Plumeria Leaves Curling

Plumeria Leaves Curling

Plumerias, also known as lei flowers or frangipani, are small tropical trees popular for their fragrant and beautiful blooms. If you are thinking of adding this gorgeous plant to your garden, you will need to be aware of its general care requirements.

Like any other houseplant, your plumeria can face various plant issues – and the curling of its leaves is an early clue that something is not right with your plant! 

So, why are your plumeria’s leaves curling, and how can you prevent this? All of the reasons and remedies are explained in detail below!

Why are my plumeria leaves curling?

Any gardener dreads the day they see their houseplants’ leaves start curling. We all agree that this is unsightly, and it detracts from the beauty of our ornamental plants. Sadly, though, your precious plumeria is not completely immune to this issue.

But what does it mean when plant leaves start curling? 

In general, plants’ leaves curl as a sign of distress. The reason could be improper watering, pest infestation, unfavorable growing conditions, and other factors. While different plant species might have different growing requirements, there are some basic needs that they all share, those being proper watering, adequate sunlight, and well-draining soil. A lack of any of these could make your plants unhealthy and vulnerable to diseases.

The same rule applies to plumerias. As you might know, these tropical, flowering plants are accustomed to getting a few hours of full sunlight per day, and growing in soil that is rich in organic matter, just as they would experience in their native environment. Emulating this habitat in your garden will keep your plumerias growing to their full potential.

In most cases, however, we do not have such a perfect environment for our tropical plants. For this reason, it is important to make adjustments on our end to ensure that all of their growing requirements are met. That includes adding fertilizers, using a well-draining soil mix, choosing the right location for optimum light, and checking the soil before watering.

If your plumeria’s leaves are curling, it is likely caused by a lack of proper care. For starters, you might need to review your watering routine. Most plants will lose their vigor if they do not receive adequate amounts of water. Check the roots as well, as the issue might be related to poor soil quality. 

If everything seems fine, do not stop investigating yet – also check the temperature, humidity, and light levels. Pests can also be a culprit, especially if your plant is already struggling with a pre-existing disease.

Troubleshooting a plumeria’s curling leaves can be frustrating, especially if you cannot seem to pinpoint the exact issue. But, once you have determined the problem, it will be much easier to identify the right solution to bring your plant back to health. Do not lose heart – we have summarized everything you need to know about curling plumeria leaves and how to deal with them!

Common causes of curling plumeria leaves

Sometimes, we can overlook the smallest detail when it comes to caring for our plants. Plumeria leaves can curl and turn yellow or brown for so many reasons – from a simple lack of watering to more serious issues like root rot or pest infestation. Let us go through the details below to learn more.

1. Underwatering

Drought is the leading cause of curling and wrinkled leaves in plumerias. If you are guilty of neglecting your plant for too long, then a lack of water could be the culprit.

Like most plants, plumerias prefer their soil slightly moist. During the hot season, a water-deprived plumeria will react to drought stress by curling its leaves to conserve moisture and stay alive. 

To revive your plant, simply rehydrate the roots by giving them a good soak for a few minutes. Then allow the excess water to drain from the pot. Adding mulch to the soil will also help keep it moist and cool during the hot summer months.

Your next step is to correct your watering routine. So, how often should you be watering your plumeria?

Under normal weather conditions, it is recommended to water a plumeria once every one to two weeks, or whenever the top layer of soil feels dry. Increase the watering frequency if the weather is particularly hot, and reduce it during the colder months. The trick is to keep the soil slightly moist while still protecting the roots from overly saturated soil.

2. Root damage due to overwatering

Root rot is one of your plant’s top enemies. If you are prone to watering your plumeria excessively, there is a good chance that it might be struggling with root damage. You can confirm this by carefully lifting your plant from its pot and checking the roots. Remember that healthy roots should appear white and firm; if you see roots that look dark and mushy, then you are probably dealing with root rot.

The only way to save an overwatered plumeria is to repot it. Remove the plant from its soil, cut away the damaged roots and rinse the remaining healthy ones. You can also apply a fungicide to kill any remaining fungal spores. Then transfer your plant to a fresh pot with good drainage and a fresh, loose soil mix. 

All of that said, repotting a plumeria with extensive root damage might be futile, since the plant will likely die anyway. In this case, your best option is to discard the infected plumeria and start all over again.

3. Plumeria leaf rust

If the curling of the leaves is accompanied by powdery lesions and yellow spots on the foliage, then you are likely dealing with leaf rust.

Leaf rust, or brown rust, is a common fungal plant disease caused by airborne pathogens. The spores on the infected leaves are usually spread through the wind or splashing water. Warm and humid environments also create favorable conditions for these pathogens to reproduce.

If you think your plumeria is struggling with leaf rust disease, you might still be able to save it through a timely response and the application of fungicides. Make sure to trim off the badly infected leaves to avoid spreading the disease to other, healthy plants.

4. Nutrient deficiencies

Another potential reason your plumeria’s leaves are curling is nutrient deficiency. If the leaves are turning brown or yellow, your plant might be struggling with a lack of nitrogen and magnesium.

Plumerias can benefit greatly from nutrient-rich soil, so it is recommended to fertilize them once every two to three weeks during their growing season. If you add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, this will encourage the growth of leaves, but less flowering. If your goal is to produce beautiful blooms, it is best to use a fertilizer like Nelson Plant Food which is high in phosphate.

5. Aphid, mealybug, and spider mite infestations

Sap-sucking pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can cause a great amount of damage to the leaves of your plumeria. 

Curling, wilting, and dropping of the leaves are signs that your plant may be depleted of nutrients due to infestation. Once the damage is extensive, you will likely notice visible holes on the leaves, unsightly spots and streaks on the leaf surface, stunted growth of your plant, and the presence of a honeydew substance on the foliage that soon turns into a black, sooty mold.

Pest infestations can be frustrating to deal with, so it is very important to establish effective preventative measures to avoid them wreaking havoc in the first place. But, if you already have the infestation, you might still save your plant through these techniques:

  • Spray water on the leaves to dislodge the pests.
  • Wipe the leaves with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Spray neem oil on the foliage to get rid of the insects.
  • For severe infestations, apply insecticidal soap to the leaves. You should also trim off any severely damaged branches.

6. Heat stress

Sometimes, leaf curling in plumerias is brought on by hot weather and a lack of water.

As you might know, plants lose moisture from their leaves through a process called transpiration. This is simply a plant’s way of cooling off, and happens more on hot days. However, the intense heat of the sun can also burn your plant’s foliage. To prevent further loss of moisture, plants naturally curl their leaves. In severe cases, heat stress might also cause the leaves to become brown and brittle.

As soon as you notice your plumeria leaves curling, relocate your plant to an area away from direct sunlight. Make sure it receives filtered light, though, to maintain its lush growth. 

7. Too much fertilizer

While plumeria plants appreciate a little nutrient boost, feeding them excessively can have detrimental effects. Overfertilization can damage the roots and cause nutrient uptake issues. Curling leaves might just be the first sign of a distressed plant, while severe cases will make them vulnerable to plant diseases and pest infestation.

If you think overfertilization is the culprit of your plant’s curling leaves, flush the excess chemicals from the soil with water. The next time you fertilize your plants, make sure to feed them only once every two to three weeks, at a diluted dosage. 

8. Transplant shock 

If you have recently moved your plumeria to a new pot, this could be the reason its leaves are curling. Do not worry – this reaction is normal in most plants. 

Repotting can be very stressful for your plants; make sure you do not damage the roots in the process and add to the stress! Once your plumeria starts to adapt to its new environment, it should return to its normal healthy state.


Curling leaves not only look unsightly; they are also a clear indicator that your plumeria is struggling with a problem. It could be caused by a lack of proper care and improper watering, or a more serious infestation or fungal disease. So, take heed of your plant’s early warning! That way, you can hopefully correct the problem sooner rather than later and prevent it from happening in the future.

Image: / kontrymphoto