Did you know that leaf folding and curling are the plant’s defense mechanisms against environmental stress? But why do leaves curl and fold in the first place?

Plant leaves curl in response to various environmental stressors. When certain pests, such as psyllids, mealybugs, and thrips, feed on a leaf it can cause leaf curling and deformation. When plants are too hot or too dry, they can also curl along the entire leaf margin. Some diseases, usually viral, also cause leaf curling. So, when you see leaves of your plants curling how do you know the cause? Below are some general guidelines:

  • Leaf margins curling down, no yellowing – underwatering
  • Leaf margins curling down, yellowing – overwatering
  • Leaf margins curling upwards – heat or wind stress
  • Leaf curling mainly in new growth and in deformed ways – often a disease or insect pest
  • Middle or old leaves curling and have patchy yellowing but green veins – Magnesium deficiency
  • New leaves curling and have patchy yellowing but green veins – Manganese deficiency

In this article, we will be discussing the reasons for plant leaves curling and folding and how can this problem be solved.

Why Do Plant Leaves Curl?

If you have various plants in your garden, I’m sure you would always want to see them nourish and stay healthy. Because the beautiful plant leaves are just too awesome to look at, right?

As plants provide air filtration, it is important to keep their parts, the leaves, healthy. But why do the leaves start curling?

Most of the time, the reason for the leaves curling upside can be pests, lack or excess of water, bad water schedule, wrong placement, deficiency of important nutrients, etc.

We are going to go through them one by one.

Nutrient Deficiency:

You may or may not know that Nitrogen plays an important role in a plant’s health, as it helps the leaves with chlorophyll (a green color pigment) and for photosynthesis as well.

Simply put, nitrogen is an essential nutrient for leaves’ health, and the deficiency of nitrogen will result in several problems for the leaf.

Due to nitrogen deficiency, the conserved nitrogen in the old or base leaves will be used to fulfill the demands of the new leaves.?

This will create a void in the old leaves, and those leaves will start to curl up.

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If you see that happening, if you see your plant leaf turning yellow and then brown, its days are numbered now. But you can prevent it.

You see, when the plant is preparing for its fruiting, it is going to need lots of nitrogen, and you can make a pretty good guess why.

You should give your plant some supplements of amino acids as an amino acid is responsible for the protein, which helps them take it more required nitrogen.


You should check if the pests are living in the core of your plant or not. If yes, try removing them ASAP because those pests are usually suckers, and they suck up the nutrients from the inside, forcing the plant leaves to start curling.

An insect known as Whitefly is quite difficult to see on the plant’s leaves’ surface. They are often found at the bottom of the leaf, and they such the moisture out of the leaves.

Getting rid of them first includes spraying insecticides. If that is not an option, you can also use soap water. Keep repeating this process until all the pests are cleared.

Many people use various traps which stick the insects once they sit on them. They do this for two reasons: one is to catch and clear the pests, the other is to see that the number of pests is getting trapped. If the number is high, then there might be a problem with the plant.

Plant Stress:

It is true that plants like a taste of heat from time to time, but as I always say, “Excess of anything is bad,? ask yourself that don’t you need the heat, definitely yes, but lots of it? No! Where’s the A.C?

The same thing happens with plants and plant leaves. Too much heat forces the leaves to take strict action to conserve water due to fast evaporation.

So, if you say that no worries, I water my plant daily, you might be a bit wrong because the rate of water intake and evaporation is more or less the same. This means that plant leaves are not benefitting from your regular watering.

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Overwatering can result in root rots, and that can become a reason for leaves curling. That is why it said that you should provide water to the plant when needed not when you want to.

After watering, let the surface of the soil dry out completely, and don’t forget to make holes for drainage at the bottom of the plant pot, as it is quite dangerous to leave the soil soggy for long.


You can guess what kind of problem underwatering will cause to the plant leaves, as the plants require water nutrients for growth purposes. Lack of water will mean not having enough nutrients.

It is like taking the soul out of plant leaves, causing the leaves to curl up. Avoid this problem by providing an adequate amount of water, and not very much.

Light Conditions:

Many plants like lots of sunlight, but some don’t, especially the tropical climate plants, which prefer sunlight indirectly. Exposing them to direct and excessive sunlight will cause rapid and increased photosynthesis.

This will cause the old plant leaves to curl up and also cause the new leaves to have browner tips, a sign of unhealthiness.

If you are interested in a fertilizer that will ensure your plant grows healthy check at our virtual online agrovet via agrovet.farmerstrend.co.ke

Types of Leaf Curl:

There are two types of leaf curls, Upward and Downward Curls.

  • Upward Curls: Caused by deficiency or excess of water, pests, or light conditions.
  • Downward Curls: Caused by an excess of water, an infestation of pests, or a deficiency of nitrogen.
  • Inwards: This can be due to either new production of leaves or drought conditions.

How to Fix Curling and Folding Leaves?

Curled plant leaves can be fixed by different methods. These methods vary from problem to problem. We have discussed all the possible problems and their solutions separately.

Do not attempt to physically straighten the leaves.

Any force is placed on the leaves will cause them to tear which in most cases is repairable.

What Plants are Known for Curling Leaves?

The deficiency of essential nutrients can cause any plant leaves to curl upward or downward. Peach Plants or Nectarine trees are among the plants which suffer from curl problems.

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Almost all the other plant leaves do the same as well, with the exception of a few.

Most kitchen garden plants are prone to curl diseases.

Banana and orange plants are also known for producing curled leaves as young shoots.

Additionally, succulent leaves will curl because of a lack of water. Under Watering and other associated root problems such as root rot and root-bound syndrome can also limit the succulent’s oxygen supply to the plant which in turn affects the rate of respiration and the amount of water within the leaves.

Can you Physically Straighten Curling Leaves?

You can do it, but it won’t matter because the curling-up issue is not from the outside but from the inside. Even if you did straighten the curled physically, it would go back to curling.

If you use force to straighten the leaves, they will tear apart but won’t get straight. You could only think of straightening the plant leaves by making them healthier from the inside by providing all the essentials.

Young curled leaves will eventually straighten as the leaf matures, however, leaf curl in mature leaves is generally a sign of altered environmental conditions.

By identifying the causal factors for the leaves to curl you can effectively reverse the curling and restore the leaves to a healthy state.


The curling or folding of leaves is an alarm. This means that your plant leaves are getting closer to their final stages. This should not go unconsidered, and relevant steps must be taken.

The leaf curling can be reversed if the leaf’s health is restored. This will happen when you use several techniques to find out the problems and their solutions as well. Thank you.

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