Why are My Prayer Plant Leaves Curling?

Prayer plant leaves curling is something you should never take for granted. And it is easy to spot them because we often take a few seconds to admire the beautiful leaf patterns on this plant.

While curling leaves do mess up that look. They also mean something else.

More often than not, there is a problem going on.

Therefore, it is very important to immediate start identifying the cause of the leaves curling. Then treat it accordingly.

Why are your prayer plant leaves curling? Excessive dryness, cold temperatures the plant cannot handle, low humidity, highly mineralize tap water and overwatering all causes.

Therefore, it is important to narrow the culprit down the root cause. Then you’ll be able to fix the issue.

Why are My Prayer Plant Leaves Curling?

Underwatering is the Main Cause of Prayer Plant Leaves Curling

Underwatering is the first thing to check for when you see leaves curling.

Leaves curl when the plant is low on water. It does this to conserve as much moisture as it can from transpiration.

Transpiration is the process where water evaporated from the leaves. It helps with the passage of oxygen and CO2. But at the same time, it helps regulate the internal temperature of the plant.

When its water stores are low, the prayer plant’s leaves will curl.

In doing so, the surface area of the leaves gets smaller. This allows less water loss from transpiration.

The good news is, fixing underwatering is very easy. Just give the plant water.

But you always need to make sure that it is actually underwatering.

Why?

Often, both overwatering and underwatering have similar symptoms. So, it is easy to end up adding more water to an already overwatered plant.

Unfortunately, that can be deadly since overwatering can cause or worsen root rot.

So, always check the soil first. This is a sure and easy way to verify between overwatering or underwatering.

If the soil is dry, in most cases it will be very dry when the prayer plant’s leaves curl, then you can add water.

But if the soil feels moist or wet. Don’t add water.

 

How to Fix This

When watering, you have to options water from above or water from below. Both work.

But there’s more precautions to take if you water from above.

To fix an underwatered prayer plant with curling leaves, don’t just douse the plant with tons of water to compensate for its dryness. This can lead to shock.

Instead, water it a bit at a time each day. After a week you should see some improvement in the leaf curling.

By then it has gotten used to the moisture and you can water as you did.

Also, when watering from above, don’t wet the leaves. Instead, water directly on the soil.

Once the plant has gotten acclimated to the water, you can soak and let it drain.

This means adding water until it begins trickling from the bottom of the pot. Then let the soil completely drain after.

On the other hand, you can apply bottom watering as well.

Here, place the pot in a larger container or the bathtub. A large sink will work as well.

Fill the container or sink with water up to about a quarter of the height of the pot.

Leave the pot in the container or sink with water. The soil will soak the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

This will be slow as the soil will absorb water at its own pace.

So, just leave the plant and check every few minutes.

Once the surface of the soil feels moist, take the pot out of the container and let it drain. You can likewise stick your finger into the soil from the top. If the soil feels moist about 2-3 inches from the top that should be fine as well.

Make sure to let the plant completely drain after.

 

Overwatering

Another possible reason for the prayer plant leaves curling is overwatering.

This is a more dangerous predicament since it means there’s root rot already happening.

Overwatering is the #1 cause of the houseplant death because it can lead to root rot. This happens as the roots end up drowning is so much liquid that they end up suffocating.

As roots die, they rot.

The problem is root rot means the roots stop functioning.

So, the plant is not able to absorb any water or nutrients from the soil. It does not matter that you water the soil regularly or that you give the plant fertilizer.

The roots cannot take up any of the or enough water and nutrients because too many of them are dead and rotten.

This results in lack of water and nutrients with causes prayer plant leaves curling.

Therefore, if you feel the soil and it feels wet instead of very dry, it is likely that the leaf curl is due to overwatering.

 

How to Fix This

Immediately unpot the plant and check for root rot.

In most cases there will be root rot. The question is, how much.

If majority or all the roots have rotted, there’s no choice by to throw the plant away. Sad, but true.

But if only a part of the root system is rotten, it is time to try and save the plant.

Take a sterile pair or pruning shears and prune the rotten roots. Be careful not to get whatever’s left of the healthy roots.

If you end up pruning more than 1/3 of the root system, prune that same amount of the plant above the soil.

This will give the new plant a better chance at recovery.

Then prepare a new pot and fill it with fresh soil. Then plant the new, smaller plant into that pot.

Don’t water it for a week and just let it recover.

At this point, it is up to the plant to fight and try to recover. You’ve done all you could on your part.

 

Related

 

Temperature Extremes

Prayer plant leaves curling can also happen from extreme temperatures and temperature fluctuations.

The prayer plant is a tropical plant.

In the forest, it lives under the shade of larger trees.

Therefore, while it can tolerate warmer weather, it prefers moderate to slightly warm temperatures thanks to the shade provided by the forest canopy.

This is why its preferred temperature range is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also tolerate higher temperatures of 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

But on the colder end, it has much less tolerance.

It has a hard time with anything colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately, both extremes (cold and hot) will make the prayer plant’s leaves curl. They will just curl in different ways. So, you can tell one from the other.

That said, the easiest way to check is to use a digital thermometer. This will immediately tell you what the temperature is around the plant.

 

How to Fix This

Luckily, fixing prayer plant leaves curling due to temperature stress is easy.

Just move the plant away.

If the temperature is too cold, move it to a warmer location. If it is too hot, move it to a cooler space.

Try to keep the plant in between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit as much as possible.

Indoors, this temperature issues usually occur from air conditioners, heaters, radiators and cold drafts coming in from open windows.

Outdoors, it is usually the weather you want to watch out for.

 

Low Humidity Can Make Prayer Plant Leaves Curl

Prayer plants have an ideal humidity of 60% to 70%. But they will do well in 50% humidity or slightly lower.

This can makes meeting its humidity requirements a little tricky depending on where you live.

As such, it is a good idea to have an idea of what indoor humidity is in your home.

Note that indoor humidity is almost always lower than outdoor humidity. So, it is important to differentiate the two.

If you don’t know the humidity in your home, you can get a hygrometer.

This will let you know real-time humidity in any room in your home.

 

How to Fix This

If the air is dry in your home or humidity is too low for the plant’s needs, you have many options to fix the issue.

Taking the plant to the bathroom is the simplest. And you can keep it there first until you decide what your longer term fix is.

Another simple option is to mist the plant.

Just spray the air around the plant with room temperature water. But be careful not to over mist the plant and get water spots on the leaves.

This can lead to fungal disease.

Giving the plant a shower is yet another option.

You can do this once every couple of weeks or so. And it will keep the plant happy. Just make sure to let all the water drain from the soil after.

Also, pat down the leaves with a towel to let they dry faster.

Get a humidifier.

This is the most obvious. Although, it does cost come money and these devices do need maintenance.

 

Water Quality

Tap water contains chemicals. This is something each city or municipality adds to make the tap water safe for drinking.

Unfortunately, the prayer plant is sensitive to too many chemicals in the water.

Since each locale’s tap water system contains varying amounts of chemicals, this may or may not affect your plant.

But if you happen to live somewhere that has highly mineralized tap water, especially chlorine and fluoride, then it may be causing your prayer plant’s leaves to curl.

In general, a lot of salts and excess minerals in the tap can turn prayer plant leaves brown and make them curl up.

But this is harder to check as you usually have to eliminate the other potential causes before you get to this one.

And the only way to check how much chemicals there are in the water is to test them yourself or call you city officials and ask.

 

How to Fix This

If highly mineralized tap water is the cause of prayer plant leaves curling, then you have a few choices.

You can collect rainwater and use it for your plant.

Or you can use distilled or filtered water. I don’t suggest using distilled water though as that will end up getting quite expensive.

Lastly, you can let tap water sit at room temperature at least overnight or longer.

This will allow the excess chemicals to evaporate by the time you use the tap water on your plants.

New Growth

This is one cause that’s actually good. I say that because you don’t need to do anything.

When new leaves grow or get pushed out of the buds, the come out curled.

The good news is that this is part of the plant’s normal process of leaf development and growth. So, there’s nothing wrong and you don’t need to do anything.

Shortly after, the leaf will unfurl on its own and will later nature in to a wide, broad leaf.

 

Your Prayer Plant is Just “Praying”

One of the unique things about prayer plants is the movement in their leaves.

Once the darkness arrives, their leaves will curl up in what many people call a prayer pose. This is where the plants get their name.

Once the light of dawn arrives, the leaves will start to unfold and open.

It does this to absorb as much light as possible during the daytime. Then conserve energy at night since there is little to no light then.

If you look closely at the plant or film it through the entire day and run it via time lapse, you’ll see that its leaves are actually always moving at all times of the day.

The movements are much subtle when the leaves are opened or when they are already curled up. But in between, there is lots of movement.

It is definitely something worth watching.

The thing is, when the leaves curl some people can mistake this natural folding for leaves curling because there is a problem.

However, the two look very different.

So, in this case, there’s also nothing to do or fix.

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