Why are Your Calathea Leaves Curling?

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If you love a plant with character, Calatheas are the plants to have. They are very outspoken when they have issues, and Calathea leaves curling can be one of the first signs of trouble. Why are your calathea leaves curling? Learn all the causes and fix your plant in no time.

Most of the time, the issue is easy to fix, but sometimes it can point to a more serious cause requiring a very hands-on approach.

Why are Your Calathea Leaves Curling?

Why are Your Calathea Leaves Curling?

Whenever leaves on calathea are curled, this indicates an issue with water in one form or another. This can be due to actual lack of water, too much water, damage to any part of the plant blocking the supply of water…

With proper care for your calathea plant, you should be able to avoid the curling of calathea leaves altogether.

Read: how to care for calathea plants

1. Improper Watering – Under or Over Watering

Read: How often to water calathea plants

Under Watering – Number one cause for calathea leaves curling

Under-watering is the number one cause for calathea leaves curling. Some calathea plants are more dramatic than others and will curl up leaves the moment the soil is just a bit too dry.

Check the soil, and if the top layer of the soil is dry, water your plant. You shouldn’t let more than the first half-inch of soil dry (to the first knuckle if you are checking with your finger). Calatheas like most of their soil constantly moist (not wet!).

With under-watering you will likely see calathea leaves withering and curling up as well.


Overwatering your plant can cause the leaves to start curling as well, but you are likely to see other signs, such as calathea leaves turning yellow and the plant wilting. If you have been watering your plants too often, not letting the first inch of soil dry little chances are you are watering too often. If you are noticing the top layer of soil is still wet days after you have watered your plant… You are overwatering. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, it’s easy to overwater your plant, as well as if you have a pot inside a decorative pot and the water collects at the bottom.

Overwatering will damage the roots and can even lead to root rot. Damaged roots can’t fully do their job, and root rot can lead to the death of your calathea plant (fast).

Leaves on a thirsty Calathea Zebrina

2. Calathea Leaves Curling Due to Low Humidity

Calatheas love high humidity. Calatheas require relatively high humidity to thrive, and low humidity is a very common cause of their leaves curling.

Ideally, you need to have humidity levels above 50% for most calathea plants (more is desired). Depending on the type of calathea plant, the requirement of keeping the plant happy will vary. While Calathea Medallion is more tolerant to lower humidity, a more delicate variety like Fusion White will need humidity levels of 80%+ to grow happy. If you have an especially fussy plant, placing it inside a terrarium or other type of enclosure might help – as maintaining high humidity in those is easy.

If the air humidity is below 50% (or more for delicate plants), you will most likely start seeing brown tips or other parts of calathea leaves drying up. This can be the first sign. However, the leaves don’t always go brown. When the humidity is the culprit, you will most likely see calathea leaves curling, not dying. The plant itself should still be OK unless the humidity is way off.

Buy a hygrometer – an inexpensive device that will measure air humidity in your room. Place it near your plant, as the humidity in the room can vary somewhat. If the measured humidity isn’t what your plant needs, you can either move it to a room with higher humidity levels (and other optimal conditions) or increase humidity around it.

The easiest way to increase humidity is to buy an air humidifier, but you can do many other things to increase humidity for your plants.

Read: How to increase air humidity for houseplants.

3. Pests, Especially Spider Mite

One of the first things you could check, preferably with a magnifying glass, is for signs of pests. Pests damage the leaves (or roots) of plants. The damage can sometimes be seen as mechanical damage on the leaves (holes, spots, etc.), or you can notice the calathea leaves starting to curl as the damaged leaves can’t be properly supplied with nutrients and water.

More than one pest can cause this. However, the most common culprit is the spider mite. When the infestation is small, you can easily miss these, and one of the first signs might be the calathea leaves curling. As the infestation spreads and their numbers grow, you will see small webbing, usually where the leaf and stem meet. This is a sure sign you have a spider mite infestation and that they have managed to spread quite a bit already.

As long as there are some healthy leaves, the plant is salvageable. Get rid of spider mites and take extra care of your plant to nurse it back to full health. It might look poorly for a while but should bounce back with new growth.

Read: how to remove spider mites from houseplants

Spider Mite infestation
Spider mite infestation on Calathea Flamestar

4. Direct Sunlight Exposure or Too Much Light

Calathea plants are used to getting bright filtered light and aren’t usually exposed to harsh strong sunlight in their natural environment. If they are getting too much direct light, their leaves can get damaged. The sunlight will both dehydrate the plant and dry up soil faster which can lead to the leaves becoming curled.

If your plant is exposed to too much light, the calathea leaves can turn brown on tips and edges as well.

This issue is somewhat easy to fix, as all you need to do is move your calathea plant to an area without direct sunlight. Keep in mind though, that the light they get still needs to be pretty bright, just not direct.

5. Temperature Extremes – High or Low, or Quick Changes

Avoid temperatures that are too low and temperatures that are too high. Both can cause your calathea leaves to curl. These plants do well in average room temperatures, so chances are, by default, you have optimal conditions in your home.

There is one thing that you need to pay attention to – drafts. Drafts can cause drastic and quick changes in temperature, and your calathea won’t like that. These can be enough to make their leaves curl and cause the plant to look poorly.

Keep your plant away from drafts, especially cold drafts.

If you have your plant near a window, check the temperature near the window, especially in winter. The area around the windows can be pretty cold during winter. Also, avoid placing it near sources of heat. They won’t appreciate the high temperatures nor the air humidity around those.

6. Chemicals and Minerals from Water or Fertilizer

Chemical and mineral buildup in the soil can lead to a struggling plant. While using too much fertilizer or water that is too heavy on minerals (use filtered water or distilled water instead) will usually show with plant wilting, leaves browning or yellowing, it to can cause the leaves to curl. You would see other signs though.

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