One of the world's most recognizable flowers, the bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) hails from subtropical South Africa. This evergreen perennial grows as an upright clump of stiff, succulent leaves. Each leaf looks like a paddle with a long stem that originates from a fanlike base. Excessive drought, infertile soil, winter cold or old age leads to leaves dying. The leaves shrivel up but persist. Pruning out dead foliage improves the overall appearance of the bird-of-paradise.
Grasp the top of the dried, tan dead leaf with one hand and trace it down the stem to its point of origin at the base of the plant. Gently tug at the base of the dead leaf to determine how tightly it attaches to the plant. Sometimes a dead leaf may be jostled loose without pruning.
Cut the dead leaf off with a bypass/hand pruners. Insert the pruners blades around the stem as low as possible, just above its attachment to the plant base.
Discard the dead leaf into the compost pile or rubbish bin. Prune out up any dead leaf or old flower debris from the center of the bird-or-paradise. This decreases chances of any fungal diseases proliferating. Old, tan-colored leaf bases may jostle loose after they have dried over several months. Do not vigorously tug any part of the plant to remove plant parts, however. You may snap or twist off healthy leaves or flower stems in the process.
Things You Will Need
- Bypass or hand pruners
- Retain any leaves with more than 50 percent living green tissues, even though they may not look perfect. Bird-of-paradise is slow growing, so any green leaves that photosynthesize light increases the growth rate, hastening the production of new foliage in spring and summer. If the leaf blade is dead but the stem is still green, you may remove the entire leaf.
- If you cut into any stem bases that are still green, lots of slimy sap drips out. Wear gloves or have a rag handy to wipe off the handles of the bypass pruners to maintain a firm, safe grip.
- If winter frost or freezes damage leaves, do not prune them off until spring, after the danger of frost passes in your area. Pruning too early, when subfreezing temperatures may still occur, exposes more living leaves and stem bases to the brunt of cold. Dead leaves help buffer the bird-of-paradise from further cold.
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