The Leaves Are Curling on My Bird of Paradise

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As tropical beauties, bird of paradise plants (Strelitzia spp.) get almost as much attention for their large, paddle-shaped leaves as they do for their exotic blooms. Seeing the normally flat leaves begin to curl is alarming, but in most cases, removing the insects responsible is fairly easy. If the cause is where the bird of paradise is planted, the only fix may be to move the plant to a friendlier spot.

Tip

  • Leaf curling affects both standard and giant birds of paradise (Strelitzia reginae, Strelitzia nicolai), which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.

Aphids and Leaf Curling

Where winters are mild, sap-sucking aphids may plague birds of paradise year-round. All aphids weaken the plants and cover them with sticky, transparent waste, called honeydew. Some aphids also inject the plant with toxic, leaf-curling saliva.

Aphid Control

Aphids may give birth to as many as 12 live young per day, so controlling an infestation early is essential for the health of your plant. Monitor the bird of paradise regularly and take action as soon you spot the pests.

Cultural Control

Manage small aphid colonies by pruning the infested stems and leaves with clean, sharp stem cutters and disposing of them in sealed plastic bags.

Tip

  • Rinse your cutters in rubbing alcohol between cuts to avoid spreading aphids or disease.

To dislodge larger aphid colonies from a small bird of paradise, rinse it with a strong spray of hose water. This may require pulling the outer leaves aside to reach the inner ones, but it's critical to hit all of them on both sides.

Insecticidal Soap

Control a stubborn aphid problem with organic, ready-to-use insecticidal soap. The spray suffocates the aphids it reaches, so eliminating all the insects -- especially from a giant bird of paradise -- often takes several applications. Spray on a cloudy day when the temperature will stay below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Things You'll Need

  • Insecticidal soap concentrate

  • 1 tablespoon measuring spoon

  • 1 gallon glass or plastic container

  • Garden sprayer

  • Long-sleeved shirt, long pants and safety goggles

Step 1

Water the bird of paradise well.

Step 2

Pour 5 1/3 tablespoons, or the manufacturer's specified amount, of the insecticidal soap concentrate into the 1-gallon container, then fill the container with water.

Step 3

Dress in the long-sleeved shirt and long pants, put on the safety goggles and pour the soap mixture into the garden sprayer.

Step 4

Spray the bird of paradise until the soap runs from both sides of all its leaves and stems. Make more solution if you need it to cover the plants completely.

Step 5

Treat again every one to two weeks, or however often the soap label recommends, until the aphids are gone.

Warning

    • Spray early in the morning or after dusk, when bees and other pollinating insects aren't around. Otherwise, the soap may kill them.
    • Insecticidal soap concentrates come in different strengths. Always follow the your brand's label instructions on how much to use.

Location-Related Leaf Curl

Birds of paradise -- especially the orange-flowering ones -- look great planted near white walls or structures. Unfortunately, the light and heat reflected off those white surfaces, especially the ones with southern or western exposure, often curls and browns their leaves. If your bird of paradise has this problem, the only solution is to lift and move it away from the glare.

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