Many types of houseplants are easy to please and care for, but Calathea are not one of them. As a Calathea owner, you’re likely scratching your head wondering what causes Calathea leaves to curl and more importantly what you can do to remedy it.
In this guide, we’ll deep dive into how you can unfurl your calathea’s leaves in as little time as possible.
Calathea Leaves Curling? You’ve Got a Stressed Plant
Calathea leaves curl for a variety of reasons, but usually, it’s to show they’re unhappy with their current living conditions.
Often it can be a sign that your plant is dehydrated – Calatheas are notoriously thirsty plants after all – but it can also be caused by pests, disease, the temperature being too high, the humidity too low, or too much direct light. I know what you’re thinking – where do I start then?!
The good thing is curling leaves aren’t always a cause for concern (yes, really), especially if you notice that the leaves only seem to move at night or after you’ve brought it home from the nursery.
Calathea’s are also called ‘Prayer Plants’ for their natural nyctinastic ability to move in search of light and close their leaves at night, folding them together like praying hands. It’s when their leaves remain closed that it becomes a problem for your plant.
You should start investigating the cause of curling leaves as soon as you notice they’re not unfurling on their own in the daylight.
How To Unfurl Your Calathea’s Leaves
Don’t worry, there’s a chance your curled Calathea leaves can be saved! While these plants are very sensitive, they do respond quickly to proper care.
There are several ways to remedy curling leaves, but you must take the time to troubleshoot what’s happening with your plant before trying to fix the issue – the last thing you want is to make the issue worse!
- Adjust Your Watering Schedule
Calathea’s are tropical plants that prefer their soil to be damp, but not soaked. It’s important to avoid overwatering and standing water, so be sure to always check the moisture of the soil before adding water.
Check the top 2-3 inches of the soil and only add water if it feels dry – usually, weekly or even biweekly watering is appropriate.
- Increase The Humidity In The Environment
Calatheas can sometimes struggle to thrive in our homes due to dry air. In fact, curling leaves are often caused by a lack of moisture and humidity in the area.
Aim to keep the humidity levels in your home above 50-60% for ideal growth and health – though some delicate varieties will require humidity levels as high as 80%.
- Move Plant Away From Intense Light
Keep your Calathea plant growing strong and healthy by placing it near an indirect light source. Too much intense light will not only scorch the leaves, causing them to curl and even brown or burn, but it also causes moisture in the plant and soil to transpire and dry out faster.
- Adjust The Temperature
The natural rainforest habitat of these plants is very warm, so it’s important to maintain a similar temperature for your Calathea. Usually, this isn’t an issue, as the plants thrive well in temperatures typical for most homes, but be aware of drafts caused by windows and vents.
- Check For Pests, And Treat If Needed
A variety of pests can damage your plant and its leaves, causing them to curl. Look closely for webs and pests beneath the leaves and in the crevices where the stalk meets the leaf and be sure to act quickly if you find any evidence!
What Causes a Calathea’s Leaves to Curl?
Once your plant is happy and healthy again, it should unfurl its leaves and resume its natural gentle movements each day. Although there are many ways to help remedy the situation, in the end, it all depends on what’s causing this issue to begin with.
Carefully assess your plants’ conditions to find out why your Calathea leaves are curling and then start taking action!
Cause #1 – The Soil Is Too Wet or Too Dry
If you accidentally over or underwater your Calathea it’s likely to develop curled leaves. When your plant isn’t watered often enough, and the soil is left to dry out, the leaves will dry up and curl to preserve its energy.
When your plant is oversaturated or left to sit in standing water it can develop root rot, which can result in your Calathea leaves curling, amongst other damage. To avoid both scenarios, check the top layer of soil often and ensure it’s dry before watering.
How to Fix: Keeping your plants’ soil moist, but not soaking comes down to more than just finding and maintaining a watering schedule that works, however. Under or overwatering can also be prevented by using the appropriate soil mix.
A porous soil mixture, which is also well-draining will help ensure the soil holds on to the right amount of water to keep your plant thriving. For the best results, use a soil mix with equal parts soil, perlite, and peat moss, or make your own!
Cause #2 – The Humidity is Too Low for Calatheas
Improper humidity is often the culprit of curling Calathea leaves since our homes are sometimes too dry for these tropical plants.
If you find that the leaves are yellowing and curling, and you’ve checked the possibility of other issues, this could be the cause. With the use of a hygrometer and a few nifty hacks, you can monitor and control the humidity levels in your home.
How to Fix: The most obvious solution is to employ a small humidifier near your plants, but if you don’t have one you can also use something called a humidity tray. A humidity tray can be made easily by filling a shallow dish with water and pebbles, to keep your pot bottoms from sitting in the water.
You can also increase the humidity near your Calathea naturally by grouping your plants closer together.
Cause #3 – Too Much Direct Light
Since Calathea varieties naturally grow under the canopy of larger rainforest trees, they’re accustomed to bright, but indirect light conditions. For the best chance for success, place your plant within 2-3 feet from a window that receives plenty of sunlight – but not too close, or it could be scorched.
How to Fix: If you notice browning, curling leaves it could be caused by too much direct light. Try moving your plant further from the light source, or near a window that receives less sunlight overall throughout the day.
Having to water your plant often to keep the soil moist – more than once or twice per week – may also be a sign that your Calathea is receiving too much direct light.
More sunlight means more heat, which can increase the rate of transpiration, drying out your leaves as well as the soil.
Cause #4 – The Temperature Is Too Cold or Hot
These plants will be happy so long as they’re kept in a space with a temperature between 65°F and 80°F (18°C and 27°C). Be careful of drafts from windows, doors, or your vents though, because Calathea’s do not tolerate temperature fluctuations well.
How to Fix: If your plant has been growing great without issue and you haven’t changed its care or location, a drastic temperature change may have caused its leaves to curl. Luckily, they tend to bounce back pretty quickly from this, provided the exposure is brief.
Long-term exposure to extreme heat or cold could cause severe damage to your plant though, so avoid it at all costs!
Cause #5 – A Pest Problem
While various kinds of pests affect house plants, spider mites are the most common culprit. Check for spider mites by examining your plants carefully, looking for small moving dots, holes in the leaves, and webbing on the underside of the leaves.
If you find evidence and suspect spider mites are causing your Calathea leaves to curl, you need to move quickly to prevent the spread to other plants nearby!
How to Fix: There are a few steps you can take to rid your Calathea plant of spider mites, all of which are relatively easy. You can try giving your plant a brisk shower with room temperature water, to rinse pests away, but if they’re persistent insecticidal soap or neem oil may be needed.
To prevent pest outbreaks, wipe your Calathea leaves down frequently to prevent dust build-up.
FAQ – Calathea Leaves Curling Questions
Q: Why are my Calathea’s leaves curling after repotting?
A: This is usually a sign of transplant shock. Calathea’s are sensitive to changes in their environment and will take some time to readjust. If it’s been over a week and the leaves have not recovered, take some time to review how the new pot has affected your watering schedule – a larger pot may need more water.
Q: I’ve tried everything, my Calathea’s leaves are still curled, what now?
A: If all else fails it could be the quality of water that is affecting your plant. Tap water contains minerals, salt, fluoride, and chlorine which can build up in the soil over time. To avoid this, use filtered water, or leave the tap water to sit overnight before using it.
Q: Will all curled leaves go back to normal?
A: It depends on what’s causing the curling and how long the leaves have been in this condition, but the short answer is no. Some leaves just can’t be saved – removing them will actually be beneficial for your plant.
If you find curled leaves that are severely dry or damaged, use a pair of shape, sanitized clippers to remove them. If left unresolved, the damaged leaves will not receive the energy they need to grow, resulting in further harm to your Calathea.