As hardy and resilient, the Pilea plant is susceptible to leaf curling. This is a sign that all is not well with the plant and you need to take a closer look at the plant itself and the growing conditions to find the causes.
Pilea leaf curling could be the result of irregular watering, inadequate temperature, light being too bright, not enough humidity in the air, poor-draining soil, lack of nutrients, or rotting roots. Pests and diseases could also cause the Pilea leaves to curl.
As is the case with many plants, there could be more than one reason why the Pilea leaf is curling. And the sooner you detect the problem, make the right diagnosis, and fix the issue, the more likely your Pilea plant will regain its healthy look and colors.
Reasons for Pilea Leaves Curling
Pilea leaves curling is often easy to overlook. Especially since new leaves start curled then flatten out as they grow. However, when large leaves start to curl, then you have a problem with your hands.
If not treated quickly, the underlying cause could pose a serious risk to the health and even the life of the plant itself. The following are the most common causes of Pilea leaves curling.
#1. Watering Issues
The Pilea plant is finicky when it comes to water. It will show signs of stress if you overwater or underwater it. One of those signs is the leaves curling.
On average you should allow the top one inch of the soil to dry out before watering the plant. If the soil is constantly wet, inspect the roots for signs of rotting or damage and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
Keep in mind that less water can also cause the leaves to curl. If you’re growing the plant in a pot, the soil in the pot dries out at a faster rate. So water it regularly.
#2. Temperature Issues
Contrary to what some people might think, the Pilea plant doesn’t favor high temperatures. In fact, the ideal temperature range for this plant is between 55 to 65 degrees F (13 to 18 degrees C).
This means you should keep the temperature on the cool side. High temperatures cause the leaves to lose moisture at a fast rate which leads to curling.
#3. Lighting Issues
Too much light or direct exposure to sunlight can cause a lot of problems for the Pilea plant including curling leaves. Move the potted plant away from a window facing the west or south.
If that’s the only window in the room, draw a lace curtain to filter the light. If it’s a problem of too little light, move the pot closer to the window.
#4. Humidity Issues
Humidity issues are closely related to irregular watering problems. If the plant is already dehydrated, then low humidity levels in the room might make the leaf curling issue even worse.
Try to mist the plant at least once a week especially at the peak of summer. Air conditioning systems also leave the air too dry for the plant. Place the pot in a tray full of water with some pebbles to increase the humidity levels.
#5. Drainage Issues
Poor drainage can either be the result of using heavy soil or the pot doesn’t have drainage holes. Test the drainage of the soil and amend it with coarse sand and organic materials to improve drainage.
Make sure there are enough drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and drop a few pebbles to prevent the soil from clogging the holes.
#6. Nutrient Issues
Although Pilea plants are not particularly heavy feeders, the plant still needs nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow and thrive. Apply a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer once a month to bring the plant back to health.
Dilute the fertilizer at half strength before every application to avoid burning out the roots or stressing the plant with growth spurts.
#7. Potting/Root Issues
The root issues the plant faces stem mainly from wet or waterlogged soil. The sensitive roots damage easily with excessive moisture which affects the amounts of nutrients the plant gets and sends out to the leaves.
Depending on how much damage is in the roots, you might have to repot the plant in fresh soil and trim off the damaged roots before replanting it.
Many of the diseases the Pilea plant suffer from are caused by bugs. This is especially true when those diseases cause the leaves to curl. So getting rid of bugs and making sure they don’t spread all over the plant should be your top priority.
The most common pests are aphids and whiteflies. Use neem oil spray to get rid of both of these bugs. I use and recommend this neem oil.
You can also rub the leaves and stems of the plant with rubbing alcohol or use a hose to dislodge the tiny aphids and get rid of them.
Other Common Leaf Issues in Pilea Plants
One of the problems you’ll face regularly with your Pilea plants is when the leaves turn yellow. The main cause of this problem is overwatering. So cut down on watering and allow the top one inch of the soil to dry completely before watering again.
If the Pilea plant is sitting in perpetually wet soil, this could damage the roots and require repotting the plant.
When the leaves turn brown, that’s usually the next phase after yellowing leaves. But it’s not just overwatering that causes brown leaves. Pests, too much fertilizer, or overexposure to sunlight can also cause brown spots to emerge.
Make sure the plant is getting adequate water, filtered light, and diluted fertilizer. Kill any pests that crawl all over the stems and eat the leaves.
Leaves Turning Black
Whiteflies cause black spots to appear on the leaves of the Pilea plant. Look for signs of infestation and spray the plant with neem oil. Also, make sure the plant is not getting too much sunlight. Move the pot away from the window and draw a curtain to filter the light.
Leaves Turning Light Green
This is a sign the plant is not getting adequate light. When the light is too bright, the leaves could turn light green or have dark spots on them. The same happens when the plant is placed in a dimly lit room.
It will lose its shiny green colors and the leaves could turn light green or even yellow. Place the plant in a well-lit room but avoid exposure to sunlight.
Dying and Falling Off
When the Pilea plant starts falling off, that’s because the stems are wilting and cannot support the weight of the leaves. This is often caused by the wrong temperature in the room.
Too much heat causes the plant to lose moisture at faster rates which leads to wilting stems. Ensure the room temperature is between 55 to 65 degrees F. at all times.
Spots on the Pilea leaves could be the result of pest infestations. Aphids and whiteflies both cause black spots to appear on the leaves. Exposure to direct sunlight also causes brown spots and sometimes black spots to emerge.
Check that the plant is pest-free and move it away from window sills facing the west or south. If the spots are yellow, that could be a watering problem.
Damaged roots are the main reason your Pilea leaves are getting smaller and smaller. Since the plant is not getting enough nutrients from the soil due to the damaged roots, it goes into survival mode and produces smaller leaves to conserve its resources.
Check the roots, trim off damaged or rotted ones, and avoid overwatering the plant.
Pilea Leaves Splitting
Tattered or splitting leaves are the direct result of injuries. If the new leaf gets injured, it will continue to grow with broken edges until it finally dies.
Cut off any damaged leaves to encourage the plant to grow new leaves and apply a balanced fertilizer at half strength once a month.
Can You Propagate Pilea From a Leaf?
You can start a new Pilea plant from a single leaf. As long as the leaf is healthy and has a petiole, you can propagate it. If the leaf is missing the petiole, it will only develop roots but not leaves.
How Do You Know If a Pilea Is Underwatered?
If the Pilea plant is not getting enough moisture, the leaves will curl. This is a natural defense mechanism whereby the plant reduces the exposed surface area of the leaves to prevent excessive moisture loss.
Water the plant when the top one inch of the soil has dried out. The soil in the pot dries out faster than soil in the garden, so don’t let the whole pot dry out between irrigations.
Pilea plants are prone to leaf curling when the growing conditions are less than ideal. Avoid overwatering or underwatering the plant and make sure the soil is well-draining and has enough nutrients.
Finally, don’t expose the Pilea to direct sunlight and fight off pests as soon as you detect them on or around the plant.