4 Common Reasons Your Prayer Plant’s Leaves Are Curling

The prayer plant, also known as maranta leuconeura, is a beautiful houseplant known for its striking foliage. The leaves have a unique pattern and can display shades of green, red, brown, and cream. One of the defining features of the prayer plant are the leaves that fold upward at night as though praying.

While prayer plants are relatively easy to care for, they can develop issues like curling leaves. Curled leaves on your prayer plant are generally a sign that something is wrong and the plant is under stress. Identifying the causes and rectifying them will return your plant to health.

Here are 4 of the most common reasons your prayer plant’s leaves are curling:

1. Underwatering

Underwatering is one of the most prevalent causes of curled leaves on prayer plants. These tropical plants thrive in moist soil and require regular watering. If you allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings, you may start noticing the leaves yellowing and curling inward.

Signs that your prayer plant needs more frequent watering:

  • Dry, cracked soil
  • Drooping or shriveled leaves
  • Brown leaf tips and edges
  • Leaves feeling papery or crispy

To fix an underwatered prayer plant, water thoroughly until water drains from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Allow the soil to mostly dry out between waterings, checking with your finger about 1-2 inches deep. Prayer plants prefer evenly moist soil at all times.

In addition to regular watering, prayer plants appreciate high humidity. Mist the leaves daily or use a pebble tray to provide moisture in the air. Keeping the soil a bit moist will also help increase humidity around the foliage.

2. Overwatering

While prayer plants need consistently moist soil, overwatering can also cause issues like curled leaves. If you are watering too often or not allowing the soil to dry out adequately between waterings, it can lead to root rot and overly saturated soil.

Signs your prayer plant may be overwatered:

  • Leaves curling downward
  • Soft, mushy leaves
  • Leaf spotting or yellowing
  • Brown leaf tips
  • Stem and crown rot
  • Moldy soil
  • Foul odor from the soil

To remedy an overwatered prayer plant, allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Remove any soggy or rotting roots and repot in fresh, dry soil if necessary. Avoid watering on a strict schedule and only water when the top few inches of soil become dry. Providing good drainage by using a pot with holes can prevent oversaturation.

Cut back on watering frequency and allow the plant to dry out for a period. Proper moisture levels will return the leaves to a healthy, flat position.

3. Low Humidity

Prayer plants naturally grow in tropical environments with high humidity. When humidity is too low, the foliage responds by curling inward and turning brown along the edges.

Some indications the air is too dry for your prayer plant:

  • Leaves curling under with brown tips
  • Crispy-looking leaves
  • Leaves feeling dry or papery
  • Brown leaf edges

Boost the humidity around your prayer plant by:

  • Using a humidifier nearby
  • Placing the pot on a pebble tray filled with water
  • Misting the leaves daily with a spray bottle
  • Grouping other plants together to increase overall humidity

Keeping the soil moist will also create a humid microclimate around the plant. Avoid dry air from heating or air conditioning vents blowing directly on the foliage. Maintaining 40-50% humidity is ideal for prayer plants.

Increased humidity coupled with reduced watering will help curled leaves return to normal. Monitor for signs of fungal diseases if adding humidity.

4. Cold Temperatures

Prayer plants thrive in warm conditions between 65-85°F and can experience stress when temperatures drop too low. Exposure to cold drafts from windows or air conditioning vents can shock the foliage, causing leaves to shrivel and curl.

If cold is causing your prayer plant stress:

  • Move plant away from drafty windows or vents
  • Avoid setting next to external doors
  • Keep indoor temperatures above 60°F
  • Provide warmth with nearby heaters or heating vents
  • Insulate pots in cold seasons

Prevent cold outdoor air from striking the foliage which can exacerbate curling. Keep the prayer plant in an area with consistent warm temperatures to avoid leaf stress.

Along with warmth, increasing light exposure can also help improve leaf curling due to cold conditions.

Other Possible Causes

While the above issues are the most likely causes of curled prayer plant leaves, here are a few other possibilities to be aware of:

  • Insufficient light – Prayer plants need bright, indirect light. Low light can cause weak, curled leaves.
  • Pot bound roots – If the roots are crowded and tangled in the pot, leaves may curl. Re-pot in a larger container.
  • Pests – Insects like spider mites can suck fluids from leaves, causing them to curl and shrivel. Check the undersides of leaves and stems for pests.
  • Chemical treatment – Exposure to chemicals like pesticides or fluoride in tap water can affect leaf health. Avoid use of chemical treatments.
  • Mineral deficiencies – Lack of nutrients like nitrogen, iron, calcium, manganese, zinc, and magnesium can impact foliage. Apply a balanced fertilizer at half strength every 2-4 weeks in the growing season.
  • Age – As prayer plants mature and reach old age, curling leaves and decline are natural. Divide overgrown plants or start new ones.
  • Transplant shock – Re-potting or moving the plant to a new location can temporarily stress the foliage. Allow time to adjust.

How to Prevent Curled Leaves

Now that you know what causes prayer plant leaves to curl, here are some general care tips to keep your plant healthy and prevent future issues:

  • Water thoroughly when top inch of soil is dry. Avoid both under and overwatering.
  • Use distilled or filtered water if possible. Prayer plants are sensitive to additives in tap water.
  • Maintain consistent humidity around 40-50%. Mist leaves, use a humidifier, or place on a pebble tray.
  • Keep in warm conditions between 65-80°F and avoid cold drafts.
  • Provide bright, indirect light to encourage healthy growth. Rotating helps prevent lopsided growth.
  • Loosen and aerate soil periodically and re-pot when root bound into a slightly larger container.
  • Apply diluted liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
  • Inspect frequently for pests like spider mites that can damage leaves.
  • Allow soil to completely dry out between waterings to prevent fungal diseases.
  • Avoid use of chemical pesticides or treatments which can damage foliage.

What To Do For Severely Curling Leaves

If your prayer plant has severe leaf curling, shriveling, spotting, or browning, the affected leaves likely cannot be saved. But don’t remove more than 20% of leaves at one time. Damaged leaves can be pruned to encourage new growth.

For plants with significant leaf damage:

  • Prune away heavily affected leaves as needed to improve appearance.
  • Slow watering frequency and allow soil to dry out to prevent further issues.
  • Move plant to a warmer area away from drafts.
  • Consider re-potting in fresh, dry soil to refresh the roots if necessary.
  • Fertilize monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer to stimulate new growth.
  • Be patient and allow time for the prayer plant to generate new leaves as old ones are trimmed. Focus on improving care practices.

With time and diligent care methods, your prayer plant can make a full recovery. Any leaf curling should resolve as you remedy the underlying causes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Curling Prayer Plant Leaves

What causes my prayer plant’s leaves to curl inward during the day?

Leaves that curl inward during the day are generally caused by too much light exposure. Prayer plants prefer bright, indirect lighting. If light is too intense, the foliage responds by curling downward. Filter the light or move the plant farther away from the light source to prevent daytime curling.

Why are my prayer plant’s leaves curling outward?

Upward curling leaves usually indicates the plant is searching for more light. This can occur from inadequate lighting. Try moving the prayer plant to a brighter location or using a grow light to supplement natural lighting. The leaves should uncurl with improved light exposure.

What causes the leaves on my prayer plant to curl downward?

Downward curling leaves are most often caused by overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out further between waterings. Leaves that curl under can also be a response to high temperatures. Keep the prayer plant in a consistently warm, but not hot environment between 65-80°F.

Why are the ends of my prayer plant’s leaves turning brown and curling?

Brown, shriveled leaf tips with curling are a sign of low humidity. Prayer plants prefer 40-50% ambient humidity. Increase humidity through misting, pebble trays, or a humidifier. Keeping the soil evenly moist will also create humidity through transpiration. Avoid conditions that are too dry.

What causes prayer plant leaves to curl at night?

The natural overnight folding of prayer plant leaves is normal. This evening “praying” motion helps protect the leaf surfaces from damage at night. If leaves are tightly curling or remaining folded during the day, it indicates stress from improper care rather than normal overnight movement.


Curling leaves are the prayer plant’s way of communicating that something is amiss in its care or environment. By identifying and correcting the underlying cause, whether it’s underwatering, low humidity, or cold conditions, you can restore the beautiful flat foliage this plant is known for.

With a little attentive care and troubleshooting, a prayer plant with curling leaves can make a full recovery. Be patient as it takes time for new leaf growth to emerge once issues are rectified. Soon you will be able to enjoy the satisfying wide, green leaves that unfurl each morning as your revived prayer plant continues to thrive!