The bird of paradise plant, or Strelitzia reginae, is an evergreen plant native to South Africa. It is also called the “banana tree” because of the close resemblance of its leaves to those of the banana plant.
One of the main reasons the bird of paradise is so popular among plant owners is its uniquely-shaped orange flowers that look like the actual bird of paradise, hence the plant’s name.
A broken bird of paradise stem is one of the most common problems encountered by plant owners. The plant’s stalk can break because of a nutrient deficiency, lack of water, incorrect handling or repotting of the plant, shock, rot, insufficient sunlight or strong winds, among other reasons.
In this article, we will discuss the different causes of a broken bird of paradise stalk and how to prevent this from happening. We will also discuss how to mend a broken bird of paradise stalk.
If you are currently experiencing this problem or you simply wish to learn more about broken bird of paradise stalks, just keep reading.
What are the causes of a broken bird of paradise stalk?
- Nutrient deficiency
One of the most common reasons your bird of paradise plant’s stalk might break is if it does not have enough nitrogen or potassium, both of which the plant needs to stay healthy.
A lack of essential nutrients leads to weakened stems, stunted growth and deterioration of the plant’s tissues.
In order to avoid nutrient deficiencies in your bird of paradise, apply a fertilizer every couple of months. A good choice of fertilizer is chicken manure, because it is organic and is a slow-release type of fertilizer.
Making sure the plant does not lack nutrients starts from the moment you plant your bird of paradise. Use a potting mix that is rich in nutrients so that the plant will have plenty to absorb as it grows.
- Insufficient sunlight
A lack of sunlight is not the direct cause of the plant’s stalk breaking. Rather, the stalk breaks because the plant tends to grow in the direction of the closest source of light when it is kept in low light conditions.
This is called etiolation, and it causes the stalks of the plant to lengthen more than normal. Because the stalk becomes so long, it becomes more vulnerable to breakage.
Avoid bird of paradise stalks breaking due to etiolation by making sure the plant gets plenty of sunlight. Ideally, it should be kept outdoors under direct sunlight, but if you live in an apartment where the only source of light is through a window, keep the plant right next to it. If there is little to no sunlight reaching the plant during the fall or winter, you can buy grow lights to help your plant out. These lights will provide the light your plant needs to survive, and will thus prevent etiolation.
- Not enough water
Plants need water to survive, and water also helps with the bird of paradise’s flexibility. A bird of paradise that does not get enough water will become dry, wilted and weak. The thin and weakened stalk will be very susceptible to breakage.
This does not mean you should overwater your plant, however. Overwatering can lead to a multitude of problems such as root rot and other diseases.
In order to avoid a broken stalk due to lack of water, make sure you are watering your plant sufficiently. The soil in the plant’s pot should be well-draining but able to hold onto some moisture. Check the plant’s soil regularly to make sure it never dries out completely.
- Fungal problems
Fungal diseases can also result in the plant’s stalk weakening and breaking. Fungi such as Pythium, Fusarium and Rhizoctonia can cause the plant’s stem to rot. They can also disrupt the transfer of nutrients throughout the plant, which will affect its overall health.
These fungal infections come about when the plant is overwatered and its roots and foliage are constantly exposed to moisture. The plant’s compromised stalk will weaken and will eventually break.
If you are able to catch the rot early, while it is still in the roots, you can cure it by cutting off the affected sections of roots and treating the remaining healthy roots with fungicide.
Avoid overwatering your plant and prune off all affected foliage before it spreads to the rest of the plant.
- Weather changes
If your bird of paradise is kept outdoors and a storm or strong winds pass through, no matter how sturdy and healthy the plant is, it will still be powerless against the elements.
If you live in a place where storms happen frequently, it is better to keep the plant on a porch or a patio so that it is protected on two sides.
If you live in a place where storms and strong winds only happen occasionally, you can just move the plant indoors when necessary.
- Improper handling and repotting of the plant
Because the bird of paradise can grow quite big, moving the plant to and fro can lead to the stems getting bent or the plant getting dropped, and this can cause the stalk to break.
Furthermore, because the plant is so unique looking, you or your family and friends may be tempted to keep touching it. If the plant is repeatedly touched, this can lead to structural damage.
When multiple bird of paradise plants are placed next to each other with little space in between, the congestion can also cause incidental damage to the plant.
When handling the plant, such as when you are moving or repotting it, be careful and ask for help if necessary, so that you can maneuver the plant with ease.
- Transplant shock
When your new bird of paradise plant has just been brought home from the store or the nursery, do not be surprised if a few stems break in the first couple of days, because the plant is still adjusting to its new home.
When the plant is grown in the nursery, it is living in ideal conditions. The moment you take it out, it is exposed to new temperatures, light and humidity. All these changes can overwhelm the plant and this can take quite a toll on its overall health.
A plant in this situation will be weaker than normal and this can lead to possible stalk breakage.
There is really not much you can do in this situation except to wait for the plant to adjust to its new surroundings and do your best to simulate the living conditions of its natural habitat. After a few days or weeks, the plant should be perfectly fine and you can continue caring for it the way you would a well-adjusted bird of paradise.
How to fix a broken bird of paradise stalk
The first method of fixing a broken bird of paradise stalk begins with an inspection of the extent of the damage. Prepare around six inches of tape and begin to wrap it around the broken part of the stalk in order to keep it straight. Make sure the tape is tightly wound on the stalk so that the plant heals faster. Keep the tape on the plant for up to a month; only remove it when the plant looks like it has recovered.
Another method to mend a broken bird of paradise stalk is to place a bamboo splint on either side of the broken stalk and secure the splints with tomato ties or pantyhose. Leave the splints on for about two weeks until you notice that the stalk has started to stand on its own again. Over time, the plant will be able to hold itself up without the splints.
These methods are not one hundred percent effective; sometimes the damage is too much and the plant might not be able to recover. In that case, you are probably better off starting from scratch with a new plant.
The bird of paradise is a beautiful, exotic plant known for its large leaves and uniquely shaped flowers.
One of the most common problems encountered by bird of paradise owners is a broken stalk.
The most common causes of a broken stalk in this plant are nutrient deficiency, lack of water, incorrect handling or repotting of the plant, shock, rot, insufficient sunlight and strong winds.
As long as you keep your plant healthy, keep it away from the elements and handle it properly, you will not need to worry about a broken bird of paradise stalk.
Image: istockphoto.com / Cavan Images