Imagine coming to look at your pothos one day and finding curling leaves? It’s a definite indicator that the plant is in distress. Finding out about such matters helps prevent more leaves curling and even the death of houseplants.
If your pothos leaves are curling, it generally indicates problems such as over- or under-watering. It’s also how the plant signals the need for more or less light. Pothos leaf curling also occurs in overfeeding or insect infestation, or illness situations.
I’ve owned a pothos for five years and unfortunately this problem has come up from time to time, so I’ve definitely done my fair share of research into why pothos leaves curl. Fortunately, this plant is super low maintenance, and there’s a way to correct all the problems associated with leaf curling. So, there’s no need to give up hope if you notice this on your own plant!
Read on to find out how to prevent and reverse your pothos leaves curling.
Why are my pothos leaves curling?
Pothos leaves curl usually due to overwatering, which can leave their soil waterlogged and the roots unable to absorb the oxygen they need, resulting in root rot. However, they can also curl due to poor light exposure, under-watering, or pest or fungal infestation.
It was quite disheartening for me the first time I saw my silver pothos plant with curling leaves. However, I was able to reverse the effect and prevent future re-occurrences.
Pothos is a tolerant houseplant. It’s hard even for a beginner to kill one. However, you can see when the plant is in distress because of its curling leaves. The curling leaves show something needs to improve for the plant to thrive.
Take a look at the list below of possible reasons for your pothos leaves curling to start to deduce which one may be the culprit in your situation.
As mentioned, overwatering your pothos is the most common reasons why pothos leaves curl. This is because, funnily enough, the leaves are trying to retain moisture even though this problem arises due to there being too much moisture in the soil.
However, this actually results in the roots being unable to absorb all the nutrients they need, meaning all that water can’t actually reach the plant’s leaves and stems, and so leaf curl is a mechanism for your pothos to try to survive.
Take a look at our ultimate guide on How to Save an Overwatered Pothos.
All plants need water, but you should give them the right amount to prevent adverse effects such as curling. I thought I was improving with my watering skills when it came to taking care of the pothos. However, checking the soil of some of the plants proved I had a lot to learn.
Underwatering a pothos mostly happens when you forget about your plant, as these plants aren’t high maintenance so even the occasional watering will keep them happy. If that sounds like you, consider setting reminders on your phone on when you should check on your plant to see if it needs a drink.
3. Overfeeding fertilizer
This plant needs lots of nutrients to grow and thrive, so it’s essential to feed your pothos with fertilizer, much like all indoor plants. Potted plants are especially prone to a lack of nutrients. Nutrients get washed away during watering as excess moisture drains out.
I had a habit of adding a little extra fertilizer to grow strong vines. But, that was the wrong move, since now the excess nutrients were why my leaves were curling. The nutrients made the pothos thrive at first, but things took a turn when extra fertilizer was present in the soil.
4. The pothos lacks enough light
While plants like pothos are low maintenance, they still require some level of care. The leaf curling of my pothos was my way of learning. I noted the part of the house where the plants were a bit dark.
Outside, pothos get ample light when in an area with partial shade. Pothos still need lots of light to keep growing healthy when growing indoors. The lack of ample light causes the leaves to turn yellow and curl.
5. Insect infestation
Like all houseplants, a pothos can find itself facing an insect infestation. Some pothos pests you’re more likely to come across include:
- Spider mites. Spider mites share a relationship with spiders but are quite tiny. They prefer hiding on the underside of pothos leaves and sucking the sap from the plant tissue. This causes the leaves to curl.
- Mealybugs. Mealybugs have a soft body and don’t have wings. The best way to identify them is to look for tiny white masses that resemble cotton balls. Mealybugs also suck sap from plant tissue which causes curling.
- Whitefly. Despite the name, whiteflies are wingless insects that infest pothos. They have small bodies with a triangular shape and stay in clusters under the leaves.
- Soft scale. Soft scales are large insects that attack pothos plants to suck sap from the leaves. They tend to adapt to their environment and seem like lumps or bumps on the plants.
- Thrips. If you ever come across tiny, slender insects with wings on pothos, those are most probably thrips. These insects puncture the leaves’ epidermal and start sucking.
- Aphids. Aphids are about the size of a pin-head and have cornicles on the abdomen. These are a pair of tube-like projections that puncture the pothos leaves.
- Fungus gnats. Fungus gnats tend to infest the soil of houseplants like pothos. They feed on organic matter and can also eat the roots of the pothos.
These pests attack the leaves and also use the backside to hide. It’s, therefore, crucial to do frequent checks for any insects on the pothos. When the houseplant has an infestation, the leaves will start curling.
Diseases are, unfortunately, a way of life when it comes to plants and can often be the culprit if your pothos leaves are curling. One of the most common diseases though actually relates to overwatering, as just mentioned, and that’s root rot.
Root rot in a pothos grows gradually and won’t show signs on the houseplant immediately. When the leaves curl, the roots may be too far gone. It’s always better to monitor houseplants and even check the soil for excess moisture.
7. Temperature stress
When it’s too hot or cold in the house, the leaves of the pothos may start curling. Temperature stress begins when the plants experience too much heat or not enough. When the house is too hot, the leaves start to curl inward.
Pothos like it indoors since they stay away from the hot summer sun. However, my mistake was leaving one of my pothos near a vent blowing hot air. The excess heat from the vent caused the leaves to curl and dry up.
8. Humidity stress
If pothos experience low humidity, they will curl their leaves. They thrive in tropical temperatures of 65 to 85 ° F and high humidity. Pothos are the happiest when the thermostat is set the same way.
In my case, I set up a humidifier in the plant room. Dry air affects pothos leading to curling leaves. Humidity stress means the air around the plants is too dry and requires moisture.
When you plant pothos in a container, the roots keep growing. When they outgrow the pot, you have a case of it being root-bound. This is when you see roots growing out of the drainage hole under the pot.
When a plant is rootbound, it causes the plant to start turning yellow and have curling leaves. It also leads to your pothos not growing as it should and general weakness of the plant. With time, this can even affect the shape of the container, causing it to crack.
Find out more: 7 Signs of a Root Bound Pothos (and How to Fix It)
10. Compacted soil
Compacted soil goes hand in hand with root-bound. Your pothos needs drainage but if the soil is too compacted, water won’t drain easily since the roots and soil clog the container. In such situations, you notice waterlogging at the top of the soil for some time.
The soil slowly absorbs it, but there’s no room for the excess to drain through the drainage holes. As a result, the leaves curl, and the pothos gets root and stem rot. Repotting can help to provide the plant with a good soil medium (you can see my pick for the best soil for pothos plants here).
How to fix curling leaves on pothos?
You can fix curling leaves on pothos by providing ample lighting, eradicating infestation, treating sick plants and repotting affected plants.
1. Check your watering schedule
Given both over- and under-watering can be some of the main reasons why your pothos leaves are curling, checking your watering schedule should be one of the first things you do.
To get all the information you need, check out How Often to Water Your Pothos here.
Underwatering can be fixed fairly easily, although it’s important to catch it in time before your plant is past the point of no return.
But overwatering may take a bit more work. If the issue is only at the early stages, letting your plant dry out will help, but you may need to repot your pothos to give it fresh soil as a nice reset. In addition, if you find out that root rot has set in, make sure you take action accordingly as quickly as you can.
2. Move it to meet your pothos’ light needs
Light intensity plays a big role in the health of indoor plants such as pothos. They love light but have specific requirements. Pothos leaves curl outwards towards the light source when there’s little light. Similarly, you may notice your pothos leaves curling upwards when it’s not getting enough light.
On the other hand, your pothos leaves curl inwards with too much light. Therefore, it’s crucial to note the light exposure to ensure pothos get enough indirect sunlight. Choose an area where natural light comes in, but excessive sun rays won’t harm the pothos leaves, including to ensure your pothos isn’t sunburnt.
3. Fix infestations
Fixing insect infestation on pothos isn’t hard. Get rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to wipe the leaves clean. Wipe the bottom and top parts of each leaf.
Rubbing alcohol is strong and will keep most insects away. However, if you notice some bugs are attacking the houseplants, use insecticides. Also, get rid of all dead leaves and vines on the pot.
4. Treat sick plants
Pothos can get diseases such as root rot and fungal infections. Handle root rot fast when you notice a plant with it since it can spread.
Begin by isolating the infected pothos, whether that’s another room or even putting it on a balcony or porch if you have one (as pothos can live outside, although make sure though that it’s only receiving indirect light).
You should also repot the plant into fresh soil and cut off the infected roots.
5. Repotting the plant
Repotting is the last solution if all the other methods don’t fix curling leaves on Pothos. It helps provide the plant with fresh soil medium without diseases and pests.
How to avoid your pothos leaves curling?
You can prevent pothos leaves from curling by watering and feeding them correctly. Also, you should set favorable temperature and humidity levels and repot your plants periodically.
1. Give enough water
Under or over-watering will lead pothos leaves to curl, which isn’t good. So, it’s better to prevent having too much or too little water. You achieve this by mastering proper watering to prevent pothos leaves curling in water clogged soil.
Using a finger, dig into the topsoil of the plant. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water the pothos. It can go on for some time if there’s moisture since adding more will lead to overwatering.
2. Don’t overfeed pothos
My pothos had seen it all when it came to overfeeding. I used to feel the plants needed more fertilizer since they were in containers. However, several incidents of curling leaves proved I was overfeeding these houseplants.
That is, another way to prevent curling leaves is to avoid overfeeding pothos. As much as these plants might need more nutrients, overdoing only causes issues. Apart from curling leaves, the plants can also suffer from root rot and crunchy soil.
3. Adjust temperature and humidity levels
The atmosphere inside the house must be right for houseplants. This means maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels. By using a humidifier, it’s possible to keep the environment around pothos moist.
In addition, it can help to have a thermometer that checks the temperature in the house. I keep one in my plant area to check if it’s too hot or cold. After that, I can adjust the HVAC system to suit my pothos and other houseplants.
4. Repot the pothos into a new pot
Any suspicion of root rot or lack of space requires fast action to prevent any more leaves from curling. Usually, pothos plants tend to sag and curl leaves when the roots are too bound in a small pot.
Check the bottom of the pot to see if the roots are popping from the drain hole. This is the best way to see if the plant is ready for a new pot. Repotting requires fetching a bigger pot and some growing mix.
Do pothos leaves uncurl?
Uncurling is possible if the affected leaf is still healthy and green. When curling leaves start to turn yellow, there is no chance of uncurling or surviving. Such leaves will dry up and fall off the pothos plant, although it’s a good idea to prune these before they drop to help the plant conserve its energy.
It’s better to act fast when pothos leaves start to curl. Correct it as fast as possible if curling is because of temperature or humidity stress. Proper indoor temperature and humidity levels will cause healthy leaves to uncurl.
Also, check water levels. If the pothos has too much water, don’t add any more. If the plant is suffering from underwatering, add water pronto. The leaves will begin to uncurl, and the plant will look good once more.
How long does it take pothos to uncurl?
Some pothos can uncurl, especially if the problem is light intensity and watering issues. When you fix the problem, the plant will start to regain its health, and the leaves unfurl. However, this can take up to 7 days to occur.
Uncurling or unfurling causes the leaves to extend even further, which might seem longer. But that’s okay, provided the leaves look healthy. The leaves that uncurl won’t be lighter but will have a darker green shade and some variegation.
Why are my pothos leaves curling and turning yellow?
Pothos leaves can turn yellow and begin to curl because of:
- Poor light exposure
Curling and yellow pothos leaves are a sign that something is wrong. Normally, the yellowing of houseplants isn’t reversible, so it’s better to prevent it.
Pothos and similar indoor plants need proper care and maintenance. For instance, pothos need sufficient watering to stay alive. Cases of underwater or overwatering cause leaves to curl and turn yellow.
Therefore, always check the top inch or so of the soil and if it’s dry, water the plant. If not, leave it be. Water all dry pothos until it comes out from the drain hole. This means moisture has spread all over the soil and the plant has enough for some time.
To ensure my pothos thrives, I place them in an area with ample indirect light. These plants don’t like direct harsh sun rays, but they still need light. Note that excess light will cause the leaves to curl and turn yellow.
Pothos are easy houseplants that even novices can grow and enjoy. But, this doesn’t mean it’s not possible to kill pothos. Issues such as over or under watering, poor light intensity, or overfeeding cause curling leaves.
Also, problems like insect infestation, disease, temperature, or humidity distress affect pothos plants. If pothos leaves are curling after repotting, destroy the whole plant and dispose of the soil.