Why Nepenthes Leaves Curl and Turn Yellow (The 7 Reasons!)

Despite how intimidating nepenthes may seem, they’re incredibly easy to care for. Seeing their leaves curl and turn yellow, however, isn’t as easy on the eyes. There can be many reasons why they turn yellow but with my guidance, you’ll be able to identify the cause in no time!

Nepenthes leaves curl and turn yellow due to 1) age, 2) overwatering, 3) insufficient light, 4) high mineral water, 5) excessive light, 6) low humidity, and 7) transplant stress. To help nepenthes grow healthy foliage, make sure to provide 1) even soil moisture, 2) adequate humidity, and 3) sufficient sunlight.

If you want your nepenthes to thrive and grow those impressive pitchers, you’ll first need to make sure their leaves are healthy. To help you achieve this, here are some of the reasons why their leaves might become discolored or curled and how these can be corrected!

1. Age

Nepenthes leaves can curl and turn yellow as a result of age. This commonly affects the oldest leaves on the bottom of nepenthes and does not need removal. Wait until the leaves are brown and dead before pruning them.

It’s not uncommon for old nepenthes leaves to die after several months.

Once you notice the oldest leaves on the bottom are starting to curl and become yellow, but the nepenthes is still growing new leaves, then all is well!

You might be tempted to remove the old leaves as soon as they turn yellow. However, it’s best to leave them be.

Despite their discoloration, these leaves can still help the plant by taking in sunlight. The oldest leaves can stay yellow for months before dying, which is completely normal.

Prune the leaves only when they have completely dried out and become brown.

2. Overwatering

Nepenthes leaves that become soft and yellow are a common sign that the plant is overwatered. Waterlogged growing mediums and excessive watering commonly lead to curled nepenthes leaves and even death.

In my experience, overwatering is the number one reason why nepenthes leaves curl and turn yellow.

Like other carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap, nepenthes do require a high amount of moisture.

But if they’re constantly suffocated and left in soggy substrates, this will cause their leaves to soften and curl, eventually turning yellow.

Avoid Overwatering Nepenthes
Avoid Overwatering Nepenthes

Excessive moisture can also lead to root rot. It doesn’t happen often for nepenthes, but they’re not invulnerable to it.

Their roots are naturally black, which can make it hard to tell if they’re rotting. But if the roots smell foul or acidic and feel mushy and break easily, your nepenthes is undoubtedly receiving too much water.

3. Insufficient Light

Yellow and curled nepenthes leaves can occur when the plant is not absorbing enough sunlight. To prevent yellow leaves and stunted growth, ensure the nepenthes receives at least 12 hours of filtered sunlight.

Finding the right amount of light for nepenthes can be tricky business, but it is key in growing a healthy monkey cup plant.

While these unique plants can live quite happily indoors, they still require adequate sunlight exposure to photosynthesize.

Signs of Too Much Light or Too Little for Your Carnivorous Plant
YouTube Video – Signs of Too Much or Too Little Light

Nepenthes need lots of light for their leaves to stay green. Without enough light, their leaves will eventually become elongated and lose their vibrant color.

If they’re kept in a shady room with less than 12 hours of sunlight, this could lead to stunted growth and droopy yellow nepenthes. Simply move it to a sunnier spot and watch it perk back up over time!

4. High Mineral Water

Water that is high in minerals, like tap water, can cause curled and discolored leaves and eventually kill nepenthes. For optimum care, use rainwater or distilled water.

You can stay on top of your watering schedule and grow your nepenthes in a perfectly controlled environment. But if you’re using the wrong water, it’s game over.

It is incredibly sensitive to salt and will curl and die if they’re given sodium-filled tap water.

Nepenthes can turn yellow if given water with too much sodium and other minerals.

Tap water can contain high levels of minerals and sodium that can cause many carnivorous plants, including nepenthes, to perish quickly.

For optimum care, use distilled water or rainwater for nepenthes. These types of water generally contain little to no trace elements and are best for healthy monkey cup plants.

5. Excessive Light

Bleached yellow nepenthes leaves typically develop when the plant is exposed to excessive or direct sunlight. Curled and discolored leaves indicate the plant is suffering from intense light and must be moved in the shade.

Nepenthes love to soak up as much sun as they can but you don’t want them to go toast.

Oftentimes, leaving them out in the full sun can bleach their leaves. In effect, they’ll suffer from sunburn.

Excessive Sun Can Bleach Nepenthes
Excessive Sun Can Bleach Nepenthes

Nepenthes may be tropical plants, but many of them are epiphytes. Remember, epiphytes are plants that can be found growing on trees and branches rather than soil, where they’re not exposed to direct sun.

In some cases, nepenthes can handle around 2 hours of direct sunlight daily. But more than this can scorch their leaves and cause them to curl in an attempt to hide from the harsh sun.

Move your nepenthes to a shadier spot or have them grow in the shade of other plants.

6. Low Humidity

Humidity levels lower than 40% can cause nepenthes leaves to turn yellow and curl. For healthy foliage, keep the nepenthes in an area with at least 60% humidity.

For nepenthes to grow and produce healthy leaves and pitchers, they must be grown in high-humidity environments.

The average household humidity is around 40%. But if you live somewhere dry like Utah or Nevada, this level could be even lower.

Simply put, nepenthes, or monkey cups, cannot thrive in low humidity and require at least 60% humidity.

With some luck, you might be able to help them adjust to such dry conditions, but the plant won’t grow as vigorously.

The good news is that there are many ways to correct this! I will talk about this later on, so keep reading to learn how to provide adequate humidity for your nepenthes.

7. Transplant Stress

Yellow and curling nepenthes leaves can frequently be attributed to transplant stress. This is commonly seen in nepenthes after they’re repotted or moved to new areas. Provide usual care to help them acclimate and continue growing.

Sometimes, it can be difficult for nepenthes to adjust to different environments.

When they suffer from transplant stress or plant stress, you’ll notice their leaves gradually become yellow and curled.

Pro Tip: To help newly potted or purchased nepenthes adjust, don’t move them around too frequently.

Whether the nepenthes is in a new area or pot, be sure to set them in one place and leave them alone.

Over time, the nepenthes should develop new leaves and acclimate to their new home!

3 Easy Ways to Prevent Curling Yellow Leaves in Nepenthes

To help keep nepenthes leaves healthy, by 1) maintaining even soil moisture, 2) providing adequate humidity, and 3) providing sufficient sunlight.

Once you’ve figured out the basics, nepenthes are extraordinarily easy to take care of. But to help you ensure their leaves stay green and healthy, here are a few easy tips for you to keep in mind.

1. Maintain Even Soil Moisture

To prevent nepenthes leaves from curling or turning yellow, ensure the plant is kept at even moisture levels. Grow nepenthes in ceramic and plastic pots with drainage holes and water them with distilled water when the top 2 inches of the substrate is dry.

The best way to keep nepenthes plants happy and help their leaves stay green is by providing them with even moisture in the soil—or whatever growing medium you’re using.

Remember, their potting medium must be kept damp, but not swampy. When the top 2 inches of the substrate feel dry, water them with distilled water or rainwater.

If they’re consistently overwatered or suffering from drought, nepenthes leaves will rapidly turn yellow.

You can make caring for it easier by using plastic or ceramic pots with drainage. These pots are excellent at retaining moisture and can help maintain even moisture levels throughout the soil.

2. Provide Adequate Humidity

Maintain healthy nepenthes leaves by ensuring the plant is kept in an area with at least 60% humidity. For optimal humidity levels, use water trays or humidifiers with distilled water. Doing so will prevent the development of curled yellow leaves.

One of the reasons why you can find so many nepenthes growing in greenhouses or terrariums is because it’s easier to provide them with proper humidity in a controlled space.

I know some people who love to mist their nepenthes. But to be frank, this does very little for the plant. Unless your nepenthes is automatically sprayed every hour in a terrarium, misting isn’t that effective.

Clear up the fog in Should You Mist Your Houseplants?

Grow Nepenthes in 60% Humidity
Grow Nepenthes in 60% Humidity

Many nepenthes can be found growing in 100% humidity, but they’ll be happy with just 60%. To help achieve this, water trays or humidifiers are your best bet.

This humidifier on Amazon is automatic and is great for taking care of nepenthes!

A humidifier filled with distilled water or a water-filled tray underneath a nepenthes plant is excellent at raising humidity levels. Plus, both options are relatively low-maintenance and will work wonders for your nepenthes.

3. Provide Sufficient Sunlight

Nepenthes grow best with 12 hours of bright indirect sunlight by south-facing windows. With this, they are less likely to curl and turn yellow. Grow lights are also suitable for nepenthes. These can be left on for 10–14 hours daily to encourage healthy growth.

These carnivorous plants flourish in high-light environments. A good place I know to grow nepenthes is by a south-facing window with curtains to receive around 12 hours of bright filtered sunlight.

Another great place to have your nepenthes in is outdoors—underneath the shade of other plants. This was discovered by a gardener I know from Paraguay, who found that this gave their nepenthes just enough light without burning.

But if you can’t take your nepenthes outside or if there isn’t enough sunlight in your home, consider using grow lights.

Grow lights are easy to find and even easier to use. By setting some LED grow lights to stay on for up to 14 hours, your nepenthes will grow healthy and happy leaves.

Decide which light is best in Grow Lights vs Sunlight: Which is Better? (Tested!)


Is there a yellow nepenthes plant?

Some nepenthes species, such as the Nepenthes veitchii, can have yellowish hues in their pitchers and leaves. However, healthy nepenthes should still be green. If a nepenthes begins to display wilting yellow leaves, this could be a sign that the plant is suffering and needs immediate attention.

Why are nepenthes leaves curling?

Nepenthes leaves naturally curl inwards at the edges. Leaves that are warped or feel excessively soft, however, can be a sign the plant is suffering. Remove the curled leaves only when they’re dry and dead, typically already brown or black.

Summary of Curled and Yellow Nepenthes Leaves

Nepenthes that are old, overwatered, given insufficient light, given high mineral water, excessive light, placed in low humidity, and suffering from transplant stress can develop curled and yellow leaves.

Given proper care, the nepenthes can grow new leaves to replace any lost or damaged foliage. Yellow and curled nepenthes leaves can be treated by making sure the plant receives even levels of moisture, is kept in 60% humidity, and is grown in at least 12 hours of bright indirect light.


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