Monstera is a beautiful, strange vine that hails from the tropical regions of the world. It can grow to enormous sizes and can make any garden or home look very beautiful and verdant.
However, this also means that they are not the easiest plant to grow.
When a monstera begins struggling in its environment, it will begin to show signs of distress. One of the most common signs of this distress is the curling of its beautiful leaves.
These are normally in a unique, segmented pattern that sticks out fairly rigidly from the stem, but when something goes wrong for the plant, they will start to curl or droop.
So, what can be done about this? How can you stop monstera plant leaves from curling?
In this article, we will look at the signs and reasons behind a monstera’s leaves curling and how to fix it.
One of the most common reasons for your monstera to be in distress is through problems with watering.
We often don’t think of watering for native plants, as they have adapted to the environment around them.
However, monstera is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, which has a very different environment from a lot of places on earth and, unless you live in those places, will be very different from your home:
Underwatering Your Monstera
This is perhaps one of – if not the – most common causes of monstera leaves curling.
Underwatering a monstera plant is actually surprisingly common and something that everyone who has owned one has been dealing with at some point or another.
When a monstera plant is under watered, the leaves will begin to curl, because the plant is sensing that it needs to now start preserving water.
This natural survival instinct is a reaction to stressful environments and by curling its leaves it is reducing the surface area of its body.
By doing this, it reduces the amount of moisture it will lose through the process of transpiration into the air.
If your monstera is beginning to curl its leaves, there are a couple of ways to check whether this is through underwatering or not:
- Check whether it is one leaf curling or multiple. If it is one leaf, then it may be a problem with that particular leaf rather than the plant itself.
- Check whether there are other worrying signs that are accompanying the curling leaf. These include drooping, crisping, or browning leaves on the plant itself.
- Check the weight of the pot and soil the monstera is in. While getting an exact weight that it should be is a bit ludicrous, by lifting the pot and gauging how heavy you think it should be, you can see whether it is significantly below your expectations. If it is, then your monstera might be under watered, as the pot will be much lighter with no water in it.
- Use a soil probe. This is a modern technology that previously was used in laboratories, agriculture, and universities to measure how much moisture is left in the soil. These little probes will tell you when it is time to water your plant. To use one, simply insert the probe into the soil of a pot. You should push maybe half way or two-thirds of the way down the pot from the top and then leave it. It will give you a constant indicator of how your pot is doing. If your soil reading is below three, your monstera needs watering immediately.
What To Do With An Under Watered Monstera
There are a number of things you can do for the monstera once you have figured out that it needs watering:
- If your monstera is not too badly affected, simply water it. Give it a good soak, before stopping and waiting. When the water drains from the top into the soil, give it another little soak. Be careful not to waterlog the plant – basically, make sure there isn’t a puddle on the top of the plant.
- Another option is to put your monstera and its pot in the bathtub. Soak the soil in the bath for a few minutes, while letting the water drain completely. In this way, you can kind of replicate its native environment, which is prone to daily rain cycles that also drain daily.
- If you have a monstera that is really suffering – severe wilting or crisping –, then it is time to take drastic action. Prepare a tub or bucket of water that is big enough to hold the whole plant, and carefully submerge the plant up to just above the root system. After a couple of minutes, pull the plant out. This is a pretty drastic step, but it can have the effect you need and save the plant.
Overwatering Your Monstera
On the other hand, the leaves of a monstera can begin to curl because you have been overwatering your plant.
This may seem strange, but while the effect is the same, the cause is something a little more alarming and can have a greater effect on the plant overall.
When you overwater, you are in effect leaving the plant to sit within pools of water that are not draining properly.
These pools attract bacteria and fungi that then attack the root, the system of the plant.
As more creatures attack the most vital feature of the plant, the root system’s defenses begin to collapse, and it begins to develop root-rot.
With the root system damaged, nutrients and water from the soil can no longer be transported to the rest of the plant. This water deprivation causes the leaves to curl, as the plant struggles to keep itself hydrated.
Overwatering is a bit more dangerous to the plant, but it is also easier to spot, if you know the signs:
- Check the soil using your finger. This is pretty simple and easy, all you have to do is insert your finger into the soil to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches. If your finger comes out wet or with soil stuck to it, the soil is still moist, and the plant doesn’t need watering for a few more days. If it continues to be wet after a week or so, there may be drainage problems and your plant is at risk.
- Check using a stick or chopstick. This is the same method as the finger check, but using a different implement. Again, if it comes out wet or with soil stuck to it, then it does not need water.
- Check using a soil probe. Stick in the soil probe into the pot about half or two-thirds of the way down the pot and leave it for a few minutes. If the meter reads above 3, then the monstera does not need to be watered.
What To Do With An Overwatered Monstera
If your monstera is overwatered, there are a number of things that can be done to help it or at least reduce the moisture within its environment:
- The most obvious solution, but maybe the one you didn’t want to hear, is when you see the leaves start to curl up, wait a few days before watering it again. It may seem a little obvious, but unfortunately sometimes patience is the key and all you can do is wait.
- If your monstera’s soil is still not drying out, then you might want to create some drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. These are a series of holes in the pot’s bottom to create a channel in which moisture can drain out of it. Normally, pots have between 1 and 2, but for a plant like monstera, you may need as many as four.
- Finally, you could always change the entire potting soil your monstera is sitting in. Replacing it with a better draining soil – with perlite, orchid bark chips, or coconut coir – will help significantly.
Monstera is not a plant that needs much, but it does require good quality water. If your plant’s leaves are curling, then maybe check what water you are using.
Tap water is not the best choice and may be causing problems. It contains chlorine and fluoride, which is great for humans – in that it stops the spread of germs – but terrible for plants – it kills off some good microbes in the soil.
By using tap water, you are making it harder for your plant to absorb nutrients and can be causing a mineral or salt build up in the soil.
This makes the root system more vulnerable to root rot and bacterial infection.
What To Do About Using The Wrong Water
- Trim off black rotten roots.
- Repot the entire plant into new soil that is appropriate for monstera.
- Either use rainwater, distilled water, or let your tap water sit out for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate from the water before use.
Monstera plants are native to areas of high humidity, which means they have not developed systems that stop them losing more moisture when in low humidity environments.
Since plants release water through transpiration in their leaves, this is a problem for your monstera, as if the humidity is low the plant will lose more water than normal and the leaves will start to curl.
Unfortunately, this problem is much trickier to diagnose than the other problems. Normally, low humidity signs are the same as underwatering signs, with browning or crisping leaves.
The only way to know that it is low humidity for sure is to get a hygrometer, which measures the amount of moisture in the air and soil around a confined space.
What To Do If You Think Your Plant Is Suffering From Low Humidity
The best solution is to try and prevent this from happening in the first place, but you can also do these solutions after the fact.
- Place the monstera in a room that has a humidity level of between 40% to 60%.
- If you do not have a room like this, then you should buy a humidifier or a pebble tray, which will increase your overall humidity in a confined space.
- The final solution is to group all your houseplants into one space. All plants release water vapor constantly, which can increase the humidity in a certain space overall.
If the temperature in an area has increased beyond a plant’s means to deal with it, the plant may be transpiring water at an increased rate.
A temperature 10 degrees higher can mean a transpiration rate three times higher than normal.
Despite coming from a tropical environment, monstera can still show signs of heat stress, especially if you suddenly move it from a cool environment to a hot one.
There are some ways to check for heat stress, though they involve looking at the environment, not the plant:
- Check the room temperature. Monstera does best in temperatures of between 18 and 30 degrees.
- Make sure your monstera is not in direct sunlight. This can cause your monstera to suffer and get burnt.
What To Do If Your Monstera Is Exposed To Heat Stress
Most of the heat stress solutions tend to be long term in nature, so be prepared for that:
- Place and keep your monstera in the same room or space year round with moderate temperatures.
- Make sure your monstera is in bright, but indirect sunlight and in a spot where it never directly faces the sun.
Over Fertilization Problems
Fertilizer is great for helping plants grow, but it can lead to a buildup of excess salts and can affect the PH level of your soil.
Over time, this can severely affect your monstera’s roots, which will prevent the plant from absorbing water and nutrients.
This will cause the plant to curl its leaves, to lose less moisture that it is unable to replace.
Luckily, over fertilization signs are quite easy to spot:
- The edges of the pot of your plant and the soil will have a crusty build-up that is not typical of soil.
- The lower leaves of the plant will start to yellow and browning or crispy leaf tips will be on the others. Sometimes even defoliation happens.
- The roots will be burned or damaged with no obvious other signs.
What To Do About Over Fertilization
- First, trim any very badly damaged roots and then repot the plant in fresh soil with absolutely no fertilizer in a brand-new pot that has never had fertilizer. The salt in fertilizer is difficult for us to remove, but still affects the plant.
- From this point on, always fertilize at half the recommended dosage.
Root Bound To The Pot
While the curling leaves might cause symptoms of underwatering or lack of nutrients, these are sometimes not the cause. Instead, the cause may be that your plant has become root bound.
This is when the roots of a plant have become too big for their container, as such the soil no longer provides the necessary moisture or nutrients to sustain a plant.
The easiest way to tell that a plant is root bound is to look at the bottom of the drainage holes.
If the roots are beginning to or are poking through the bottom of the holes (or even coming out of the holes) then your plant is probably root bound.
What To Do To A Root Bound Plant
There is only one solution to a root bound plant, and that is to repot it into another pot that is 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the last pot.
You should do this once every 2 to 3 years, and you should always aim for a pot only 1 to 2 inches bigger.
Insects Or Pests
The last reason your monstera’s leaves might be curling is because of an insect infestation.
There are many insects – like aphids, mites, or thrips – that will suck the sap out of plants, causing the leaves to curl and the plants struggling to survive.
The only way to stop these creatures is to kill them, unfortunately.
You can check for their presence by looking closely at the leaves with a magnifying glass for the creatures or their droppings, seeing if the leaves are changing to a spotted or speckled yellow color, or wiping the leaves with a damp cloth and seeing if they turn up on the cloth.
What To Do About An Insect Infestation
- Wash the leaves and stem with warm water and a small amount of dish soap or with a plant friendly soap.
- Use insecticide on the plant to kill the insects.
- Use neem oil to protect the plant before the insects turn up.
Monstera leaves will curl for a number of reasons and if it happens you should always find out the cause. When you do, take the steps on this list to help you discover how you should deal with it.