8 Causes of Pilea Leaves Curling | How To Save Your Chinese Money Plant

The Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) is readily identified by its disc-shaped leaves. You may also be familiar with one of its other highly descriptive names, which include the UFO plant, coin plant, and pancake plant.

No matter what you choose to call Pilea, they are relatively easy to grow. But curling leaves are still a common problem seen among these houseplants.

In this article, you’ll find my expert tips for diagnosing and causes of Pilea leaves curling, plus everything you need to know about how to fix it.

Causes of Curling Leaves

Pilea leaves tend to curl up when the plant is stressed by the growing environment. Some common causes of curling leaves include low light, fluctuating temperatures, and water problems.

Chinese money plant enthusiasts generally classify curling leaves in one of two ways:

Doming describes when the edges of the Pilea leaves curl downward. In many cases, doming leaves are the result of insufficient light, overwatering, or poor drainage.

pilea with slight doming

Cupping describes when the edges of Pilea leaves curl upward. This is often caused by underwatering, low humidity, or extreme temperatures.

pilea with cupping leaves

Paying attention to the type of curling your Pilea displays can help narrow down the cause. However, it’s also common for plants to have both doming and cupping leaves at the same time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that new Chinese money plant foliage is naturally curled. As the leaves mature, they gradually flatten out. There’s no need to stress if only the youngest leaves show signs of curling and your Pilea is otherwise healthy!

Identifying Symptoms & How To Fix

If you identify and treat the root cause of the curling right away, there’s a good chance your Chinese money plant’s foliage will return to normal. Prolonged or severe curling is often irreversible but new leaves should emerge healthy once growing conditions are improved.

To get your Pilea back on the right track, start by ruling out these common reasons for curling leaves until you find the most likely culprit:

1. Overwatering

Pilea doesn’t like to sit in damp, waterlogged soil. Overwatering is one of the quickest ways to trigger leaf curling and other problems like root rot.

Overwatering will ultimately result in limp, doming leaves. Prolonged periods of dampness can also cause yellow leaves on your Chinese money plant.

As a general rule, it’s best to water your Chinese money plant only after the soil is mostly dry from the previous watering. Test the top 2-3 inches of soil with a finger to determine if it’s time to water again. If it’s still moist, hold off watering and check again in a few days.

2. Underwatering

Slight drooping is normal — it’s actually one of the best ways to tell that a Pilea needs water. However, letting the soil dry out completely between waterings will cause Chinese money plant leaves to curl downward. It can take several days or weeks for the foliage to recover after watering.

It’s normal for any houseplant’s watering needs to vary with the weather, household conditions, and seasons. A Pilea that dries out faster than normal is also a potential sign that the plant is rootbound within its container.

Most plants respond well to weekly watering as needed. Be sure to test the soil’s moisture level before watering to prevent overwatering.

3. Poor Soil Drainage

Proper soil drainage goes hand in hand with good watering practices. Many gardeners unintentionally drown their Chinese money plants — not because they’re necessarily overwatering but because excess moisture has nowhere to go.

These houseplants prefer fast-draining soil that contains high amounts of organic material. Using peat moss or coconut coir will help to aerate the soil and improve drainage overall.

As long as you have well-draining soil, and your pot or container has good-sized drainage holes, the best way to quench your Pilea’s thirst is by flushing the container until water flows through the bottom of the pot. Only do this when the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.

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4. Dim Light

While Pilea needs less sun than many other houseplants, low light is an extremely common problem that causes curling leaves. 

The leaves push upward — i.e., dome — in order to expose as much surface area as possible to the available light source. You might notice more dramatic curling on one side than the other, especially if you don’t regularly rotate your plant.

For the best results, provide medium to bright, indirect light for at least 8 hours per day. These plants grow well in east-facing windows. They can be grown near to a south-facing aspect but you will need to avoid harsh, direct sun exposure that can burn the leaves, and be sure to rotate your plant regularly.

If you’re struggling to find the perfect location to grow your Chinese money plant, consider using a grow lamp for supplemental light. Use a timer to automatically turn the lamp on for 8 to 12 hours each day.

5. Low Humidity

When the air is dry, plant leaves instinctively curl to preserve as much moisture as possible. Prolonged dryness can cause permanent damage. Low humidity can also cause symptoms like brown leaf margins.

Pilea is generally suited to average household humidity levels and will only show signs of stress if the air is extremely dry. Leaf curling caused by low humidity is most commonly seen in plants kept near heat vents in the wintertime.

An average humidity level of 40 to 60% is considered ideal for these plants. You can use a small humidifier or pebble tray to boost the moisture around your Pilea as needed. Some gardeners turn to mist as a way to fix humidity issues but I find this solution to be hit or miss.

6. Temperature Stress

Extreme or fluctuating temperatures can trigger leaf curling as your Chinese money plant tries to insulate itself as much as possible. It’s a good idea to keep Pilea away from windows and doors, drafts, and indoor heat sources.

In the wild, these plants are technically frost-hardy. When grown indoors, however, you should protect your Pilea from temperatures below 55°F.

7. An Outgrown Pot or Container

While not as common as some of the other reasons I’ve covered here, leaf curling can also be a sign that your Pilea needs a new container.

As the plant outgrows its current pot, the roots will become more and more crowded. This can stunt future growth and impede healthy drainage.

8. Physical Damage

Leaves that have been torn, bruised, or otherwise damaged by the environment often curl up as they die off. There’s nothing you can do about this — short of preventing the damage in the first place — and it’s usually best to simply prune away affected leaves as they appear.

You can avoid causing unnecessary damage by pruning away stems that are starting to droop or have become leggy or overgrown. Use these for propagating new Pilea plants.

pilea curling from physical damage

For more insight into plants with curling leaves, here is an article you may like: Why are My Bird of Paradise Leaves Curling?

FAQs Pilea Leaves Curling

Will Curled Pilea Leaves Return To Normal?

If your Pilea plant shows signs of mild curling, the leaves will likely return to normal once you treat the root cause. Potential causes of curling leaves include improper watering, low light, and fluctuating temperatures. 


The University of Illinois – Horticulturists’ Favorite Houseplants

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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.