The Chinese Evergreen is native to the tropical forest floors in Asia. This enables it to thrive in indirect light.
It is always devastating when your houseplant does not seem to be growing the way you expect.
If you have noticed that your Chinese Evergreen leaves are curling, fear not, as you have a fellow enthusiast who is here for you!
When your Chinese Evergreen leaves start to curl, the likely cause is low humidity or temperature stress. It may also have been over or underwatered. Other causes could vary from improper light exposure to pest infestation. It may also be over-fertilization, disease, or unfavorable water quality.
I look forward to sharing the related causes in detail below, followed by how to treat them. With minimal but proper care, your Chinese Evergreen will soon look magnificent again!
Causes of Chinese Evergreen Leaves Curling
Improper Light Exposure
The Chinese Evergreen is known for its low light level tolerance. Too much continued direct sunlight on your plant will scorch its leaves, causing them to curl.
In turn, complete concealment from light will also cause this. Plants are dependent on the energy they receive in light to get the nutrients they need for them to grow.
How to Treat:
⦿Placing your Chinese Evergreen in a shaded spot of a well-lit room is ideal.
⦿The Chinese Evergreen can also grow in a room without windows. In such cases, you can introduce artificial light. The easiest and most common form in an office or home is fluorescent lighting.
Temperature stress can be classified into three segments: hot, cold, or freezing temperatures.
Plants that are temperature-stressed will experience growth retardation, low germination rates, and reduced photosynthesis.
Hot or cold air drafts also cause your Chinese Evergreen’s leaves to curl. Due to its nature of preferring tropical climates, excessive heat will cause damage to it.
In turn, cold or drafty rooms will also affect your plant, making their leaves curl.
How to Treat:
⦿Keep your Chinese Evergreen away from both hot and cold air drafts. Cold drafts could be from window breezes during winter or from air-conditioners. Hot drafts could be from heaters or radiators being too close.
⦿By keeping a thermometer in the room, you can gauge the best temperature for your plant. This is between 70 to 80 °F (21.1 to 26.7 °C).
⦿Nighttime temperatures should not be below 60 °F (15 °C) If leaves curl with brown edges, the temperature is too low.
Low Humidity Levels
As a tropical plant, the Chinese Evergreen thrives in humid levels. If you place it in an area that is too dry or too cold.
It will affect its health, and its leaves will become droopy and curl. In low humidity conditions, the leaves of your Chinese Evergreen will lose moisture.
How to Treat:
⦿Chinese Evergreen requires average to high humidity levels. If your plant’s leaves are curling and dry, increase the humidity levels in the room. This will improve your plant’s growth and prevent this from reoccurring.
⦿If you have artificial heating in your room that cannot be removed, invest in a humidifier. This could also benefit other plants in the room.
⦿Grouping plants of different types and sizes together will benefit your plants. When water evaporates from one plant it causes moisture to form in the air for the plants nearby.
⦿Pebble trays are an easy solution to increase humidity in the room. Find a tray larger than your plant’s pot. Place small pebbles in your tray then fill half of it with water. Place your plant pot above it ensuring the pebbles keep its base above the water. This will create a humid climate for your Chinese Evergreen.
Chinese Evergreens can flourish without fertilizer. Fertilizers are a plant’s vitamins. They provide the essential balance of nutrients needed by a plant to grow.
This includes potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Feeding your Chinese Evergreen too much fertilizer will cause salt to build up and can destroy its roots.
This build-up is carried to the rest of the plant and its leaves will curl and brown as a result. (Source: ScienceDirect)
How to Treat:
⦿Avoid fertilizing during winter or when your plant is very dry or very wet.
⦿Use a slow-release fertilizer or a fertilizer with a 3:1:2 ratio once or twice a year. Any more than this will lead to over-fertilizing.
Plants have various methods of nutrition intake, such as light, water and fertilizer. A Chinese Evergreen can use artificial light for photosynthesis.
A nutrition deficiency means your plant is unable to convert these nutrients into the food they require to grow.
Without these nutrients, your plant’s leaves will curl and will show other symptoms.
How to Treat:
⦿Add some organic fertilizer to improve the soil.
⦿Soil pH affects nutrients availability. Slightly acidic soil is suitable for Chinese evergreen.
⦿Fertilize your plant once or twice a year with a slow-release fertilizer or at a 3:1:2 ratio using organic fertilizer.
Unfavorable Water Quality
Good water quality is important to your plant’s health. Tap water contains chemicals that could be harmful to your plant when absorbed.
Different types of water can also contain the wrong balance of alkaline and pH levels.
These factors make the nutrients unavailable to the plant. If you are not careful, you can damage your plant and its leaves will curl and fall.
How to Treat:
⦿Filtered and distilled water contains fewer chemicals than tap water. They will not harm your plant but it will not grow as fast.
⦿The best water to use is bottled spring water or rainwater (you can collect with a rainwater trap). Your plants will grow faster and taller using this water type.
As with any living thing, your chinese evergreen can fall ill to bacterial or fungal diseases. These would affect the health of your plant and its foliage.
If left untreated, your plant will appear frail and its leaves will curl and brown. It is important to treat as soon as you notice the below signs to ensure you have a healthy plant.
The Bacterial Leaf blight affects foliage plants and is a serious disease. It causes stunted growth, yellowing, and curling of leaves, wilting, and soft rotting.
Its symptoms are watery leaf spots and the inside of the stem becoming soft and foul-smelling.
Root rot is a fungal problem that comes from overwatering your plant. The roots which should be a healthy white become a brown or black mushy mass. Your plant’s leaves will also wilt and turn yellow.
How to Treat:
⦿Ensure your watering process does not wet the foliage and allows it to dry rapidly. Water the soil at the base of the stem. To clean leaves use a moist towel or sponge rather than wetting it completely.
⦿The hot summer months are when Bacterial Leaf blight thrives. Weekly applications of fungicides and copper compounds help treat the disease.
⦿Widespread root rot infections require the use of a fungicide. Ensure the root rot diagnosis is accurate before applying.
⦿Growing your plant on raised benches will help prevent overwatering. Repotting or aerating the soil can also help to release excess moisture in the soil.
The most common insects that infest Chinese Evergreens are spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. Your plant’s leaves will curl if either of these insects has manifested on it.
Spider mites look like tiny spiders and weave tiny webs. They are most active in dry conditions and feed off fluid extracted from the plant’s cells.
Prolonged exposure will cause the plant’s cells to die and the leaves will turn yellow.
The appearance of mealy bugs on your plant will generate cotton-like growth on the foliage or stems.
These bugs are white in color and suck the sap from your plant until it will no longer grow, and its leaves will turn pale and eventually curl.
Aphids are often found on outdoor plants but can also affect your Chinese Evergreen. They reside on the underside of its foliage and feast on the vital fluids of your plant.
How to Treat:
⦿You can treat a small infestation of spider mites with a strong spray of water. A heavier infestation is harder to treat. It would require an organic component like the Neem Oil spray. Keep out of direct sunlight during its treatment.
⦿You can treat small infestations of mealybugs and aphids by rubbing your plant with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Spray Neem Oil for larger infestations.
⦿Keeping a humidifier nearby helps moisten the air and deters pests from congregating on your plants. Do not set the humidity levels too high as this will have the opposite effect.
The main duty of care that a grower has with their plant is to ensure it is being watered as the plant requires.
If underwatered, your Chinese Evergreen will begin to wilt, and the leaves will brown and curl.
Your plant will also experience slow growth and its stems will be brittle and crisp. The only time to water a Chinese Evergreen less is during the winter.
How to Treat:
⦿Under Watered plants may recover within a few hours of receiving water. If your plant’s leaves appear wilted but feel soft, they will most likely recover. If your plant leaves are very dry and brittle, this is unfortunately past the point of recovery.
⦿When watering an under-watered plant, make sure to get water up to its roots. Also, consider shortening the time between its watering.
⦿If your plant tends to dry out often in a short span of time, repot the plant and assess whether it may need more room.
⦿Keep a schedule or routine for when your Chinese Evergreen plants need watering. If you miss a time, ensure you water your plant as soon as you remember. Some growers like to keep a visible checklist as a remembrance of when their plant was last watered.
⦿The Chinese Evergreen is a very versatile plant. It does not have a strict watering schedule to adhere to like some indoor plants.
The below table highlights the watering rule-of-thumb for your Chinese Evergreen:
|Summer Months:||Water when soil (2 inches below topsoil) is dry, approximately 7 to 9 days apart.|
|Winter Months:||Water every 14 to 16 days apart, checking the state of your plant’s health every 3 days.|
Root Rot Caused by Overwatering
We can sometimes love or worry about our plants so much that we may tend to give them too much of a good thing.
Giving your plant too much water can be more damaging than forgetting to water it now and then.
This causes root rot and causes your plant to drown from lack of oxygen existing in the soil.
The fungus will also grow in areas that are not drying out. Your Chinese Evergreen’s leaves will curl and eventually fall.
How to Treat:
⦿Remove dead or decaying leaves as these encourage pests and are still sapping nutrients from your plant.
⦿Refresh the roots and soil by extracting the root ball from the planter and separating any dead or dying roots. Reapply dry, fresh soil into the planter after removing as much of the moist soil from within.
⦿Apply fungicide if you see signs of fungus or even root rot. Apply this treatment through a spray-on bottle. Be sure to follow the product’s instructions carefully.
⦿Avoid watering your now recovering plant until you are sure the soil is dry up to its roots. This is how it will recover from its previous overwatering. A rule of thumb would be to wait at least a week before watering again. Check the soil every two days to ensure your Chinese Evergreen is recuperating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Chinese Evergreens like to be misted?
You may spray-mist your Chinese Evergreen with lukewarm water. Be careful not to do so too often.
Saturated leaves cause mold to form if not dried often. A good tip is to occasionally wipe the dust from the leaves with a moist towel or sponge.
Why are the leaves of my Chinese Evergreens turning yellow?
The most common cause of a Chinese Evergreen’s leaves turning yellow could be from either over or underwatering it.
Improper watering prevents the roots from intaking nutrients efficiently. This nutrient deficiency will cause its leaves to turn yellow.
Why are the leaves of my Chinese Evergreens drooping?
Droopy leaves are indicative of unideal temperature conditions for the Chinese Evergreen. This means that either your plant is too dry, too cold or both.
As a tropical plant, the Chinese Evergreen thrives in a warm and humid atmosphere, ideally between 70 to 85 degrees F (21.1 to 29 degrees C).
Droopy leaves can also be a sign of insufficient lighting or improper watering.
Under the excessive direct sun, the foliage may curl under for protection against sunburn.
In insufficient light, the leaves can also begin to wilt and show signs of weakness.