Why Are My Giant Bird Of Paradise Leaf Edges Turning Brown?

The question is regarding brown leaf edges on a Giant Bird of Paradise. A few reasons cause this along with splitting leaves.

I receive so many questions here, on my videos and via email.  I decided to start a segment called “Ask Nell” because you all might have the same questions and/or be interested in the answers. The first one comes from Patti regarding her Giant Bird Of Paradise, or Strelitzia nicolai.


The photo you see above was sent to me by Patti.  These plants are native to subtropical coastal forests of South Africa where the humidity is higher and there’s more rainfall.

This is especially true in California these days as we’re in the midst of a megadrought; yes, it’s extreme. It’s common for the edges of these plants brown but nowadays they’re downright crispy because even the maritime layer, aka fog, has been almost nonexistent.

You can see my Giant Bird of Paradise in this video as well as the Bird of Paradise you are probably more familiar with:

Also, you see a lot of split Giant Bird Of Paradise leaves and that is because of the wind. As with most plants, the older leaves will brown, yellow and split more than the younger ones.

The leaves get browner and more raggedy as they get older.  They don’t need much water at all once they get established but we haven’t been receiving enough winter rain to hold them through our dry months.  After all, they do need some water … not no water.

So Patti, water yours deeply every 2-3 months (until we get some substantial winter rains) and give it a 2-3″ layer of some rich, organic compost to help hold that moisture in. The compost will also enrich the soil naturally making the roots and the plant grow stronger.

The bottom line:

You can reduce the brown edging to an extent but if your Giant Bird Of Paradise is in a windy area, the leaves will split. Nothing you can do about that!


I’m including a bit about the Bird Of Paradise, Strelizia reginae,  in here because the same applies to them. It’s not as noticeable on them because their leaves are smaller and seem to be a bit tougher. I’ve been noticing quite a bit of leaf curling on these plants around town because we’re so darned dry.

If you happen to have 1 as a houseplant and the edges are brown, it’s because the air in our homes is much drier than they’d like it to be.  The average home is not the subtropics after all!

Thanks for the question Patti. If any of you have a question for me regarding plants, flowers and/or gardening, simply leave it below this post, in the video comment section or send it to [email protected] (if you do this, please put “ask nell” in the subject line).  Now let’s get gardening and make the world a more beautiful place!

The Giant Bird Of Paradise flowers is huge by the way. The birds LOVE all that sugary nectar dripping out of them!

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  1. Steven – Their root systems are deep & strong. Mine never tore up the driveway or the curb. I’m not sure about the root guard as I’ve never used 1 for this plant. Nell

  2. Is a print version of your book going to be made? I would prefer a hands on version of your book. Don’t like kindle.

  3. Lydia – I totally understand. No plans to print it at the moment. Nell

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