include mealybug destroyer, lacewings, and ladybug beetles.

Spider Mite

Signs and Symptoms: Spider mites are tiny bugs that thrive on thirsty and weak birds of paradise. They love sucking on the sweet sap. And then secrete sugary honeydew.

They’re heavy feeders and leave your plant malnourished. The damaged areas will develop white spots.

White stripling on the leaves is a sure sign of these tiny vexations. Another big clue is Silky soft webbing on the back of leaves. The affected leaves will pale and succumb.

Leaf yellowing, chlorosis, stunted growth, and leaf drop are common symptoms of a spider mite infestation. You may also notice a sudden increase in yellow spots.

Spider Mites
Control and Management
  • You should isolate affected plants. Spider mites often travel easily and invade quickly.
  • Ensure your bird of paradise is well-watered. Regular misting to boost humidity can also help curb the spider mite population.
  • Avoid exposure to too much direct sunlight. It’ll dehydrate your plant and create perfect conditions for spider mites.
  • A powerful stream of water can knock a good chunk off your plant. Remember, they’re flightless and will literally drown.
  • Use neem oil, insecticidal soap, or any other horticultural insecticide to control the insects. Spray thoroughly every 7 to 10 days until the infestation is under control.

Caterpillars

Signs and Symptoms: Caterpillars often invade outdoor birds of paradise. Bite marks on the foliage often announce their arrival. Besides, they’re pretty visible to the naked eye.

White spots, holes, or marks may indicate a previous infestation of caterpillars. That’s because caterpillars don’t take long before they morph into harmless moths or butterflies.

Caterpillars
Control and Management
  • Caterpillars are hungry buggers. They can work through a significant number of leaves in a short burst. You should pick them up by hand when you see them.
  • You can use a harmless biologic insecticide like bacillus thuringiensis (Check the latest price on Amazon here).
  • Welcome beneficial predators like parasitic wasps. 

Grasshoppers

Signs and Symptoms: As with caterpillars, grasshoppers often invade outdoor birds of paradise. They love biting into their broad, glossy foliage. They leave white spots and marks on the leaves.

Control and Management
  • If it’s an outdoor garden, grow grasshopper-repellent plants around your bird of paradise. Sage, salvia, jasmine, and moss rose are great examples.
  • Simply pluck grasshoppers from your plant by hand 
  • Set up row covers to protect your plant from grasshoppers
  • If you prefer natural predators, use robber flies
  • I highly advise avoiding chemical controls. Instead, use biological products, such as those containing beneficial microbes like Beauveria bassiana or Nosema locustae.

White Scale

Signs and Symptoms: During the crawler stage, white scale insects appear as white moving spots. Once they settle, they develop hard shells. As such, they appear as hard, tiny brown spots on the backs of leaves and stems.

  • Look out for hard-scabbed white formations on the leaves
  • Leaves may turn yellow, become stunted, and fall off
  • Black sooty mold and ants take advantage of honeydew
  • Your plant looks sickly and withered 
Control and Management
  • While scale insects are notoriously invasive. The earlier you control, the better. You must use a variety of approaches.
  • First, dab these bugs with cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol
  • Use neem oil or insecticidal spray. Time the application to concur with its crawler phase. They’re more vulnerable to treatments at this stage.

[4] Fungal Diseases

White Mold (Saprophytic Fungus)

Signs and Symptoms: In the early stages, it’s easy to confuse saprophytic fungus with powdery mildew. While the latter can be fatal, this white mold is pretty much harmless. It actually helps break down organic matter.

It can appear on leaves, stems, or even soil. They look like dusty white spots. They may compete with your bird of paradise for soil nutrition.

The trouble is what the white mold is saying about your care routine. That’s because they thrive in damp and poorly aerated areas. It’s also an indication of a critical light shortage.

White Mold on Bird of Paradise
How to Control
  • It’s easy to deal with the saprophytic fungus. Often, it’s as easy as scooping out the top inch layer of the potting mix.
  • Adjust your care regime to eliminate conditions favorable to the fungus.
  • Avoid overwatering and humid conditions.
  • Improve light (bright, indirect sunlight would be perfect)
  • Boost aeration by distancing your houseplants. Regular pruning and using an aeration fan during winter can also help.
  • Sprinkling cinnamon all over the surface of the potting mix can serve as a natural antifungal
  • If the fungal growth is too widespread, consider repotting. Use a new pot or sterilize the old container.

Gray Mold (Botrytis)

Signs and Symptoms: Botrytis is a pathogenic mold. The infection is spread through the use of soft, velvety gray spores. They germinate and thrive in cool, humid conditions on damp foliage.

Gray mold appears as large tan or whitish-gray spots on bracts, stems, and foliage. Broken leaves and stems are the most likely points of entry. What’s more, older stems and leaves often get infected first.

Affected areas shrink, droop, and wrinkle. Eventually, they will collapse, causing your plant to die.

How to Control
  • Proper sanitation is crucial when handling your infected plant
  • Isolating your affected plant will help curb the spread. Carefully snip away moldy stems, leaves, and flower bracts.
  • Remove and get rid of dead, diseased, or affected parts.
  • Take your bird of paradise outdoors. Apply a fungicide spray once it has thoroughly dried out.
  • Dust the cuts with fungicidal power, hydrogen peroxide, or cinnamon powder.

[5] Bacterial or Viral Infection

White Rot

Signs and Symptoms: This is a severe rot disease. It often spreads to the roots, causing root rot. Unable to acquire nutrients and water, your bird of paradise show classic symptoms:

  • A sudden appearance of white-yellowish spots
  • Yellowed leaves
  • Wilting and drooping
  • Sudden stunted growth
  • Leaf drop
Control and Management
  • Regrettably, this rot disease is fatal. Birds of paradise that are highly infected should be discarded or destroyed.
  • Remove and dispose of dead or fallen plant matter with care.
  • Make a few healthy cuttings to propagate your plant.

Mosaic Virus

Signs and Symptoms: Mosaic virus is a common problem for plants that are heavily pest-infested. This is a virus-borne leaf spot disease. It directly infects the foliage, resulting in an alternate pattern of green and white spots.

Peel your eyes away from new growths and look for tiny greenish or yellowish specks. They spread rapidly and infect the remaining leaves.

Control and Management
  • Sadly, the mosaic virus has no known cure. So, prevention is the best policy here.
  • If it’s widespread, the best course of action is safely destroying and discarding your bird of paradise. Make sure to sanitize the area and tools used.
  • As a last resort, you can repot your plant. However, I suggest that you propagate your bird of paradise using cuttings.

Septoria (White Spot)

Signs and Symptoms: This white leaf spot disease is caused by Septoria. Consistently humid and warm conditions trigger their growth.

The infection affects both stems and foliage. The circular white spots can sport a purple, red, or yellow swollen rim. They’re noticeable from spring through fall.

You’ll find corresponding tiny black pinheads on the backs of the leaves.

Control and Management
  • Cut off and discard affected stems and leaves. Don’t forget to clean your hands and sterilize the snipping tools.
  • Use a copper-based fungicide (Check the latest price on Amazon here) as treatment.

[6] Lack of Micronutrients

The appearance of white spots is often one of the major signs of nutrient deficiencies. This is often seen when your bird of paradise lacks manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, or iron.

Suppose you see an unexplained leaf yellowing, followed by white necrotic patches or spots. In that case, the issue is most often nutrient deficiency.

White Patches Due to Lack of Nutrients

How to Treat

  • For calcium deficiency, you can blend some lime into the growing mixture. You may also crush eggshells on top of the soil.
  • If it lacks copper, use a fertilizer containing copper oxide or copper sulfate.
  • Manganese-rich foliage feed or a soil fertilizer that contains manganese sulfate will do for manganese deficiency.
  • For magnesium deficiency, use Epsom salt. Add a tablespoon in 1 gallon of irrigation water.
  • A lack of iron can be treated by acidifying the potting mix. Also applying iron chalets on leaves can help fight iron deficiency.

How to Prevent White Spots on Birds of Paradise

Note that white spots can also appear on your bird of paradise because of improper fertilizing. The same is also true of frost damage, sunburn, and improper application of insecticides. 

No matter the cause, prevention is always the best policy. Here are top ways I recommend to prevent white spots from developing on your bird of paradise:

  • Provide your bird of paradise with proper lighting. I recommend a good spot with bright diffused, filtered, or indirect light.
  • Using a rich, well-drained growing mixture, repot your plant every 1 ½ to 2 years in early spring. (Source: University of Wisconsin)
  • When possible, skip watering from above. More importantly, avoid overhead irrigation or wetting the leaves.
  • Always remember to practice good sanitation procedures
  • Ensure good air circulation