Ask a Question forum: Giant leaves cracking and breaking

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Name: Rob
Greenfield, Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
Jan 12, 2016 8:45 AM CST
I've had a giant (about 13' tall) non-flowering white bird-of-paradise plant for about two months now (see pics--1 at the time of purchase, and 3 at present). I keep my apartment at an almost constant 70-72° and it's perhaps a little dry in here. The giant leaves are beginning to crack and break. A few questions: What could be causing this and how to prevent it? Once the edges or tips of the leaves have cracked, should I cut that part off (I'm assuming if I cut a leaf it will grow back)? How often would you water this plant and how much water? Should I keep the apartment more humid?

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Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

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Jan 12, 2016 9:34 AM CST
Hi Rob, Welcome! to All Things Plants!

The Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) is a tropical, humidity loving plant so it won't hurt to increase the humidity. The leaves on your plant may just be doing what they normally do. The ones I've seen growing outdoors seem to all have split, raggedy leaf edges ... maybe it's normal as the plant ages? Hopefully someone who grows this monster plant indoors will pop in with their thoughts and advise.
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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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Jan 12, 2016 9:40 AM CST
I remember there was a conversation about growing this plant indoors; the original poster decided the plant would be too large for their indoor space but there is some good information in the thread:

Edited to fix the link.
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[Last edited by greene - Jan 12, 2016 9:42 AM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Jan 13, 2016 10:36 PM CST
Well, I don't grow them indoors, but I have several big clumps of them out in the garden. In fact my garden helper and I cut down two huge 20ft. stems off two of the clumps this morning. The leaves do naturally tatter like that in the wind. Otherwise, the huge leaves act like sails in high winds and would break their stems. Bananas do the same. The burnt, browning edges could certainly be a result of too low humidity, or if on the tips could also be fertilizer burn.

I'd say your leaves are such a dark green color because the plant isn't getting enough light. Most likely as the light improves in spring, the color will also improve. The plant makes more chlorophyll (green stuff) in its leaves in winter to compensate for lower light levels.

You really can't give this plant too much water, although I wouldn't leave it with wet feet too often.

Also, be sure to ease back on the fertilizer in winter just because the plant surely slows down or stops growing depending upon how cool your area gets at night. Check the analysis of the fert you're using, that it has the three numbers the same (a "balanced" fert) or a lower middle number so as not to give the plant too much phosphorus outside of the blooming season. Deep green color can also be an indication of too much phosphorus that can be stored up in the plant.

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Name: Rob
Greenfield, Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
Jan 13, 2016 11:18 PM CST
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Jan 14, 2016 11:13 AM CST
Maybe if you can spritz the leaves during daytime just to help humidity aspect, but make sure run the fan, to decrease fungal attack. It is a very tropical plant usually grown as an outdoor plant that thrives in lots of humidity and lots of sun. In its normal habitat humidity levels of 70% to 100% is what it likes. If temps are quite warm and grown outdoors, it can take in a lot of water. so grown indoors all those factors are much more diminished. If you can raise your apartments humidity that will be good, but watch out, you might end up with molds too, and I do not know how much humidity you can tolerate indoors too.

Your temps are good, but indoors, with dry air and not much good ventilation, it will suffer a bit. But hopefully it should bounce back when your temps return outdoors in the 70's and higher and move it later on gradually to a much more sunnier side of your area. It will need the sun to make good blooms too.
Name: Cheryl
Texas (Zone 9a)
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Jan 14, 2016 5:56 PM CST
I answered this question in your Houseplants thread. The splitting of the leaves is natural for this plant.

The thread "Giant bird of paradise leaves breaking and flaking" in Houseplants forum
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