Calathea Leaves Curling: 7 Causes and Solutions

Calathea leaves curling is an indication of a variety of issues with your green friend. It can be a sign of plant dehydration, stress, excessive sunlight exposure, among other things. Curling its leaves is the plant’s way of reducing water loss. While the most common cause for it is not watering the plant enough, other reasons like humidity or root damage can trigger this state.

Now let’s get to know calatheas and why they curl their leaves.

What Are Calathea Plants?

Calathea plants belong to the Marantaceae family. They’re also known as prayer-plants. Though they used to include over 200 species, they now include around 60 species. They’re famous for being pot plants due to their colorful looks and decorative leaves.

Calatheas are considered expressive plants. They tend to show many signs when they’re not in the best shape, which gives the caretaker a chance to quickly find a solution and see why their green friends aren’t doing so well. Another advantage is that they respond quickly to the right treatment and care. Pretty cooperative friends, no?

Causes of Calathea Leaves Curling

Calathea leaves curling and browning

Let’s list a few causes as to why calatheas might curl their leaves.

1.    Excessive Temperature

The ideal temperature for Calathea plants is between 60-85°F (16-29°C). They like to grow in environments that have similar temperatures to their native environment. Which means if they feel too cold, their leaves will curl to try to generate warmth for themselves. If they feel too hot, their leaves will start drying up.

A way to try and fix this is adjusting the room temperature to 75°F (24°C). The next step would be to stay on alert for the next couple of days and see how the plant reacts. You should then adjust the room temperature according to your calathea’s reaction. If the leaves are slowly coming back to their healthy form, then you’re going in the right direction.

Another thing to keep in mind is not placing your plant in a place where it’ll be in the way of a strong current, be it hot or cold. For example, don’t place it in front of an air conditioner or beside your computer. The strong currents can shock your plant and cause it to curl its leaves.

A good idea to avoid this is to place your plant and then put your hand in front of it to see if it’s facing a direct current of any kind.

2.    Excessive Sunlight

Calathea plant leaves have white and green markings that give them a beautiful look. If these markings start to fade, then your green friend is getting too much sunlight.

Calathea plants thrive in shady, low-light areas. Hence, it wouldn’t be the wisest thing to place them in a direct sunlight area.

If placed in direct sunlight, Calatheas will curl their leaves as if to try and shield themselves from excessive light exposure. By moving the plant to a low-light shady area, the leaves should return to normal within a couple of days.

The key here is placing your green friend in a place where they can get a moderate amount of indirect sunlight. Calatheas love subtly catching indirect sunlight because direct sunlight will scorch their leaves.

3.    Wrong Watering Amount

Calatheas are no different from other plants. They need a specific amount of water to be healthy. Too much will drown them; too little will starve them.

The key to keeping your Calathea friend happy and healthy is to keep the soil damp and moist but not water it too much. Because too much watering will cause the soil to be soggy and eventually cause root rot.

Here are a few tips to prevent this:

  • Check your plant’s soil with a stick or your fingertip at least once a day. You should allow the soil to slightly dry between watering periods but never leave it to dry completely. Checking the soil is a good way to check if the soil’s moist enough.
  • Assess the room temperature and how long it would take water to evaporate in your environment. That way, you can estimate how long it would take for your plant’s soil to start drying.
  • Make sure the water you use is at room temperature. Otherwise, you’ll cause your plant to go into shock, hence curling its leaves.
  • Make sure your plant’s pot drains properly. Accumulated water at the base of its pot will cause root rot and many other plant diseases.
  • You should water your plant with small amounts regularly, but water it less than usual in winter. Calatheas go somewhat dormant in winter, which lessens their water intake. Meaning your regular watering amount can be too much in winter.

So, if you keep these steps in mind, your green friend should remain in good shape.

4.    Low Humidity

Calatheas need humidity to thrive. Their wide leaves absorb the moisture from their surrounding environment. If the humidity decreases around them, their leaves will curl and turn brittle. They might even break with touch.

To solve this, you should try to fix the humidity in the room. Humidifiers can be a great help in this situation. You can turn it on and off until you balance the humidity for your plant. There are many great options for humidifiers that you can easily choose from online.

But since this step takes time, a temporary solution would be gently misting your plant with a spray bottle. But make sure it’s on the lowest setting because strong streams of water can cause the leaves to break since they’re in a weak, brittle condition.

Another temporary fix would be putting a plastic bag over your plant so that it can gather surrounding moisture. Make sure to keep an eye on the condensation development and air out the bag once or twice a day.

Calathea plants in the wild

5.    The Water Type Used for Watering Your Plant

An excessive amount of minerals in water can cause Calathea plant leaves to curl as a sign of distress. Two signs can indicate this issue:

  • The edges of the leaves are yellow
  • A buildup of salt on top of the soil

If you notice these signs, then you probably should try changing the water you use.

While tap water is mostly considered safe for houseplants, the water supply in your area might contain lots of minerals such as salts, fluoride, and calcium carbonate. All of which can damage your plant severely.

When fluoride accumulates in your plant, it can interrupt photosynthesis and cause tissue damage. Salts and calcium carbonate can damage the roots and prevent water from reaching them and getting stuck in the soil instead.

As such, avoiding tap water might be the smartest scenario. Switching to bottled or distilled water would be more ideal, and depending on where you live, rainwater can be a good alternative as well.

And whichever kind of water you use, don’t forget to leave it to be at room temperature, and not overwater your green friend. Small, regular amounts do the trick.

6.    Pests

When there’s a pest infestation in your Calathea plant, the leaves will curl because the infected leaves won’t get a proper supply of water and nutrients. You can use a magnifying lens to check for any signs of these little culprits on your plant.

There are many different kinds of pests, but the commonly known kind to infect calatheas is spider mites. These little attackers can be easily missed at first so you should always keep an eye out for them. Leaf curling is the first sign of their presence.

The second sign would be noticing small webbing across your plant and, most commonly, where stem and leaf meet. If the latter has occurred, then it’s a sign that the infestation has spread and that they grew in number significantly across your plant.

However, if there are some leaves intact, your green friend may still live to see another day. By getting rid of spider mites and nursing your Calathea carefully, your plant will regain its health. Even if it looks weak and brittle for a while, it’ll thrive again with time.

7.    Strong Chemicals in Fertilizers

There’s a common misbelief among plant caretakers, that the more fertilizer you use, the healthier and happier your green friend will be. However, it’s quite the opposite. Just like how overwatering would damage your plant, it’s the same case if you use too much fertilizer.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, right?

The chemicals in fertilizers can sometimes be too strong on Calatheas. Hence, causing the leaves to curl as a sign of plant exhaustion. So always make sure to use fertilizers in balanced, reasonable amounts.


Calathea plant with some leaves curling

In short, to deal with calathea curling leaves keep these things in mind. Keep the room temperature between 60-85°F. Put them in a shady, low-light area where they can get a moderate amount of indirect sunlight.

Avoid tap water and stick to bottled or distilled water. Rainwater works too if it’s accessible. Keep an eye out for pest infestations. Be careful not to overfeed your plant with fertilizer.

If you keep these things in mind, you’re sure to keep your plant happy and healthy.