Why are my Pilea Leaves Curling?

Pilea Plant
Pilea Plant (Source: RawPixel)

Pilea is a popular choice for people looking for a plant to adorn their homes. With its elegant leaves and equally enthralling build, this plant adds charm and beauty to your home.

Pilea is a low-maintenance plant, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run across problems when growing it.

Curling of leaves is a common problem that the plant may have if not properly cared for.

Generally, Pilea leaves curl because of excessive watering, heat and light stress, lack of humidity and nutrients, and problems with roots and pests.

Pilea Plant
Pilea Plant (Source: Interior Plants)

It could be heartbreaking to see your beautiful plant curl up its leaves. You’d go to any lengths to make your plants normal, right?

Look below for the reasons for curling and how to solve them.

Is it Normal for Pilea Leaves to Curl?

It is not normal for any indoor plant’s leaves to curl in a broader sense. But, if you dig deeper, the story may be different.

If the leaves curl, it will not look typical for aesthetics, view, or decoration. You might want to quickly find out the reason for such occurrence in your plant.

Before witnessing the curling and jumping to conclusions, keep in mind that leaves in the plant also curl up when they are new.

No matter what the cause is, if you correctly diagnose the problem and find out the reason in the early stages, you might be able to revert the leaves to their normal form.

The leaves may curl inward and outward, but each of them implies different reasons. Look for them below.

InwardOutward
Excess TemperatureLess Light
Nutrients deficiencyOverwatering

Look below for other reasons your leaves might curl up and their possible solutions.

  • Aging –  The leaves may have lived their lives, and it’s time to fall off. Let the natural process continue.
  • Transplant shock – It is not much you can do to recover your plant. Give it some time to heal on its own.

Why are my Pilea Leaves Curling?

Pilea leaves curling can pose a severe threat if you don’t find out the reason and treat your plant in time.

Let’s look at the causes of Pilea leaves curling.

1. Inadequate Sunlight

Pilea originated from tropical and subtropical regions of China and thus prefers a bright and warm temperature.

But bright doesn’t mean direct. Pilea has a soft side for indirect or dappled sunlight to continue their daily plant functions.

If your Pilea receives too much direct sunlight, your plant’s leaves may curl up. That is this plant’s way of showing stress.

In low light situations, the leaves expose as much of their surface area as possible to the available light to enhance photosynthesis.

Dimensions of light
Dimensions of light (Source: Michigan State University)

On the other hand, extreme sunlight has other effects: leaves turning yellow, plants drooping, leaves scorching, etc.

According to Msutoday, extreme sunlight affects the function of Photosystem II, which is important for plants for the photosynthesis process.

Pilea does best in a bright room, a few inches away from an east-facing window.

If the location is not possible, and you have your plant in a southern or western window, use appropriate curtains and drapes.

For even distribution of light, rotate the plant occasionally and use grow lights if the light is very low.

If you want your Pilea to recover quickly, you should relocate your plant to a location where the sunlight is dappled and indirect on the plant while being bright.

2. Temperature Stress and Cold Drafts

Temperature plays a crucial role in developing the plant’s foliage and other overall plant functions.

Along with the light, you must also focus on the temperature when the plant is around, as temperature influences how the plant functions. Pilea, being a tropical plant, prefers a warmer temperature.

Generally, Pilea loves a temperature between 55-75°F (13-25°C). If the temperature exceeds 80°F (27°C), the plant leaves may curl up due to stress.

Relation between Rate of Plant Growth and Temperature
Relation between Rate of Plant Growth and Temperature (Source: Research Gate)

So you must be wondering how extreme temperature affects the plant?

Well, in excess temperature, the water in the plant evaporates more quickly than it would normally.

According to the University of Missouri, extremely hot conditions increase the transpiration rate in stomata. In this condition, the plant loses water faster than it gets it.

With extreme hot temperatures, extreme cold temperature also affects Pilea.

When the temperature drops significantly, the plant loses a lot of moisture via the leaves. The curling of the leaves is the plant’s defense mechanism against the loss of moisture.

Remember to move your plant away from the locations where it stands in the way of extreme cold drafts, especially in the winter months.

When the temperature is very low during winter, you can blanket your plant or use heating pads to provide warmth.

3. Excessive Watering

Understanding what your plant needs and watering them to their requirement is not a tedious job. But, many people seem to mess that up.

Overwatering is one of the most dangerous yet recurring problems in indoor plants, leading to a dangerous disease: root rot.

It would prove best if you watered your Pilea when the top inch of the soil is dry. Sometimes due to excess water, the leaves in Pilea start to curl.

When the plant suffers from root rot, the nutrients and water uptake by the plant are blocked. That causes the plant leaves to curl.

Overwatering the Snake Plant
Overwatering the Snake Plant (Source: tenor)

But to prevent overwatering, you must not wholly deprive your plant of water, or it may develop signs like brown tips and droopy leaves.

Pilea loves soil that is on the damp side, but that doesn’t mean that you treat them with soggy soil.

With proper watering, you must also be concerned about the plant’s container. It needs plastic or glazed ceramic pot with a few drainage holes.

Other symptoms of overwatered Pilea include discolored, droopy leaves, yellow leaves, etc.

Solution and Preventive Measures

  • Move the pot to somewhere warm and let it dry on its own for some time. The curled leaves will also get back to form with the drying soil.
  • “Soaking method” is one the most effective method for watering this plant. Take a water-filled saucer and place your Pilea pot on there. Leave it for 30 minutes and let the soil soak up the water.
  • Check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. Water only if the top 2 inches feel dry. Or, you can use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content.
Soil Moisture Meter
Soil Moisture Meter (Source: Amazon)
  • Check the drainage hole of the plant to see if it is clogged. Remove the obstructions, if any.
  • If the weather is too hot, your plant may need more water than usual. However, water is only once every two weeks during winter.
  • If you have a pot that is too big for the plant, move the plant to a pot that is proportionally good in size for it.
  • A potting mix of peat moss or coco fiber with perlite can be suitable. (In a ratio of 9:1)

This will make it clearer. Read “How Often to Water Pilea?

4. Low Humidity

Pilea loves it when the conditions are a bit on the humid side. But sometimes, our home cannot fulfill their growing requirements.

Pilea plant grows optimally in humidity ranging from 50-75%. However, if the humidity falls below this, the plant will curl its leaves.

Effect of humidity and the loss of water
Effect of Humidity and the Loss of Water

When the humidity is low, the plant curls its leaves to protect whatever moisture content remains in the plant. This is the plant’s immediate response to moisture loss.

You might use air conditioners and heaters for your comfort, but trust me, your Pilea won’t do good with those things around it.

They suck out the moisture in the room, leaving dry air.

You can place a humidifier around the plant to maintain the humidity, or a wet pebble tray works fine.

Or, you can be a caring plant parent and mist your plant once every two weeks to maintain the humidity.

Misting plant leaves
Misting plant leaves (Source: Pexels)

Alternatively, you can also group it with other plants to share moisture.

However, this is a risky method as if any plant in the group is infected; it can quickly spread to other plants as well. So, check the plants thoroughly before grouping them.

Always do your best to provide your Pilea with sufficient humidity. Low humidity brings other problems like brown leaf edges, crispy, yellow leaves, plant wilt, etc.

5. Lack of Nutrients

Pilea doesn’t frequently ask for fertilizers throughout their growing phase. They can do just fine without nutrients, but sometimes, they ask for some.

A balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer, diluted to half strength once a month, is enough to keep Pilea healthy. When the plant lacks a few nutrient components, the leaves tend to curl.

Fertilized vs Unfertilized plant
Fertilized vs. Unfertilized plant (Source: Wikimedia)

Nutrients are divided into two categories: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Every nutrient has an essential role in the growth of the plant.

Six macronutrients are essential to Pilea. They get Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon from nature. However, the other three can be tricky.

Sometimes when you buy the plant, the sellers already have included a small number of nutrients in the soil.

But if they haven’t, you might need to add fertilizers to fulfill their Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium needs.

Each of them has different tasks to do for a plant.

  • Nitrogen: It makes energy available for plants whenever they need it. Due to nitrogen, proteins and enzymes in the roots make water uptake easier.
  • Phosphorus: Takes in the sun’s energy and converts it into growth.
  • Potassium: Activates enzymes in the plants and helps in the movement of carbohydrates, water, and nutrients.
Plant Nutrient Pyramid
Plant Nutrient Pyramid (Source: UMN Extension)

If your plant asks for nutrients, it will curl up its bottom leaves.

In such cases, you can feed your plant with a high-nitrogen fertilizer with added amino-acid supplement.

Also, keep in mind the pH of your plant as acidic soil enhances nutrient uptake while alkaline soil slows it down. Pilea prefers a pH ranging from 5.0 to 6.0.

Soil pH and availability of nutrients
Soil pH and availability of nutrients (Source: Agriculture and Food Journal)

Here are some suggested fertilizers for the Pilea plant.

Remember! Do not overfeed your plant or that may also cause the plant leaves to curl in an unnatural manner. Flush your plant’s base if this is the case.

6. Root Rot

Your plant’s leaves may curl up, and you might spend hours searching for the problem. Sometimes the problem is not where we can see them but hidden deep inside.

Due to overwatering or various kinds of fungi, Pilea’s root turns mushy and brown, and that phenomenon directly affects the leaves of the plant leaves, making them curl.

Rootbound in Plant
Rootbound in Plant (Source: Pexels)

In other words, the plant quickly suffers from root rot. Healthy roots are many in number, white and hard but can quickly lose that structure if the care is not up to the mark.

Overwatering is one of the primary causes of root rot, as they house different bacterias that cause root rot. Not only that, but other fungi find their home in the roots and affect them.

Pythium splendens is one of the basic causes of root rot in foliage plants.

Root rot means the root won’t function properly. That implies that the water won’t travel up to the leaves from that root.

So, the leaves curl themselves to protect whatever moisture they can.

While checking, you may also find out that your plant is rootbound. This may also cause the leaves to roll up and curl.

Pilea Plant gif
Healthy Pilea (Source: Tenor)

If you encounter such a problem, you should slowly take the plant out of the pot and inspect the root for any damage.

Prune the dead parts of the root with sterilized pruners and make sure not to cut the healthy roots in the process.

Solutions

  • The first step is to identify whether your plant has root rot or the plant is root-bound.
  • Support the soil properly and hold the pot upside down. Gently remove the plant from the pot.
  • Check the roots. The plant is rootbound if the roots have coiled the soil at the bottom. If the roots are brown and mushy, it is root rot.
  • The solution for both of these problems is repotting.
  • Remove the soil from the root area. Untangle the roots properly.
  • Choose a container that is one size bigger than the current pot. Fill 70% of it with well-draining potting soil.
  • Put the plant in the new pot and fill the remaining portion with potting soil. Leave some space for future fertilization.
  • Resume your regular care and see the plant flourish in no time.
A woman repotting plants
Repotting Plants (Source: Unsplash)

7. Pest Infestations

The Pilea plant has a beautiful set of leaves with a UFO-like structure. Its attractive foliage can attract any pests.

That being said, Pilea is not safe from any pests or bug infestation. But, with a timely diagnosis, you can protect your plant from pests and diseases.

Some pests like Aphids, Spider mites, Mealybugs, and Fungus gnats can attack Pilea.

These pests suck on Pilea leaves and stems, and it curls its leaves as a sign of stress.

Pests found on leaves of White Hibiscus
Pests found on leaves (Source: Pixahive)

When pests feed on the sap of your plant, the water content in your plant decreases significantly. This causes the leaves to curl.

Let’s look at how to identify these pests.

InsectsSymptoms
AphidsPear-shaped, green insects.
Foliage looks crinkled or stunted.
Spider MitesLower side of leaves have spidery webs.
Mealy bugsWhite, cottony masses.
Plant wilts, discolor and curl.
Fungus gnatPlants will grow poorly and have foliage loss.

Solutions

  • If the pests are visible to the naked eye, wear gloves and handpick them.
  • You can catch fungus gnats with yellow sticky tapes.
  • Dilute isopropyl alcohol with equal water and apply it to the leaves.
  • Check the roots properly and apply insecticides by soil drenching to protect them.
  • Horticultual neem oil suffocates the pests. Use them to get rid of the pests.
Neem Oil for Pests Control
Neem Oil for Pests Control (Source: Amazon)

Preventive Measures

  • Maintain a correct amount of light and water for the plant. This will help you avoid most kinds of pests.
  • Check the soil condition properly before planting your plant on it.
  • Look out for sudden changes in the foliage of the plant. If you see any, tend to the plant quickly and find out the cause of change.
  • Make a habit of inspecting the root regularly.

Powdery mildew is a disease that is responsible for making the leaves curl. Use organic fungicides that contain sulfur to get rid of this disease.

You might notice some strange eggs on the leaves. Read “How to Identify Insect Eggs on Leaves and Treat Pest Infestation?

Conclusion

If you tend to your Pilea’s needs, you may prevent it from any anomalies like curling, drooping, browning, etc.

Even if any of the above phenomena occur in your plant, you don’t need to panic, as in most cases, the problem is reversible, and your plant can be made healthy in no time.

Maybe your Pilea is suffering from other problems? We are here to guide you. Is your Pilea: Leaves turning yellow, Drooping, Dying?

Good luck!

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