Why Are My Pilea Leaves Curling and How to Fix It

The Pilea, commonly known as the Chinse Money Plant is a unique little plant that’s perfect for almost any home. It symbolizes good fortune and prosperity.

However, it is not uncommon to find your Pilea leaves curling. And if you notice this happen, this article will explain how to fix it.

Why are your Pilea leaves curling? Pilea leaves curling is usually caused by watering issues including overwatering and underwatering.

It can also be caused by insufficient light, extreme temperatures, nutrient deficiencies or if the plant gets very root bound.

Therefore, making sure the plant receives bright, indirect light, proper water and stay in temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit is essential.

Main Causes of Pilea Leaves Curling

Pilea leaves curling can happen for a number of reasons.

Some are nothing to worry about because they are part of the plant’s natural behavior.

However, many are more concerning since it means that the plant is under stress or not getting the care it desires.

Therefore, it is important to identify the reason why the plant’s leaves are curling before trying to fix it.

Often, the way and the direction the leaves curl will also give you a hint. So, it is a good idea to observe the plant and try to figure out what it is trying to tell you.

Chart of Why are My Pilea Leaves Curling Causes
Chart of Why are My Pilea Leaves Curling Causes

 

New Leaf Growth

One thing to be aware of is that when the Pilea plant has new growth, the new leaves are curled when they first emerge. Over time, they will eventually flatten out.

When you see this happening with your Chinese Money Plant, it is not a cause for concern since nothing is wrong and the process is natural.

Instead, continue giving it proper care and watch the plant as it grows.

 

Overwatering Your Pilea Will Cause its Leaves to Curl

On the other hand, when your Pilea leaves curl due to overwatering, this is something you need to pay attention to.

Overwatering is a common issue with Pilea plants. Also, it is the most common reason why the plant’s leaves curl.

Just as importantly, overwatering can lead to more serious problems if you allow it to persist.

For most plants, it is underwatering that causes their leaves to curl. However, this is the opposite for Pilea plants. Therefore, be careful not to assume that your Pilea is underwatered when its leaves curl.

If you add more water, it will worsen the problem.

One thing I’ve noticed with Pilea plants is that the way the leaves curl helps you differentiate overwatering from underwatering.

  • Overwatering usually causes Pilea leaves to curl down and out. This is also called doming. This happens as the leaves try to expand to hold the water.
  • Underwatering will cause the leaves to curl inward or cup. Here, the leaves curl inward to conserve the little water that they have left.

Another way to tell is by touching or feeling the leaves.

Pilea store water in their leaves. So, an overwatered Chinese Money Plant will be thick and feel firm. Meanwhile, an underwatered plant will have soft and thinner or flatter leaves.

If you have a difficult time telling between how the leaves curl, check the soil instead.

When you stick your finger into the soil down to about 2 or 3 inches, you’ll notice that the soil will either feel wet or dry. If the soil is wet or soggy, it means the plant is overwatered. Dry soil means it needs watering.

Some growers will lift the pot and be able to tell. Since water adds weight to soil, a heavier pot means the soil is moist or has water. On the other hand, a light pot means the soil is dry.

Once you confirm overwatering, it is a good idea to check for root rot.

Root rot and infections are two serious problems that are results of overwatering. Of the two, root rot is worse.

  • If you find that some of the roots are rotted, prune them off and repot the plant in fresh, dry soil.
  • If there is no root rot, allow the soil to dry before adding water again. Make sure to adjust your watering schedule to avoid overwatering in the future.

 

Poor Drainage

Another cause of Pilea leaves curling is poor drainage. Technically, you can group this together with overwatering. However, I’ve separated them to emphasize the difference and to note the importance of drainage in addition to watering too often.

Usually overwatering happens when you add water too frequently. This causes waterlogged soil.

However, even if you don’t overwater, you may still end up with waterlogged soil if your plant does not have ample drainage.

That’s why it is very important to use the right kind of soil and a pot with drainage holes.

Pilea need well-draining potting soil. This prevents too much water retention which puts the roots at risk of waterlogging and potentially root rot.

You can use African violet potting soil if you prefer to get it from the store. Or you can make your own by adding perlite to regular potting soil or peat moss.

Either way, this provides sufficient drainage so the plant gets the hydration it needs but any excess moisture quickly drains as well. This helps prevent waterlogging.

Similarly, it is important to use a pot with drainage holes. This will allow the excess water that drains from the soil to escape through the bottom of the pot.

If your pot does not have any holes, it will negate the good drainage of the soil since the water will just pool at the bottom of the container. Eventually, the soil will reabsorb this moisture leaving your with waterlogging.

 

Related

 

Lack of Humidity

Low humidity can likewise cause Pilea leaves to curl. However, this does not happen as much nor is its effect significant in most cases.

That said, if indoor humidity stays around the mid to low 20s, then you will see your Chinese Money Plant’s leaves curl.

Generally, Pilea enjoy moderate to high humidity. As such, try to maintain at least 40% humidity indoors. Also, pay special attention to humidity when the seasons change.

If you have hot, dry summers where you live, take note of how low humidity can drop. Similarly, cold winters tend to dry up the air.

If you find that humidity tends to stay in the 30s or below, it is a good idea to mist the plant regularly, get a humidifier or place your Pilea on a pebble tray. These solutions will help bring up air moisture around the plant.

 

Low Light

Low light is another common cause of Pilea leaf curling. In this case, you’ll see doming which is when the leaf curls outward. Here, its edges curl down while the center of the leaf pops upward to form the shape of a dome.

This happens as the plant’s leaves try to increase their surface area to get as much light as possible. In doing so, they make up for the lack of light from the source.

The good news is, the leaves will flatten out fairly quickly once you move the plant so a location with bright, indirect light.

 

Temperature Problems Can Cause Pilea Leaf Curling

Compared to many other houseplants, Pileas actually prefer a slightly cooler environment. Its ideal temperature range is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although, it will do just fine anywhere between 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, try to avoid higher temperatures as the plant tend to curl when the conditions get too warm. In this case, you’ll notice its leaves curl upward forming the shape of a cup.

Similarly, temperature fluctuations can also cause its leaves to curl.

Therefore, avoid placing the plant near an open window which receives cold drafts or breezes. It is also a good idea to keep it away from stoves, fireplaces, heaters, radiators and air conditioners since these appliances an cause sudden temperature changes.

 

Too Much Light

Too much light is closely related to high temperatures since we tend to get more sunlight during the warmest months of the year. And if you’re using artificial lights, the more intense or closer the grow lights are to the plant, the hotter it gets.

Therefore, you need to be aware of how much heat the plant is receiving from the light source.

When it gets too warm, your Pilea’s leaves will start curling.

Additionally, very intense light or direct sunlight can damage the leaves causing discoloration or even burning them. Therefore, try to keep the plant somewhere with medium to bright, indirect light.

 

Underwatering

While less prevalent compared to overwatering, underwatering is another potential cause of Chinese Money plant leaves curling.

Here, the leaves will curl to reduce the amount of water loss. It will do so by trying to decrease the surface area of the leaves.

As such, it is important to avoid letting your Pilea’s soil completely dry up.

Similarly, inconsistent watering can cause curling. That’s’ because the plant will keep adjusting from trying to conserve water to absorbing too much water and vice versa.

When the cycle keeps going back and forth, the leaves will curl up and down which can eventually cause deformations. In some cases, this repeated cycle can split the leaves.

Therefore, try to avoid letting the plant get dehydrated then giving it a ton of water or the opposite. Instead, try to stay consistent when watering the plant.

 

Nutrient Deficiencies

Like all plants, Pilea need nutrients. And in addition to the primary nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), it also requires micronutrients to survive and stay healthy.

When the plant becomes deficient in any of these nutrients, it will be evident.

For example, if your Pilea is deficient in nitrogen, you’ll see its bottom leaves curl and turn yellow.

To make sure the plant gets all the nutrients its needs, apply a balanced, liquid fertilizer once a month diluted to half strength during the plant’s growing season.

I like to use a 20-20-20 N-P-K formulation for my Chinese Money Plant.

 

Root Problems

Root problems can vary from those that are simple to fix to those that are serious.  More importantly, a few of these issues can cause your Pilea’s leaves to curl.

One issue that’s easy t fix is a pot bound plant. When the roots get too crowded in their current pot, they struggle to get enough moisture and nutrients.

As a result, it can cause leaves to curl.

Fortunately, the fix here is simple. Repot the plant.

When you do, move the plant to a pot that is at most 2 inches bigger. Also, refresh the soil. Avoid overpotting as it can lead to overwatering down the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, root rot is a much more serious concern. Unfortunately, it can also cause leaf curling. But this time the reason is different.

That’s because when rotting happens, the roots cease to function properly. As such, they cannot absorb water or nutrients from the soil even when you add lots of moisture and fertilizer to it.

Therefore, after a while, your Pilea will get dehydrated and experience nutrient deficiencies. As a result, its leaves will curl.

But in this case, unless you try and save the plant, the downward spiral will continue until your plant eventually dies because it cannot get any sustenance.

 

How to Fix Pilea Leaves Curling Checklist
How to Fix Pilea Leaves Curling Checklist

 

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