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Polka Dot Plant Leaves Curling (Causes And Solutions)

The affordable, pet-friendly Polka dot plant and its fun variety of colors are perfect if you need some vibrancy and color in your home.

The most common mistakes which lead to Polka dot leaves curling are underwatering, root rot, lack of light, and humidity. In addition, insect infestation and fungal diseases can also cause this problem. If you are interested in simple solutions for fixing these mistakes, take a look at the rest of this article. 

However, many people don’t know that this plant is quite high-maintenance. If your Polka dot plant isn’t looking good, here are some suggestions why that might be, and simple steps on how to fix it.

Indoor potted Polka dot plant Leaves Curling
Polka Dot Plant Leaves Curling

Polka dot plant Leaves Curling: 12 Causes and Solutions

Underwatering

Plants need water to survive. If you’re not giving your plant enough water, it can become dehydrated and its leaves can become crispy and curly at the edges. 

Here are some tips for resolving this issue:

  • Water your Polka dot plant approximately 2 times a week. The general rule of thumb is to water it whenever you notice that the top ½ inch (1.5cm) of the soil is dry. 
  • Get a moisture meter. All you have to do is stick it in the soil and it will tell you how dry or moist the soil is, so you can know if it needs replenishing. Don’t let the soil dry up completely in between waterings.
  • Set a reminder. Checking your plant frequently can save you from potential damage caused by underwatering. 

Root Rot from Overwatering

Common symptoms of root rot include browning and curling of the leaves. When the roots are damaged, water cannot make its way to the leaves, so they become dehydrated and curly. 

What to do when root rot has already set in:

  • Gently take the plant out of its container.
  • Remove any rotten roots. Rotten roots usually have a moldy smell, a dark brown or black color and they’re mushy when touched. 
  • Repot the clean plant in a sterile, clean pot with the adequate soil type. 

How to prevent root rot:

  • Don’t overwater your plant. Water only when the top ½ inch (1.5cm) is dry. 
  • Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes to avoid excess water. 

Overfeeding with Fertilizer 

By overfeeding your plant, you are giving it too much of some nutrients like salt or nitrogen. If your plant receives too much salt, it will cause dehydration and the leaves on your plant will curl. How to stop overfeeding:

  • Fertilize once every 14-15 days. 
  • Use a liquid fertilizer. Distill with double the amount of water than it says on the packaging, so it isn’t too harsh on the plant.
  • Fertilize the plant only during spring and summer, so it can rest during the winter.
  • If your plant is young, don’t start fertilizing until its roots fully develop.

Lack of Nutrition

If the leaves on your curl inwards, or even curl up and fall on their own, your plant might be lacking some common nutrients found in most fertilizers, like nitrogen. 

  • Use fertilizer every 14-15 days and make sure it’s diluted with water. 
  • Add humus to the soil. Humus contains nitrogen which is a key nutrient for plants. 

Temperature Stress

The ideal temperature for the Polka dot plant is in the range of 65-69 °F(18-21°C). Your plant won’t thrive in temperatures lower than 59°F (15°C).

Temperatures higher than 70°F(22°C) might dry your plant’s leaves and cause leaf curling. Try to provide a consistent temperature for your Polka dot plant all year round if possible. 

Friendly tip: don’t keep it too close to heaters and radiators because they might dry out your plant. 

Water Quality 

Tap water is full of chemicals (such as salt, chlorine, and fluoride) and your plant might be sensitive to it. Here are some alternatives:

  • Collect rainwater during the spring and summer. This is the most affordable as well as the most natural way to water your plant. 
  • Buy distilled water at the store. Even though this may be a bit pricey in the long run, it’s a great option if you live in a dry area or just don’t have time to collect rainwater. 
  • Buy a water filter. 

Too much Direct Sunlight

Too much direct sunlight increases transpiration, causing water loss. Your plant’s leaves become dehydrated and curl to retain water. How to fix this:

  • Place the Polka dot plant in a spot where there is a lot of brightness and indirect sunlight. It can handle a little direct sunlight but it isn’t necessary. 
  • If you keep it outside, place it in a shadier spot. 
  • Be careful not to leave it in the midday sun, especially during the hot summer months. 

Lack of Sunlight

Plants can’t grow and photosynthesize without light.  If they can’t make their food and grow, their leaves might start curling. 

The Polka dot plant loves bright, indirect light. 

The simplest solution to this problem is finding a better, well-lit spot for it in your home. 

In case your home doesn’t get much natural sunlight, artificial lights are fine too. LED lights are the best solution because they are energy-efficient and long-lived. 

Diseases 

The Polka dot plant is susceptible to powdery mildew, as this fungus likes humidity.

The fungal infection takes away nutrients from the plant which can cause curling at the margins. 

Powdery mildew appears as white powdery spots on the leaves and the stem. The spots can spread and form a white covering over the entire plant. How to get rid of powdery mildew:

  • Remove the infected leaves and dispose of them outside your home. 
  • Use a registered, plant-safe fungicide. 
  • Friendly tip: Be careful while pinching off the leaves, because all parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested! Wash your hands thoroughly afterward. 

Insect Infestation

The most common pests which may bother you if you own a Polka dot plant are aphids, more commonly known as greenflies.

Aphids (greenflies) are very small, light green insects that can cause huge damage to your plant and spread plant viruses.

Aphids cause leaf curling because they feed on the plant’s nectar, causing dehydration.

Here’s a simple way to get rid of aphids: 

  • Put some Coca-Cola in a spray bottle and spray the plant. This creates a sticky surface, so the bugs can’t move and reproduce. Once you notice that the bugs are not moving anymore, remove them with a wet wipe and dispose outside of your home. Repeat the procedure if needed. 
  • For further protection, put lavender or a few cloves of garlic around your plant as these are natural repellents for these pests. 

Low Humidity 

Dryness can lead to the curling and crispiness of your Polka dot plant leaves. If you don’t live in a naturally humid place, here are some things you can do:

  • Buy a humidifier for your Polka dot plant. 
  • Mist your plant regularly during spring and summertime. It’s best to mist in the morning. Put some water in a spray bottle and spray it all over the plant 3 or 4 times. 
  • Very important to remember: skip the misting during the winter. Because of the temperature drops, your plant doesn’t need as much water and humidity. 
  • Make a DIY pebble tray.

You May Also Enjoy: How to Fix a Leggy Polka Dot Plant

Polka Dot Plant Leaves Curling After Repotting

Generally, plants need some time to adjust to their new pot. However, if your plant looks bad even after a few weeks, chances are you might have put it in the wrong type of soil or damaged the roots.

If you damaged the roots, give it extra care until it starts showing signs of recovering. If it does not recover, sadly, you’ve done all you could. 

If the soil is the problem, you might need to repot again. 

Here are some things to keep in mind while repotting the Polka dot plant:

  • Repot in spring. This is the period of rapid growth. 
  • Use the right type of soil. The Polka dot plant likes well-draining soil with a pH of 4-6. 
  • Use humus with your soil. It will help with the overall health of your plant. 
  • Be super gentle and slow with the plant! Don’t pull it or make aggressive moves. This can damage the roots. 
  • Use a pot with drainage holes for better air and water circulation as well as for preventing root rot. 
  • Don’t push too hard on the soil when repotting. It can cause poor air and water circulation. Push gently, but hard enough so that the plant can stand securely without wobbling. 
  • Water it thoroughly and give care after repotting. 

The Polka dot plant doesn’t need frequent repotting. Repot only when the plant gets too big for its container or if root rot sets in. 

Final words

I hope this article was useful for you in identifying the problem with your Polka dot plant!

Keep in mind that good care, lighting, constant moisture, and humidity are all this plant needs and you’re good to go.

(Sources: University of Missouri)