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9 Causes of Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling (And Fixes)

Although Chinese Money plants are known for their ease of care and toughness, it is not uncommon for their beautiful, coin-shaped leaves to curl up.

Finding out why leaves curl can also be a challenge, especially if they do so seemingly out of the blue. 

Unfortunately, Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) leaves curling is a common problem, and I’ll show you how to fix it today.

Inadequate light, poor watering habits, and temperature extremes can lead to the curling of Chinese money plant leaves. However, the plant’s leaves will naturally unfurl and flatten out as they mature. Drying out between waterings, temperatures between 65-85°F (18-29°C), and bright, filtered light can help fix and prevent curling.

Types of Leaf Curling in Pilea Peperomioides

The foliage of Chinese money plants can reveal a lot about their health and growth conditions.

However, your plant may communicate in various ways, and you must be patient and take some time to decipher what it has to say.

Pilea peperomioides plants frequently exhibit three types of leaf curling. The way the leaves curl will help you figure out what’s wrong with your plant.

Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling Outwards
Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling Outwards
  • Outwards: You have probably overwatered or provided your Chinese money plant with inadequate light if you notice that the leaves are curling outwards (also known as doming). The two issues are frequently intertwined.
Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling Inwards
Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling Inwards
  • Inwards: Due to a lack of nutrients, cold or hot drafts, and overheating due to high temperatures, Pilea peperomioides’ foliage curls inward (cupping). Deficient in critical nutrients and minerals like calcium and potassium can cause your plant to be undernourished.
Both Doming and Cupping
  • Both Doming and Cupping: An inward and outward mixture of curling on your plant is a sign of various problems that need immediate attention. The same holds if the foliage has some degree of cupping or doming.

Common Reasons for Chinese Money Plant Leaves Curling

In my experience, to figure out why a Chinese money plant’s leaves have wrinkled, curled, or shrunk, you’ll need to examine your plant’s growing conditions and look for other indications of what’s wrong with it.

Pilea peperomioides leaf curling can be caused by many factors, but there’s no need to panic.

Instead, go through the following list and eliminate each potential cause that you come across.

Fortunately, curled foliage may return to its natural form once the problem has been resolved. Although affected foliage may not return to its original position, new leaves should be normal.

[1] Low Light is Causing Curling of Chinese Money Plant Leaves

Chinese money plants perform best and look their best when placed in a location with bright, cheerful light.

However, these pileas will have smaller leaves, fewer offshoots, and become leggy in low light conditions.

Low light conditions cause the leaves to outwardly curl or dorsiflex to expose as much of the leaf surface area as possible to the source of light.

As a result, the leaf’s center advances while the margins curl backward, creating a dome-shaped shape.

This response is intended to maximize light supply and photosynthesis.

So, if you notice outer leaves curling outward in the direction of the window, low light is most likely to blame.

Insufficient light can also cause the following symptoms:

  • Leaves changing color or turning pale yellow
  • Slow leaf growth
  • Leaf drop (in inadequate light)
  • Plant leaning toward the light source (window, door, etc.)
  • Lanky growth
  • You may notice that the soil also takes way longer to dry out than usual.

How to Fix Curling Leaves due to Low Light 

East and North-facing windows are ideal for growing Chinese money plants, as they prefer moderate to bright, indirect light.

However, you should avoid exposing your plant to direct sunlight; too much sun can cause sunburn on the foliage.

As a result, if you have windows facing south or west, you should use blinds, sheers, or curtains to cover them.

When I move a plant to a brighter place, the curled leaves straighten out after a few weeks.

[2] Overwatering

The Chinese money plant, an evergreen perennial, requires only minimal watering.

Too frequent watering will cause the leaves to become distorted and curled, and the plant will consume more water than it needs.

Overwatering is common in Pilea, resulting in root rot and plant death.

However, leaf curling is not the most common symptom of an overwatered pilea. Leaves falling off and turning yellow are the earliest warning signs.

Giving too much water causes doming or outward curling of the leaves, in my experience.

That’s because the leaves tend to expand to increase the water they can hold. When inspecting the root, look for rot, such as mushy, black, or brown roots.

One or more of the following can lead to overwatering:

  • Using the wrong size pot
  • Growing your plant in a poorly-drained medium
  • Absence of drainage holes on the bottom of the pot
  • Instead of checking soil moisture, count days to determine if your plant needs irrigation.
  • Keeping your plant in a low-light or cool environment

How to Fix Overwatering

Your pilea prefers soil with a medium moisture level. Make sure it’s in a potting mix that drains well and doesn’t become soggy.

Once the top one to two inches of soil has dried out, re-water thoroughly.

Counting days or watering your Chinese money plant regularly will not help it grow. Instead, use a wooden stick or your finger to test the soil’s moisture level.

However, for pots larger than 10 inches in diameter, the most accurate way to measure soil moisture is with a moisture meter (Amazon link).

If your plant’s container does not have drainage holes, the solution is right in front of you. I’d suggest using a terracotta pot with at least two holes for drainage in place of your current one.

Check for root rot by removing your plant from its pot if you suspect that overwatering has harmed it.

Roots infected by the disease are typically soft, dark, and smelly. Conversely, firm, pale, and earthy-smelling roots signify a healthy plant’s roots.

If you find root rot, prune away diseased plant parts and repot with a new medium.

Provide your plant with bright, indirect light, warm temperatures, and good air circulation.

Your plant will be able to recover from overwatering more quickly if these conditions are present.

[3] Diseases

Overwatering creates humid environments that make your plant vulnerable to fungal infections.

Unfortunately, viral and bacterial diseases can also infect Chinese money plants, so keep an eye out for those.

In addition to leaf curling, leaf yellowing, stunting, and wilting are signs of the disease.

Keep an eye out for the following common Chinese money plant diseases:

Anthracnose

The fungus Colletotrichum spp. frequently causes this fungal disease in Pileas. Younger plants and cuttings are most susceptible.

Early symptoms often include small brown lesions that are wet and swollen. Leaves may turn gray or tan and become papery if they expand or dry out.

Pythium root rot

This type of root rot, caused by the fungus Pythium splendens, is common among Chinese money plants when they are overwatered.

The roots that have been affected are usually decayed, black or brown, and soft. Other common symptoms include yellowed, curled, and wilted leaves.

Rhizoctonia blight

The fungus Rhizoctonia solani causes this leaf blight disease. It causes a variety of tan to reddish-brown leaf spots or lesions on the majority of the leaves. Affected foliage may wilt and curl up quickly.

Southern blight

Sclerotium rolfsii is the fungus that causes southern blight in Pilea species.

The fungal disease frequently appears first on the crown, causing the top leaves to girdle, wrinkle, curl, and eventually fall limp.

In addition, spots appear on the leaves frequently, initially white and then turning brown as they mature. (Source: University of Florida).

Dealing with Chinese Money Plant Diseases

To prevent the spread of the disease, isolate the infected plant in the first place. Then, trim and discard infected leaves and other plant matter.

There are commercial treatments and fungicides on the market, but they are often harmful and not consistently effective. I strongly suggest that you use sulfur or copper-based products (Amazon link)

The good news is that avoiding overwatering and encouraging drier conditions can help reduce or eliminate the majority of these fungal diseases.

Adopting hygienic plant care practices and ensuring your plant is healthy and thriving will help prevent fungal infections.

Increase air circulation as well to encourage the drying of the leaves.

Do not use overhead watering or water that splashes onto the foliage.

[4] Extreme Temperatures and Drafts

Chinese money plants are susceptible to temperature extremes. You might think that they prefer warmer temperatures, but short periods of cold exposure can even encourage them to bloom.

Even a brief exposure to cold or hot drafts can stress these plants. In addition, dark spots and leaf curling can appear when your plant is exposed to high temperatures.

Your plant’s leaves may begin to curl upwards if placed in a too hot area. This is most likely due to the accelerated water loss from the foliage caused by overheating from high temperatures.

Leaf curling can occur if your plant is exposed to freezing temperatures or cold drafts for an extended period.

When the temperature falls below 50°F (10°C), your indoor plant enters the damaged zone.

Typically, older leaves are more severely affected, whereas newer foliage has a higher tolerance for low temperatures.

How to Fix

Instead of relocating your plant, try adjusting the temperature to the ideal range of 65-85°F (18-29°C). Temperatures at either extreme will have negative consequences.

Avoid putting your plant in direct contact with cold or hot drafts. This includes staying away from radiators, air ducts, fans, heating vents, fireplaces, and open windows.

[5] Overfeeding and Nutritional Deficiencies

Leaf curling may also be caused by overfertilization. However, a monthly feeding will suffice for the Chinese money plant, which is not a voracious consumer of nutrients but rather an efficient feeder.

Because fertilizer salts accumulate in the soil and damage the roots when plants are in dormancy, feeding them during this time can be disastrous for your plant.

As a result of the roots not being able to perform their function effectively, the leaves will turn brown and curl.

If you overfeed your plant, it will suffer the consequences. If your plant is deficient in calcium or potassium, this is especially true.

In either case, the tips of the leaves will turn yellow and curl downward (dome).

How to Fix Nutrient Deficiencies and Overfertilization 

You can flush your plant’s medium several times if you’ve overfed it to eliminate any excess fertilizer salts.

Feed your plant only once a month during the spring and summer months. Fertilizer should be avoided in the fall and winter months.

Water-soluble fertilizer can help if your plant’s leaves curl due to a lack of nutrients. In addition, a slightly acidic soil pH will aid in the uptake of essential nutrients.

My go-to solution is incorporating organic material like compost into the growing medium for a more natural and straightforward fix.

[6] Insufficient Humidity

Even though Pilea peperomioides is usually okay with moderate humidity levels, constant dry air can cause its leaves to dry out and curl.

As a result, your plant’s growth may also slow, and its leaves may droop and show signs of wilting.

To put it another way: Chinese money plant leaves curling isn’t usually caused by a lack of humidity.

As a result, these plants can thrive in environments with humidity levels as low as 20%.

However, keep them away from baseboards and heating vents because their dehydrating effects will likely cause leaves to wilt and curl.

Brown and crisp leaf tips and edges are sure signs of low humidity.

How to Fix

Increasing the humidity to around 40-50 percent should help solve the problem. Here’s how to increase humidity in your plant:

  • Consider grouping your plants.
  • Place your plant on top of a shallow water tray with pebbles.
  • Chinese evergreens don’t usually need a humidifier, but higher humidity can give them a boost.
  • Although Chinese money plants don’t need a humidifier, you can use one when humidity levels are persistently low.

[7] Underwatering

Other common causes of leaf curling include underwatering and inconsistent watering habits. This is frequently the case if you allow the soil to dry out entirely after prolonged periods of overwatering.

The leaves wilt, curl or wrinkle due to a lack of moisture. The leaves will dry out and fall off the plant in the worst-case scenario. Your plant has reached a point of no return.

Other common signs of a drowned Chinese money plant include:

  • Drooping
  • Yellowed leaves
  • Brown leaf tips and edges, especially on outer leaves
  • Crisp leaf surfaces
  • Stunted growth

How to Fix Underwatering

If the leaves are entirely crispy and dried out, you may be too late for the party.

On the other hand, your plant may still be salvageable if its leaves are still pliable.

It’s best to give your plant a thorough watering, and the plant’s foliage should straighten out and swell.

Bottom-watering is your best bet if the soil is bone-dry.

Allow your plant to soak up as much water as possible by placing it in a sink with three to four inches of water.

[8] Insect Infestations 

Leaves that insects have damaged may curl and become disfigured and have spots and other blemishes spread across them. Fortunately, pest infestations are generally easy to spot.

Mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats, and scale insects are the most common pests for Pilea peperomioides.

Use a magnifying glass to look in crevices and cracks of leaves for these bugs, which can be tiny.

Soft webbing and black sooty mold are common signs of spider mite infestation.

Depending on the severity of the damage, leaves may turn yellow, distort, or even fall off.

How to Get Rid of Chinese Money Plant Pests

It’s always a good idea to check your plant for pests regularly. If you catch infestations early, it is much easier to get rid of them.

Daily spraying pyrethrins, insecticide soap, Neem oil, or other horticultural oils should be enough to keep most of these bugs at bay.

You can also use a strong stream of water from a hose to get them to leave your plant alone.

Diatomaceous earth and diluted rubbing alcohol are two other safe and effective methods for controlling and treating pests.

To remove individual bugs, you can also use cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

[9] Unfurling New Leaves and Old Foliage

It is essential to know that the leaves of Chinese money plants curl at some point. New leaves that have yet to open are typically involved in this natural process.

For example, new Pilea peperomioides emerge curled, but they eventually straighten out.

Most of these evergreen tropical plants produce new foliage on their stems.

So there’s nothing to worry about if you notice that only the stem-top leaves are curled, and the rest of the plant looks healthy.

To give your plant a healthy appearance, the top new leaves will unfurl and flatten out.

In the meantime, share the best possible conditions for growth with your plant, including bright, indirect sunlight.

Also, keep in mind that the older leaves on the plant may begin to curl as your plant grows older.

This is because resources are being diverted from old foliage to produce new foliage. It’s most common in the older, lower leaves.

Best Fixes for Curling Chinese Money Plant Leaves

To recap, here are the most effective solutions for uncurling Pilea leaves:

  • Adopt a proper watering routine – Always check the soil moisture before irrigating your plant as a rule of thumb. Allow the top 1-2 inches of topsoil to dry between irrigations. This means watering more during the growing season (spring and summer) and less during the winter and fall.
  • Boost surrounding humidity – Consider using a humidity tray, a humidifier, or grouping your plants. Investing in a dependable humidity meter can be beneficial.
  • Give plenty of bright light – Place your Chinese money plant in a spot that receives bright, indirect sunlight. This is usually north or east-facing window.
  • Get rid of pests – Watch out for mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale insects. Eradicate them at first sight.