Tea Peperomia genus has many wonderful plants prized for their foliage, ranging from a lovely solid shade of green to a striped pattern that looks just like a watermelon.
Relatively easy to care for and propagate, it can be quite a shock when something goes wrong. One of the more common symptoms that something isn’t right is a curling of the leaves.
However, this symptom could point to several issues, leaving you feeling helpless about how to fix the problem.
Why Are My Peperomia Leaves Curling?
Fear not, because understanding the limited language of plants isn’t as difficult as it might at first seem.
Here are the possible causes of leaf curl in peperomias and how to fix (and prevent) them.
Improper Lighting Or Humidity
Peperomias love bright, indirect light, and direct sunlight can cause them to scorch or curl up in self-defense.
Meanwhile, low light can result in the plant becoming laggy, having smaller leaves, and potential leaf curl.
Just reposition the plant to a spot where it gets bright, indirect light, or full morning or evening sun and shade at midday to fix the problem.
Humidity is another potential problem; you’ll need a hydrometer or any device that can check the relative humidity (humidifiers and even some alarm clocks can do this now).
Peperomias fare best in 50% to 60% percent humidity – too low, and the leaves will have similar symptoms to underwatering but turn brown, while too high will lead to fungal infections.
The three best ways to ensure proper humidity are with a pebble tray, humidifier, or by grouping plants together.
Misting, while often promoted, doesn’t actually do anything for a plant’s needs.
Light and water are the two most common culprits when a plant is in trouble. However, underwatering and overwatering produce slightly different symptoms.
Stick your finger in the soil and see if it feels soggy or bone-dry.
A peperomia should be watered whenever the soil feels dry 1″ to 2″ inches deep (this is approximate to the first and second knuckle of your finger, respectively), NOT on a schedule.
If the soil feels soggy, you’ve probably overwatered the plant. The leaves will curl upwards and may develop brown tips, a squishy feeling, become more yellow in general color, and become limp.
Overwatering once or twice isn’t a huge deal, and you can generally treat the plant just by allowing the soil to dry out properly before watering it again.
However, if the plant has been overwatered multiple times, you’ll need to repot it in fresh soil (and possibly a fresh pot), checking for root rot in the process.
Underwatering, meanwhile, will result in the leaves curling downwards and feeling crisp or brittle. They might also start yellowing, and the stems may begin to droop.
An underwatered plant can be cured simply by watering it. When watering, it’s always best to use the soak-and-dry method.
Grab some room-temperature distilled water or natural rainwater when the soil is dry to the appropriate depth.
The trick is to pour slowly enough that the soil can absorb the water instantly. Work your way around the plant, pouring slowly and evenly without getting the plant itself wet.
Stop when the soil can no longer absorb water at the same rate you’re pouring or when you see moisture beginning to see from the container’s drainage holes.
If the soil is heavily compacted, you can use the bottom-up method, which involves sitting the pot in a tray of water for 30 minutes or until the surface feels slightly moist.
However, if the soil’s become that dry and hardened, it might be better to repot your peperomia in fresh soil with some perlite added to keep the soil loose in the future.
Infestations Or Infections
These two problems can often go hand-in-hand, as piercing insects such as aphids or mealybugs produce honeydew, a substance that attracts fungal infections such as sooty mold.
Meanwhile, fungal infections can attract pests such as fungus gnats, especially in the soil.
Peperomias are especially susceptible to spider mites, which often betray their presence through messy webs connecting or covering infested leaves.
Root rot and fungal infections are the most common problems caused by high humidity or overwatering.
Root rot can only be treated by excavating the plant.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Discard the container and soil, then rinse as much of the soil away from the roots as possible.
- Infected roots will be dark brown to black, squishy, and may smell bad.
- Take a sharp, sterile knife and cut away the infected roots (be sure to resterilize between each cut), then dip the remaining roots in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for 20 minutes.
- Allow the plant to air dry for 2 to 32 days and replant it in fresh soil and a new container.
- You can use chemical treatments for the pests and fungal growth, but regular use of neem oil as a soil soak or foliar spray can help prevent both from occurring and will kill existing pest infestations over time.
“Everything in moderation” is one of life’s greatest mantras, and it’s especially true when it comes to planting nutrition.
Too much fertilizer can cause chemical burns to the roots and will leave a white crust on the soil surface over time.
You can usually fix this problem by flushing the soil or repotting.
However, a calcium deficiency will cause the plant’s stems to become weaker, resulting in young leaves curling downwards while older leaves remain more or less normal.
Eggshell tea is a great calcium supplement.
Simply boil some eggshells in water and allow them to steep overnight. Strain and use the calcium-rich water next time the plant’s thirsty.
Not much needs to be said here.
Check the plant for signs of damage from pests, heavy handling, or other rough treatment.
If you find damaged stems, these can be pruned away, leaving behind healthy stems and leaves.
When exposed to high temperatures, your peperomia may drop and begin to curl. If left in those conditions, the leaves can become brown and brittle as if sunburned.
The best way to treat the plant is to move it to a cooler and more shaded spot, then give it a deep watering.
It should recover in a few days, although severely damaged leaves may be unsalvageable.
More importantly, transplant shock is a common cause of curling leaves, and you’ll undoubtedly have noticed how many solutions to the problems we’ve mentioned call for repotting at some point.
This is perfectly normal, although leaving the roots exposed for too long, changing the type or brand of soil, or suddenly shifting it to a different amount of light can make transplant shock worse.
The shock can cause curled leaves, yellowing, wilting, or a pause in growth. The solution for this problem is simply some time and TLC.
Don’t do anything to stress the plant, and pamper it a little more than usual. In most cases, the plant will recover in a few weeks to a month.