By: Liz Baessler
Bird of paradise, also known as Strelitzia, is a beautiful and truly unique looking plant. A close relative of the banana, the bird of paradise gets its name from its splayed, brightly colored, pointed flowers that look a lot like a bird in flight. It’s a striking plant, so it can be a real blow when it falls victim to a disease and stops looking its best. Keep reading to learn more about common diseases on bird of paradise plants and methods of bird of paradise disease treatment.
Common Strelitzia Diseases
As a rule, bird of paradise diseases are few and far between. That doesn’t mean the plant is disease free, of course. The most common disease is root rot. This tends to crop up when the roots of the plant are allowed to sit in water or soggy soil for too long, and it can usually be avoided by letting the soil dry out between waterings.
Really, though, root rot is a fungus that is carried on seeds. If you’re starting a bird of paradise from seed, the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Hawaii at Manoa recommends soaking the seeds for one day in room temperature water, then for half an hour in 135 F. (57 C.) water. This process should kill the fungus. Since most gardeners aren’t starting from seed, however, simply keeping water in check is a more practical bird of paradise disease treatment method.
Other bird of paradise plant diseases include leaf blight. In fact, it’s another common cause behind ailing bird of paradise plants. It manifests itself as white spots on the leaves surrounded by a ring in a shade of green different from that of the plant. Leaf blight can usually be treated by an application of fungicide to the soil.
Bacterial wilt causes the leaves to turn light green or yellow, wilt, and fall off. It can usually be prevented by keeping the soil well drained and can be treated with an application of fungicide as well.
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Long time lurker, first time poster. I own a Bird of Paradise who seems to have developed some brown spots. I've checked for spider mites and over various pests and don't see anything odd on it. I'm worried that it may be some sort of fungal infection as the brown spots seem to be getting larger (not as noticeable as Day 1 vs Day 2), but getting larger slightly nonetheless (Day 2 to Day 4).
Can anyone more experienced give me some advice pls? If this is something I need to treat or curtail, I'd like to do it sooner to preserve the overall health of my plant!
Sorry to self-bump my own post, but really hoping someone can offer me some advice on how to move forward.
On Day 6 now and the brown spot seems to still be growing. No other leaves affected, but I'm wondering if it's maybe root rot or a fungus? I have no issues with cutting the leaf, but want to be sure there's not a bigger problem lurking.
As additional info: I live in the Northeast and this plant is indoors. I water about whenever 2" into the soil feels dry or when the plant looks a little droopy (seems to be about every 7-10 days). The soil is Miracle Gro Indoor Potting mix and it receives South and Southwestern light exposure. I repotted in the Spring from a 12" Ecopots with drainage hole to a 14" Ecopots with drainage hole. I've rotated the plant on Day 1 since discovering the brown spots thinking that it might be sunburn, but no other leaves have gotten brown spots and this one keeps growing.
Here is an overview of the plant from 2 diff angles. The leaf in question is circled in blue.
Bird of Paradise Etymology
Way back in 1761, the newly ascended King George III of England chose a wife who happened to be an amateur botanist. 11 years into their marriage, in 1772, King George inherited Royal Botanic Kew Gardens and thus gave his wife a place to enjoy her passion. Around this time, the director of the Gardens, Sir Joseph Banks, was traveling in South Africa. He returned the following year, in 1773, bringing a stunningly eye-catching plant specimen with him, completely unlike anything anyone there had ever seen. In honor of his queen and her love of botany, he assigned the specimen the botanical name of Strelitzia reginae (reginae meaning “of the queen”). From here, it was introduced to the rest of the world. Kew Gardens continues to grow this plant today.
Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of England’s King George III and the namesake for Strelitzia reginae, so named by the Royal Gardens director Sir Joseph Banks.
King George’s wife? None other than Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, HRH Queen Charlotte, America’s last queen. Her union with George III before the Revolutionary War earns her that honor. She’s widely regarded as the first multi/bi-racial “royal”, and lends her name to Charlotte, NC., as she was Queen when Charlotte was founded.
How appropriate that our modern-day queen of the garden was named after an actual queen!
The plant takes her common name from the actual animals of the same name. The bloom on the plant is thought to closely resemble the lifted wings and aerodynamic body of the actual birds of paradise during flight.
If the Strelitzia reginae is the queen of the garden, then the Caesalpinia is her long-suffering, overshadowed King. She walks the red carpet, he stands to the side holding her purse. And he’s content to do so, even though he is also extremely popular, widely used in ornamental applications, and boasts a spectacular bloom worthy of a spotlight of its own.
In 1753, 20 years before Streletzia would come to be, the Caesalpinia was so named by none other than Carolus (aka “Carl”) Linnaeus himself, the botanist who created the binomial nomenclature system of Genus species that we use today in plant classification. It was named in honor of Andrea Caesalpinio, an Italian botanist, philosopher, and physician. At the time, the naming was based on four species three are no longer considered to be Caesalpinia. The one that remains is the C. pulcherrima, the most widely used of them all.
Mexican bird of paradise, trimmed and trained to function as a small tree. “yellow litlle Flamboyant ‘Caesalpinia pulcherrima’ Mexico native” by mauro halpern is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Caesalpinia plants go by a large variety of common names, many of which are region-specific, e.g. “Texas bird of paradise.” “Bird of paradise” is just one of many common names. It is thought to have been given its common name after the tropical version because of shared characteristics between the blooms.
The seeds and pods of this plant are mildly poisonous and can cause oral irritation or gastrointestinal symptoms if ingested, so keep them away from pets and children. Fatalities are very rare, but if you suspect someone has consumed the seeds, contact poison control immediately. Unless symptoms are very severe, treatment is often limited to drinking lots of water.
The red bird of paradise is a fairly fast grower, and can get large—up to 20 feet tall—so periodic trimming is an option depending on what size you'd like your shrub. Red bird of paradise plants are often cut back in the winter since they don't tolerate frost, but they typically come back strong and healthy in the spring.