Causes of Bird Of Paradise Leaves Curling And How To Fix

The Bird of Paradise plant is possibly the most majestic of tropical plants, standing out among the crowd due to its brilliant blossoms, enormous foliage, and uncanny resemblance to a tropical bird.

But if your Bird of Paradise is anything less than healthy and becomes stressed, curling leaves can occur.

Providing the right balance of care and knowing what environmental factors can trigger stress is the best way to avoid problems, so here’s everything you need to know about the causes of Bird of Paradise leaves curling, what to do if it happens, and how to fix it.

Why Are the Leaves of My Bird Of Paradise Curling?

Curling leaves are primarily caused by a lack of water and humidity. However, soil quality, cool temperatures, insufficient lighting or fertilization, pests, disease, root-boundness, and transplant stress are all potential reasons for curling leaves, too.

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Green Leaves Curling

In these plants, the most common cause of leaf curling is dehydration.

It’s basic biology that water is absorbed by the roots and then transported up to the stems and leaves. This process is vital photosynthesis in leaves. When it fails, the leaves curl to conserve energy.

That being said, there are a host of other reasons why your leaves could be curling. You just need a little patience to investigate and diagnose before jumping into trying to fix the problem.

Leaves Curling and Turning Yellow

Root rot causes leaves to curl and turn yellow or brown. This common disease occurs because of overwatering or poor drainage, which results in soggy soil.

Roots cannot survive long in constantly waterlogged conditions and, as a result, they stop functioning correctly and are unable to take on water and nutrients. The outcome of this is dehydration throughout the plant, which is first visible in the leaves.  

To avoid poor drainage, make sure the bottom of the pot has a hole big enough for excess water to drain through after watering.

Additionally, you may want to add perlite as a natural filtration method to the soil. This will improve aeration as well.

Leaves Curling and Drooping

Temperature is an important aspect of the health of your plant. For example, if your plant is subjected to intense heat, its leaves will curl, dry out, and droop. Conversely, as a defense mechanism to keep warm, the leaves will curl.

Altering the temperature to a fixed maximum of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or transferring your plant to a better light source can help with both issues.

Leaves Curling And Browning

One of three factors could be causing your plant’s leaves to curl and brown: under-watering, over-fertilizing, or too much sun exposure.

It’s easy to underwater, especially if you have had a busy week. Sometimes it is easy to forget to water your plants! Don’t be concerned! This is an easy fix. Simply give your plant a nice, long drink of water.

I recommend bottom-watering for the best results. This allows water to seep into the pot gradually via the drainage hole in the bottom. Fill your sink halfway with water and soak the plant for no more than an hour. This should provide enough time for it to absorb sufficient water. 

Another contributing factor to your plant’s leaves curling and browning may be over-fertilizing. Too much fertilizer product, fertilizing too often, or using a high dose of N-P-K will cause the product to accumulate in the soil. This causes burning in leaves, stems, and roots.

Lastly, if your plant is sitting in direct sunlight, its leaves are likely curling and browning because of over-exposure to the sun.

Intense light will burn its leaves, and this will cause them to turn brown. Fortunately, this is a simple repair! Relocate your plant further away from the direct sun to prevent further damage.

Leaves Curling And Splitting

Getting the right balance of water is vital. So if you notice that your plant’s leaves are curling and splitting, it may need more water or more humidity.

Causes of Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling

There are many reasons why your plant’s leaves might be curling: insufficient water, inconsistent light, not enough humidity, and over-fertilization are the main culprits. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know to fix it once you’ve identified the problem.

Overwater Or Underwatering

The way that you water your Bird of Paradise has a big impact on its success. It’s easy to overwater or underwater your plants.

If you suspect that you have overwatered, simply wait a few days for it to dry up. If it’s taking longer than you think it should dry out, you may need to improve the drainage. Look for a drainage hole in the bottom of the container and add perlite to the soil.

Adjust your watering schedule to a more frequent pace if you feel you have under-watered.

How Often Should You Water Bird of Paradise?

I prefer not to water on a schedule. Instead, I’ve discovered that it’s better to water these plants based on how they appear or how the soil feels.

If the soil is damp, give them another day or two to dry out. Let the top 50% of the soil dry out before you water again.

Pour water slowly until it drains out the bottom hole, then discard any standing water. Alternatively, fill up a sink and let the container sit in the water for an hour.

Root Rot

According to Clemson University, root rot is commonly caused by slow-draining soil or watering too frequently.

Yellow or curling leaves and stunted growth are early signs of root rot. If this is the case, pull your plant out of its pot and check the roots.

If they are white and firm, they are healthy. If they are brownish and flimsy, cut away the infected roots and repot in fresh well-draining soil.

How Do I Know If My Bird Of Paradise Needs Water?

If your plant’s leaves start curling or drooping, you know it’s time to water! Keep an eye on your plants and they will tell you what they need. I like to use my finger to test the soil moisture by pushing it halfway into the soil.

If it’s damp, wait a few days before watering it again.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

The Bird of Paradise, like so many other tropical, low-growing plants, dislikes direct sunlight. In fact, their leaves will be burned if exposed to direct sunlight and curling can appear as they try to protect the surface area of leaves from excessive light.

The best position is in a warm and bright yet sheltered spot. Avoid direct sunlight at the hottest part of the day.

Low Humidity

Because it is a tropical plant, the Bird of Paradise requires humidity levels of at least 50%, but the higher the humidity, the better.

If you suspect that your houseplant is not getting enough humidity, you could consider adding a plant humidifier to the room or adding pebbles and a little water to the drip tray.

Making a pebble tray is a simple way to increase the amount of humidity in your home. Fill a shallow dish with water and add pebbles. Make sure the water level does not rise to the point where it will reach your pot – that could lead to soggy soil which could lead to root rot. Once you are finished, place your pot on top.

Should You Mist Bird Of Paradise?

All tropical plants enjoy high levels of humidity and Bird of Paradise is no exception. If you are unable to replicate the 50% plus range of humidity that these plants need then occasional misting is a great idea.


You are in good company if you have struggled with over-fertilizing your plants. It always starts with the best of intentions, but it can be easy to miscalculate the dosage or think a plant needs more than the prescribed amount.

Your plant’s drooping or curled leaves and crusty, white soil should be a good indication that you have over-fertilized.

You can use a procedure called ‘leaching’ if you think you have over-fertilized your plant. This is a quick and easy way to drain extra fertilizer from your soil. But do bear in mind that this method only works if your pot has a hole in the bottom.

All you need to do is pour twice as much water into the pot as it can hold. Let it drain out the bottom completely before you water it again. 

How Often And When To Fertilize Bird Of Paradise

These plants like balanced fertilizer that has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A quality 10-10-10 fertilizer is a good place to start.

During the growing season, apply fertilizer every three months. Before and after applying granular fertilizer, make sure to water your plant. Fertilizer should not be left on the leaves or around the base of the stem.

Soil Conditions

These resilient plants thrive in well-drained organic soil. They can grow in a variety of soil types with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5.


When growing indoors, don’t plant your Bird of Paradise too deeply in the pot. Root exposure along with plenty of bright but indirect sunshine will promote flower production.

These plants like to be nice and snug in their pots. Repot only if the roots are really cramped.

Curling Leaves After Propagating

Chemicals in your water could be the cause of yellowing leaves. New cuttings or plant divisions from propagation are very sensitive to chemicals in the water. For most people, tap water contains more chlorine than your plants would prefer.

Not to worry! Just switch to using distilled water instead of tap water. If you don’t have access to bottled water, you can boil some water and use it on your plants once it has cooled.

Curling Leaves After Re-Potting

When repotting a plant, any disruption of the roots may cause stress to the plant. The leaves may become curled or yellow as the plant’s natural defense mechanism comes into force because of the change.

There’s no need to be concerned. This is quite common and after 4 to 6 weeks your plant should bounce back to normal. If however, the issue persists, then revisit all the possible causes to identify the problem.

How And When To Prune Bird of Paradise

Pruning is vital and serves to eliminate old plant matter as well as thin or broken leaves. Leaving damaged, distressed or discolored leaves on your plant will only hinder its growth since the plant will continue to force energy towards these failing areas.

Early spring is the optimum time to prune. Make sure your shears are clean and sterile before you start. Dirty scissors are an easy way to spread infection and disease.

Any distressed, discolored, dead, or dying leaves and stems should be cut back to just above the ground level. Clean up any thinning foliage and remove dead blooms to the roots.

Removing Curling Leaves

Heavy pruning should be postponed until the weather warms up so that your plant can recuperate. When the weather becomes cooler, I let my plant’s curled leaves wilt and fall off naturally instead of cutting them off at the wrong time of year.

Final Thoughts: Curling Bird Of Paradise Leaves

Curling leaves suggest that your Bird of Paradise is unable to prosper in its current environment. The most common reasons for leaf curling include over and under-watering, insufficient lighting, over-fertilizing, and lack of humidity.

Plant health is determined by the way the leaves hang and the color of the leaves. As you strive to diagnose and heal your plants, be patient. Reviving your houseplants shouldn’t be stressful but it can take a little practice.