What Your Houseplants' Curling Leaves Are Trying To Tell You

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Seeing curled leaves on your houseplants can be alarming, but it doesn't necessarily need to send you into panic mode. Instead, take a deep breath and do some detective work to figure out what your plants' curls are trying to tell you. Here are four reasons your houseplants' leaves could be curling and what to do about each:

1. It's thirsty.

Alessia Resta of Apartment Botanist says that curling leaves can be "an indication that the soil is dry and you have to water the plant."

Plant designer and author of Wild Interiors and Wild at Home Hilton Carter reiterates this idea: "An underwatered plant will tell you when it's thirsty by having its leaves faint, curl, or develop a few brown spots on the ends of the foliage," Carter previously told mbg.

So if you see curling and other telltale signs of underwatering—such as pale, spotty leaves—stick your fingers into the plant's soil. If the top 2 inches feels completely dry to the touch, give your plant enough water to completely moisten the soil. Just be careful not to overwater, as that's not ideal for the plant either, and make sure your pot has a drainage hole or some pebbles to prevent water from collecting at the bottom and causing root rot.

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2. It has pests.

Unwelcome plant pests can cause a lot of issues, with curling leaves being one of them. (Holes in the leaves, speckling, and yellowing or pale leaves can also be telltale signs.) Aphids, in particular, which suck the sap out of plants, are common culprits of curled leaves. Take a good look at your plants' leaves to see if there are any pests present; you should be able to spot them with the naked eye.

To get rid of them, wipe your plants down with water and a touch of dish soap. Spray with water after to remove all the soap residue. Follow that up with a misting of neem oil diluted in water. (Here's the full guide to getting rid of pests in houseplants!)

3. It's getting too much light.

Not all plants want direct sunlight. In fact, many thrive without it. If your plants' leaves are looking scorched, curled, and crispy, and it's in direct sunlight, there's a chance it might want a little shade. Move it to shadier part of your home and see how it fares. A quick Google search will also tell you about the type of sunlight a particular plant prefers.

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4. Its soil is impacted.

And lastly, if you've done all of the above to no avail, Resta says it's time to look at the soil: "If the curling persists after you water, the soil may be impacted and water may not be getting to the roots at all." Gently pull the plant out of its pot and scope out the roots. If they have a dense crust of soil around them, you'll need to give the plant a fresh batch of soil.

Are curling leaves always cause for concern?

In most cases, they're not. Once you identify the culprit causing the curling, you should be able to get your plant back to normal relatively quickly. If curled leaves do persist, though, you're better off removing them so your plant can conserve its energy for the healthy leaves.

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The bottom line.

Curling leaves happen, and they're not difficult to fix. If you spot them, check your plants' water levels, soil, lighting, and leaves for any pest infestations. Once you fix the potential problem or simply pluck the curled leaves, your plant should start looking as good as new in no time.

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