Why does my Polka Dot Plant have curling leaves?

Last Updated: October 6, 2022

Loved for their unique speckled and dotted leaves, the Polka Dot Plant needs quite a specific environment to thrive. This is why curling leaves can be quite a common ailment with these types of plants. However, if you’ve noticed this happening to your Polka Dot Plant then don’t fret as you have come to the right place. 

In this article, we will go through each of the most common reasons why Polka Dot Plants develop curling leaves. We will also guide you through how to make the right diagnosis, treat the issue and also how to prevent it from causing more damage to your plant in future.

Underwatering can often cause curling leaves

Curling leaves is one of the earliest signs of underwatering as this is a mechanism that your plant uses to reduce moisture loss. However, if the problem has advanced over the past few weeks and months then you might also spot brown dry leaves, drooping stems and maybe a few of those crispy leaves falling off your plant completely. 

Polka Dot Plants like it if their soil has the chance to dry out between waterings but they definitely aren’t drought tolerant. 

If you think your Polka Dot Plant has been underwatered and this is causing the curling leaves then check the soil before you change anything! You want to make sure the soil definitely is dry before giving it more water as otherwise, overwatering your plant can cause more issues than the curling leaves.

As well as dry soil we also recommend inspecting the root system as underwatering can cause the root system to become quite crispy and dry. This suggests the issue has been going on for a whilst so it may take a little longer for your plant to bounce back.

Your first reaction to an underwatered Polka Dot Plant might be to drown it in water to make up for lost time. However, plants can be a little like humans in some ways and can become quite shocked by a sudden and dramatic change in their environment. This means that we need to slowly reintroduce water over the course of about a week. As well as preventing shock, this can also ensure the soil becomes moist, rather than all the water running straight through and out of the bottom of the pot. This can happen if you top water very dry soil. 

To prevent underwatering from causing any more issues beyond curling leaves, make sure to monitor how dry the soil is getting and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. You also want to make sure you are changing how much you water throughout the year as your plant will need more water in the hotter and sunnier months of the year.

Overwatering can also cause issues for your Polka Dot Plant

As with underwatering, too much water can also be very harmful to your Polka Dot Plant and can cause curling leaves and other problems very quickly. Consistent overwatering will mean that the roots start to rot and become soft and damaged. This stops them from being able to deliver water and vital nutrients to the plant which causes the leaves to curl. This can also cause droopy stems and discolouring of the leaves so look out for those signs too. 

To confirm if too much moisture is definitely the cause of your plant’s curling leaves, check how soggy the soil is. If it is waterlogged then replace it with fresh potting mix to allow your plant and its roots to recover. 

It’s also a good idea to cut away any rotten roots so that your Polka Dot Plant can focus on growing new healthy growth and doesn’t waste any energy trying to keep the dying or dead roots alive.

To prevent the issue from causing more harm to your Polka Dot Plant in future, make sure to let the soil dully dry out between waterings. How long this will take will depend on a lot of other factors such as sunlight level, pot size, temperature and time of year. This is why a mixed schedule won’t work so well for your plant so it’s important that you track the moisture in the soil to figure out when to water. 

Curling leaves can indicate too much direct sunlight

Polka Dot Plants really don’t like much direct sunlight in summer as it can scorch their incredible (but delicate) leaves. But even before it’s caused irreversible damage such as brown or yellow patches, too much light can cause curling leaves.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the hot direct sunlight can dry out the leaves and cause them to curl as a result. Secondly, sometimes plants actually curl up their leaves to protect themselves against the sun by reducing the surface area. This shows up as leaves curling inwards rather than outwards. 

More often than not the curling leaves are totally reversible and placing your Polka Dot Plant in a slightly shadier spot will see the leaves start to uncurl in a few days.

Extreme temperatures might be to blame

Extreme temperatures and drafts can also be very harmful to your Polka Dot Plant as they thrive in warm environments and this can definitely be causing curling leaves. Make sure your plant is not placed near doors or windows that may be drafty. Even though the temperature of your home may be perfect for your Polka Dot Plant and it is receiving a lot of sunlight, the drafts coming in from the outside may be colder and harm your plant’s health.

To diagnose the issue (and keep track of it in future) we recommend picking up a digital thermometer to check the temperature across the day and night in various spots in your home. This will make sure that you don’t place your Polka Dot Plant too close to windows or in places where the temperature really drops at night. They are super affordable and the benefits are definitely worthwhile! They’ll help prevent any more curling leaves on your Polka Dot Plant as well as other issues such as stunted growth and environment shock.

Curling leaves can also be caused by low humidity

If the air in your home is quite dry, then this can over time cause some serious issues for your Polka Dot Plant, notably curling leaves. Other signs of low humidity are brown leaf tips and droopy stems. 

You’ll be happy to know that raising the humidity level is easy and there are many free or cheap methods to do this. The main one we recommend for Polka Dot Plant is misting as this is a great way to instantly boost the humidity. It’s best to do this mid-morning if possible so that the water droplets have time to evaporate throughout the day before it gets cold at night. Cold and damp leaves are the perfect mix for leaf rot so be careful of this. 

Another method to boost the humidity is using a pebble tray. This allows the water to evaporate around your plant throughout the day and is a slightly more long-term solution to misting.

However, if you are really struggling to increase the humidity for your Polka Dot Plant then a humidifier is the most reliable way if you’re after a long-term solution. 

Those are the most common reasons why Polka Dot Plants develop curling leaves. It’s vital that once you have made any adjustments to either how you are caring for your plant or environmental changes that you keep your plant under close inspection over the next few weeks. This way you can ensure that things are progressing in a positive way and that there aren’t any other issues cropping up that may have gone undiagnosed (or suggest that you haven’t yet quite figured out what the cause of the curling leaves is). 

Check out our detailed Polka Dot Plant care guide to find out more about how to keep your plant happy and healthy!

Fiddle and Thorn is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Take our houseplant survey!

Quickly respond to our 30 second houseplant survey and get 75% off our Complete Houseplant Care eBook!

Take the Survey

No thanks...