Leaf curling is a natural self-defense mechanism for plants. Many plants tend to curl their leaves to reduce water loss from transpiration.
So, if your peperomia’s leaves are curling up, it could mean that it needs more water. However, it’s more complicated than that.
Various issues could be causing peperomia’s dehydration. So, in this article, we’ll discuss the nine causes of peperomia leaves curling and possible solutions for them.
Nine possible causes could lead to peperomia leaves curling. It’s crucial to know exactly what is causing the problem so you can act upon it the right way.
Here are nine common causes of peperomia leaves curling:
If you notice that your peperomia leaves are curling up, the first thing to check is whether you’re giving your plant enough water. Underwatering is usually the main cause of curling leaves.
Although peperomia is drought-tolerant, there comes a point when it becomes thirsty and in desperate need of water. That’s when it starts curling its leaves.
See, plants perform a vital process called transpiration, in which water evaporates from the stomata found on the leaves.
When the plant is dehydrated, it curls its leaves to decrease the amount of water lost in the transpiration process.
The best way to know whether your peperomia is dehydrated or not is to stick your finger into the soil to check it. If the soil feels a bit damp, dehydration isn’t the problem.
However, if it feels dry, gently remove your plant from its pot to check the bottom of the soil. Bone-dry and crumbling soil is a definite sign of underwatering and dehydration.
The next thing to check is the leaves. Do your peperomia leaves feel thin and saggy? Do they have crispy or brown edges too?
If you answered yes to the previous questions, it’s most likely that your peperomia is dehydrated.
It feels right to just soak the plant with water to give it the hydration it needs at this point. But, this isn’t the correct way in all cases.
When a plant is left dehydrated for a long time, the soil may become hydrophobic. This means that the soil repels water.
So, when you water your plant, the surface of the soil will float, while the water will run down the sides and then out of the drainage holes.
Instead, it’s best to mist the topsoil first until it’s damp and wait for a couple of minutes. Then, you can water your plant thoroughly until the water runs out of the drainage holes.
Next, stick a wooden stick or your finger in the soil and check if it’s damp all the way down to the bottom. If it is, you’ve done the job correctly.
If not, you only need to water your peperomia again.
Alternatively, you can bottom-water or reverse water your plant:
- Fill a large container or bowl with room-temperature water
- Put your peperomia, while it’s in the pot, in the container or bowl and let it sit
- After at least 30 minutes, remove the plant from the container and let the water drain from the drainage holes for about 10 minutes
Whether you use the first or second method, your plant should be well hydrated after. What you need to do then is to readjust the watering schedule for your peperomia plant.
You should water your plant when the first top inch or two are dry. Sticking your finger in the soil is the best way to find out whether the soil is dry or not.
Peperomia thrives in high humid environments and can withstand moderate humidity levels. However, when it’s subjected to low humidity levels for long periods, it starts showing some signs of struggle.
Low humidity issues are kind of similar to underwatering. Humidity is important in keeping the moisture levels in plants balanced and is also vital for the photosynthesis process.
When humidity is lower than your peperomia’s needs, the plant tries to minimize water loss during transpiration by curling up its leaves.
Low humidity symptoms are pretty similar to underwatering. The leaves curl up and lose their plumpness. Crispy, brown edges and drooping are also tell-tale signs.
To differentiate between underwatering and low humidity symptoms, check the soil. While all of the symptoms for both issues are the same, the soil will feel different.
In case of dehydration, the soil feels bone-dry. However, if it’s a matter of low humidity, the soil will feel just fine.
A hygrometer can be helpful here so you can accurately check the humidity level in your house.
A humidifier is the easiest way to increase humidity in your house. You can also mist your peperomia, but you’ll have to remind yourself to mist it frequently.
You can try putting your peperomia on a pebble tray. Creating a microclimate for plants is also a good idea. You only need to place your humidity-loving plants close to each other.
Peperomia is a tropical plant that’s used to indirect sunlight exposure in its native regions. This means that exposing it to bright, direct sunlight can hurt it.
Temperatures ranging between 60°F to 80°F are the best for peperomia’s growth. Exposing your plant to temperatures higher than this causes the plant to lose water rapidly, which brings us back to dehydration.
Since the essence of the problem is water loss, you’ll notice the same signs as dehydration in case of heat stress. However, it doesn’t stop there.
Excessive sunlight exposure can also burn the leaves of your peperomia plant. This shows up in the form of sunburnt spots or reddish areas, in addition to yellowing and scorching.
If you live in an area with hot summers, it’s best to bring your peperomia indoors. However, your plant can also get sunburnt even when it’s placed inside the house.
Placing a peperomia near a window, like a west-facing one, exposes it to direct sunlight for long periods.
In this case, relocate it near a window that gets less sunlight, such as an east-facing one. An easier option is to dim the lights a bit with a bind or curtains.
Be careful not to place your peperomia in extreme shade, though. Although peperomia is tolerant to low-light conditions, extreme shade isn’t ideal for its growth.
While underwatering is the main cause of peperomia leaves curling, overwatering can also lead to the same problem.
Ironically, overwatering can actually lead to dehydration. When your peperomia’s soil is waterlogged, it suffocates the roots, preventing them from absorbing water or even nutrients. This is because the roots become rotten.
Yes, you read it right. When the roots sit in standing water for long periods, it starts to rot.
It’s not just the roots, though. The stems will also start rotting too and the leaves will be out of nutrients. Eventually, the plant dies.
Overwatering also creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew growth, as well as pest infestations and fungal diseases.
Unfortunately, when peperomia leaves start curling from overwatering, it means that the problem is at a late stage.
At this point, the leaves will turn yellow and feel very thin and out of life. The stems will look and feel soggy and might blacken at the bottom.
If you put your finger in the soil, it’ll be soaking wet and feel clumpy. At later stages, the soil will also produce a rotten smell, indicating a root rot case.
The moment you notice any signs of overwatering, you need to act right away. Every moment counts in this situation. The longer the roots sit in the water, the more severe the root rot case becomes.
First, you need to drain any standing water from the pot. Don’t water your peperomia again until the soil is completely dry.
The most crucial step to take here is to adjust your peperomia’s watering schedule. You should water your peperomia only when the first two inches of the soil are dry.
That should be enough if there isn’t a case of root rot. However, if there is, you need to do more work.
Pruning in this case is inevitable. Prune the rotten roots and damaged leaves, but make sure not to remove more than 50% of them in one pruning session.
After that, you need to repot your peperomia in a pot with fresh well-draining soil. You can mix some sand, perlite, or gravel with the soil to help with drainage.
Besides, make sure that you’re using a pot with drainage holes. Lastly, water your plant thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom holes.
Overfertilization can hurt your peperomia in two ways. First, overfertilization leads to salt accumulation in the soil.
The accumulated salt absorbs all the moisture from the soil, leaving the roots with no water. Plus, if you’re not compensating for this water loss with frequent watering, the plant ends up being dehydrated.
Second, overfertilization burns your peperomia’s roots. Your plant’s roots exert a strong effort to pull nutrients and water out of the soil.
With excessive fertilization, the roots start shivering and lose their absorption ability. Eventually, this causes nutrient deficiency and dehydration, as well as makes the plant more susceptible to diseases.
Overfertilization shows in the form of leggy peperomias. It’s also easy to notice the salt accumulation on the top surface of the soil.
When the plant starts going into dehydration, the signs start showing up on the leaves. This is when your peperomia’s leaves start curling and also develop brown, burnt tips.
Saving an overfertilized peperomia is quite simple. Just quit fertilizing it for a few months until all the accumulated salt is gone.
However, this needs to be met with frequent watering. Water helps to flush the accumulated salts out of the soil and bring hydration back to your peperomia.
You could start by giving your plant a good shower to flush as much salt as possible. Then, continue watering your plant every two days or when the first top inch of the soil is dry.
It’s important to water it thoroughly until excess water runs out of the bottom drainage holes to flush the salts.
As an alternative, you can repot your plant with new, fresh soil.
For damaged roots, nothing can help here except pruning. Prune the damaged roots, but not more than 50% of the root ball to avoid stressing the plant.
Overfertilization can happen for two reasons. You may be fertilizing your plant more frequently than it needs. You could also be using a stronger fertilizer that works faster than needed.
So, make sure to use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer that’s labeled for houseplants.
Make sure to only fertilize your plant once a month in the growing season. Since it goes dormant in the colder months, it doesn’t need any fertilization during that period.
Always remember to water your peperomia thoroughly before pouring in the fertilizer.
Repotting or transplant shock is normal for many houseplants, not just your peperomia. Plants get stressed when any aspect of their environment is changed, such as soil or lighting conditions.
Repotting stress shows up on the leaves of your peperomia. They’ll start to yellow, curl up, and wilt.
However, these could be mistaken for symptoms of other problems. The only way to tell that they’re actually signs of repotting stress is if they show up after you’ve just repotted your plant.
There’s nothing you can do here except take care of your plant. This is a natural process, and it should go away once the plant settles in.
Peperomia is strongly resistant to pest infestations. However, it’s not immune to them.
If you introduce another pest-infested plant to your houseplant collection, expect all of them to get pest infestations too. In addition, overwatering creates the perfect environment for pest growth.
These pests suck on the sap inside the leaves, draining them of moisture and nutrients. As a result, the leaves become dehydrated and weak, so they curl up.
In case of a pest infestation, you normally see brown and white spots on the leaves. These spots may be the pests themselves or their webs.
However, the underside of the leaves is where you can see most of them. Those pests know how to hide.
Besides this, holes in leaves, yellowing, and curling are definite signs of pest infestations.
You should first isolate your peperomia and any other infected plants to avoid spreading the infestation to other plants in your house.
To knock off most of the pests, give your peperomia a good shower with lukewarm water. After that, it’s pruning time. You should prune the dead leaves to leave more room for new growth.
You can use either neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill off the pests. When applying any of them, make sure to rub them on the underside of the leaves too.
A plant’s nutrient needs can be easily overlooked. Your plants need more than just water and light, including peperomias.
Peperomias don’t need much fertilization. However, they demand more nutrients in the growing season.
This is where fertilization plays an important role in our peperomia’s growth. If you’re not fertilizing your plant adequately, it won’t grow or look healthy.
However, even if you feed your plant frequently, it may still suffer from nutrient deficiency.
That’s because nutrient deficiencies can also be a result of overwatering or pest infestations.
Chlorosis, or yellowing, is the most common sign of nutrient deficiency. You’ll see yellowing, not only on the leaves but on the stems too.
In addition, the leaves will curl up, wilt, and maybe even fall off. If your plant is growing slowly, it could also be due to nutrient deficiency.
First, you need to treat your peperomia from any of the above-listed problems, especially overwatering. This will help your peperomia become healthy so that it can absorb the necessary nutrients.
Then, you can look into fertilizing your peperomia. Just make sure you don’t turn it into a case of overfertilization.
Peperomia doesn’t have specific water quality needs. Tap water is more than fine.
However, tap water can be toxic for peperomias in some cities. This is because the water contains large amounts of fluoride and chlorine.
While these components aren’t toxic to people, they can hurt your peperomia. For example, fluoride accumulates in the soil gradually with time.
It’s literally an accumulated poison in the soil, and it’ll eventually inhibit photosynthesis, killing off the plant.
Chlorine, on the other hand, isn’t as harmful. Too much chlorine in the soil bleaches the leaves.
Peperomia leaves curling can be a sign of fluoride toxicity. The leaves will also look dry and brittle. They’ll eventually fall off.
As for chlorine accumulation, yellowing or scorched leaves are usually the signs. In this case, the leaves look like someone dropped bleach on them.
Here you have it, nine causes for peperomia leaves curling plus their solutions. A proper care routine can prevent most, if not all, problems.
However, if any of these problems arise and you notice your peperomia leaves curling, we recommend that you act immediately.
It’s usually a late sign of a bigger issue. So, every moment counts. Hopefully, with our guide, you should be able to get your peperomia looking all healthy again.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.