The main reasons for Maranta leuconeura or prayer plant leaves curling are underwatering, low humidity, too much light, or extreme temperatures. They are curling up or inward to help conserve water. Also, these plants may curl when overwatered, given too much fertilizer, have pests or nutritional deficiencies.
The curling of prayer plant leaves may occur with other signs of leaf discoloration (yellowing or browning) or leaves having crispy brown margins or tips. Others are drooping or wilting, dry or soggy soil, leaves dropping. Also, some causes may result in distorted, mishappen, ruffled leaves, stunted growth, etc.
By looking at the other signs, it is possible to pinpoint the causes. Thus, as we give you various reasons for Maranta leuconeura curled leaves, we will also give you other signs on each case and fixes or what to do.
Last but not least, the reasons why your prayer plant leaves are curling, including the red prayer plant or marantha we will look at, will apply their cousin Calatheas, Ctenanthe, and Stromanthe. Some use the name prayer plant.
Table of content
- Prayer plant care and growing conditions
- Why are my prayer plant leaves curling?
- Watering issues
- 2. Low humidity and prayer plant leaves curling
- 3. Extreme temperatures
- 4. Overfeeding and nutritional deficiencies
- 5. Pests
- 6. Too much light
- 7. Rootbound
- Normal reasons for prayer plant leaves curling
- About prayer plant
Prayer plant care and growing conditions
As already hinted, most of the causes for prayer plant curled leaves have something to do with care and growing conditions like temp, humidity, watering, etc. Thus, we will give you a summary of care and growing requirements.
|Care level||Low maintenance or easy|
|USDA hardiness zone||11 to 12|
|Temperature||65°F to 85°F (18°C to 30°C), preferably, don’t let the temperature go below 55°F (12.8°C).|
|Humidity||It prefers a humid place or one with humidity above 60%.|
|Light requirement||Bright, indirect light|
|Best soil||Use a well-drained, airy, nutrient-rich soil or potting mix. It should also be slightly acidic to neutral.|
|Watering||Average. Water when the soil dries halfway down, about 1-2 times a week, depending on your conditions and other factors.|
|Fertilizer||Feed these plants with a liquid fertilizer for houseplants monthly in spring and summer|
|Pruning and grooming||Regularly cut dead, damaged, or diseased leaves just above the leaf node with sterilized gardening scissors. Also, wipe any dusty leaves. Also, trim a few stems 2 or 3 times a year in the growing season to control growth. It encourages branching and a fuller plant.|
|Repotting||Repot this plant after every 2-3 years or when rootbound|
|Propagation||The best way is stem cutting in water or soil, but seed and division are also possible.|
|Toxicity||Safe or non-toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and other pets|
Why are my prayer plant leaves curling?
Seeing the lovely leaves of your prayer plant curling up or downwards is disheartening. But don’t worry, we will give you all the reasons and solutions. Within no time, your plant will bounce back.
Overwatering, underwatering, and poor water quality may make prayer plant leaves curly upward. These plants need moist soils, i.e., not so dry soggy.
Underwatering or dry soil is the most common reason for prayer plant leaves curling up or inward. These plants cannot get enough water. Therefore, they will roll their leaves to help minimize further loss.
Dry soil pulled away from the pot, leaves drooping and curling upward are the most obvious signs. But there may be others like leaves with crispy brown edges and tips, slow growth, leaf falling, and so on.
The other reason for prayer plant leaves curling is overwatering. These plants don’t like wet feet. How? When overwatered, the soggy soil will prevent oxygen from reaching the roots. Roots need oxygen. Without it, this will not absorb water or nutrients as usual.
Also, the soggy soil will favor soil fungi and bacteria to multiply and start attacking the already weakened roots, causing root rot. Root rot will damage roots, making them unable to absorb water or nutrients.
Both overwatering and root rot will deny your plant water and nutrients. Thus, curling is a means to prevent further water loss.
Evident signs are wet soil even after not watering for some time, leaves turning yellow starting with lower ones, wilting, and curling. However, unlike an underwatered prayer plant, the leaves will feel soft and not dry.
More signs are black or brown splotches on leaves, browning of younger leaves, leaves dropping, moldy potting mix, mushy stem base, etc.
Poor water quality
Using tap water high in fluoride, chlorine, and mineral salts is also a possible cause of curling leaves.
Excess chlorine will cause scorched leaves, and fluoride will result in dead tips and margins that will turn yellow or brown.
On the other hand, mineral salts will affect water absorption, making leaves curl upward and other signs of a thirsty Maranta leuconeura
Solution – proper watering
To solve overwatering or underwatering, only water your prayer plant when the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil is dry. Test the potting before watering and don’t follow a mere watering schedule. If you forget, set a reminder.
One way is to feel the potting mix. If dry up to the first finger knuckle, water it. If not, wait for a few more days. The other way is using a soil moisture meter. We use XLUX by IAGTEK, the best-rated soil moisture sensor. Water when the reading is three or less.
Next, check if the other growing conditions are optimum (temp, humidity, light, etc.). Also, you have the right soil mix (holds moisture without being soggy). And have the right pot size (too small will make the soil dry fast, and too big will result in overwatering) and ensure the drainage holes are open
That is not all. Avoid compacted or very sandy soil. The former will become wet, and the latter will dry too quickly.
Last but not least, use filtered or distilled water if your municipal water is high in chloramines, fluoride, and salts. Alternatively, you can let tap water stay open overnight to let some chlorine dissipate.
2. Low humidity and prayer plant leaves curling
These plants love above average to high humidity. When in low humidity, the dry air will quickly strip away water from leaves and potting mix. If roots cannot replenish the lost moisture, leaves will start curling upward to help conserve water.
Signs will resemble those of a thirsty prayer plan, things like drooping or curling leaves, crispy brown tips or edges, yellowing, and so on. But the soil may not necessarily be parched.
You need a hygrometer to monitor humidity. A good brand that serves as thermometer is Govee Hygrometer Thermometer H5075. It has a large LCD and comes with Smart App Alerts to notify you when set points are exceeded.
If they are too low, mist your plant a few times a wee or have a pebble. Also, you can also your plants to areas with high humidity like bathrooms or kitchens, and grouping all your plants (creams a microclimate) together may help.
3. Extreme temperatures
Very high temperatures, cold drafts, or chilling temperatures are all possible reasons for prayer plant leaves curling. How?
a). Heat stress
A high temperature will cause quick water loss from leaves. If it happens faster than what roots absorb, your plant will be thirsty. Also, if temperatures go so high, it will affect plant function. Again, this will hinder water absorption.
Leaves with dry brown tips and edges, curling, wilting, drooping, and yellowing. Also, the leaves may drop, and your plant will grow slowly.
Move plants from hot places, including heat vents, fireplace, radiators, near furnace or fireplaces to cooler areas. if outdoors, move your plant to a shade. Also, consider buying a thermometer to be sure it is not heat stress.
b). Cold drafts
Cold drafts, especially in winters and chilling conditions, may cause curling leaves. How? They will slow plant physiological functions. This will make it impossible to absorb enough water.
In extreme cold, water inside the plant may freeze. This will damage and draw water from cells.
The other possible reason may be a defense mechanism, i.e., they curl to prevent rapid thawing in case of freezing. This will prevent damage.
Signs include wilting or drooping leaves, leaf discoloration (turning yellow, whitish, black, or brown), curling, and leaf scorch. Also, whole leaves may turn brown overnight.
Move any outdoor plants to your house in winter or when it is cold. Also, don’t place your plant in draft areas, including open windows and doors. And at night, close windows, curtains, or blinds.
4. Overfeeding and nutritional deficiencies
Not feeding your plants and having soils devoid of nutrients may make Maranta leuconeura to curl leaves. Similarly, overfeeding will.
a). Excessive fertilizers
Fertilizers have salts. So excessive amounts in the soil will prevent roots from drawing water by osmosis. Also, they may cause root burn. These two will prevent water absorption, making your plant thirsty. Thus, they will curl leaves. Also, excessive nitrogen may make leaves curl downward, especially the tips.
You will notice fertilizer crusts on the soil. Also, there will be chlorosis, wilting, leaf drop, stunted growth, and leaf curling. Excess nitrogen will cause dark green foliage and yellowing.
b). Nutritional deficiencies
A deficiency of calcium and phosphorus may cause downward leaf curling. If your plant lacks magnesium, leaves will curl upward and have yellow interveinal patches that spread outwards.
Lack nutrients, leaves will turn yellow, have yellow or brown edges or spots. Also, the leaves may look scorched and have holes. Other signs stunted growth, young leaves curling downwards or upwards, among others.
To avoid nutritional deficiencies, ensure you use a potting mix rich in organic matter. If not, add compost or Worm Castings.
Secondly, feed your plants once a month during the growing seasons (spring and summer) using fertilizer for houseplants. In winter or fall, please don't fertilize them.
For fertilizers, we recommend a balanced formula like J R Peters Jacks Classic20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer since it has other nutrients like zinc, molybdenum, iron, manganese, boron, and iron. Add ½ a teaspoon (not a tablespoon) to a gallon of water and use the solution to water your plant. Apply once biweekly.
If excessive fertilizer, you can flush the soil (pour a lot of water through the potting mix) or change the potting soil.
Prayer plants are susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs. But they can also get other pests like thrip, aphids, scale, etc. These pests drink juices from plants depriving their water and nutrients. This will make their leaves curl. Also, some inject toxins that curl, ruffle or distort leaves.
Signs depend on the bug present and may include spots (black, yellow, or brown), cupped, deformed, or pinched leaves. Others are webbing, silvery speckles, honeydew, and sooty mold.
Knock them off with a water jet or clean them off using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. For heavy infestation, use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil spray. Don’t forget to isolate infested or new plants.
Garden Safe Brand Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer that controls aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, whiteflies, etc., by contact.
For neem oil, Bonide Ready to Use Neem Oil. This 3-in-1 formula will kill eggs, larvae, or adult stages of insects. Also, it will help prevent mites and fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
Lastly, if you are interested in horticultural oil spray, Bonide All Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil, Insecticide will not let you down. It helps deal with insects and spider mites. Also, it will help control rush, botrytis, greasy spots, powdery mildew, etc.
6. Too much light
The other possible cause is too much light. It will increase transpiration making your plant lose water. This will trigger them to minimize the loss by curling. Also, it may be a mechanism to protect the leaves from too much light. By curling, they will have a smaller surface area.
Your plant will look washed-out, i.e., bleached, whitish, pale, or yellow leaves. Also, the leaves will curl, have scorched brown tips and margins, droop, and so on.
Grow your plants in bright, indirect light. Ensure no sunlight reaches your plant, especially if your plant is on the south-facing window. A little early morning and late evening sun on the east and west-facing windows may not cause much damage.
If you grow your prayer plant outdoors, please put them under a shade. Alternatively, you can have a shade cloth or a greenhouse.
Does your prayer plant have roots growing from drainage holes, and the leaves are curling? It may be a sign it is rootbound.
Besides curling and drooping, leaves close to the base will start turning yellow or brown. Also, your plant will grow slowly, drop leaves, and the root ball may break or damage your pot.
The solution is to repot your Maranta leuconeura. Gently remove the plant from the pot, get rid of as much soil as possible, and move it to a new larger one. If it has any brown or black roots, cut them with sterile gardening shears.
Normal reasons for prayer plant leaves curling
Not every reason should worry you. Sometimes, the curling is usual. Some of these instances include the following:
1. They fold their leaves upwards at night
These plants are known as prayer plants because they raise or erect their leaves upward. As they do so, the leaves slightly curl to help conserve moisture. In the morning, they will lay them flat again. This is usual, and you don’t have to worry.
2. New leaves
New leaves emerge curled, and they may remain that way for a while before unfurling. Again, this is normal, and it occurs in many other plants. So, if only your new prayer plant leaves are curling, worry not.
3. Transplant shock
Repotting, transplanting, or relocating your plant may cause some shock. The leave may curl, droop, have brown tips, and margin or drop. The plant is still adjusting. Give it time. But as you transplant it, minimize root damage. Also, ensure the soil remains moist.
As they age, leaves start turning yellow them brown. As this happens, they may be curly and look ruffled. This is normal too.
About prayer plant
Maranta leuconeura or prayer plant is an evergreen plant native to Brazil. It belongs to the arrowroot family Marantaceae and gets its name from its nyctinasty behavior. During the day, the leaves lie flat, and at night they erect or raise to prayer position or like praying hands.
Maranta leuconeura has adorable broad oval to elliptical variegated leaves with purple-green or gray-green underside. Since there are many cultivars or verities like Kim, Marisela, Green, Black, and Red Prayer Plant, the exact markings will depend on the cultivar or variety.
Last but not least, other than Maranta leuconeura, the prayer plant may refer to some other species in the genus Maranta, Calathea, Ctenanthe, and Stromanthe that show the nyctinasty behavior.