Why Are My House Plant’s Leaves Curling Up? [Causes & What to Do]

Caring for a potted house plant isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when you are new to the game.

Many people in the US get inspired to buy a couple of different potted house plants once they see their favorite online bloggers talk about it or when they realize the benefit of having greenery around them.

However, by the end of just a month or even earlier than that, all their potted plants are already dead or are barely the likes of what they used to be.

So what makes caring for a house plant so challenging?

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Many people who lack sufficient insight and experience wrongly assume that potted house plants have the same needs as outdoor plants. However, this is far from the truth.

People who are unable to understand the difference and fail to care for their potted house plants usually always have the same complaint; the leaves of their house plants keep curling up.

What Are Curled Up Plant Leaves?

Most potted plants in the United States have flat, wide-open leaves that are usually a shade of green or lime-yellow.

While there are many house plants with unique leaf shapes, such as the string of pearl plant or the ponytail palm, the flat open top surface is a similarity most house plant species share.

At times, due to an undesirable and abnormal series of events, the leaves of a potted house plant will no longer retain their flattened-out shape and will instead begin to curl up, forming thin, brittle leaf rolls.

The curled-up leaves will negatively affect the house plant in multiple ways, eventually leading to the death of the entire plant.

Continue reading to understand why the leaf of a plant is designed to have a flat, wide-open surface, and what happens to a plant when the leaves begin to curl inside.

Moreover, this article will help you understand why the leaves of your potted house plants are curling up and what you can do about it.

Let’s get started!

Also, read, Why Is My House Plant Dying

Why do Plants Have Flat Wide-open Leaves?

Apart from being visually pleasing, the flatness and openness of a leaf’s surface have a unique purpose. Let us explain what that purpose is.

Plants, whether they are designed to grow indoors or out in the wild, are living species that have a set of needs and requirements to survive.

During the daytime, all plant species use the sun’s light and atmospheric carbon dioxide to carry out photosynthesis.

Leaves contain a chemical substance called chlorophyll that not only gives the leaf its green color but also allows for the absorption of sunlight.

The sunlight absorbed and captured by the leaf’s chlorophyll is used to carry out photosynthesis. This allows plants to make sucrose, which is the primary kind of plant food.

The different parts of the plant use sucrose to carry out their everyday functions. For instance, roots begin absorbing water, and the stem stays upright to carry the weight of the plant.

At nighttime, when sunlight is no longer available, plants begin respiring just like humans and animals do. They begin taking in oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. 

Now, you’re probably wondering, “that was a wonderful science lesson, but what does this have to do with my house plants?” Let us tell you.

The wide and flat leaves of house plants catch as much sunlight as possible to ensure that the plant makes enough food to sustain itself. If the plant isn’t able to make enough food, it will die.

Moreover, carbon dioxide gas molecules can only enter a plant through the holes present in the plant’s leaves. At nighttime, oxygen will also enter the plant through these very holes.

Furthermore, leaves help regulate the temperature of a plant. When the temperature gets too hot, water molecules transpire out of the surface of the leaves, producing a cooling effect for the plant.

Hence, the flattened-out shape of a leaf is critical for survival in ranging weather conditions. If the surface of a leaf is not exposed to the atmosphere, transpiration will not happen, and the plant will die.

Read Why is My Houseplant Wilting

What Happens When the Leaves of a Plant Curl Up?

If the leaves of your potted house plants have curled up, you are right to be alarmed. Potted house plant species in the United States are already far more sensitive than outdoor species.

Hence, if they do not get immediate attention and the required care after their leaves have curled up, the potted house plant will die. 

When the leaves of a house plant have curled up, its stomata (the tiny holes on its leaves) are no longer exposed to the atmosphere.

This lack of exposure means that the plant will no longer be able to get or trap any sunlight, nor will carbon dioxide molecules be able to pass through into the plant.

As a result, photosynthesis slows down and eventually stops. Since the potted house plant is no longer photosynthesizing like it is supposed to, it will stop making sucrose, which is the only source of food for the entire plant.

With insufficient sucrose available, all the other processes that are being carried out inside the plant will also get affected and eventually stop.

For instance, the roots of the potted house plant will no longer have the energy to absorb water molecules from the soil and push it up the stem of the plant.

With no water being carried up to the stem, leaf, or flower of the potted house plant, the entire plant will eventually lose its ability to stay upright, and will bend or droop.

If this continues to go on for too long, the lack of sucrose and water molecules will eventually cause the house plant to die.

Similarly, since no oxygen molecules will be able to pass into the plant at nighttime, transpiration will stop, further contributing to the potted house plant’s death.

Moreover, if the external temperature of your living space begins to rise, the potted house plant will no longer be able to regulate its external temperature.

First of all, it will not have sufficient water for effective transpiration to carry out. Even if it did have water, the curled-up leaves of the house plant would prevent any water molecules from leaving the plant.

As a result, the plant’s inner temperature will rise and it will die.

Hence, if you want to be a responsible house plant parent and someone who cares for their potted plants, you must know what can cause the leaves of your potted house plant to curl up.

Read Why are my house plant leaves drying up

Why Are My House Plant’s Leaves Curling Up?

Now you know why the surface of a leaf is designed to have a flat wide-open shape, and what happens to a plant when the leaf no longer is able to retain its original shape.

With this knowledge, you must also know what is causing the leaves of your potted house plant to curl up in the first place.

Some possible reasons for this curling are as follows:

You Are Underwatering the House Plant

One common assumption that people make about almost all potted house plant species is that indoor plants do not require as much watering as outdoor plants do.

This information is accurate for some house plant species, such as a cactus or a snake plant, as both these plants can survive with minimum traces of water available.

However, the problem arises when the same water requirements are assumed for all house plant species.

For instance, if you are growing a bamboo plant or a money plant inside your home in the United States, it may need more water than most outdoor plants.

If you mistakenly choose to underwater such a potted house plant species, you will eventually end up killing the plant. This is how it will happen:

  • Due to insufficient water available in the potted house plant’s soil, the roots will not be able to push the required amount of water up a plant’s stem.
  • When the leaves and the stem of a plant do not have the required amount of water in their cells, the leaves will curl up as a preventative measure.
  • Since no more water molecules will be able to transpire out of a leaf’s now curled-up surface, the plant will be able to control how much water it loses.
  • However, although the water loss has been contained, the leaf’s exposure to sunlight and carbon dioxide is also minimized.
  • If the same situation continues for an extended period, the plant will eventually run out of its sucrose reserves and will die.

Read How Often Should I Water a Houseplant?

You Are Overwatering the House Plant

While underwatering is the leading cause of death in most house plants, overwatering is another culprit that you cannot overlook.

While people are advised to overwater some plant species, they often are unaware of exactly how much water is enough.

When you overwater a potted house plant’s soil, not all water can be taken up by the plant’s roots as the cells of a house plant also have limited potential to store water.

All the excess water that is not taken up by the plant eventually creates a medium for fungal growth. As a result, the fungus manages to grow all the way inside the plant’s soil and begins rotting the plant’s roots. 

When the roots of a house plant are no longer able to carry out their functions by absorbing and pushing water molecules up a plant, the plant cells won’t have enough water to function.

Consequently, the leaves of a plant begin to curl up to prevent excessive water loss. If this situation is not contained and addressed immediately, the plant will eventually die.

The House Plant is Exposed to Excessive Amounts of Heat or Sunlight

Some house plant species require an ample amount of sunlight, while some grow better in the dark. If you are unaware of which house plant species needs what, you might have a problem at hand.

If a plant species that is sensitive to excessive sunlight is left by an open window for sun exposure, its internal temperature will begin to go up.

In an attempt to bring down the house plant’s temperature, the leaves will begin transpiring out water molecules.

If an excess amount of water molecules leaves the house plant, the leaves will have no choice but to curl up to prevent any further water loss. 

If the house plant is not immediately removed from this direct sunlight and not watered to make up for the water loss, it eventually dies.

The Atmosphere Around the House Plant is Too Dry

During dry conditions, keeping a potted house plant alive becomes extremely challenging.

This situation happens because when the external atmosphere lacks moisture and the plant has relatively more water, a concentration gradient is formed.

As a result, the water molecules begin diffusing out of a house plant’s leaves into the atmosphere. If this continues, the plant eventually gets dehydrated, causing the leaves of a plant to curl up.

Why are my house plants leaves curling up
Why are my house plants leaves curling up

The Potted House Plant Has Gotten Old

At times, the leaves of your potted house plant begin to curl up, not because you are doing something wrong, but instead because it is getting old.

Usually, if this happens, there is not much you can do to revive the house plant.

Read Why Do House Plant Leaves Turn Yellow?

Final Thoughts

Having a house plant can help improve your mental health, keep your anxiety levels down, and improve the overall aesthetics of your house.

However, if you are unable to keep your house plant alive, it’s not exactly going to do wonders for your mental health.

Hence, you must understand what causes a plant’s leaves to curl up and how you can prevent this from happening.

Once you have learned how to properly care for your house plant, you can enjoy having it around for a long time.

Remember, you shouldn’t overwater or underwater your plant. Also, don’t keep it in direct sunlight for too long. Doing this will cause the leaves to curl up, which will eventually lead to the death of the plant.

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