It can be jarring and confusing if your beautiful African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) has curling leaves showing signs of unhappiness. However, a bit of investigating should help you identify the problem.
African Violet leaves may start to curl due to cold temperatures below 65°F (18°C), underwatering, too much direct sunlight or a pest problem like thrips or mites.
Looking at the environmental conditions and any other symptoms will help you determine the reason for the curling and will lead you to the solution to the problem.
Why Are My African Violet Leaves Curling?
One of the most common reasons why your African Violet leaves may be curling is due to cold temperatures. African Violets are native to Eastern African tropical rainforests, so they are not built to withstand chilly temperatures. If the temperature dips below 65°F (18°C), they will start to curl their leaves for protection.
Most people who keep African Violets in their home have household temperatures around this level but could be unintentionally giving their African Violets a chill by exposing them to cold wind gusts. In addition to leaf curling, you might also notice older leaves turning yellow and dropping to conserve energy, and the remaining leaves become extra fuzzy for added protection.
Here are some ways that you can treat and prevent leaf curling from cold temperatures:
- Keep your African Violet away from drafty windows and doors during cold weather.
- Move your African Violet away from air conditioners during the summertime.
- While some people may keep their African Violets in their kitchen, try not to keep them too close to the fridge or freezer.
- Give your African Violet a warm location. You can also purchase heat mats for sensitive houseplants if you find that your home frequently becomes a bit chilly.
- Do not water your African Violet with water colder than room temperature.
Too Much Sunlight
African Violets enjoy bright indirect light, with optimal conditions at approximately 400 Foot Candles. However, if given too much light, they will curl their leaves to protect themselves from sunburn, especially if they receive too much direct sunlight.
If your African Violet gets too much sunlight, the leaves will curl away from the light, but it may also curl upwards to protect itself from the light. Your African Violet may also become underwatered in too much light as the soil is likely to dry out much faster.
To fix leaf curling from too much light, move your African Violet to a location where the light is less intense. African Violets can tolerate 2-3 hours of direct light indoors, but ideally, this would be gentle morning sunlight.
An Eastern-facing window is optimal, or 3-5 feet back from a Western or Southern-facing window would work as well. Northern exposure may work as long as you monitor your African Violet for signs of leggy growth, which could indicate insufficient light.
It could be a pest problem if your African Violet suddenly curls its leaves. Typically leaf curl from pests is very sudden, as most pests that cause leaf curl will go undetected until they have infested your African Violet. The largest culprits that may cause leaves to curl are thrips and mites.
Thrips are thin, flying pests attracted to pollen and typically arrive in your home via cut flowers or other plants brought home from the greenhouse.
African Violet Mites
Mites are another pest that can significantly damage your African Violet, causing its leaves to curl. The most common type of mite attracted to African Violets is Cyclamen mites, although they may also encounter broad mites, privet mites, and even spider mites.
Other Types of Pests
While less common, African Violets can still get other pests like scale, mealy bugs, and fungus gnats, but generally, they do not cause leaf curling as they are easier to spot and treat before doing damage to your plant.
If your African Violet has pests, it’s best to isolate and treat your plant immediately to avoid spread. You can use an insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat your African Violet. Prune the blooms and dead or dying foliage and monitor your African Violet. You may need to repeat treatments a few times before eliminating the pests.
Natural Leaf Death
Older Leaves can occasionally curl and die off naturally. African Violets grow new leaves from the middle of the rosette, so older leaves may curl and eventually die off at the end of their life cycle. If it is a singular leaf on the exterior of your African Violet and it shows no other signs of distress, there is likely no need to worry.
Another reason why your African Violet may be curling its leaves is that it is thirsty. Many tropical houseplants will produce humidity in the form of transpiration.
Transpiration happens when water evaporates from the leaves during warm weather. If your African Violet is trying to conserve water in an unexpected drought, it will curl its leaves to conserve that transpiration. In addition to leaf curling, you will notice that your soil is dry, and your African Violet might also be wilted or starting to shrivel.
The best way to fix an underwatered African Violet is to water it thoroughly. If this was an isolated error, your African Violet should eventually bounce back, although you may notice some of its older leaves yellow and die off.
If your African Violet is frequently drying out too quickly, you may want to add moisture-retaining ingredients to the soil, such as coco coir. In general, African Violets prefer to be root bound, but if they are too cramped, the soil may dry out faster than you can keep up with watering. In this case, you should repot your African Violet in a pot approximately 2 inches (5 cm) bigger than its current pot.
How Often Should You Water an African Violet?
How frequently you water your African Violet depends on the temperature, light, and soil conditions. African Violets generally like their soil to be kept moist but not saturated, so water the soil when it begins to dry out but has not dried out completely. A moisture meter is a great way to determine when your African Violet is ready for a drink without overwatering your plant.
How Do I Know if My African Violet is Overwatered?
If your African Violet is overwatered, it may display similar characteristics as underwatering. When your African Violet has been sitting in wet soil for too long, either due to poor conditions or too frequent watering, it will develop root rot.
As a result, the roots will turn dark and mushy, making them unable to absorb water effectively. While curling leaves are less likely during overwatering, you may also notice curly leaves in addition to soaking wet soil and a mushy stem at the center.
How Do You Fix Curled Leaves?
In most cases, you can fix curled leaves on your African Violet, as long as you correctly identify the reason for the curling leaves and fix the problem itself. Curled leaves tend to be a symptom of a more significant issue when it comes to African Violets, so by treating the problem, you will fix the curling.
What Deficiency Causes Leaves to Curl?
There aren’t any nutrient deficiencies that directly cause curling but they could be mistaken for curling. Phosphorus deficiency can cause the leaves to become crinkly, resembling curling. It will also cause stunted growth as it reduces cell division, and it will also halt blooming.
In general, African Violets prefer a balanced diluted fertilizer of 20-20-20. This means that the key macronutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium levels, should be equally balanced. If you suspect your African Violet has a nutrient deficiency, you can purchase a balanced fertilizer from your local garden center.
Can Plants Recover From Leaf Curl?
Most houseplants will recover just fine from a leaf curling incident, and your African Violet is no exception, as long as the issue causing the leaf curl has been resolved. Give your African Violet time to fully recover before drastically changing their environment.
African Violet Leaves Turning Yellow
When a leaf turns yellow, this means that the leaf is dying off. You may notice a few leaves die off during the recovery process, which means that your African Violet is doing everything possible to conserve energy.
If you notice that your African Violet leaves are curling, there could be several reasons why it could be happening. Leaf curling is often symptomatic of a different problem, so you must monitor your African Violets conditions to determine what that problem could be.
The most likely reason your African Violet’s leaves are curling is due to cold temperatures below 65°F (18°C) or underwatering, but it could also be getting too much sunlight or having a pest problem like thrips or mites. It’s best to give your African Violet plant bright, indirect sunlight, water once per week, and place it away from cold windows, doors, or air conditioners.
Luckily, once you identify the problem causing the curling leaves, there are straightforward fixes that will help your African Violet on the road to recovery.