Why are the leaves on my Bird of Paradise turning brown?

If you notice that your Bird of Paradise has started to develop brown leaves, this is a sign that your plant is a little unhappy.

Whether it’s the incredible bird-like flowers or the luscious tropical leaves, there are so many reasons to fall in love with the Bird of Paradise plant. Although they are native to the tropics, this doesn’t mean they can’t thrive in your home if things are right. If you notice that your Bird of Paradise has started to develop brown leaves, this is a sign that your plant is a little unhappy. But don’t fret, we will be going through the different reasons why Bird of Paradise plants develop brown leaves so you can figure out what is wrong with your plant and fix the issue before it’s too late. 

Underwatering can often cause brown leaves

If your Bird of Paradise has developed dry, crispy brown leaves it is often due to a lack of water. Although Bird of Paradises don’t like frequent watering and hate sitting in puddles of excess water, this doesn’t mean that they can survive for long periods of time with really dry soil. If you think you may have underwatered your Bird of Paradise, take your plant out of the pot and inspect the potting mix.

It’s important to inspect the health of the root system at this stage as well to see if there is any damage so you know how long the issue has been going on. If there are any dead roots, trim them away so your Bird of Paradise can start to grow healthier ones.

Your first instinct to solve an underwatered Bird of Paradise and its brown leaves, might be to give your plant lots of water. But this will actually just cause further issues and instead, you want to gradually reintroduce watering in small amounts to prevent any shock (yes plants get shocked by a change of environment too!) Water your plant a little every day for a few days and then space your watering out to once a fortnight during the growing season and once a month over winter.

To prevent any more brown leaves from developing, it could be worth investing in a moisture meter. These handy devices are pretty cheap and remove all of the guesswork that comes with watering plants, this is our favourite one from Amazon and it does a great job of keeping our plants happy!

Brown leaf tips can indicate a lack of humidity

If the edges and leaf tips of your Bird of Paradise are turning brown, then dry air may be the culprit. During winter, our homes can be especially dry as the heating is on and the windows are closed so it’s something we need to be more conscious of during that time. Although we could never reach tropical levels of humidity in our home (as it would be really uncomfortable to live in), there are a few things we can do to help raise the humidity and stop any more brown leaf tips on our Bird of Paradise plants.

Mist the leaves

This is a great habit to get into for your Bird of Paradise as they need a little boost to their humidity to avoid drying out and developing brown leaves. Mist the leaves using a spray bottle a few times a week. But never mist in the evening as the cold air at night will mean the leaves are a lot more likely to rot if damp.

Misting is also a great way to get rid of dust and pests that might be living on your plant without you knowing. 

Shower your plant

Another super simple way to boost the humidity for your Bird of Paradise and stop brown leaves, is by giving your plant a shower. This will also rid your plant of any pests that might be lingering. Pop your Bird of Paradise in the shower and wash down the leaves. As they have quite sturdy leaves, you can get away with medium water pressure but we recommend keeping it low to avoid breaking the plant. 

Pick the right room

Some rooms in your home will have a naturally higher humidity level than others. The kitchen and bathroom are the main ones as steam from showering or cooking will increase the level of water vapour in the air. If you have good lighting in those rooms then move your Bird of Paradise in there if it is suffering from a lack of humidity. This should avoid any further brown leaf tips!

Invest in a humidifier

If you are looking for a more long-term solution for your Bird of Paradise’s brown leaf tips then buying a humidifier is the option for you. Some humidifiers even have settings in them that will keep a constant level or turn on and off on a set schedule. They are also thought to help with getting better sleep and clearer skin so it’s not just a good investment for your plants.

This is the humidifier we use from Amazon and our plants love it!

Brown leaves can also suggest chemical sensitivity issues

Over time build-up of excess fertiliser, chlorine or fluoride from tap water can cause issues for your plant and your Bird of Paradise plant’s leaves might start turning brown or black. There are two really simple ways to fix this. The first is to run water through the pot for a little while to flush out all of the chemical buildups. If that doesn’t seem to fix the problem you can always re-pot with fresh soil and this will solve the issue very quickly.

Watch out for extreme temperatures

Make sure that you draft proof any windows/ doors that are close to your Bird of Paradise (and other tropical or heat-loving houseplants) as well as moving them away from any air conditioning vents as these can be quite damaging to your plants during summer and cause brown leaves pretty quickly. Using a digital thermometer is an easy way to monitor the temperature in your home and allow you to check for any cold drafts.

If your Bird of Paradise is in quite a cool room, this can also increase the risk of overwatering and root rot (which can cause a whole range of problems such as brown leaves). Your Bird of Paradise won’t need as much water as the soil will take a lot longer to dry out in cooler temperatures. This can be the perfect place for root rot and leaf rot to occur so be extra cautious when it comes to caring for your Bird of Paradise in winter or in colder rooms in your home.

Warm temperatures and hotspots next to windows that can be formed from direct sunlight can also dry out your Bird of Paradise and cause brown leaves. Using a temperature monitor can also help you avoid this problem, as well as moving them at least 1 metre away from radiators, stoves and heating vents.

Not enough sunlight can sometimes cause brown leaves

Although Bird of Paradise plants can grow in a variety of light conditions (although you won’t see many flowers in medium light levels), not enough sunlight can cause brown leaves. You want to find a spot in your home that gets ample indirect sunlight. The number 1 thing you must not do if your Bird of Paradise is suffering due to a lack of light is put it somewhere that gets more direct sunlight. The leaves are too delicate and will scorch and burn during summer as the sunlight becomes very intense and will cause more issues than a few brown leaves.

Inspect your Bird of Paradise for pests 

A slightly less common reason why your Bird of Paradises leaves are turning brown is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as spider mites and scale insects take hold of your plant and the infestation can spread pretty quickly. Take a close look at your plant to spot any insects on the leaves, using a magnifying glass can help with this.

If you find pests on your Bird of Paradise we recommend giving the whole plant a long shower. Make sure the shower isn’t on full pressure wash down the leaves and the soil with room temperature water. You should also treat your Bird of Paradise with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation.

Make sure to check over your other plants in the room to see if any other plants have pests. Keep your Bird of Paradise (and other infected plants) a good distance away from any of your other houseplants as you don’t want the pests to spread.

Those are the most common reasons why Bird of Paradise plants may develop brown leaves or brown leaf tips. Some of these won’t necessarily cause your plant to die if untreated, but watering issues and pests must be dealt with immediately as these can very quickly cause your Bird of Paradise to die. After making changes to your plant’s environment or care routine, keep a close eye on your plant to make sure the changes are making a positive difference. 

To find out more about caring for your plant, as well as other common issues or propagation advice, check out our Bird of Paradise care guide.


Written by Joanna Turner


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