The common bird of paradise or Strelitzia reginae with bright orange and purple flowers look fantastic and can survive being cut to the ground. Pruning a bird of paradise plant more gradually however is a better way to keep this plant looking green and healthy all year round.
This article will explore the best ways to prune a bird of paradise plant and how to keep it looking great without needing to prune it all the way to the ground.
What happens when you prune a bird of paradise to the ground
At times it might be a good idea to give bird of paradise plant a good prune all the way to a few inches from the ground. For plants that have suffered from extreme damage from heavy frosts can be pruned hard in spring to refresh the whole plant.
Sometimes frost damage can be so bad that it will affect every leaf, the leaves can tear, turn brown and will not recover. Remove these dead and damaged leaves, especially if the looks like there is insect attack. Mealy bugs can attack suffering leaves so trim them off before it spreads.
Pruning all leaves and flower heads to 5 inches or so from the ground will give the plant a chance to grow new, healthy leaves and come back green.
How long it will take for leaves to grow back after pruning to the ground
Pruning a bird of paradise plant to the ground can be done in Spring after the chance of frost and very cold weather has passed. It will take many weeks or even months for the plant to fully recover however after being cut this significantly.
Think about this before getting your secateurs and cutting the whole plant back. I had removed most of a single bird of paradise plant, cutting it right back to the stem and it still has not grown back. I expect it will be later in spring or early summer before I see leaves return on this plant.
It is much better to keep your bird of paradise looking great to give it a lighter trim and only remove damaged leaves or finished flower stems. This will keep your bird of paradise looking green and still a feature of your garden even if it doesn’t have flowers yet.
When to prune bird of paradise
Pruning Strelitzia reginae is best done in spring or whenever you see dead leaves or finished flower heads. Bird of paradise will add new growth and stems in the warmer months so this is the best time to remove old leaves and make room for new ones.
Leave old growth on the plant during the cooler winter months. This will protect the plant from frosts, allowing it to photosynthesize in the low light levels. Any frost damaged leaves can be removed in Spring once there is no longer risk of a late Spring frost.
Best way to prune bird of paradise
There are better ways to prune bird of paradise plants that mean you do not remove all the leaves at once. This will keep the plant looking green all year round and avoid the unsightly ground cut bushy look.
Remove dead leaves
Removing dead leaves is the first step to pruning your bird of paradise. Look for leaves that have turned partly or fully brown from the leaf tip down.
While wearing garden gloves, use sharp secateurs to trim the leaf down by the next stem. Cut the leaf off on an angle and close to the base of the next healthy stem. Cutting the leaf on an angle will prevent water from sitting on the end of the cut and causing rot or disease.
The leaves can but cut into smaller pieces and added to your compost. You can also simply chop and drop them on the top of a garden bed as mulch. They will eventually break down and work into the soil.
Remove dead flowers
Once bird of paradise flowers have finished, they will turn brown on the flower head and down the stem. These flowers can be pruned off close to the base, or near the ground. Trim them back down to the healthy stem of the plant for a neat, clean look.
Bird of paradise flowers will break down in your compost but to speed up the process, chop them into smaller pieces using secateurs or garden shears.
How long it takes for bird of paradise leaves to grow back
Bird of paradise plants that have been trimmed back to the ground can take months to grow back to full size. There is no need to trim them back this hard under normal conditions and it is much better to take it a bit at a time.
After a full trim, you may need to wait for a full season for the leaves to return. For harsh pruning done in spring, it could be Fall or even the next spring before it returns to its full glory.
Bird of paradise grow from rhizomes or an underground roots system that is protected under the soil. Even if the leaves are damaged the rhizome will stay protected and can store energy to re-grow new leaves.
Feed the plant with pelted chicken manure over Spring to give it a nutrient boost to help it to grow new leaves. This is a mild fertilizer with plenty of nitrogen which will feed the soil microbes, worms and the plant.
Can I cut bird of paradise to the ground? | Summary
While bird of paradise plants can be cut down to the ground, they don’t need this treatment unless they have suffered from a lot of leaf damage. Harsh frosts or pest attack can be a good reason to trim off all of the leaves close to the ground.
A gentle trim to remove dead or damaged leaves and finished flower heads is a great way to keep your bird of paradise looking great and green for the whole year.
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