Monstera plants, Monstera deliciosa, are beautiful, evergreen woody vines that boast thick, leathery leaves that reach 2 – 3 feet long and grow deeply perforated, which is where its nickname, the Swiss cheese plant, comes from.
These mostly tolerant tropical plants are great for beginners and are relatively pest-free, so when it comes to curling leaves, it is very important to pinpoint the cause before your long-living plant succumbs to such issues.
Why Does Monstera Leave Curl?
Environmental factors such as soil moisture level, climate conditions, and nutrient availability commonly cause curling leaves in monsteras. Luckily, these issues are easily rectified if solutions are implemented quickly.
Chlorosis, or the yellowing of leaves, often accompanies leaf curling symptoms, so watch for any changes from your monstera’s typical glossy, dark green color.
Causes of Monstera Leaves Curling
The most common causes of monstera leaf curling are soil moisture issues, improper climate, salt stress, and inadequate container space or support.
However, before treating what you think may be to blame, it’s worth investigating your plant’s particular symptoms to enable you to diagnose the actual reason for the problem:
Monstera leaves will curl upwards when experiencing dehydration caused by underwatering. The curling leaves are the plant’s attempt at retaining water and limiting transpiration.
In addition to leaves curling upwards, prolonged symptoms can include wilting and leaf chlorosis.
How to Fix
Water your monstera until water drains freely from the bottom of the container. Repeat this process 3 – 4 times more until leaves begin to uncurl.
Then, keep the soil consistently moist without waterlogging. To do this you will need to ensure the soil is well draining and only watering when the top 2 inches of the soil feels dry. This will vary depending on your climate and more watering is likely to be required during your plant’s growing season.
Use enough water to drain right through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and always remove stagnant water from the catch tray.
Monstera leaves will curl downwards when experiencing saturated soil most often caused by poor soil drainage or over-watering.
In addition to this pattern of leaf curl, other symptoms include stunted growth, wilting, and pale water-soaked leaves.
How to Fix
Promptly stop watering and drain the catch tray. Allow the soil to dry before watering again, then only water when the top 2 inches of the soil is dry.
If oversaturation is a reoccurring problem, then transplant your monstera into new soil with better drainage.
Use a well-draining, rich soil mixture. Here’s a mix that works for my Monstera:
- 1 Part – Potting Soil
- 1 Part – Coconut Coir
- 1 Part – Perlite
- 1 Part – Fir Bark
- 2 Cups per 4 Quarts – Worm Castings
- Less than 10% – Horticultural Charcoal
Curling with Brown Edges
In addition to leaf curl, Monstera leaves can turn brown when experiencing consistently low relative humidity levels. While all monstera species are tolerant of fluctuating humidity levels, extended periods below 40% will result in leaf curling and browning edges, especially near the tips.
How to Fix
There are a number of things you can do to increase the humidity near your monstera. Try grouping your houseplants together to share their transpiration, fill the catch tray with moistened gravel, or mist the entire monstera every 2 – 3 days.
Alternatively, you could add a humidifier to the room.
Curling, Yellowing, and Browning
Monsteras develop leaf curl, chlorosis, and browning edges as a result of salt stress caused by unfiltered tap water or salt build-up from overfertilization.
In addition to this discoloration and curling, salt toxicity causes severely stunted growth, premature leaf senescence, and eventual plant death.
Monstera plants are especially susceptible to injury from soil salinity or wind-blown salts, so action must be taken quickly.
How to Fix
Flush with filtered water until water drains from the bottom of the container and repeat 2 – 3 times over the next 48 hours. If your monstera doesn’t improve within 4 – 5 days, then transplant it into new soil.
Always use rainwater or filtered water since tap water can contain hard minerals, salts, and contaminants that can slowly build up. This can lead to root injury and nutrient deficiencies, particularly potassium.
According to the University of California, the application of calcium-rich fertilizers during times of sodium stress will help protect the monstera by sustaining the transport of potassium within the plant and suppressing salt importation.
Ground egg and oyster shell powder are excellent sources of calcium carbonate and can easily be applied to the soil.
Opting for worm-casting top dresses instead of soluble fertilizers will help supply your monstera with the nutrients it needs while limiting uptake shock, fertilizer burn, and salt build-up.
Apply a ½ inch layer of worm castings to your monstera’s soil and water thoroughly. Repeat monthly during the growing season and every 2 – 3 months during winter dormancy.
Curling, Wilting, and Stunted Growth
Monstera plant leaves will curl, wilt, and show signs of severely stunted growth if they are experiencing root death from becoming root bound.
Prolonged symptoms include yellow leaves caused by nutrient deficiencies and eventual leaf drop.
How to Fix
Transplant your monstera into a container that is 2 – 3 inches larger than its last. Don’t remove all the soil from the root ball and apply mycorrhizal inoculant on exposed roots to help your monstera quickly acclimate.
Young plants should be transplanted annually while larger monsteras only need to be re-potted every 2 – 3 years.
Curled, Wilted Leaves, and Bent Stems
Monstera leaves will become curled, wilted, and show signs of bent or arching stems when they need extra support.
How to Fix:
The University of Hawaii, advises that monstera plants should be trained to grow on moss totem poles, trellises, or steep rock cuts of ornamental spaces. This will facilitate the support needed to grow over 2 feet per year.
Curled and Yellow
Monstera leaves curl and yellow if they receive too much light. Brown scorched spots may develop on leaves in harsh direct sunlight.
How to Fix:
Monsteras prefer bright but indirect sunlight, so use a sheer curtain to limit direct sunlight or relocate your plant at least 9 feet away from uncovered windows or main doors.
Don’t move your monstera to a low light area because it won’t grow as fast and may stretch wildly. Rotating weekly can help limit stretching.
Curled and Purplish
Monstera plants will develop curled, distorted leaves that drop prematurely when experiencing a phosphorus deficiency.
Monsteras with phosphorus deficiencies will have a purplish tint on the underside of older leaves and purplish veins in younger leaves.
How to Fix:
Apply a soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 1–0.5–1. This mild ratio will ensure that fertilizer burn, salt build-up, or root shock doesn’t occur, while still providing the monstera with nutrients that are also commonly lacking, including magnesium, iron, and zinc.
- University of California – Plant Salt Stress
- University of Hawaii – Monstera, Ornamentals, and Flowers. College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.