Alocasia leaves curling is something that many owners will meet at one point or another. That’s because while this plant produces amazing foliage, it is also finicky.
As a result, taking care of it and making sure it gets what it wants isn’t always straightforward.
The good news is the curling leaves on alocasia plants can be fixed.
But the most important thing is to figure out what the cause is first.
Why are my alocasia leaves curling? The most common reason for leaf curling in alocasia are underwatering and low humidity.
Both are moisture related. And the lack of moisture causes leaves to curl in order to reduce the amount of water loss through the leaves during transpiration.
That said, fertilizer issues, temperature stress, lighting problems also cause leaf curl as well.
Causes of Alocasia Leaves Curling
Below I’ll go through the different reasons why your alocasia leaves are curling.
Note that most of the time, only one of the causes apply to your particular situation. However, there are some instances that more than one cause is happening at the same time.
So, it is important to narrow down the different possible options and eliminate the others.
In time, your experience will allow you to intuitively eliminate some causes that do not seem relevant to whatever is happening to your alocasia plant.
Lack of Water
One of the most common reasons for alocasia leaves curling is lack of water.
This is how the plant will respond when it is trying to conserve as much water as it can.
One of the alocasia’s natural processes is transpiration. This is when the is loses water through the pores of its leaves.
This happens to allow the exchange of air and moisture. It also helps the plant regulate its internal temperature.
However, when it is short on water, the plant will curl its leaves to reduce the surface area of its foliage. Doing so allows it to lose less water.
In doing so, it is able to conserve more water at least temporarily.
Over time, if the condition persists it will still end up dehydrated if you do not water the plant.
Fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems to fix. All the plant needs is more water.
However, before you add water, always check to make sure that the soil is very dry.
An underwatered alocasia with curling leaves will be staying in very dry soil. However, if the soil feels wet or moist, do not water.
It means something else is causing the leaves to curl and not the lack of moisture since the soil is not dry.
That said, dry soil is easily fixed by adding water.
The best way to rehydrate your alocasia is to water it from below or bottom watering.
To do so, you can place the plant in a container that fits the pot. You can use a sink or the bathtub depending on the size of your alocasia.
Then fill the container with water up to about 4 inches or halfway up the pot.
From there, the soil will absorb the water at its own pace. This will take a while so I like to just leave the plant and check back every 10-15 minutes.
Once the top 2-3 inches of soil feel moist, you can take the pot out of the water.
Make sure to let the plant drain completely afterwards.
After you’ve hydrated your alocasia plant, the next step is to try to prevent this from happening again.
To so do, follow a consistent watering routine.
And regularly check the soil.
Once the top 3-4 inches of soil has dried, it is time to water the plant. Alocasias like moist soil. However, be careful not to overwater the plant as this will bring bigger problems.
Root Rot Due to Overwatering
The main reason why it is very important to check the soil before watering your alocasia plant is because it is susceptible to root rot.
Root rot is caused by overwatering.
This means you should never give the plant more water when the soil is wet.
Otherwise, the excess moisture will keep building up in the soil. In doing so, it will fill the air pockets between the soil particles, pushing out the oxygen and replacing that with water.
When there’s too much water, the roots eventually drown and cannot breathe.
After a while, the roots suffocate.
If the overwatered condition persists, the roots will eventually suffocate to death. In a while, they’ll rot.
Dead roots don’t function. And this will cause your alocasia to lack sustenance as the remaining healthy roots won’t be able to absorb enough water and nutrients.
The result is lack of moisture even when if you water the soil properly.
Similarly, even if you add enough fertilizer, the plant will not get enough nutrients.
The lack of moisture will result if alocasia leaves curling.
While alocasia plants like moist soil they hate wet, soggy conditions. That’s because too much water will cause problems in the long run.
In most cases, overwatering is caused by watering the plant too often.
This is a common mistake since many people think that plants need watering every day. However, in the case of alocasias, once a week is a more ideal frequency.
In other cases, you may be watering the plant correctly. However, the soil does not have sufficient drainage or the pot does not have holes at the bottom, overwatering and waterlogging can occur as well.
As such, it is important to cover all of these aspects to avoid overwatering your alocasia.
The reason why we take these measures is that overwatering can lead to root rot.
Once root rot occurs, the only way to save your alocasia plant is to prune the rotten roots then repot the plant in fresh, dry soil.
Light is a very important aspect of plant life. For alocasias, they depend on light for photosynthesis.
Light allows the plant to create sugars (food) from water, air and nutrients. And this what the plant uses as fuel to spur growth.
For this reason, you’ll see plants bend towards the light when they’re not getting enough illumination.
That said, both too much and too little light will cause alocasia leaves to curl.
When there is too much light, the leaves will curl downward to try to reduce the amount of exposure they get.
In contrast, the leaves will curl upward or cup when there’s lack of light. This is their way of trying to get a much light as possible from the low source.
As with other aspects of plant care, both excesses are bad.
Alocasia like plenty of light. But they prefer medium to bright indirect light.
When there is too little light, it will slow down growth since the rate of photosynthesis is affected. On the other hand too much light can eventually burn its leaves.
Keep your alocasia in bright, indirect light indoors. Outdoors, position it in partial shade.
Ideally, the plant needs 6 to 8 hours of natural light daily.
But if you cannot get that from within your home, you can use artificial lights to supplement or replace the natural light.
The plant will happily grow in this kind of illumination as well.
However, avoid too much intense light.
Alocasia cannot tolerate direct sunlight for more than 1-3 hours on a daily basis. Similarly, keep it away from full sun as well.
If you leave it there for too long or under too much intensity, its leaves will get scorched.
On the other hand, lack of light will affect the plant’s growth.
You’ll see its growth slow down, fewer leaves will develop and the new leaves will be smaller than normal.
As such, avoid to little light as well.
Instead, look for a bright spot with no direct sunlight.
Alocasia are tropical plants. And like other tropical plants, it thrives on high humidity.
That’s because the tropics are not only known for hot climates, but they are also very humid places.
For this reason, plants evolved there to become used to lots of moisture in the air.
That said, most homes average between 20% to 50% humidity depending on the time of year and where you live.
As such, the lower humidity means that your alocasia’s leaves will lose more water.
This is why in low humidity you’ll see leaves dry up and turn brown. In most cases, the edges and tips of the leaves are first ones to become dry, crispy and turn brown.
The loss of moisture will also cause the leaves to start curling in order to reduce the amount of moisture loss.
Alocasia prefer humidity between 50% to 70%. This is where is it able to grow at its best.
The plant grows faster and will produce larger leaves in this condition.
However, because most homes are not able to sustain these levels of humidity, it is a good idea to either use a humidifier or a pebble tray.
I prefer the latter since that’s free and you can DIY it yourself.
It is also easier to maintain compared to humidifiers especially if you’re a busy person or go out of twn for work regularly.
Some people prefer misting the plant which works too.
However, I’m not a fan of it.
That’s because if you spend most of your days away from home at the office or need to travel for work, it will be difficult to be consistent with misting.
Additionally, there’s the risk of over misting the plant which results in wet leaves.
If you wet the leaves too much, it increases the risk of fungal infections in the long run.
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Too Much Fertilizer
To grow at its best, your alocasia will need fertilizer. But avoid overdoing.
Just like water, the plant needs feeding. Unfortunately, giving it too much will cause more harm than good.
The reason is that commercial fertilizers contain salts.
Plants hate salt.
So, the more your feed your alocasia, the more salt accumulates in the soil. When too much salt build up in there, it will damage the roots.
Similarly, the damage will work its way up to the leaves.
This is when you see roots and leaves sustain burn damage. And the burnt leaves will curl up.
Even if fertilizer burn does not damage the plant severely, the salts in the soil will draw the water to the particles.
As a result, the roots will struggle to get enough water causing insufficient moisture.
This also causes alocasia leaves to curl.
In general, alocasias are heavy feeders. And they need regular feeding. As such, it is a good idea to fertilize your alocasia once every 2 to 4 weeks.
However, they only need feeding when they are actively growing.
This is during they warmer months of the year which are their growing seasons.
Once fall comes around, it is a good idea to scale back and stop fertilizing. Your alocasia won’t need fertilizer during the fall and winter as its growth slows and it takes a rest.
If you feed it during this time, you increase the risk of overfertilizing.
Pot Sizing Issues
Choosing the right pot size if very important when it comes to alocasia. This is likewise true for all other plants as well.
Alocasias can grow quite big. Although, a lot depends on the variety you have.
Indoors, they will not reach the same size as they do outdoors.
However, this does mean that it is still very important to give them sufficient space to grow.
One common problem many people do is give their plants an oversized pot. This way, they encourage the plant to get bigger.
While this works in theory, it ends up encouraging the roots to get bigger. In doing so, the plant channels most of its energy to root development.
So, what you get is oversized roots and a smaller plant up top.
For most of us, that’s not what we want since alocasia are known for their beautiful leaves.
More importantly, overpoting puts the plant at risk of overwatering. The excess soil, when wet, will drown the roots with too much water.
On the other hand, a very small pot will leave the roots crowded.
The problem here is that the plant’s growth will be limited. And in time, your alocasia will get stressed.
Just as importantly, there will be little soil left. This means the small amount of soil can only hold so much water and nutrients.
As a result, your alocasia ends up underwatered and nutrient deficient.
The lack of moisture will result in alocasia leaves curling.
If you get your alocasia from the store or nursery, it will come with a pot.
Unless the pot has drainage issues or the soil is not draining enough moisture, you can keep it there until it is time to repot.
When repotting, choose a container that is 2 inches larger.
Avoid going up multiple sizes at once. Instead, go up one size at a time.
This will be enough space for the plant to keep growing without putting it at risk of overwatering.
On the other hand, if you want to change the pot and use your own container, pick one that is 2 inches wider than the root ball.
This will give the plant’s roots sufficient space to grow.