Curling Potted Plants – What To Do About Curled Houseplant Leaves

Curling Potted Plants – What To Do About Curled Houseplant Leaves

By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog

Are your houseplant leaves curling and you don’t know why?Curled leaves on indoor plants can be caused by a variety of issues, so it isimportant to understand the various causes so that you can take effectiveaction. Let’s take a look at the main causes and solutions for curled houseplantleaves.

Curling Potted Plants

There are a number of reasons your houseplants may becurling and can include any of the following:


Various pests can cause leaves to curl. Sucking insects,such as aphids,can distort leaves and cause leaf curling. Aphids are soft bodied insects thatare normally found on the undersides of leaves and at the growing tips of theplant. If you spot some, spray with insecticidal soap. Use repeatedapplications until they are gone. If there is a severe infestation, you can cutoff those areas of the plant.

Thripsand whitefliesare also other insects that can cause curled houseplant leaves.

Too Much Water

When your potting soil stays soggy for too long, this canalso cause curled leaves, as well as lead to rootrot. In order to avoid curling leaves due to soil that is too soggy, alwaysallow the top inch or two (approximately 2.5 to 5 cm.) of soil to dry out.

Always use pots with drainage holes. Allow water tocompletely drain away after watering and never allow your potted plant to sitin water for extended periods of time.

Too Much Light

Too much light, for your plant in question, can also causeleaves to curl. Especially when older leaves are curling at the very tips ofthe leaves. In conjunction with this, the newer leaves may be smaller thannormal and may have brown edges.

To fix curling leaves from too much light, move yourhouseplant to a location that receives more appropriate light for the type ofplant that you have. Also, get to know what acceptable light requirements arefor your specific plant.

There are many reasons why you may have curled leaves onindoor plants. Try and identify the actual cause and then take the recommendedaction to fix your issue.

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When older leaves curl under at the tips, the problem could be too much light. Newer leaves will give you more clues. New leaves that receive too much light may be smaller than usual and have brown margins. Try moving the plant further away from the window or filtering the light through a sheer curtain. Many houseplants with tropical origins like bright but indirect sunlight. These plants do well near a window, but adjust the location so that the direct rays of sun never fall on the foliage.

When leaves turn yellow and curl under, the plant may be suffering from too much heat. Never place plants near radiators or heat registers. When strong, southern sunlight falls directly on a window pane, the glass radiates quite a bit of heat. If you take a vacation in the heat of summer, remember your plants and don't turn the air conditioner all the way off.

Common Pests for Indoor Plants

There are a variety of pests that infest your plants causing the leaves to curl. Most of these insects carry viruses, bacteria or fungi responsible for the curling for your plants. Here are some of the most common pests:

These tiny pests come in different colors and cluster on the underside of the leaf. They survive by sucking the sap from the leaves which causes the yellowing and curling of the plant. Aphids are also able to transmit viruses between different plants. They multiply fast, at around 12 to 20 offsprings per day, once you catch them on your plant, isolate the plant as soon as possible to stop the spread.

Fix:Aphids have a waxy protective exoskeleton, by spraying them with potassium salts the waxy shell weakens and kills the insects. This should be done weekly until you no longer see aphids or signs of them on the plant.

Aside from the leaf curl, Thrips also cause the leaves to dry to a crisp and eventually crumble. These insects look like pieces of threads and come in brown and black colors. They suck the sap out of the plant and eventually dry them out. They are very hard to see because of their minute size.

Fix:Spray the plants affected with neem oil. This solution would stunt the Thrip’s development. Repeat the treatment at least twice or thrice every 7 to 10 days. This ensures that eggs and hatchlings will not survive either.


Although not exactly like spiders, they are closely related. They have four pairs of legs, no antennas and have a sharp tooth that is able to pierce through the plant to suck out nutrients. By doing this, it causes discoloration on the leaf and eventually curls the edges when the sap is about to run out.

Fix: Spray the plants with a pesticide specifically for arachnids or crawling insects. The formula in these pesticides would be enough to kill both the eggs and larvae. Remember to spray this in moderation.

Other Plant Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies are quite hard to diagnose, but here are a few symptoms to look out for and the remedies you can do in order to keep your plant healthy.

Nitrogen Deficiency

This deficiency affects the oldest leaves first. When newer leaves are not getting ample nutrients, the plant re-distributes it from the already existing leaves. For fruit-bearing plants, it is quite normal to see this deficiency since it would put more energy onto the fruit it bears.

Symptoms: The older leaves lose its green color, become soft and curl inwards. This eventually falls off.

Remedy: Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer onto the soil. This is quickly absorbed and highly efficient. In order to avoid nitrogen deficiency entirely. Include an amino-acid supplement as part of your routine.

Phosphorus Deficiency

Similar to nitrogen deficiency, the first affected by this deficiency is the older leaves, and it eventually reaches the rest of the plant when left untreated.

Symptoms: Older leaves look bluish and have an extra shine, the leaves curl downwards and would have bronze spots.

Remedy:When the symptoms are already showing, the best remedy would be to use bone-meal supplements with high phosphorus content. To avoid this deficiency, proper climate control is needed. In cooler temperatures, plants inhibit the intake of phosphorus. Maintaining a temperature within 65 o to 75 o F is ideal.

Potassium Deficiency

Whenever the plant starts budding or flowering, you can be sure that it would distribute essential nutrients to those specific parts, potassium is taken from the rest of the plant and centralized onto the flowers.

Symptoms: The plants look like they have been burned, due to the fact that the outer portion of the leaves are dark brown in color and curled. Whereas the veins and surrounding areas stay green.

Remedy:Use high-potassium fertilizer whenever you have flowering or fruit-bearing plants. You should also check the pH of the fertilizer, anything above or below range would not be absorbed by the plant. For soil based plants the ideal pH would be 6.0 to 7.0, whereas aquatic plants are more adapted to pH levels within 5.5 to 6.5.

It is important that you know the specifics of your plants needs to ensure their healthy growth.

Different varieties and species would mean different modes of care.

Being able to give your plant what it needs, when it needs it, eliminates your worry and just gives you a better, happier houseplants overall.

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