Why Are the Leaves on My Philodendron Curling?

Why Are The Leaves On My Philodendron Curling

Philodendrons are popular plants for both living areas and work spaces, thanks to their vibrant leaves and tropical vibe. These plants are also low-maintenance and forgiving of almost any form of neglect, making them a favorite among growers.

Although Philodendrons are hardy plants, this does not mean they are not immune to problems. And seeing your favorite plant’s leaves curling up can be disheartening and frustrating, especially if you do not know what is causing the problem.

If this is your first time growing a Philodendron, you might be wondering why its leaves are curling. This guide will provide you with some insights into the possible causes, as well as some tips on how to fix the problem.

Reasons your Philodendron’s leaves are curling

1. Dry soil

Although Philodendrons are drought-tolerant, depriving them of water for too long can cause damage such as drooping, browning or yellowing, and curling of the leaves. Excessive soil dryness is generally caused by an inconsistent watering schedule.

Philodendrons love slightly moist soil; this allows for easier nutrient uptake. This is why it is important to keep your plant well-hydrated, especially during its growing seasons. Never let the topsoil become too dry, as this can potentially damage your plant’s root system.

2. Overwatering

We have already mentioned that underwatering can have detrimental effects on your plant, but overwatering could be even worse! This problem is prevalent among newbie gardeners who have not yet learned how to properly water their plants. Some people assume it is just easier to overestimate the amount of water needed, especially if they do not know how to check the soil’s moisture level. 

Overwatering damages the plant’s root system, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients needed for your plant’s growth. Hence, in simple terms, too much water can drown your Philodendron.

Curling and discoloration of the leaves are some of the early signs of overwatering. If you fail to take heed of your plant’s hints and continue this bad habit, overwatering will eventually kill your plant.

3. Root rot

Root rot in Philodendrons is usually the result of prolonged overwatering, although there are other possible contributing factors such as fungal diseases, compact soil, large containers, and poor drainage.

Damaged plant roots can no longer absorb water and nutrients, and this causes their leaves to curl, turn brown or yellow, and wilt. At this point, you might react by throwing in an extra dose of water in the hope of reviving your plant. However, by doing so, you are actually killing it faster. 

You might also notice the presence of mold or green algae along the plant’s stems and on the soil. This is a clear sign that your Philodendron is struggling from overwatering and the roots may be rotting. 

Once the rot has reached the stems and leaves of your plant, it may be too late to save it. 

4. Lack of nutrients

Nutrients support plant growth; a lack thereof can weaken the plant, attracting diseases and cause leaf discolorations. For example, nitrogen deficiency in the soil can cause Philodendron leaves to curl and become a pale yellowish color. Over time, this deficiency can lead to stunted growth and unhealthy foliage. A lack of phosphorus can also cause the leaves to curl, but in this case they will develop brown spots.

5. Too much fertilizer

We have already mentioned the negative effects of nutrient deficiency in Philodendrons. But while it might be tempting to overfeed your plant in the hope of bringing it back to life, you need to keep in mind that overfertilization can be equally detrimental.

Giving your plant an extra dose of fertilizer can cause a buildup of salts in the soil and inhibit the roots from absorbing water. The most common symptoms of an over-fertilized Philodendron are root burn, leaf burn, slow growth, and curled leaves. If you continue applying fertilizer in excess amounts, your plant’s roots will become increasingly damaged and the plant will be weakened against diseases.

6. Temperature stress

Although Philodendrons are tropical and highly adaptable plants, they cannot flourish in an environment where the temperature is too high. They will easily dehydrate due to the increased rate of transpiration, causing their leaves to wilt and curl.

Cold temperatures can be harmful to your plant, too. Philodendrons cannot tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you keep your plant at this temperature for too long, it will likely perish.

Also keep in mind that cold drafts can freeze the sap in your plant’s cells, which will cause black or brown spots on the leaves. Thus, keep your Philodendron away from air conditioners and from open windows during cold seasons to prevent leaf damage.

7. Too much sunlight

Philodendrons, in their natural habitat, would receive dappled, indirect sunlight, and cannot tolerate excessive exposure to the sun. Curling and yellowing leaves are usually the most obvious sign that your plant is sunburned.

8. Low humidity

A humid and moist environment is ideal for your Philodendron, encouraging growth and supporting healthy foliage. If the humidity level becomes too low, your plant will likely suffer from leaf browning and curling. These signs are similar to those of underwatering, because low humidity causes your plant to lose water faster. The leaf curling is your plant’s natural reaction to conserve water and keep itself as hydrated as possible. 

Other telltale signs that your Philodendron is struggling with low humidity levels are:

  • Drooping and falling leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaf edges turning brown and crisp

9. Poor water quality

Tap water can be harmful to Philodendrons because it contains minerals like chlorine, fluoride, and salt, all of which can be toxic to plants. Thus, if you use unfiltered tap water, your plant might develop leaf spots and curled leaves. Tap water can also cause stunted growth as the salt buildup around the plant’s roots inhibits the absorption of water.

Hence, it is highly recommended to use purified water to keep your Philodendron healthy and happy. If you do not have a water filtration system at home, you can use rainwater instead. You can still use tap water if you need to, but let it sit overnight to allow the unwanted minerals to dissipate.

10. Rootbound state

If your Philodendron outgrows its current pot, it will not get enough water and nutrients to foster proper growth and healthy leaves. At this point, you may notice its leaves curling, turning yellow, or falling off.

11. Wrong container size

If your pot is too large, your plant will struggle with excess stagnant water, because the large volume of soil will take too long to dry. This can cause root rot.

If your pot is too small, on the other hand, the plant will become rootbound, as described above, causing problems with water and nutrient uptake.

Hence, the right size container is critical for your Philodendron to thrive. If it outgrows its pot, make sure to transplant it to an appropriately-sized container as soon as possible.

12. Transplant shock

As mentioned before, repotting your Philodendron occasionally is important to maintain its healthy foliage. However, repotting is also stressful for the plant, so you might notice symptoms like leaf curling, drooping, browning leaf tips and edges, and falling leaves. It might sound worrying, but this is completely normal. Your plant is simply adjusting to its new pot, so be patient. The best thing you can do is to provide it with the best possible conditions to reduce the effects of transplant shock. 

13. Disease

Philodendrons are hardy plants, but this does not make them completely resistant to diseases, especially if they are not receiving the right care. Curling leaves are one sign of plant disease, but there can be other symptoms as well, depending on the type of disease.

Do not worry too much, as most plant diseases can be treated. If you can identify the problem early on, your Philodendron will likely recover quickly and regain its vibrant leaves.

14. Pest infestation

Pests like scale insects, spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs can cause great damage to Philodendrons. These nuisance creatures feed on your plant’s sap and leave waste products that harm the leaves and stems. Some early signs of pest infestation include curled and wrinkled leaves, distorted or pinched leaves, a droopy appearance, and the presence of yellow or white spots on the leaves. 

If you do not act right away, these insects can turn your favorite plant into an ugly mess. But do not worry – with a little patience, you can easily get rid of them using pesticides or neem oil. 

15. Natural aging

If you have eliminated all of the above-listed causes and you still see curling leaves on your plant, then it might just be due to natural aging, which is completely normal. Older leaves might become curly and brown or yellow before eventually falling off. To maintain your plant’s beauty, you can simply trim off the old leaves and dried stems using sterilized pruning shears.

Can curled leaves go back to normal?

Once you have identified and addressed the cause, your Philodendron should recover quickly. Curled leaves can be reversed provided the problem is addressed early enough.

How to fix curled Philodendron leaves

Philodendrons can easily bounce back to health with the right care and conditions. Here are some care tips to help your plant return to its former glory and prevent future problems:

  • Make sure to keep your Philodendron in an environment with sufficient humidity. Investing in a humidifier will help you achieve this, as will regular misting of the leaves.
  • A regular watering schedule will go a long way towards keeping your Philodendron in top shape. Keep in mind that watering should be reduced during cold seasons. Check the soil regularly to determine when your plant needs a drink – the easiest way to do this is to use a soil moisture meter.
  • If your plant’s soil is very dry, stand the pot in a basin of water so that the soil can absorb water through the pot’s drainage holes. Make sure the soil is saturated before returning the plant to its saucer.
  • It is highly recommended to use filtered water for watering your plants. Filtration removes minerals like chlorine and fluoride that are toxic to most plants.
  • If you suspect your plant is struggling with standing water, transplant it to a new pot with fresh soil mix, and make sure the container has drainage holes to allow excess water to flow out. If most of the roots have turned dark and mushy, your plant is less likely to survive even after repotting.
  • If your plant has contracted a disease, isolate it immediately to avoid spreading the disease to other plants. 
  • Apply fertilizer at the correct ratio to give your Philodendron a boost during spring and summer. It is best to avoid fertilizing during the winter. It is also highly recommended to use natural fertilizers like manure and compost, although artificial fertilizers are more convenient.
  • Repot your Philodendron once every two to three years only, to limit transplant shock and other problems. 


If your Philodendron’s leaves start curling, it might be caused by low humidity, inappropriate watering, overfeeding, pests and diseases, or transplant shock, among other issues. Make sure to examine all the possible causes so that you know how to address the problem appropriately. 

Keep in mind that most of these issues can be treated and prevented with the right growing conditions, so give your Philodendron the love and care it deserves and you will ensure constantly vibrant foliage! 

Image: istockphoto.com / Karin de Mamiel