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Why are the Leaves on my Prayer Plant Curling?

The Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) has undoubtedly one of the most attractive uniquely patterned foliage.

However, it is equally sensitive about its requirements. As a result, it is pretty normal to face some problems while growing this beautiful yet demanding plant.

You will certainly get some signals if your plant is not satisfied with your care. Among them, the curling of leaves can be a confusing one, especially if you are new to growing this plant.

The common cause of the curling in Prayer Plant is unmanaged waterings (too much or too little), low water quality, low humidity, temperature extremities, direct sunlight, or cell sap-sucking pests.

Prayer Plant
Prayer Plant (Source: Flickr)

Furthermore, you surely want to save and prevent your plant from curling, don’t you?

You will surely develop a green thumb and make your green partner happy. Few tips and tricks will be enough, and we have it all covered.

All you have to do is keep scrolling!

Is it Normal for Prayer Plant leaves to Curl?

Coming to the primary point, the Prayer plant got its name from how its leaves fold like praying hands after the sunsets. This phenomenon is called Nictinasty.

Therefore, if your plant folds at night and regains its shape at day, it isn’t a matter of concern as it is entirely normal and, in fact, it is beautiful.

Curled Prayer Plant
Curled Prayer Plant (Source: Bloomscape)

Moreover, if your plant is actively growing and forming new leaves but curled, there is nothing to worry about; the baby leaves take their time coming to the shape. They will be flat in no time!

Except for these situations, if your Prayer Plant has curled leaves, then it needs attention.

For better identification, you can observe your Prayer Plant leaves at mid-day as it is the time when leaves are fully flat.

If your case contradicts, it’s time you pay a bit more attention to the plant.

You may want to learn about different varieties of Prayer Plant. Click this to read more “15 Different Types of Prayer Plants

Why are the Leaves on my Prayer Plant Curling?

We have already given you a sneak peek of the possible reasons. But here, you will get more insights on the topic.

Make sure to read!

1. Unmanaged Watering Habits

The Prayer Plant is quite picky about its water requirements. Give it more or give it less, and it rebels. Consequently, this is the most common reason for the curling of leaves of the Prayer Plant.

Keeping the soil moist but not dampened is the key to keeping your Prayer Plant happy. For that, choosing well-draining soil can do wonders.

Water enters the soil and evaporates the same way
Water enters the soil and evaporates the same way. (Source: content.ces.ncsu.edu)

Things to Ensure while Watering a Prayer Plant

  • Allow the soil to dry out halfway before watering. You can stick your finger into the soil to check if the top 1-2 inches of soil has dried out.
  • Thoroughly watering once every ten days works best for the Maranta plant during summer, spring, and fall. However, the soil should be kept drier when the plant goes dormant (in winter).
  • For best moisture identification, use a Moisture meter.

A quick tip: While watering a plant, using the saucer technique is the best. Fill the saucer with freshwater when required. The plant mix will then soak water as per its requirement.

2. Poor Water Quality

If you think you are good to go once you master the art of watering, you are wrong! The amount and the quality of water both are crucial for Prayer Plants.

They are sensitive to Chloride, Fluoride, salts, and minerals present in the water. Exposure to such water can cause the leaves of the plant to curl.

The harmful minerals and salts stop the water transportation to the upper foliage of the plant by attaching themselves to the base of the plant.

Salt Build up
Salt Build up  in the soil.

Chloride accumulates in the leaf tissue, and the accumulation may cause burn. Similarly, excessive fluoride hampers photosynthesis.

The above factors cause the plant to close its leaf edges and curl.

Tips to Maintain the Water Quality

  • The best solution is to use rainwater as it is closest to what it would get in nature.
  • However, distilled water can also fit the bill if you cannot provide the plant with rainwater.
  • You can also use tap water but only after letting it sit for a night.
  • Nowadays, there are different methods to check the quality of water. You can opt for a professional lab test as an efficient way.

3. Root Bound

Prayer Plants aren’t much prone to root bound as they have a shallow root system.

But still, if the pot is small and it has been a while since you have repotted the plant, it can be a possible reason for the curling of leaves.

Root bound problems
Rootbound condition (Source: Unsplash)

When the plant is root bound, it cannot function fully and goes under stress. In this condition, leaves may start to curl.

How to Save Prayer Plant from Root Bound Condition?

  • The best solution against rootbound is repotting. You should repot your plant to a slightly bigger container as soon as possible.
  • For repotting, use soil that has good aeration and good drainage.
  • You can also trim the root ball and reduce the root density to ensure the plant gets all the nutrients it requires.
  • There is a process of cutting or pulling off the root ball to divide the roots into smaller parts. This root division process helps remove rootbound.
  • You can manually loosen up some roots and provide them breathing space.

4. Low Humidity

Prayer Plant, being a tropical plant, favors high humidity.

If the place where you have placed the plant is dry, it is most likely the reason for your rolled leaves. Nevertheless, you can straighten it out.

Prayer Plant prefers the humidity level of 50% or more. However, some varieties can also withstand low humidity.

Humidity water drops on leaves
Humidity water drops on leaves (Source: Unsplash)

In low humidity conditions, plants lose their moisture more often than usual. This can lead the plant to dehydration pretty quickly.

The plant then shows stress and tries to save the remaining water by curling its leaves.

Tips to Maintain the Humidity

  • Mist the leaves as soon as you discover the cause to be low humidity.
  • Prepare a pebble tray and place it near the plant to maintain humidity.
  • Get a humidifier from an online site to keep the humidity in check.

You can practice ‘humidity-sharing’ by grouping your plant with other plants. However, BE CAREFUL! as this might act as an open invitation for the pests and diseases.

5. Unsuitable Temperature

No need to panic in case all those points mentioned above are not the reasons. As it can be due to temperature extremities.

Growing a Maranta plant can be quite challenging if you reside in a cold region as they dislike cold. It does well on the average indoor temperature of 18-23°C (65-75°F).

But, if the temperature drops below 55°F, the plant will curl its leaves to stay warm. Similarly, the plant does the same to retain moisture during extremely high temperatures.

Temperature stress in Plant
Temperature stress in Plant (Source: Science Direct)

Tips to Reduce Temperature Stress

  • Make sure your plant is not at a close distance from drafty windows and open windows during extremely cold temperatures. Maintain the distance.
  • If few leaves have died, prune them off the plant but leave the damaged leaves on the pot as they provide protection when the cold strikes again.
  • During extreme heat, keep watering the plant, keep the humidity in check, avoid direct, harsh sunlight, and avoid repotting too much.

6. Direct Sunlight

Prayer Plant, in nature, grows under the canopy of large trees in well-lighted areas. Thus it prefers light but not too much direct sunlight.

Too much light causes excessive photosynthesis, which induces a chemical reaction in the leaf, causing them to curl.

Sunlight for Indoor Plants
Sunlight for Indoor Plants (Source: UGA Extension)

Direct sunlight discolors and causes the browning of the leaves. The plant also curls to save moisture.

However, indirect light doesn’t mean keeping the plant in the full shade. In low light areas, it doesn’t open its leaves.

According to a Research by ASHS, low light causes plant to lose leaves and the leaf size also decreases.

Tips to Fulfil Light Requirement

  • Place the plant on the northeast side, a little far from the window, for better performance.
  • Put a curtain between the plant and the window to reduce the light intensity.
  • In low light conditions, resort to grow lights to provide the plant with its lights needs.

7. Infestation of Pests

If all the abiotic factors are as per the plants’ requirement, look out for pests!

Sap sucking insects such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs, etc., cause the leaves to curl as they continuously suck nutrients from the plant.

Leaf scales on leaves
Leaf scales on leaves (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Though they look small and seem just to be resting on your plant leaves, they are not as docile as they look. On the contrary, they are pretty destructive.

PestsSigns and Symptoms
AphidsRed or green masses of soft, pear-shaped insects.
Curled, yellow or dead leaves.
ScalesCottony, cushion-like insects.
Leaf drop, blemishes on leaves
Mealy buysWhite, fuzzy, cottony masses.
Stunted plant, yellow leaves.

Now let’s look at solutions and preventive measures for pest infestation.

What to do in case of infestation?

  • Dispose of the plant if the infestation is at the point of no return.
  • You can use Diatomaceous earth(DE), an organic material that is sure to kill aphids.

Beware! Do not use DE during the plant blooming period or it may hamper the bloom.

  • The scales are visible and can be picked by hand if the infestation is not dense.
  • You can go for horticultural neem oil as they have no severe effect on plants.
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol can work great against scales and mealybugs. Dip a cotton ball in the alcohol and rub the leaves with it gently.

Because I did this: The best way to apply the alcohol is, by wearing gloves and using a q-tip, slowly dab the leaves and stem where the pests have their colony.

You can DIY your fertilizer for Mealybugs. Blend a small onion, a garlic bulb, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to make a paste. Soak it in 2 pints of water for an hour.

Strain well and add a tablespoon of dish soap. Store the solution for a week before spraying on the plant.

Preventive Measures

  • It would be best to always focus on keeping your leaves dust-free and tidy.
  • Occasionally, wipe the leaves of your plant with clean and damp clothes.
  • You should never overwater your Prayer Plant. This plant hates standing on soggy soil.
  • Maintain adequate humidity around the plant. High humidity repels pests.

With all these Treatment and Preventive Measures, regular check on your plant and timely quarantine in case of infestation is the first and foremost things to make sure about.

Read our article to know “How to Identify Insect Eggs on Leaves and Treat Pest Infestation?

8. Other Possible Reasons

Apart from the major reasons above, a few minor reasons entice the Prayer Plant towards curling. Watch out for these reasons as well.

Cute Prayer Plant
Cute Prayer Plant (Source: Etsy)
  • If you overfertilize your plant, the excess salt will build up in the root, and the plant won’t perform osmosis. This will render the plant thirsty, and it will curl its leaves.
  • Plants require all kinds of nutrients for growth. In the case of Prayer plants, lack of phosphorus and calcium can cause the plant to curl downward, and lack of magnesium can make them curl upward.
  • Sometimes, it may go to a transplant shock when you repot your plant. Fret not; give your plant some time to recover on its own.
  • Your plant can sometimes curl its leaves to show that it has aged.

To Wrap It Up

The Prayer Plant isn’t an easy plant to care for. So it needs an extra bit of attention and care.

Curling of Prayer Plant leaves isn’t an uncommon problem. But if you understand its nature, where it comes from, and what it needs, you will have it pretty easy.

In conclusion, if you handle the Prayer Plant well, you should pat yourself on the back as you have just upgraded your gardening level!

Happy Gardening!

Is your Monstera leaves curling? Visit this article “Why are My Monstera Leaves Curling?”

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