Plant Leaves Curling Upwards: Common Causes and Solutions

Author: Eugeniu V.

Published on 11.07.2023

Curling leaves are a common concern among plant owners, as they can indicate underlying problems that need to be addressed. Understanding the specific causes of curled leaves and implementing appropriate solutions is key to restoring your plant's health. Here, we'll explore seven common causes of upward-curling leaves and provide detailed descriptions of each cause along with suggested remedies.

  1. Pests:
    Pests such as aphids and whiteflies can wreak havoc on plants, causing leaves to distort and curl. Aphids are often found on the undersides or tips of leaves, while whiteflies attach themselves to the leaf undersides, depleting the plant's moisture. To combat pests, you can use insecticides specifically formulated for plant pests or create a homemade solution of soapy water to spray on affected areas. Repeat applications until all pests are eliminated. In severe infestations, it may be necessary to remove heavily affected plant parts.
  2. Overwatering:
    Overwatering is a common cause of root rot, which can lead to upward-curling leaves. When plants receive excessive water, the roots suffocate, preventing them from absorbing nutrients properly. As a result, leaves may curl and show signs of distress. To address overwatering, water your plants sparingly and allow the top few inches of soil to dry out completely before watering again. Ensure that your pots have proper drainage holes, and consider adding gravel or stones at the base of the pot to enhance drainage. If root rot is present, carefully remove and discard affected roots, ensuring that the remaining healthy roots are intact.
  3. Excessive Light:
    While plants need light to thrive, excessive light can cause leaves to curl up or turn brown. This is often due to a chemical reaction within the plant triggered by excessive photosynthesis. Some plants, especially those native to tropical climates, prefer indirect sunlight. If your plant's older leaves are curling and the newer leaves are smaller than expected with brown tips, excessive light may be the cause. To remedy this, relocate the plant to an area with less direct sunlight or use a net curtain to filter the intensity of light reaching the plant.
  4. Excessive Heat:
    Plants enjoy warmth, but excessive heat can be damaging. High temperatures cause rapid evaporation, forcing plants to curl their leaves to conserve water. If your plant is exposed to excessive heat, such as near radiators or in direct sunlight, it may exhibit upward-curling leaves. To mitigate this, relocate the plant to a cooler area, away from heat sources. Open windows or use fans to provide adequate airflow, which can help regulate the plant's temperature. Monitor the temperature in the room and ensure sufficient spacing between plants for proper air circulation.
  5. Nitrogen Deficiency:
    Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants, vital for their growth and chlorophyll production. When plants lack sufficient nitrogen, they prioritize allocating it to newer leaves, causing older leaves to curl upwards. Additionally, nitrogen deficiency may cause yellowing and browning of leaves. For plants nearing the blooming or fruiting stage, a high-nitrogen formula in an easily absorbable form can help address the deficiency. Regularly supplementing plants with amino acids can also aid in nitrogen uptake and utilization.
  6. Chemical Damage from Herbicides:
    Care must be taken when using herbicides, as they can cause unintended damage to plants if not used correctly. Herbicides meant for weed control can harm desirable plants, leading to curled leaves. If you notice signs of herbicide damage, such as leaf curling, immediately douse the plant with water to minimize the effects. However, complete recovery may not be possible, and removing the damaged parts of the plant is often the best solution. If removal is not feasible, providing the plant with ample fertilizer and water can aid in its recovery.
  7. Viral Infection:
    Viral infections in plants are usually incurable, and infected plants should be promptly removed to prevent further spread. Leaf curling is one of the common symptoms of viral infection. After removing infected plants, thoroughly inspect nearby plants for signs of infection and remove any displaying symptoms. It's essential to prevent infected plant material from entering your compost to avoid spreading the virus. Regularly monitor your plants for any signs of infection and take immediate action if detected.

By understanding these common causes and implementing the appropriate remedies, you can effectively address the issue of upward-curling leaves in your plants. Regular monitoring, proper care, and prompt action are key to maintaining the health and vitality of your beloved plants.