Why are the leaves on my Polka Dot Begonia curling?

Last Updated: October 25, 2022

Polka Dot Begonias can be pretty fussy when it comes to their care and environmental requirements so it can often happen that their leaves start curling if something isn’t right. There are quite a few different factors that can all cause your Polka Dot Begonia to develop curling leaves so it’s important to make sure you are only changing things once you’ve confirmed the right diagnosis. 

In this article, we will go through each of the most common factors that can cause curling leaves on a Polka Dot Begonia so you’re able to treat the issue and prevent it from harming your plant again in future.

Underwatering is a common cause of curling leaves

One of the more common factors when it comes to curling leaves on a Polka Dot Begonia (and a lot of other houseplants too) is consistent underwatering and a lack of moisture in the soil.

Before you go and pour a bucket of water over your plant to make up for lost time, you need to confirm that this is the issue. Watering a plant when it really doesn’t need more water will cause a whole range of other issues. 

To confirm if underwatering is causing the curling leaves on your plant, take your Polka Dot Begonia out of the pot to inspect how the potting mix feels. If underwatered, the potting mix will fall apart and feel very sandy. You may also see that some of the roots on your Polka Dot Begonia have started to crisp up if the problem has been going on for a while. 

Once you have determined that your Polka Dot Begonia is curling its leaves due to a lack of water, slowly reintroduce water to your plant rather than drowning it. Any dramatic and sudden changes in their environment can cause them to become a little stressed (this can show up as leaves falling off or your plant drooping). Instead, water your plant a little once every other day for a week. 

Now that you’ve solved the initial issue of underwatering, it’s important to prevent the problem from happening again. To do this, use a moisture meter to check in with your plant and establish a good watering routine. Note though that you will have to alter your habits depending on the season to ensure you cut back watering in winter.

Cold temperatures may also be to blame

Outside of underwatering, there are a few other issues that can cause the leaves on your Polka Dot Begonia to start curling. Cold temperatures and drafts are a regular one.  Whilst you might not notice them, even small cold streams of air coming in from the outside right by your plant can be very damaging in the long term.

Whilst it won’t cause issues from one day to the next, persistent drafts can not only cause curling leaves but also brown leaves and leaf drop if not caught quickly. 

Make sure that you draft-proof any windows/ doors that are close to your Polka Dot Begonia (and other tropical or heat-loving houseplants) as well as move them at least one meter away from any air conditioning vents as these can be quite damaging to your plants during summer. 

Luckily cold temperatures are fairly easy to diagnose as a digital thermometer will be able to tell you if something isn’t right. They will also help you spot hotspots too so a great investment all around. 

Low humidity could be to blame

For similar reasons to cold temperatures, Polka Dot Begonia plants need high humidity to thrive. Although slightly dry air won’t immediately kill your Polka Dot Begonia plant it can cause curling leaves and brown leaf tips if a problem for an extended period of time. The problem can become worse in winter as the central heating really dries out the leaves on top of less ventilation which can lead to stale air in your home.

However, boosting the humidity is pretty easy and affordable; below are our best methods:

  1. Get into a misting routine 

    It’s really great for their overall health as it can remove dust as well as boost the humidity. Mist the leaves of your Polka Dot Begonia a few times each week with a spray bottle. Avoid misting your plant in the evenings as the leaves are more susceptible to rotting when the temperatures are lower. Polka Dot Begonia plants have very delicate leaves so this is even more of a concern compared to plants with thicker leaves and stems.

  2. Move to the bathroom or kitchen 

    If you have good levels of natural sunlight in your kitchen or bathroom then we always recommend moving your Polka Dot Begonia in there if it’s struggling with a lack of humidity. The humidity level in those rooms is naturally higher than in other areas of your home because of showering and cooking. By doing this you can raise the humidity for your plant just by going about your day-to-day routine!

  3. Invest in a humidifier

    Humidifiers are a must-have for any plant parent and go a long way to preventing and solving issues such as curling leaves. They will raise the humidity for your plant without having to lift a finger and some even have timers so that they automatically turn on and off throughout the day. They are also really beneficial to people as well so a win-win!

Those are the most common reasons Polka Dot Begonias start to develop curling leaves. It’s important you work to diagnose and treat the issue as early as possible to give you the best chance at reviving your curling plant and preventing permanent damage that can happen if these issues continue. Curled leaves may straighten back once the issue has been solved, but even if this doesn’t happen, any new foliage will return to its normal appearance. We don’t recommend removing any of the curled up leaves unless they have turned brown or yellow. 

To learn more about how to best care for your plant, check out our Polka Dot Begonia care guide.

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