Why does my Dragon Tree have curling leaves?

Last Updated: September 19, 2022

If you have noticed that your Dragon Tree has started to develop curling leaves, then this means that something is definitely off. However, you’ll be pleased to know that this can be an early warning sign so if there aren’t any other issues with your plant, then hopefully it means that solving the issue won’t be too difficult.

Below we will go over each of the factors that can commonly cause curling leaves on a Dragon Tree so that you can properly diagnose the issue as well as treat it and prevent it from happening again in future.

Underwatering is a common cause of curling Dragon Tree leaves

A consistent lack of moisture is one of the most common causes of curling leaves on a Dragon Tree. Although they don’t like super soggy or waterlogged soil, the other extreme can still be pretty damaging. A lack of moisture can cause your plant to develop crispy leaves and go into shock and its leaves will start curling up as a result of that. 

It’s important to check the soil moisture before adjusting anything about your Dragon Tree’s care or watering schedule. The last thing you want to do is increase how much you water your plant when it’s not actually the cause of the issue. 

Take your plant out of its pot to inspect the soil and root system or use a moisture meter. If you find that your Dragon Tree’s soil is bone dry, then underwatering is probably what is causing the curling leaves. The best thing to do is soak your plant for about 20-30 minutes. This allows the potting mix to take up as much water as it needs, without risking overwatering, shock or having the water just run straight out of the drainage holes.

Low humidity levels could also be to blame

Although slightly dry air won’t immediately kill your Dragon Tree, it can cause curling leaves and brown leaf tips. This is because curling leaves is one of the mechanisms plants use to prevent moisture loss.

You’ll be pleased to know that there are several different methods you can use to easily and quickly increase the humidity for your Dragon Tree. 

  1. Mist the leaves regularly 

    This is something you should build into your regular Dragon Tree plant care routine as it’s really great for their overall health and can prevent brown leaf tips as well as curling leaves. Mist the leaves a few times each week with a spray bottle, ideally in the morning in winter so there is enough time for the water droplets to evaporate before nightfall. Damp and cold leaves is the perfect combination for leaf rot.

  2. Shower your Dragon Tree

    This is a more short-term solution but is great for overall plant health as it gets rid of dust as well as boosts the humidity – a win-win! Just make sure not to have the shower on full water pressure as this can damage the leaves or stems.

  3. Buy a humidifier for a long-term solution

    Humidifiers are a must-have for any plant parent and are a great investment in the long-term health of your plant! They will raise the humidity around your plant to a nice stable level without you having to do anything. They really go a long way to fixing and preventing curling leaves and other issues.

Cold temperatures are also a common cause of curling leaves

As they are native to tropical areas, Dragon Trees thrive in warm temperatures. Whilst they can adapt well to normal room temperatures, extreme drafts and cold rooms can really start to impact your plant’s health, causing their leaves to start curling. If the issue persists for a long time it can also cause issues such as brown leaves and leaves falling off your plant.

Luckily diagnosing the issue is quite simple. The best thing to do is use a digital thermometer to check the temperature around your plant. This will help you keep track of any fluctuations and see if you need to move your plant to another spot or draft proof some windows for example.

Curling Dragon Tree leaves can suggest over-fertilisation

Another cause of curling leaves on a Dragon Tree is over-fertilisation. We recommend fertilising using a water-soluble fertiliser at a lower than recommended strength every month or so during spring and summer. Hold off giving any fertiliser during the winter months as your Dragon Tree will not be producing any new growth.

If you are fertilising more often, then it may be the cause of the curling leaves. It can be a difficult one to diagnose in comparison to some of the other factors but as a start, we recommend holding off fertilising and replacing the potting mix. This ensures that there won’t be any extra fertiliser that could still damage your plant’s future. 

Moving forward, hold off fertilising your Dragon Tree for about a year. You can even leave it out completely if you want to – it’s sort of an added extra and you will still see plenty of new healthy growth without it (as long as the care and environment are right of course).

Chemical sensitivity can also lead to curling leaves

If none of the above issues really fit with what is happening with your plant then it might be a reaction to the tap water. If you live in a particularly hard water area, there is more fluoride and chlorine in the water which might be making your Dragon Tree unhappy. Not only can it cause leaves to curl but it can also cause brown leaf tips on plants with long thin leaves such as the Dragon Tree.

Whilst this won’t cause drastic issues from one day to the next, over time fluoride might have built up around the roots causing your plant to slowly develop these issues.

To solve this problem, you can either replace the current potting mix or flush it through with purified water. Then to prevent the issue from happening again in future we recommend using rainwater or purified water as the levels of chemicals such as fluoride are a lot lower.

Those are the most common reasons why Dragon Trees develop curling leaves. Once you have made any chances to the care or environment, keep a close eye on yourplant to ensure things are moving in the right direction. Depending on the issue and how severe it was, sometimes the leaves can uncurl but other times it just means the new leaves won’t curl up. 

To learn more about how to keep your plant happy, read through our Dragon Tree care guide. 

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