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Philodendron Leaves Curling [Culprits & Ways to Deal With Them]

Let me guess; Philodendron Leaves Curling is worrying you, right? Your beloved houseplant may be deprived of tropical safekeeping or getting more than it should. 

The issue of Philodendron Leaves Curling may arise if the plant is inappropriately watered, has insufficient lighting or humidity, is battling temperature changes, or is under/over-fertilized, along with pest and disease infestations.

So, let’s dive down to know about the possible causes, how to diagnose them, and what you can do to solve them.

Is Philodendron Leaves Curling Normal?

Philodendrons are residents of tropical forests, adapted to live in warm and humid conditions with plenty of moisture and organic soil.

However, Philodendron grows annually and has to shed some leaves to space for new sprouts.

When the time comes, you may see your plant rolling its leaves, turning yellow or brown, and finally dropping them.

Image represents curling of young leaves of Philodendron
Young leaves of Philodendrons are tender and rolled inwards.

But it’s a different story if your Philodendron is young and suddenly curling its leaves, as there might be care-related issues harming your plant.

Since the plant is adjusted for tropical comfort, it may not grow well if stripped from tropicality in its care demands.

Additionally, young Philodendrons leaves are naturally curved downwards but will flare up once they mature.

So, don’t be alarmed if your Philodendron plant grows rolled-up new leaves, as they are just a part of their growth cycle.

Philodendron Leaves Curling: Causes and Solutions

Let’s examine the reasons for leaf curling in Philodendrons and learn how to secure the plant from this perishable condition.

1. Watering and Humidity Issues

One of the most common causes of Philodendron Leaves Curling is over or underwatering. Due to its large leaves, the plant transpires a lot of water and thus constantly needs hydration.

Similarly, low humidity will reduce the moisture levels from the surrounding air, making the plant moisture-broke, like underwatering.

Generally, Philodendrons need generous soaks of weekly watering throughout spring and summer. Also, keep the humidity levels between 50-70% and 85-90%.
Image represents an overwatered Philodendron
An overwatered Philodendron sustains root rot, which makes it difficult to take in the water from the soil resulting in rolled leaves.

Believe it or not, the leaf curling problem is a defense mechanism of the plant to reduce the water loss from its cells.

If the plant is losing water rapidly, the leaves will start to wilt and curl inwards, enabling the plant to reduce the transpiration rate.

However, when the soil is water-saturated and soggy, the plant’s roots will suffocate and rot, turning pulpy or mushy with a foul smell from the potting soil.

Since the damaged roots cannot absorb enough water, the leaves will be water-deprived and curl upwards to cope with the lost moisture.

But to save it, you must first remove all the affected leaves and plan a watering routine for the plant.

Tips to Save and Water Philodendron

  • If the soil is whopping wet, place the potted plant in direct sunlight for a few hours to dry the soil thoroughly.
  • Unpot the plant, check for rotting tissues, cut them using sterilized pruners, and keep the healthy tan-colored roots intact.
  • Switch the potting soil with a fresh one by blending organic perlite if it stenches fishy. 
  • Avoid watering in fall and winter. Inspect for 1-2 inches of topsoil dryness using a fingertip test before watering.
  • Water thoroughly to drench the soil to deeper layers per watering bout.
  • Let the water drain from the drainage holes, and toss away the stagnant water from the pot plate. 
  • Bottom-water the plant in a tray filled with 1-2 inches of water for 15-45 minutes to saturate the soil evenly.
  • Use terracotta pots with drain holes and keep a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container before repotting.
  • Keep the plant in a humidity tray, group it with other plants, or mist the leaves twice a week during heat spells.

2. Light and Temperature Variations

Light is crucial for photosynthesis and regulates the soil’s water levels due to temperature changes based on its intensity.

For such a large-leafed plant, inhabiting naturally under the canopy of large trees, dappled light plays a pivotal role in maintaining the leaf’s shape and turgidity.

Philodendrons need 4-6 hours of bright indirect sunshine daily and a surrounding temperature of 55-90°F.
Image represents a light-deprived Philodendron plant
Light-deprived Philodendrons also curve their leaves out of weakness, as they cannot process more food to keep the plant healthy.

Exposure to intense light will heat the soil due to increasing temperature and suck away all the water making the leaves brown. So, they curl to save the remaining moisture.

However, less light will also make the plant limp, and the leaves deform by folding or rolling. The plant will also get leggy and droop its leaves.

This is a common symptom in the winter when weak sunlight hits the plant, shocking it due to temperature drops (below 55°F). 

To revive your plant, you must decide its placement and regularly monitor temperature changes in fall and winter.

Tips to Fix Light and Temperature Issues

  • To offer proper light, locate the plant beside an east-facing window or 3-5 feet away from a south-facing window.
  • Rotate the plant once a week for even light distribution throughout the foliage.
  • Clear up the damaged foliage for proper light circulation to the remaining healthy leaves.
  • If the plant grows in extreme sun, offer shade to protect it from the afternoon heat.
  • Use frost blankets to cover the plant in winter to reduce the cold stress.
  • Place the plant 6-12 inches away from artificial lights for 8-10 hours in winter to cope with less light.
  • Keep the plant away from drafty north-facing windows or near the cooling vents to pare temperature changes.

3. Malnourishment and Overfertilization

An under or overfed Philodendron can suffer from leaf curling issues due to imbalances in NPK ratios and pH, old soil, and inappropriate fertilizer application.

Use a balanced liquid fertilizer to feed the plant every month in spring and summer. But, taper the fertilizer needs every 6-8 weeks in fall and winter.
Image represents fertilizer burn in the leaves of Philodendron
When the soil is overfertilized, salts accumulate in the deeper layers, which causes an overload of mineral salts in the plant.

Overfertilization will lead to the curling of leaves and, in the worst case, can cause the roots, leaf tips, and foliar margins to burn, crisp, and turn brown.

The pH of the soil will also change due to the aggregation of mineral salts on the soil layers and topsoil.

However, underfed Philodendrons can suffer from nutrient deficiencies, especially nitrogen and potassium, stripping away the plant’s ability to uptake water.

Additionally, Philodendron Leaves Curling downward can result from magnesium deficiency, whereas the leaves generally curl upwards in phosphorus deficiency.

Tips to Properly Feed Philodendron

  • Water your plant before fertilizing, ensuring the fertilizer gets evenly absorbed in the soil.
  • Flush out the excessive salts by washing the soil 4-5 times with distilled water in case of heavy salt stress.
  • Dilute the fertilizer to the required concentration before applying it as instructed on the pack.
  • Scrape off the salt flakes from the topsoil if they are visible.
  • Add compost, pine bark mulch, or leaf mold to raise the soil acidity and use calcium carbonate to subside it.  

4. Pests and Diseases

Pests and disease outbreaks are also reasons for Philodendron Leaves Curling.

The plant is susceptible to sap-sucking pests like spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, thrips, and scales. While the primary diseases behind the leaf curling are root rot and leaf spots. 
Image represents a pest infested leaf of Philodendron
Pests hide under the leaves in silky webbings, so ensure to clean under the leaf surfaces while scavenging for the bugs.

These pests suck water and nutrition from the plant’s leaves, causing them to curl, turn yellow and even fall off.

The pests also lay eggs on the leaf blades, and when the larva hatches, they start eating the leaf leading to curling.

Root rot cuts off the water, while seemingly harmless leaf spots may spread throughout the leaf over time, eventually turning it brown and curled.

Check the underside of the leaves for the tiny dots or humps on the leaves as a pest sign in your plants before any significant damage.

Tips to Prevent Pests and Diseases

  • Isolate the infected plant from other houseplants to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Spray strong water splashes to eliminate pests or pathogenic spores from leaves and petioles.
  • Use q-tips laced with neem oil to dab the pests and cotton balls soaked in neem oil to brush off their eggs or honeydews.
  • Prune and burn the leaves with significant pest or disease damage.
  • Employ copper-based fungicides to deter diseases and use sterilized soil and tools while repotting and pruning.

FAQs About Philodendron Leaves Curling

Why are my Philodendron Leaves Curling after repotting?

Philodendrons may go into a transplant shock immediately after repotting, as they cannot take in enough water or nutrient from their habituating roots.

So, it may take a while to recuperate them from the repotting stress, but the leaves will unfurl again once the plant is adjusted. 

From Editorial Team

Water as a Boon and a Curse!
Ups and dips in moisture regulate the soil water content and nutrient amount. Similarly, water is also affected by light and temperature.

Hence, it’s sensible to offer a seasonal watering routine for Philodendrons by judging other environmental plights to prevent leaf curling.

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