Why Are My African Violet Leaves Curling?

Why Is My African Violet Leaves Curling

African violets are firm favorites among plant growers because of their attractive flowers. Although these popular houseplants are relatively low-maintenance, their dark-green, hairy leaves will be susceptible to rot if conditions are too humid for them. There are also several environmental factors that could cause the leaves to curl, the most common of which we will discuss in this article. 

Why are my African violet leaves curling?

1. The plants were exposed to direct light. 

A common reason for curling leaves in African violets is exposure to full sun or direct light. These plants prefer bright but indirect light, and too much direct light can lead to scorching, curling and discoloration of the leaves. 

If you suspect that the leaves are curling due to too much direct light, transfer your plants to a shadier spot where they can still get bright light, but where the light is less intense. 

2. The plants are getting too little light.

African violet leaves could also curl because of insufficient light. The leaves will curl upward in low-light conditions, regardless of whether they are grown indoors or outdoors. Some plants may actively grow toward the nearest light source; this is called etiolation and is characterized by elongated stems and leaves. 

Transfer your plants to a spot where they can get more light daily, or simply use a grow light. These plants need a minimum of six hours of bright, indirect light daily to prevent curling leaves and to grow properly.

3. The plants have a pest infestation. 

Pests like scales, spider mites and mealybugs feed on plants and drain their nutrients, leaving them dehydrated and causing the leaves to curl. You can confirm the presence of pests if you notice little white spots or dots on the leaves. 

To get rid of these pests, spray the plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil, preferably at night. Isolate the treated plants to avoid the spread of pests to your other plants. 

4. The plants are overwatered. 

Overwatering is a common culprit of curling leaves. If you notice the leaves curling downward on your African violet, this could be an indication that the soil is waterlogged or is not draining sufficiently. To prevent the leaves curling from overwatering, water your plants only when the top few inches of soil are dry. The deeper soil will still be slightly moist, and you do not need to worry that you may have overwatered the plants. 

5. Some plants have naturally curling leaves.

Some varieties of African violets have naturally curling leaves, and this is something you do not need to worry about.  

6. It is due to root rot. 

African violet leaves may start to droop and curl downward if the plant has developed root rot. The leaves may also turn brown and become mushy, as might the stems. The color of the leaves will start to fade, and the leaves will lose their firmness, becoming soft, droopy and wilted. 

The best action in the case of root rot is to transfer the plant to a new pot, using fresh, well-draining potting mix. While transplanting it, check the roots and remove any that are brown, black or soft, as these are rotten. If all of the roots have rotted, it may be too late to save the plant.

African violet plant care

African violets thrive in slightly moist soil. Use room-temperature water when watering them, and avoid splashing water on the leaves since they are susceptible to rot.  It is therefore best always to water the plants from the bottom. The leaves can be cleaned with a small, soft brush to remove dirt. 

Most varieties prefer warm conditions, preferably 65 degrees Fahrenheit, although some can handle colder temperatures. During winter, keep the plants indoors and away from drafty windows. 

Transfer the plants to larger pots as they grow, although keeping them somewhat root-bound could encourage them to produce more flowers. You may opt to replant them only once some leaves start to wilt.  

Fertilize your plants at least every two weeks with high-phosphorus plant food. However, you should only do this during the growing seasons of spring and summer. Remember that over-fertilizing could harm your plants. 

These plants are prone to invasion by cyclamen mites, which are hard to remove completely. You may have to dispose of the infected plants, and nearby plants should be isolated to prevent the spread of infestation. The plants are also susceptible to diseases such as powdery mildew, root rot and blight. 


African violets, native to eastern Africa, are popular houseplants because of their attractive flowers. Although they are generally low-maintenance, their leaves may curl if certain environmental conditions are not optimal for them. These include too little or too much light, overwatering or root rot.  However, it is important to remember that some varieties of African violets have naturally drooping leaves, in which case there is nothing to worry about. 

Image: istockphoto.com / Iurii Garmash