Tradescantias are great plants, known for their vibrant, colorful leaves.
Normally, a Tradescantia leaf is flat and ovate-shaped. But, when it stops being flat and starts to curl instead, that can signal something is wrong.
So, if you’re noticing your Tradescantia leaves curling, you’re likely wondering what this means.
Curling leaves on a Tradescantia is often the first sign of a problem. Common reasons for leaf curl can include improper pruning, watering issues, environmental stress, or pest infestations.
In this post, we’ll take a look at why your plant’s leaves are curling and what you can do about it.
Reasons Tradescantia Leaves Curl
In general, a plant’s leaves should be flat and with their faces turned towards the light source.
Curling leaves often indicate a problem. How the leaf curls – whether under or over – can provide a clue as to the cause.
Let’s dive into some common reasons Tradescantia leaves to curl.
To learn more about caring for your Tradescantia, take a look at my beginner’s guide. You’ll find it helpful.
1. Improper Pruning
Leaves browning, drying, and curling close to the soil, are often a natural occurrence for a Tradescantia houseplant.
Most people keep Tradescantias in hanging baskets, allowing the vines to trail. But, Tradescantias prefer their vines to be near the soil, where the vines’ nodes can touch the ground and lay down roots.
When left to hang, as the vine lengthens, leaves near the soil curl and become brittle. The vine eventually breaks off in an attempt to find soil for its nodes.
Prune your Tradescantia frequently. This helps keep the vines from becoming too long. Which, in turn, helps keep the leaves near the soil from curling and breaking off.
To learn more about pruning your plant, take a look at my post on how to make your Tradescantia bushier.
Dehydration is another reason for Tradescantia leaf curl.
Tradescantias like their soil on the drier side. But, if the soil becomes too dry the leaves will brown and curl inwards and upwards.
By curling, the leaf is attempting to hold onto moisture. A curled leaf is a smaller leaf. This means there’s less ability for photosynthesis. And since photosynthesis needs water, less photosynthesis means less water use.
Increase the amount of water.
When watering a Tradescantia, give your plant a thorough watering. Then, let the soil partially dry out before watering again.
If the soil is overly dry, it’s possible it has become hydrophobic. In other words, the soil is repelling water instead of absorbing it.
In this case, you may need to bottom water your plant to make it easier for the soil to absorb water. If it’s in really rough shape, consider repotting your plant.
Overwatering a plant can cause leaf curl. Especially if that plant is not receiving enough light.
Light uses water for photosynthesis. So, overwatering and poor light is a double whammy for a plant.
Overwatered leaves may curl outwards and downwards, and become soft and limp.
First, let your plant dry out thoroughly. Before watering again test the soil with your finger, dull probe, or moisture meter to gauge the dryness several inches down.
You can also move your plant to a brighter location. This gives it more opportunity for photosynthesis. A Tradescantia likes a sunnier spot, so it will do better with bright, indirect light.
When it comes to watering, it’s all about balancing water and light. I’m always checking my plants, especially my Tradescantias, to ensure they’re getting enough water for the amount of light they have.
To learn about how to water your indoor plants, take a look at my watering guide. You’ll find it helpful.
4. Environmental Stress – Too Much Light or Heat
Environmental stressors, such as too much light or heat, can curl your Tradescantia leaves.
Although Tradescantias like bright light, too much direct light can be a problem. As can sitting too close to a heat source, such as a vent.
With environmental stress, leaves may curl under or over.
Light and heat affect a plant’s temperature. Water helps regulate that temperature. But, when a plant runs into too much light or too much heat, that plant can over transpire. In other words, it can lose too much water through its leaves.
In simple terms, a plant’s leaves have small holes in them called stomata that open and close. When exposed to a light source, they’ll open so photosynthesis can occur. But when open, water also evaporates from the opening.
With excessive heat, the plant can lose excess water through the stomata. So, the plant’s leaves curl to help keep water from escaping.
As with too little water in the soil, leaves curling upwards is the plant’s attempt to prevent water loss.
Leaves curling under is the plant trying to protect itself.
Most stomata are located on the underside of the leaf. When a leaf curls downwards, it creates a buffer around the stomata. This prevents the stomata from opening up due to the intense light and heat. If the stomata can’t fully open, there’s less water loss.
Move your plant to a bright spot with indirect light. This might mean moving it further back from a window or to a room with less intense light.
Or, if you’ve placed your plant outside for the summer, move it to a shadier spot. Especially during the intense sun of midday.
Pests, such as aphids and thrips can be culprits of your Tradescantia leaves curling. These bugs suck moisture from leaves. The result is the plant’s leaves drying and curling.
Inspect your plant carefully.
Bugs can sometimes be hard to spot. So use a magnifying glass to look closely at the plant leaves, checking the undersides as well as the tops.
If you find signs of an infestation, treat the problem immediately. Start by giving your plant a good bath with a sprayer to manually wash off as many bugs as possible. Follow up with insecticidal soap.
You can also use sticky traps as part of your treatment. They’re not likely to eradicate the problem, but they can be a good way of telling if you have a pest problem.
If pests are in the soil, you may need to repot your plant into fresh soil. Make sure you don’t reuse the infected soil.
- Curling Tradescantia leaves can be a sign of a problem.
- There can be several causes of leaf curl.
- Tradescantia leaves can curl and dry as part of the plant’s attempt to propagate.
- Improper watering, environmental stress, and pest infestation are additional causes.
- There are steps you can take to address the causes of curling Tradescantia leaves.
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