Bird of paradise leaves that open before they have grown long can happen if the plant is stressed, if it is growing from a new bulb or if it has suffered pest damage. Making sure the plant gets plenty of water, sunlight and is planted in free draining soil will help it to grow large, long leaves and it will fill out quickly.
This article will explore why bird of paradise leaves open too soon, how you can get bigger and longer leaves and fill out your bird of paradise plant.
Top reasons why bird of paradise leaves open too soon
Here are the top causes of bird of paradise leaves opening up too soon and how you can solve each one.
1. The plant is stressed
Water stress, transplanting, root damage or root rot can all cause stress to the plant and cause the leaves to stay small and open up while the stems are short. If you have recently transplanted your bird of paradise and pruned the roots harshly it can take some time for the plant to recover.
You may notice that some of the bulbs will produce small leaves when they first start growing. After around 2-3 months the plant will usually recover from the root pruning and will grow longer leaves that open up later.
Check the soil moisture level with your finger and deep water the plant if it has dried out. Water stress can cause the plant to develop small leaves that open early. Give your plant a handful of pelleted chicken manure and water it in well. This will give it a small dose of nitrogen to help it to recover.
2. Pest damage
Bird of paradise leaves that have been damaged on the ends can open up sooner. Pests such as caterpillars, snails and slugs can chew on the ends of the leaves causing damage. The leaf will often open up too soon as a result with smaller stems.
Other pests like aphids and thrips that suck the sap from the leaf can cause stress to the leaf and plant. These small bugs will sit on the stem or the underside of the leaf. These can be squirted off with a jet stream from your hose or treated with neem oil.
Set a beer trap to catch snails and slugs to stop them from eating the tips of your leaves. The leaf will open up fully and the stem will continue to grow if the pests are removed.
3. New bulbs
New bulbs that sprout from the side of the main rhizome can grow shorter leaves that open up earlier. As the bulb grows it will be able to support larger leaves with longer stems. The first leaves from new bulbs can be small and will open up quickly. Over time the plant will mature and this will correct itself.
Just make sure the plant is growing in well draining soil, is fed with a gentle organic fertilizer in spring and is watered well during the dry months. Grow them in full sun to encourage large healthy leaves and more flowers over winter.
4. Not enough sunlight
Bird of paradise plants grown in deep shade or those getting less than 6 hours of sunlight can develop short stemmed leaves that open too early. Bird of paradise will add lots of leaf growth in spring and even into fall and winter if they are given enough sunlight.
I have found that my plants that are getting less light are growing small leaves with short stems. Those that are getting at least 6 hours of sunlight will grow more leaves, bigger rhizomes and lots of flowers earlier in the season.
5. Poor soil
Bird of paradise plants that are growing in poor soil can develop small leaves that open too early. Soil that is not free draining, is to heavy like clay can cause the roots to suffer, can cause root rot and can stunt the growth of these plants.
Bird of paradise plants thrive in free draining soil so improve heavy clay with compost and aged cow manure. These mild fertilizers are full of organic matter which will aerate the soil and allow the water to drain out easier.
How long does it take for Birds of Paradise leaves to open?
Bird of paradise leaves can take up to 4 weeks to fully emerge and open. They are slow growing plants and leaves that grow during winter can open slowly. This is completely normal and allows the stem to grow long and the leaf to grow large.
If the bird of paradise plant is in full sun, it will grow out quicker. Leaves that emerge in spring can open as fast as 1-2 weeks. Plants that are given enough water and are growing in free draining soil will generally grow leaves faster and larger.
How do you fix a stuck leaf unfurl?
If bird of paradise leaves have become stuck you can trim the top 1-2 inches to where the leaf is healthy. Leaves can become stuck and will not open if the top fibers knit together. This will stop the leaf from emerging and the bulb can die if it is not fixed.
Stuck leaves can be caused if there is a sudden change in weather or if there is damage to the leaf at the top. This can be caused by bugs, frost damage or physical damage. Trimming the top of the leaf will release it and it should emerge after this.
Bird of Paradise Leaf Opening Too Soon | Summary
Leaves that open too soon on bird of paradise plants can be caused by stress to the plant. Regular water, well draining soil and a warm position that gets lots of sunlight will help the leaves to grow properly. Trim off any damage to stuck leaves to help them recover. Deal with the pests and your plant will recover fast.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.