This article may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

If you’re looking for an easy-going houseplant that gives off a tropical vibe, look no further than the calathea. 

Calatheas are native to the jungles in South America, and they produce stunning leaves that are vibrant green and broad. 

They don’t often have problems, although any issues with the calathea will show up first in its leaves. For example, noticing that your calathea’s leaves are curling is a red flag that something is just not right with your plant.

If you’ve seen your own plant going in this direction, keep reading to find out just what to do.

calathea with leaves curling in a garden

Why are my Calathea leaves curling?

The number one reason as to why your calathea’s leaves are curling is due to extremely dry soil. When this happens, you’ll notice the leaves start to curl, droop and eventually turn brown and fall off. Catching this promptly is important for your calathea’s health.

While this is usually the main culprit of curled leaves on a calathea, it isn’t the only one. And as you’ll see below, it often comes down to a process of elimination when determining the cause of your curling calathea leaves.

1. Soil is too dry

Calatheas don’t like their soil to dry out completely between waterings, and not keeping the soil moist can cause the leaves to curl, feel dry, turn brown or yellow, and even fall off the plant. 

Additionally, underwatering interferes with the plant’s ability to grow properly.

2. Poor water quality

Water that contains an abundance of minerals or additives, such as calcium carbonate, salts, chlorine, or fluoride, can be the reason why your calathea’s leaves are curling. 

In fact, studies have shown that fluoride building up in the soil can interfere with the plant’s photosynthesis and even cause damage to its tissues.

Additionally, these excess minerals can severely harm the calathea’s roots and prevent the plant from properly absorbing water and nutrients.

a person watering calathea with leaves curling

3. Extreme temperature fluctuations

Temperature fluctuations may not seem like a big deal to you or me, but they can be detrimental to the health of your calathea. 

In particular, if the plant is placed in an area where drafts are an issue, you should consider finding a new location for the calathea.

4. Cold shock in your plant

Temperatures below a certain degree may be the reason why your calathea’s leaves are curling. Calathea thrives in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees, and cannot tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees. 

If the calathea is placed in an area with low temps for an extended period of time, the plant will experience cold shock.

Not only does cold shock result in calathea’s leaves curling and yellowing, but it can also kill the plant.

5. Low levels of humidity

Because of their tropical nature, calatheas need a bit higher humidity than you probably keep in your home. 

In fact, they need at least 50-percent humidity, with more being ideal. Without this level of humidity, you may notice that your calathea’s leaves are curling.

If the humidity levels are not corrected, the calathea will continue to experience problems, including poor growth, discolored and dry leaves, and leaf drop. Additionally, low levels of humidity can cause your calathea to become more susceptible to pests and diseases.

6. Sap-sucking pests

Pests are an unfortunate problem with just about any houseplant, including the calathea. Spider mites, scale, mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies are a few of the most common sap-sucking insects that feed on houseplants, such as calathea. 

They can cause damage to the plant’s leaves, resulting in brown spots and leaf curl, and can even make the calathea more susceptible to diseases.

a person holding calathea with leaves curling

Can curled Calathea leaves recover?

In most cases, calathea leaves can recover from curling. When the issue causing the curling is fixed, the leaves will begin to recover and uncurl. This can take several days to even weeks, depending on what caused the curling in the first place.

Keep in mind, however, that if there are other symptoms on the leaves, such as discoloration, the leaves may uncurl but they will still have those other issues. In this case, it is best to simply prune the damaged leaves off the calathea.

When pruning the calathea, try to wait until the plant is actively growing, which is during the spring and summer months. This makes it easier for the calathea to handle the pruning process with little to no long term damage. 

Additionally, you should never prune off more than 1/4 of the plant’s foliage at one time.

How do you save a curling Calathea?

The best way to save a curling calathea is to ensure it gets the right growing conditions. Once you have that fixed, the overall health of the calathea will improve greatly. From there, make sure you maintain this level of care to ensure the calathea leaf problems don’t return.

Although, as mentioned before, fixing curling calathea leaves is largely a process of elimination to find the real cause, the steps below are always good to try.

1. Water the calathea when the soil begins to dry out

The main culprit for when your calathea’s leaves are curling is the soil being too dry. Thankfully, this is an easy problem to fix since all you have to do is give the plant a soak. 

To get started, place the calathea in a bucket filled with water, making sure the water comes just over the top of the soil.

Let the calathea soak for 20 to 30 minutes before removing the plant from the water and allowing the excess water to drain out of its pot. Set the calathea back in its location once all the excess water has drained out.

You can ensure the plant doesn’t get too dry in the future by regularly checking the soil moisture and watering the plant whenever the soil starts to feel dry.

2. Avoid hard water when watering the calathea

Hard water and calathea plants do not mix. That is why you should use rain water, distilled water, filtered water, or spring water when watering the calathea. If you’re unsure whether or not you have hard water, consider purchasing a water testing kit.

These kits are available from a wide array of stores and can let you know exactly what is in your drinking water.

calathea on a black pot with leaves curling

3. Don’t place the calathea in an area where the temperature drastically fluctuates

Since calatheas are sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations, you should keep the plant away from areas such as drafty doors and heating/cooling vents. 

Areas such as these don’t maintain a consistent temperature and will go up and down throughout the day and night.

Instead, find a location where the plant will receive year-round warmth, as well as bright indirect light. A sunny window that isn’t drafty but does have a curtain or sheer to help filter the light is a good starting place for your indoor calathea.

4. Keep the calathea where it is warm year round.

Calathea plants cannot handle temperatures below 55 degrees, and actually grow the best when they have a temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees throughout the entire day. 

Making sure the plant is growing in an area where you can make this possible is one of the best ways to save a calathea with curling leaves.

5. Increase the humidity levels to 50 percent or above

Along with high temps, calatheas also like high humidity. They need a humidity level of at least 50 percent in order to thrive. 

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to increase the humidity level, including using a humidifier or a drip tray.

You can also increase humidity temporarily by misting the plant or boiling a pot of water on the stove. Both of these options introduce moisture into the air.

calathea outside the garden with leaves curling

6. Treat the calathea with pesticides to control sap-sucking insects

Sap-sucking insects are usually considered more of an annoyance, but that doesn’t mean you should let the insects continue to feast on your houseplants. 

Instead, use a pesticide, such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil, to treat the calathea.

These types of pesticides are considered a safe option to use indoors around people and pets. Make sure, however, to read and follow all the directions found on the bottle. This will help prevent harm to you, your family, and your plants.

How long does it take for Calathea to uncurl?

If your calathea’s leaves have curled due to underwatering, it can take, on average, 24 hours before the leaves begin to unfurl. However, if the curling was due to other reasons, your calathea may take more time to correct itself.

And when it comes to problems caused by the plant being too dry, this 24 hour time period assumes that you’ve properly soaked the plant to correct the underwatering. 

Unfortunately, you cannot simply water a severely under watered plant, since the water will just roll right off the top of the soil. Instead, the plant will need to be placed in water and allowed to soak for 20 to 30 minutes.

The exact timeframe for when your calathea leaves will uncurl may be more or less than 24 hours, since it all depends on which calathea leaf problems your plant had and how you handled the issue.

Why do Calathea leaves curl at night?

Calatheas are interesting plants that will curl their leaves at night. This can be a concerning sight, especially when you consider that a leaf curl is often a sign of a problem. However, when calatheas curl their leaves at night, it is normal behavior for this plant.

Calathea leaves will move when the plant reacts to light level changes, such as what occurs at night. This is called nyctinasty, and it allows the plant the ability to move its leaves for ideal photosynthesis.

Why are my Calathea’s leaves curling after repotting?

When a calathea is repotted, it can go through shock and stress that leaves the plant vulnerable and which may cause its leaves to curl. This is especially true if you haven’t thoroughly watered the calathea after the repotting process.

Even though repotting is sometimes necessary, it does take a toll on the plant that is being transplanted. 

This is why, to ensure your calathea stays as healthy and strong as possible during and after the transplant, make sure to deeply water the plant. A calathea that is already stressed from being repotted doesn’t need even more stress placed on it due to dry soil.

calathea on a white pot with leaves curling

Why is my Calathea drooping and curling?

When your calathera’s leaves are drooping and curling, that is a sure sign that the plant isn’t getting enough water. It could also indicate that conditions are too dry and the humidity levels are not high enough. This is especially true if the calathea’s leaves are curling and crispy.

While you never want your plant to experience any calathea leaf problems, issues caused by underwatering, dry conditions, or low humidity levels are typically easier to correct and most plants snapback rather quickly once the dryness is fixed.

Why are my calathea’s leaves curling down?

When your calathea’s leaves are curling down, it may be a sign that something other than not enough water is wrong with the plant. Notably, it’s often an indication that the plant has been overfed or overwatered.

If the leaves of a plant curl upward, it is a tell-tale sign that the plant is trying to retain moisture, and thus it is too dry. However, curling downward means you may need to take different steps.

A good way to determine whether the downward curling is due to too much water or too much food is to look at the plant’s soil. If the soil is soggy and waterlogged, then you know the plant has been overwatered. Let the calathea’s soil dry out before watering again.

If, however, the soil isn’t soggy, the issue is probably due to overfeeding. Simply stop feeding the calathea for a while to allow for the plant to use the nutrient buildup in its soil. In the future, make sure you are not overfeeding the plant more than once a month.

calathea near the rocks with leaves curling

Why are my calathea’s leaves curling after watering?

When the calathea’s leaves are curling after watering, it could be because the plant is overwatered. Overwatering can cause the calathea’s leaves to start to curl, and if you continue to water an already water-logged plant, the leaves will just continue to curl.

A sure fire way to tell if the calathea is being overwatered is to just examine the soil. Overwatered soil will be extremely soggy with an excessive amount of water sitting in the soil. If you tip the calathea’s pot to the side and water begins to pour out, you know the plant has had too much water.

An overwatered calathea will need to be addressed as soon as possible, since the longer you wait, the more likely root rot will occur. If root rot hasn’t set in yet, you may be able to save the calathea by repotting the plant in fresh soil.