Why does my African Mask Plant have curling leaves? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: September 15, 2022

Loved for their striking white-veined leaves, the  African Mask Plant has really risen in the plant popularity ranks recently! Although they aren’t the most difficult plant to care for, you might spot some problems pop up from time to time if something isn’t right. A fairly common issue can be curling leaves on an African Mask Plant because there are quite a few different factors that can cause it. 

If you have noticed that your African Mask Plant has started to develop curling leaves, then you have come to the right place. Below we will go through each of the potential factors as well as how to properly make the diagnosis and treat the issue long-term.

A curling African Mask Plant can indicate underwatering

If your African Mask Plant’s potting mix gets too dry, the foliage will curl and start to wilt. This is because houseplants start curling their leaves as a way to slow down moisture loss so it’s often one of the earlier signs of underwatering. 

If your African Mask Plant has only just started curling and shows no signs of brown leaves then it should mean you’ve caught the problem early and it won’t be too difficult to get your plant back to full health.

Check the potting mix to confirm that underwatering is the cause of the curling leaves on your African Mask Plant. You are looking to see if the potting mix is very dry and if the roots have started to crisp up yet. 

To solve the issue of underwatering start to water a little bit each day for a week. This will stop your plant from going into shock by a sudden change in the environment. The leaves should soon start to perk up and stop curling after being watered.

In future, to prevent the issue you want to make sure that you don’t let the potting mix dry out for extended periods of time. There are several ways you can monitor the moisture levels in the soil including the chopstick method, lifting up your plant or using a moisture meter

If you find yourself constantly forgetting to water your African Mask Plant then you might want to invest in a self-watering pot. These are great for busy or jet-setting plant parents.

Low humidity might also be to blame

African Mask Plants like quite humid environments and can struggle in homes with dry air. This can be especially damaging in the winter months as central heating and less ventilation causes really dry ait. 

A lack of humidity in the air can cause your African Mask Plant’s leaves to curl, and eventually maybe even fall off. This happens for the same reason as with underwatering because it’s a mechanism plants use to retain as much water as possible.

The only way to really confirm the issue is by using a humidity monitor. To treat the issue, start by misting your African Mask Plant every few days with a spray bottle. If you want an even easier solution to humidity issues, consider investing in a humidifier. These affordable little devices make it super easy to keep a more consistent increased humidity level and you don’t even have to lift a finger!

Curling leaves on an African Mask Plant can suggest over-fertilisation

African Mask Plants aren’t heavy feeders and you can still see plenty of new healthy growth without using any fertiliser at all. However, if you have over-fertilised your African Mask Plant, it can cause curling leaves. 

This is because residual nutrient salts can toxify the soil and damage the roots. This can result in African Mask Plant leaves curling and browning as the roots become unable to deliver what the plant needs.

If you have used water-soluble fertiliser, hold off using any more and flush the soil through in the shower. Otherwise, remove the fertiliser spikes or replace the soil if you are using pellets. Hold off feeding for at least a year to let your African Mask Plant recover. 

Moving forward it’s completely up to you whether you actually return to fertilising your African Mask Plant as they can still get plenty of new healthy growth without it if the environment is right.

Temperature extremes can cause curling leaves

Native to tropical regions, African Mask Plants love warmth but are quite sensitive to extreme temperatures and both hot and cold air can cause curling leaves.

During the hottest and sunniest months of the year, you need to watch out for hotspots that can form around sunny windows. The heat and sun can dry out the leaves and cause them to start curling as well as turn brown and yellow if the issue persists for a while. You also need to watch out for AC units as the cold air can be quite damaging to your plant, even if it is a nice rest bite from the heat for you.

During winter, make sure that your African Mask Plant isn’t near any drafty windows or external doors as the cold air flow from outside can slowly cause real issues for your plant without you realising it. You also need to be careful about excess heat if your plant is too close to the radiator or heating vents. 

Using a digital thermometer will be super helpful and allow you spot any changes in temperature before they’ve caused curling leaves or other issues. You might then have to relocate your plant to solve the issue in the long term.

Exposure to direct sunlight can also cause curling leaves

African Mask Plants prefer medium to indirect bright light and don’t deal so well with intense direct sunlight. This can very quickly cause their leaves to begin curling inwards which happens for two reasons. Firstly, curling leaves is a mechanism that many plants use to avoid moisture loss which can happen quickly when the leaves are dried out by intense hot sunlight. The second reason plants can start curling their leaves is to protect themselves from direct sunlight by minimising their light exposure.

If you have caught the problem early and the only sign of unhappiness is curling leaves, then the issue should resolve itself by moving your African Mask Plant to a shadier spot in your home. If the issue has progressed to the point of causing sunburn on the leaves of your plant, then we recommend trimming the worst affected away so your plant can focus on new healthy growth.

Those are the most common reasons why African Mask Plants develop curling leaves. It can be a little bit of a tricky issue to diagnose because there are quite a few subtle problems that can have that effect. This is why we recommend going through each one whilst inspecting your plant and its environment to best figure out what is causing the curling leaves. 

To learn more about how to keep your plant thriving, check out our African Mask Plant care guide.

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