Large and colourful bird of paradise flowers explode into the landscape on tall 5-foot stalks. Through a display of rigid green leaves and petals in warm, fiery hues like orange and yellow with a shock of blue or purple, these tropical plants offer abundant interest in the home garden. If you notice leaf curling, your plants are likely under attack of pests. Treat the problem as soon as symptoms appear to avoid injury.
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Preventive care typically results in healthy plants that can avoid and more easily recover from pest infestations and other problems like disease. Grow these South African natives in warm temperatures for best results. Bird of paradise plants like full-sun exposureand prefer daytime temperatures between 65 and 70F and nighttime temps from 50 to 55F, according to University of Florida Extension. Fertilize only during the warmer seasons spring and summer at a rate of once every two weeks. These flowers prefer organic fertiliser, like manure or controlled-release granules. Water regularly to keep soil moist and well-drained.
Though bird of paradise plants are often prized as pest-free plants, they are not without issues. The plants are most often affected by scale and aphid infestations. Both of these pests are sucking bugs that feed on inner plant tissue fluid. As these pest feed, they secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that falls onto plant parts. The honeydew attracts the growth of sooty mould, a black fungal disease that can block out sunlight. Scales look like little bumps on plant surfaces, often measuring less than 1/4 inch in length. Soft scales, for example, appear in a black or brown colour. Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that may be yellow, green or black.
Fortunately, pest and scale problems on bird of paradise plants rarely lead to plant death or severe injury. Scales on these plants often lead to the curling and discolouration of leaves. When major infestations are left untreated, dieback and the death of twigs may occur. Aphid infestations often result in curled leaves as well as distortion, yellowing and poor plant growth. Certain species of aphids are carriers of viruses that can lead to the death of your plant, though curled leaves are not followed by immediate collapse.
Before treating pest problems, it is best to contact your local county extension agent for assistance in accurate diagnosis and to gain extra information about treating infestations in your region. For scale control, release natural enemies, or bugs that kill pests without harming plants. Purchase enemies like parasitic wasps from garden supply stores. Treat aphids with natural enemies like both parasitic wasps and ladybirds. For further control, cover your plants with the botanical-based insecticide insecticidal soap for control with a low level of toxicity.
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- Clemson University Extension; Bird of Paradise; Chuck Burgess; March 2004
- University of California IPM Online: Managing Pests in Gardens: Bird of Paradise
- University of California IPM Online; Scale Management Guidelines; S.H. Dreistadt, et al.
- University of California IPM Online; Aphids Management Guidelines; M. L. Flint; May 2000
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Bird-of-Paradise; Sydney Park Brown, et al.