Bird of paradise plants are a beautiful and hardy plant that looks great over winter with its bright flowers. Bird of paradise species with large leaves can develop splits which can occur naturally as a response to wind or damage or due to environmental stressors.
The top causes of bird of paradise leaves splitting include strong winds, physical damage, pest attack, drying out too much, sunburn or a lack of nutrients.
This article will explore the top causes of bird of paradise leaves splitting and how you can prevent each one.
Why bird of paradise leaves split and solutions
Here are the top causes of bird of paradise leaves splitting and how to solve each one.
1. Natural weak points in the steams
Bird of paradise leaves are structured in a way that they have natural weak points along the leaf. This will enable the leaf to split when they are exposed to strong winds or tropical storms. This will help to stop the leaves from being bent and broken or from the whole plant being torn out of the ground.
This can happen in your backyard if the plant is growing in an open and exposed area. The leaves will tear when the winds whip through.
To protect your bird of paradise leaves from tearing plant them in a protected area near a wall, garden screen or among other trees and shrubs. Any way you can limit their wind exposure will help to reduce leaf split.
2. Old leaves
Old bird of paradise leaves will naturally tear over time. As the leaf gets older and starts to break the tears will get deeper. Bird of paradise will naturally replace old leaves with new ones over time. They will die back from the outside in and turn brown.
As the leaf dries the tears will extend. The simplest solution is to remove old leaf stems before the leaves tear. Cut the leaves off as soon as they start to turn brown to keep your bird of paradise plant looking green.
Old leaf replacement is a completely natural process and the leaves can die back throughout the year.
3. Pest attack
Bird of paradise leaves that are attacked by pests will start to develop tears. Chewing pests such as snails, slugs and caterpillars will bite into the leaf edges causing them to tear further. I find that chewing bugs will start small tears in the leaf edges which start to ripple.
Slugs and snails can be trapped in shallow beer trays before they get to your bird of paradise plant. Place shallow dishes full of beer around your plants and they will crawl in and die.
I prefer to flick caterpillars off with a small spade or gloved hands. The caterpillars can be squished with your show without needing to use pesticides.
4. Lack of water
Bird of paradise plants that dry out too much can develop tears in their leaves. The leaf will lose moisture and be more susceptible to tearing in the wind or due to physical damage. Bird of paradise plants grow from rhizomes and have large roots that hold loads of water.
They can dry out in pots however if they are not regularly watered. In summer, bird of paradise plants benefit from watering at least once per week.
5. Lack of nutrients
Bird of paradise plants that are not getting the right balance of nutrients can develop tears in their leaves. Feed bird of paradise once per year with slow release organic fertilizer.
Plant them in good quality potting soil if you are growing them in pots. If you are growing bird of paradise plants in the ground, dig through aged cow manure and compost before planting. Mounding the soil a little will also help with drainage.
Bird of paradise plants only need minimal fertilizer. Overfertilizing can lead to them not producing flowers over winter. Give them a dose of slow release fertilizer each spring and they will be happy. I choose pelleted chicken manure because it is organic and natural.
Sunburnt bird of paradise plants can develop torn leaves. Sunburnt leaves will have brown or yellow edges. Bird of paradise plants exposed to extreme heat or moved outdoors too fast after being indoors can develop burn.
My plants that are grown near concrete walls will develop sunburn on the leaves closest to the wall. The reflected heat will burn the leaves leaving them brown and eventually torn. Sunburn weakens leaves and they can form tear lines.
7. Lack of humidity
Bird of paradise plants are tropical and love warm weather, regular water and humidity. Moisture in the air will help to prevent tearing in the leaves.
8. Physical damage
Physical damage is another common cause of bird of paradise leaves tearing. Pets and kids can run past these trees and knock the leaves. This can easily cause the leaf to tear. The leaf will continue to photosynthesize if it is still attached to the main stem. You can leave it on or cut it off.
Why are my bird of paradise leaves splitting? | Summary
Bird of paradise plants naturally have weak points along their leaves that will split when they are exposed to extreme wind or weather. This will help the stem to move in the wind and prevent them from breaking.
If the plant is under stress with a lack of water, sunlight or nutrients the leaves will be weaker and can split. Bird of paradise plants are hardy but make sure they don’t dry out, especially if they are growing in pots. This can slow their growth and lead to leaf tear.
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.