Why is my Bird of Paradise plant turning yellow?

Adored for its orange and purple flowers, the Bird of Paradise plant brings the tropical vibe right to your home. However, it can happen that the leaves might start to turn yellow if things aren’t quite right.

Adored for its orange and purple flowers, the Bird of Paradise plant brings the tropical vibe right to your home. However, it can happen that the leaves might start to turn yellow if things aren’t quite right. In this post, we will be going through the different reasons why yellow leaves develop on Bird of Paradise plants, from environmental causes to how you can tweak your care routine to prevent more yellow leaves.

Low light levels can cause yellow leaves

Not enough sunlight can cause some yellowing in the leaves of your Bird of Paradise. As well as yellow leaves, you’ll notice smaller growth as well as stunted growth during the warmer months. 

If you suspect that a lack of natural sunlight is the cause of the yellow leaves on your Bird of Paradise, start by placing your plant nearer to a window. If this is happening during winter, you can get away with placing your Bird of Paradise right by the window as the direct sun rays won’t be as intense as in summer. However, during summer, you’ll want to be a little more cautious as to how much extra sunlight you give your Bird of Paradise as too much light can also cause some issues if too intense.

A pest infestation causes yellow leaves

A slightly rarer but more worrying cause of yellow leaves on a Bird of Paradise plant is a pest infestation. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects can make your Bird of Paradise their home and can cause real damage to your beloved plant. The pests will suck on the leaves, exhausting the plant and causing the leaves to turn yellow. They are also known to bite small holes through the leaves which is one way you can spot there is a problem.

Most pests you can spot just by closely inspecting the leaves (a magnifying glass helps here). Make sure you inspect the undersides of the leaves and the stem joints as that’s where they like to hang out. If you do spot pests on your plant, make sure to move your Bird of Paradise away from any of your other houseplants. Pests can spread across plants if they are close enough so it’s best to isolate your infected plant immediately.

Each type of pest needs to be treated slightly differently but the first steps are always to remove the worst affected leaves to cut down on the number of pests to kill and then wash your Bird of Paradise down in the shower before treating with an insecticidal spray or soap. There are other treatments such as neem oil that are also quite successful in curbing the infestations and are definitely worth a try. If you have caught the problem before it has turned the whole plant yellow then you should be able to get rid of the infestation. If things don’t start to improve after a few weeks of treatment, you may have to say goodbye to your plant as it’s not worth risking the pests killing your entire urban jungle.

Overwatering can also cause yellow leaves

If the leaves on your Bird of Paradise have turned yellow you may be overwatering your plant. Another thing to look out for that is caused by overwatering is whether those yellow leaves are starting to drop from the plant.

Overwatering is one of the main killers of Bird of Paradise as you might not always be able to tell before it is too late. Bird of Paradises can tolerate some soggy soil compared to most other plants but don’t like to be in waterlogged soil for too long as this will cause the roots to rot which starves the plant of water and nutrients which then turns the leaves yellow. 

Before you go changing anything about how you water your Bird of Paradise, you’ll want to check the moisture levels in the soil to confirm this is causing the yellow leaves. The most reliable way to know if your Bird of Paradise needs watering is by using a moisture meter. If the soil is soggy, change out the potting soil straight away (rather than waiting for it to naturally dry out) so that the roots can begin to recover. Always use a high-quality potting mix to make sure your Bird of Paradise is getting the right balance of nutrients. Trim off the rotten roots and dead yellow leaves so that your Bird of Paradise can focus all of its energy on growing new healthy leaves.

Natural ageing of your plant

There’s one more cause of yellow leaves on Bird of Paradise plants which is actually nothing to worry about at all; natural ageing. As your Bird of Paradise matures, it will want to spend a lot of energy on new growth which can sometimes mean it drops one or two of the older leaves. Before the leaves fall from the plant, they’ll often turn yellow. This is nothing to worry about as long as the rate of yellowing is slow (a couple of leaves every year).

Those are the top 4 reasons why Bird of Paradise plants develop yellow leaves, some of which are more worrying than others. It’s important you inspect your plant’s environment, leaves and potting mix to figure out which of the above reasons fits with what is happening to your plant. If the yellow leaves are caused by something other than natural ageing, it’s important you diagnose the problem and fix it quickly or it can lead your plant to die. 

To find out more about how to best care for your plant, as well as diagnose and fix other common issues that might come up, check out our Bird of Paradise care guide. 

Written by Joanna Turner


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