Bird of paradise leaves splitting is always worrisome when you first notice it. After all, the tears or rips in the large leaves are very obvious.
And it tells you something is wrong.
As large and beautiful as the plant’s leaves are, it is important to keep in mind that its foliage are very delicate as well.
Thus, they can easily get damaged.
Bird of paradise leaves splitting is often caused by physical damage or stress. This usually happens when people touch or brush against the plant.
Therefore, keeping it away from areas with heavy foot traffic is important.
That said, young children and pets can also play or fool around with its leaves causing the splits or tears.
Other causes of split bird of paradise leaves including improper watering, lighting issues, low humidity and nutrient deficiency.
Why Are Your Bird of Paradise Leaves Splitting?
Bird of paradise leaves splitting can be caused by several reasons. Some are minor, others are very easy to fix. But there are a few that may be signs of more serious problems.
As such, it is very important to take the time to figure out what is happening.
To do so, the best approach is to narrow down the possible causes and eliminate each of the non-relevant ones.
This will allow you to focus on the most likely issues.
Below, I’ll go through the most common reasons for bird of paradise leaves splitting. And for each, I’ll discuss how you can easily solve each.
Physical damage is the most common cause of bird of paradise leaves splitting.
Depending on where you position your plant and how big its leaves are, they can easily brush against people walking by.
Foot traffic is usually the main reason why bird of paradise leaves split due to physical damage.
If you keep the plant in a hallway, entryway or somewhere many family members, guests or visitors will pass, it is very likely they’ll brush against the large leaves of the plant.
Due to friction and regular chaffing, some leaves will start splitting or cracking especially on the sides.
This is especially true if someone’s clothes or arms get caught on the leaves as they pass.
Another common cause of bird of paradise leaves splitting due to physical damage are kids or pets.
Young children may play around the plant and accidentally or mischievously rip some of the leaves. Similarly, pets are very playful as well. And they can end up toying with the leaves.
I remember when our dog was still a pup.
She was very mischievous and would intentionally destroy the plastic drinking bowls we’d give her. She’d toy with it with your paws while she chewed or pulled on the edges with your sharp teeth.
Each time we replaced the bowl, she’d destroy it.
Until finally, I just put a metal bowl and that was the end of that.
The difficult part of diagnosing bird of paradise leaves splitting or ripping due to physical damage is you need to see how it happens.
Once you observe this, then you know how to solve the problem.
If it is high foot traffic and people brushing against the plant’s leaves, then move your bird of paradise 1 or 2 feet away.
You can also reposition the plant, so people don’t end up brushing against the plant or intentionally running their hands against the leaves.
On the other hand, if you notice that kids or pets are causing the damage to the leaves, it is a good idea to keep the plant away from their reach.
This is actually beneficial for both parties involved.
For your bird of paradise, it reduces possible damage and leaves splitting or ripping. It is also worth noting that the plant’s sap is toxic and irritant.
So, if your kids or pets get the sap on their skin, it can cause irritation especially if they have allergies or sensitive skin.
Similarly, it will irritate the eyes and is poisonous if ingested.
Thus, it is a good idea to place your bird of paradise away from reach of young children and pets.
Rough Handling or Dropping the Plant
As pretty is the bird of paradise is, it is also delicate.
In fact, it is easy for their leaves to split, rip or tear if treated in rough or aggressive manner.
Thus, is it important to be careful when taking the plant out of its pot. Don’t just pull or tug it by the leaves or stems.
Even gusts of wind or breezes can cause bird of paradise leaves splitting. This happens when the leaves are bigger and will catch a good portion of the wind.
Of course, dropping the plant is always a no-no.
Depending on how the plant falls, its leaves can also get damaged.
Try to keep the plant away for areas with strong winds, gusts or breezes. This is more common if you leave the plant outdoors, in the balcony, patio or somewhere with open air.
Indoors, try to keep it away from open doors and windows.
Limited contact is ideal.
As much as possible, when you don’t need to do anything to the plant, just leave it alone.
Similarly, be mindful of its delicate nature when handling it.
This is when you need to handle the plant including repotting, propagating or cleaning tis leaves.
Make sure you’re careful and gentle with it, especially with its leaves.
Water is a very important part of keeping your bird of paradise healthy and growing properly.
However, it can also be tricky due to the changes in the weather.
This is why many houseplants end up either underwatered or overwatered.
Unfortunately, both conditions can cause bird of paradise leaves to split.
When the plant lacks water, the leaves will become dry, crispy and brittle. This means them very vulnerable to tearing, rippling or splitting.
Similarly, water makes up around 90% of the plant.
So, when the plant is underwatered, its stems will droop due to the lack of moisture to keep them firmly upright.
As a result, they give way and bend to the weight of the larger leaves.
This puts the leaves in a susceptible position of being hit by passersby or easy blown off by the wind. Both of which increase the risk of splitting leaves.
On the other hand, an overwatered bird of paradise will be weak.
Excess water affects the roots and prevents them from functioning properly. As a result, the plant’s stems and roots get weak.
Similarly, leaves become discolored and are easily damaged.
Overwatering also makes the leaves soft and mushy. This makes it easier for them to get damaged including getting ripped, torn or splitting.
Bird of paradise plants don’t need daily watering. Nor do they need to be watered every other day.
Instead, the plant usually needs watering around once every 1-2 weeks.
Note that I say usually. This is when the weather is moderate.
During the summer when the temperature gets really hot, the soil will dry and the plant will lose moisture faster. Thus, it will need to be watered more frequently.
On the other hand, come wintertime when the weather is cold, it is important to scale back on watering. This way, you do not end up overwatering the plant.
Because of the changes in watering frequency due to the climate, the best way to tell when to water your bird of paradise is by feeling the soil.
I like to wait until the top half of the soil has dried out before I add more water.
Some people will wait until the soil dries out completely between waterings.
So, anywhere in between works fine.
The key is to be consistent.
When you skip watering sessions or keep an irregular watering routine, it is more likely that the plant ends up underwatered sometimes and overwatered at other times.
Thus, try to regularly check the soil by feeling it.
This will let you know if it is time to water the plant.
Bird of paradise are tropical plants that are native to Southern Africa. As such, they are used to warm to hot weather and high humidity.
This is why the plant prefers humidity of 50% and higher.
Unfortunately, most homes do not sustain humidity that is this high. Although, it all depends on where you live.
The key is to keep air moisture high enough around the plant to keep it happy.
If humidity is too low, you’ll see its leaves become dry. These will likewise turn brown and crispy on the edges and tips. After a while, they’ll become brittle as well
Once leaves get dry, they are more delicate and fragile, this makes them susceptible to splitting due to lack of flexibility and pliability.
In order to avoid bird of paradise leaves splitting due to lack of humidity, it is a good idea to be aware of the humidity in your area.
Many locations have sufficient humidity.
As such, if you live in these areas, then you don’t need to do anything.
In most cases, living near large bodies of water like seas, oceans, lakes and beaches will let humidity around your home be high enough to keep the bird of paradise happy.
Similarly, if where you live has tropical, subtropical or Mediterranean climates, then humidity won’t be a problem.
However, if you have dry air where you live, you’re in a desert or near one, then humidity may be low.
The simplest way is to check the weather channels online and look for your city. While it won’t give you the exact humidity in and around your home, it will give you an estimate in your city.
If humidity is high overall, then your bird of paradise will grow optimally without any issues.
But if the humidity consistently stays under 40%, then it is important to take some action.
Should the latter be the case, I highly suggest getting a hygrometer and keeping it around the house. A portable digital hygrometer is the easiest to work with since you can move it from room to room.
Note that each room has different humidity.
For example, bathrooms have the highest humidity in most homes.
Similarly, indoor humidity is always lower than outdoor humidity.
If humidity is low, you can mist your bird or paradise or get a humidifier. You can likewise group your houseplants together or set up a pebble tray.
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Another reason for bird of paradise leaves splitting is too much or too little light.
As with all plants, bird of paradise need light.
Light is what fuels photosynthesis. And in doing so, the plant is able to make its own food in the form of sugars. It then uses this for energy to push out new leaves, shoots and maintain healthy leaves.
Therefore, lack of light will slow down the plant’s growth.
It also affects the size of the plant, how many new leaves emerge and the size of the leaves.
Insufficient light will also cause leaves to split as they do not develop properly.
On the other hand, too much light is likewise harmful for the bird of paradise.
That’s because excess light is almost always accompanied by lots of heat. This will cause the leaves the quickly dry out as they will lose more moisture in this condition.
When leaves get dry, they become more fragile. And it is easier for them to split or get damaged.
Similarly, excess intensity or exposure can burn the leaves.
This not only causes discoloration, it also produces burn or scorch marks that easily rip and break.
Bird of paradise grow best under bright, indirect light. It cannot tolerate more than 2 or 3 hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis.
The latter provides excess intensity that not only dries up the leaves but will eventually damage them as well.
As such, it is important to position the plant somewhere that is well-lit but where the plant is not hit by the sun’s rays.
This gives it enough light that it needs to grow optimally.
But without the excess intensity that can damage the plant’s tissues.
Similarly, avoid dim or dark places.
These will cause slow growth and negatively affect how leaves develop. As a result, you end up with a weak, sickly looking plant whose leaves easily split.
In case your home does not get a lot of natural light from the sun, don’t worry.
You can use artificial lighting to keep it healthy and happy.
Grow lights can be used to supplement what natural sunshine the plant gets. Or the grow lights can be used on their own.
That said, artificial lights don’t cover all the colors that the sun does.
Therefore, you’ll need to supply your bird of paradise with at least 12 or more hours of artificial lighting to keep it healthy.
On the other hand, it only needs 6 or more hours of indirect sunlight daily.
The other thing to keep in mind is that position your bird of paradise at least 10-12 inches away from the LED bulbs.
That’s because these emit heat as well.
And with the long hours of exposure, the bulbs can eventually burn the leaves and cause them to dry as well.