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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / Plants / Bird of Paradise leaves not unraveling
Posted:  16 Apr 2016 06:47  

I have a seemingly healthy Bird Of Paradise plant where the leaves grow out but they no longer open up or unravel.  (see below) the tallest one has grown to be the highest leaf but it never opened up!  It's been like that for about 2 months now.  The first time it happened I actually pulled it open myself (bad idea Im sure) and the leaf has been quite flimsy since then (I'm sure you can tell which one it is in the pic).  And now a new leaf is starting to grow out of it as well as the smaller plant in the pot. What can I do to make the leaves open??  Thanks for your help!

Posted:  16 Apr 2016 21:37  
In the low level of light shown in the photo, you're lucky it's still alive!

Strelitzia nicolai need very bright light to develop the thick, rigid leaf petioles and leaf blades they typically display in a greenhouse or skylit atrium environment.  They come to us that way from the Florida nurseries, but they don't stay that way for long, unfortunately.

The "stuck" unrolled leaf can be due to insufficient water pressure (turgor) in the leaf due to too-dry medium (usually because the tech is petrified of killing the plant by keeping it moist, especially in a dark corner such as this one); or because low humidity has prevented the edges from separating from the inner rolls of leaf tissue as the new shoot emerges; or from a pest infestation hiding inside the rolled-up shoot, usually scale or mealybug, that "glues" the tissues together with honeydew.

Try misting with lukewarm water and a drop of soap along the edges of the leaf blade.  The soap will help the water penetrate beyond the sealed edges and into the inside portion of the leaf and "un-stick" it.  Sometimes the leaves may guttate (secrete moisture droplets containing sugars and salts from the plant's cells), and when this moisture dries along the leaf edges, it can literally cement them to whatever they're touching (in this case, the inner portion of the unfurling new leaf).  The misting with soapy water should help clean away this residue and free the leaf to do its thing.  But the soil needs to be moist in order for the plant to have enough water pressure within its tissues to mechanically expand and unfurl its new leaves.

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