Holes in Bird of Paradise Leaves (6 Causes and Solutions)

Holes in bird of paradise plants can be caused by chewing bugs like snails, slugs and caterpillars. Chewing insects like leaf miners can make holes and lines in leaves. Sap sucking insects like aphids and spidermite can cause the leaves to develop yellow marks, and eventually brown holes.  

To get rid of sap sucking insects spray it with neem oil. Avoid watering bird of paradise directly on the leaves to avoid rust or fungus growing.

This article will explore the top causes of holes in bird of paradise leaves and how to prevent this from happening.

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1. Snails and slugs

Outdoor bird of paradise plants can be eaten by snails and slugs. They will chew holes in the leaf or along the edges leaving them torn and tattered.

The bird of paradise plants will have natural tear lines along their leaves that can open up if they have been chewed on by slugs and snails.

This bird of paradise plant has had big holes eaten from the middle and the edges have been chewed.

These creatures will crawl out from the organic matter on the ground to bird of paradise leaves. Look out for holes or chew marks on the edges of leaves. If you get up early you can sometimes catch the slugs and snails before they return back into hiding away from birds.

They will leave a silver trail where they have visited and crawled.  

Snails and slugs can be caught in a beer trap. Fill a shallow dish with a small amount of beer and they will crawl in and die. You can surround bird of paradise with used coffee grounds or crushed egg shells to help to form a barrier around your bird of paradise.

If bugs chew on the leaves before they unfurl they will get holes in a pattern or straight line.

2. Scale

Scale insects suck the sap from the green leaves of the bird of paradise. They will leave tears and holes in the healthy. Scale insects can be a range of colors and shapes but are usually brown. They can form a hard coating over themselves and seal tightly to the leaf.

There is a scale bug eating holes in this bird of paradise leaf.

Scale insects can be treated with neem oil. Once they attach themselves to the leaf it can take a few applications of neem oil to get rid of them. Of the leaf has a lot of tears and damage, remove it from the base.

3. Leaf miners

Leaf miners (liriomyza) include a range of tiny flies that can bury their way into the bird of paradise plant causing holes or chew lines. Leaf miners chew on the surface of the leaf sucking up the sap, nutrients and water from the leaves. This can lead to weak spots on the leaves and tear marks.

Leaf miners are only 2-3mm in length but they can cause damage to bird of paradise leaves.

Treat leaf miners with neem oil. You can dilute neem oil yourself in a spray bottle or buy it pre-mixed. I have found that a small bottle of concentrate will last for years. It can be used to treat sap sucking insects on other plants like citrus trees.

Take indoor bird of paradise plants outside and spray the leaves thoroughly on the front and back. For outdoor bird of paradise plants you may need to repeat the neem oil application if it rains.

This will usually need to be repeated again in 4-5 days. This will catch any larvae left on the leaves. Neem oil is a natural extract from the neem tree. This organic treatment is perfect for sap sucking insects like leaf miners which can bury into the bird of paradise leaf.

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4. Caterpillars

Outdoor bird of paradise plants can be attacked by caterpillars. These bugs will feed on the soft leaves chewing holes and laying their eggs on the plant. It is rare to get caterpillars on indoor bird of paradise but check the plant before bringing it indoors if it has been outside.

Caterpillars can be flicked off with gloved hands or a small spade. Shake them off into a bucket of water mixed with dish liquid to keep them away from good. Avoid using nasty pesticides which can harm wildlife or pets.

5. Rust

Rust is a fungus that can grow on bird of paradise leaves. It looks brown, yellow or a deep red color and forms on the leaves if there is a lot of moisture around.

There are many types of fungus that can affect plant leaves and they can appear as dark spot which can eventually turn brown, yellow and lead to holes in the leaves. Fungal infections will weaken the leaf causing holes to form over time.

Rust spots on leaves can be yellow, orange or brown.

Fungal leaf infections can be treated with copper fungicides or natural fungal sprays. The leaf will need to be thoroughly sprayed outdoors to treat the problem. If the fungus has only affected 1 or two leaves, trim off the leaves and throw them away. This can help to stop the problem from spreading to other leaves.

Avoid watering the plant directly on the leaves to avoid carrying or spreading the fungus. This is particularly important during fall and winter when the weather is cooler and the leaves can stay wet for longer.

6. Aphids

Aphids can cause holes in outdoor bird of paradise plants. Tiny green or brown aphids will sit along the leaf stems or veins of the leaf sucking sap. These bugs will eventually cause the leaf to wilt, turn yellow and then brown if the aphids are not treated. This leaf damage can develop into torn or holy leaves.

Outdoor bird of paradise plants can be attacked by aphids, most commonly in spring.

Treat the plants with neem oil to get rid of the aphids quickly. They usually only need 1-2 sprays of neem oil to treat the aphids. If there are only a small number of aphids then spray them off with the sprayer nozzle on your hose. Set it to the jet setting and spray the aphids away.

Should you remove bird of paradise leaves with holes?

You can use clean secateurs to remove bird of paradise leaves with holes. This is important if the leaves have been affected by fungus or bacteria. Throw the affected leaves in the bin rather than adding it to a compost pile.

Bird of paradise leaves that have holes from insects can be removed or left on if the insect pests have been dealt with. If the leaf only has a small amount of damage and you only have a few leaves on your plant then I would leave it on. As long as the leaf is still green it will continue to photosynthesize and feed the plant.

This bird of paradise leaf should be removed. It is old, affected by fungus and is tearing.

How to prevent holes in bird of paradise leaves

To prevent holes in bird of paradise plants, keep them as healthy as possible and keep water off of the leaves. Here are my top tips to prevent holes in bird of paradise leaves.

  1. Avoid watering plants directly on the leaves
  2. Fertilize outdoor bird of paradise once per year with pelleted chicken manure and indoor plants can be fertilized once per year with indoor plant food in spring.
  3. Avoid bird of paradise root rot by only watering when the soil is dry 2 inches down. This will help to avoid fungal root rot.
  4. Plant bird of paradise plants in good quality potting soil. This will allow for good drainage and give the plants the water and nutrients they need.
  5. Place bird of paradise in full sun outdoors. Bird of paradise plants love a full sun position. This will give you healthy strong leaves and loads of flowers over winter.

Top Causes of Holes in Bird of paradise Leaves | Summary

Holes in bird of paradise plants can come from chewing pests, sap sucking insects, fungus or physical damage. Inspect the leaves closely to see if there are any bugs about. Snails and slugs will retreat under the organic matter on the soil surface during the day so get up early to see if you can catch them.

Happy growing.