Pothos leaves curling is an abnormal effect that’s a result of some kind of stress that your plant is experiencing. As such, it is very important to take notice of this when it begins to happen as it is a warning sign your pothos is trying to alert you with.
In most cases, the fastest way your pothos will tell you that something is happening is through its foliage. And it will do different things which indicated different symptoms.
So, when you see your pothos’ leaves curling, it means you need to make some modifications.
Why Are My Pothos Leaves Curling?
Unfortunately, diagnosing pothos leaves curling is not straightforward. That’s because there are many different reasons that cause this symptom.
The most common reasons have to do with watering issues. However, curling pothos leaves can also be caused by pests and infections in some cases.
Other times, there’s an easier fix since you only need to move the plant. This is because its curling leaves are a result of incorrect lighting or temperature.
Below, I’ll do through each of the possible causes of curled pothos leaves, their causes, treatment and prevention. This way, you know how to fix the problem and avoid it in the future.
Reasons Why Your Pothos Leaves are Curling
Watering is very important with pothos. And it is important to treat it differently from other houseplants with regards to this. Using a watering routine that is similar to other houseplants can end up leaving your pothos over or under hydrated. Both of which are detrimental to its long term health.
When your pothos lacks water, it will do its best to survive. Therefore, it will save as much water by curling. This reduces the surface area of the leaves allowing it to retain more of the moisture it already has.
Unfortunately, this also makes the plant look weird and abnormal.
More importantly, after a while, its foliage will get limp, droop and wilt. And it the soil is left completely dry for extended periods of time its roots will eventually dry out.
This will damage them.
As such, even if the pothos likes soil drying out a bit between watering, it is not a good idea to leave it bone dry for extended periods of time.
However, the good news is that it will quickly recover once you add water.
In ideal cases, once your pothos’ leaves start curling, start adding water. Then adjust your watering schedule to avoid this from happening at its best.
To avoid this, it is also important to note that the plant needs more watering during the summer. During time this, it will appreciate moist soil. And this will require watering about once a week.
In the winter, you can let the soil dry out a bit more to reduce the risk of overwatering. In most cases, this means cutting back how often you water your pothos to once every 2 weeks or so.
Overwatering is another potential cause of pothos leaf curl. However, too much water and watering too frequently is more dangerous that underwatering this plant. The reason is that is can lead to root rot.
Therefore, you want to allow some of the soil to dry before adding more watering. Similarly, avoid waterlogged soil.
This means 2 things:
- Wait until the soil is about hallway dry before watering – by waiting until 50% of the soil is dry before you add more water, you eliminate the risk of overwatering (and therefore, root rot).
- Use well-draining soil – even if you water with the right frequency, if the soil you grow your pothos in retains too much moisture, the plant still ends up sitting in water. As such, root rot can still happen. Therefore, avoid water-retentive soils. Instead choose one that has good drainage.
Additionally, make sure to use a container that has drainage holes. This way the moisture that drains from the soil does not just pool at the bottom of the container.
Pothos are sensitive to too much water. Their roots like staying a bit dry and enjoy getting a lot of oxygen. They cannot stand in water for extended periods of time, otherwise root rot sets in.
The problem with root rot that the roots eventually die. And when they do, your pohtos has no way of absorbing water or nutrients from the soil.
As such, the more roots rot, the less sustenance it can take in from the soil to support itself. This is why overwatering is the #1 cause of death when it comes houseplants (including pothos).
Again, the key here is to spot the issue early.
If you notice the leaves are still curling down, it is a sign that the problem is still in the early stages. Therefore, although there may be some root rot, it is not extensive.
However, once you see curling leaves, make sure to check for both under and overwatering. Don’t assume one or the other since this can worsen the situation.
For example, If the plant is already overwatered, and you assume underwatering, you’ll be adding more water which only increases the risk of root rot.
On the other hand, if the plant is underwatered, and you assume overwatering, then you leave an already dehydrated plant to dry up even more. This will likewise result is damaging your pothos.
Instead, check the soil.
And overwatered pothos will have wet, soggy soil. On the other hand, an underwatered plant will have very dry soil. This will make diagnosing the watering problem easy.
Too Much Fertilizer
The next cause of curling pothos leaves is overfertilizing.
This is a common mistake many beginner houseplant owners make. In large part, it is due to the belief that more plant food means more growth. And while this can be true in the very short term, it will eventually cause very harmful effects.
The problem with overfeeding your plant is that it can be hard to tell from other causes of curling leaves. Thus, you’ll need to eliminate the other potential causes first.
A couple of good signs to look out for are smaller leaves and changes in leaf color as well. Although leaf discoloration can vary, foliage usually turns yellow when overfertilized. And if you look closely, the leaves will also curl downwards at the tip.
Overfeeding can be caused by a few things:
- Feeding too much – this means using too much fertilizer each time you apply.
- Feeding too often – you may be feeding it the right amounts but also giving it plant food too frequently.
- Not diluting the concentration – in most cases, you’ll want to dilute your fertilizer to half or quarter strength to reduce the concentration. This is easiest to do with liquid fertilizer.
- Adding fertilizer when the soil is dry – this also leads to overconcentration. When soil is dry, the roots take the full brunt of the fertilizer’s dose. Also, water helps distribute the plant food. Therefore, only apply fertilizer when the soil is moist. If not, water the plant first before feeding it.
While the reasons for overfertilizing differ from one another, their result is the same. Too much salt and nitrogen that accumulates in the soil because of this.
Pothos often only need once a month feeding using a balanced houseplant fertilizer. And it only needs this during the spring and summer. There’s no need to feed during winter.
In case your pothos leaves are curling due to too much fertilizer, you have two possible solutions.
- Flush the soil – this means to water the soil for a few minutes to saturate the root ball and allow the water to carry all the excess minerals, salts and debris out. This will help get rid of the fertilizer salts that have built up in the soil.
- Repot in fresh soil – if you want to be completely sure then repot your pothos in fresh soil. This gets it away from any extra nutrients in the old soil (including excess salts). Therefore, it gives the plant a “fresh start” of sorts which allows it to recover.
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Another reason for pothos curling leaves is temperature. Temperature stress is very closely linked to lighting. That’s because the two usually (but not always) go hand in hand.
This is due to the changes in the weather.
During the summer, when the weather gets warn, there’s also more sunlight. In the winter, as the climate gets colder, the sun likewise decreases its intensity and duration.
That said, Pothos curling leaves is usually caused by too much heat.
The leaves will curl downwards at the edges. Thus, in a way you can diagnose the cause of the leaf curl by noticing where and how the leaves curl up or down.
However, this requires experience and looking at a lot of pothos leaves curling.
Pothos thrive in 65 to 85 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. This is its sweet spot.
Something also worth noting is that keeping the plant outdoors usually means it will experience both hotter and colder conditions depending on the time of year (compared to being kept indoors).
Therefore, you want to monitor it more during summers and winters.
Indoors, it is easier to control the environmental conditions.
While the bigger problem with temperature usually happens when it gets colder, excessive heat can also stress the plant out.
So, as you get away from its ideal range (65-85 degrees), you’ll likely see its growth slow down a bit. And the farther away above or below you go, the slower its growth will get until it completely stops growing altogether.
At the lower range, once temperatures drop too far, it can experience cold damage. This is why you want to avoid that. In fact, leaving it outside through the winter will essentially kill the plant.
On the other hand, pothos tend to tolerate warmer conditions better. However, once you near or go above 100 degrees, it will struggle as well.
One symptom of this is curling leaves.
Therefore, avoid very hot locations or areas where it gets too close to the radiator, a heater, stove, fireplace and something similar. When you turn these appliances on, it will feel the heat. (Sorry about the pun there).
Similarly, intense heat can come from too much light. This can be direct sunlight or keeping the plant too near grow light bulbs (which emit heat as well). If you do so, it will cause leaf discoloration and even leaf burn.
Incorrect Lighting Conditions
As mentioned above, too much light can likewise be a problem for your pothos.
However, note that pothos tend to grow best in a well-lit location. This means the best positions to keep it:
- Indoors is in medium to bright, indirect or filtered light
- Outdoors it is in partial shade or bright shade
Whether indoors or outdoors, you want to avoid excess light.
This means direct sunlight especially during mid-day when the rays of the sun are strongest. Outdoors, keep it away from full sun.
Obviously with strong light, you want to be most wary during summertime.
Similarly, too little light can cause your pothos to be unhealthy. Lack of light will slow its growth, cause it to produce fewer leaves and smaller foliage as well.
As such, avoid too much or too little light.
Again, you can look to the leaves for hints.
- Too little light – the leaves will try to reach out towards the light source. In many cases, its leaves will curl towards that direction as well. Due to all its reaching, you’ll eventually end up with a leggy plant.
- Too much light – the plant’s leaves will shy away from the light. Again, they will curl but this time away from the light since it is excessive. You’ll also see the leaves droop.
In both cases, move the plant away from the location with too much or too little light. It will be happiest in a bright spot getting indirect, filtered or dappled light. It also does not mind direct sun during the mornings which makes an east facing window ideal.
Pests & Diseases
Both are problem points for any houseplants, the pothos included.
The plant attracts sap sucking insects. And when they rob it of its precious sap (which carries water and nutrients to different parts of the plant), the leaves will eventually start curling.
Thus, if your pothos leaves are curling, it is always worth checking for any pests as well as disease.
Pests are tiny bugs on the surface of leaves and stems. On the other hand, diseases usually manifest themselves by causing other foliage abnormalities like discoloration, stripes, spots, lesions and other things.
To deter bugs, you can wipe the leaves every so often with alcohol or diluted neem oil. On the other hand, avoiding excess moisture is the best way to prevent disease from happening.
How Do I Stop My Leaves from Curling?
The only way to stop your pothos leaves curling it to fix whatever is causing it.
Since there are quite a few causes (as you can see from above), the best way is to go through them like a checklist and eliminate each potential cause as you go (until you find the actual reason for the curling).
With experience, you’ll know which ones are more likely.
And in most cases, you want to start by checking for any watering issues.
- Avoid underwatering or overwatering – make sure to check the soil to determine which one of the two is actually causing the curling leaves.
- Make sure you’re not overfeeding your pothos – if you did, flush the soil or repot it.
- Check for extreme heat or hot temperature where the plant is positioned – make sure the mid-day temperature is not overly hot (between 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.).
- Keep it away from strong light or direct sun – check the plant if it is getting direct sunlight at any time of the day, Make sure to check between 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. since this is when the rays are more intense. Also note that summer time has more intense sunshine.
- Check for pests or infections – if you find pests, treat them before they turn into pest infestations. You can spray them off with water, use neem oil or insecticidal soap. I prefer using more organic methods than applying commercial pesticides. For infections, allow the soil to dry and reduce watering. This will make the environment less inviting for the pathogens.
How Do You Fix Curled Pothos Leaves?
Unfortunately, there is no way to fix curled pothos leaves, at least for those that have already curled up.
That’s because you cannot uncurl or unfurl them once this happens. Although, once you fix the cause of the problem, the remaining leaves will stop curling. This will limit the amount of curl they have.
Nevertheless, curled leaves, even slightly will still look abnormal.
As such, your only solution if you want to get rid of or fix curled leaves is to prune them. This will allow the new leaves to grow eventually.
That said, pruning on helps after you’ve fixed the underly cause of your pothos’ curling leaves. Otherwise, the new leaves will eventually start curling again.