Why are my Pilea Leaves Curling? (9 Causes With Fixes)

Going by many names, pilea plants are an unusual but undeniably interesting addition to many plant lovers’ collections—mine included. The almost perfect round leaves of the Chinese money plant are definitely its selling feature.

So what’s a home gardener to do when it starts curling? More importantly, why do pilea leaves curl up and down?

The most common reasons why pilea leaves curl are,

  • Watering issues
  • Low humidity
  • Incorrect light exposure
  • Temperature stress
  • Insufficient growing space
  • Over-fertilization
  • Chemical injury from pesticides
  • Pest damage
  • Powdery mildew

Pilea is quite uncommon so once you get your hands on one it’s best to prevent curling from the onset than wait. Now, that actually isn’t as complicated as you would think. You see, it’s pretty hardy, needing very little maintenance. Read on to find out how to prevent curling!

1. Watering Issues

Overwatering and underwatering pilea can cause its lower leaves to curl around the edges. As such, a good watering regimen can help prevent and solve leaf curling.

UFO plant, pancake plant, coin plant—whatever you want to call it—issues with watering can affect the leaves of Pilea plants.

Other problems regarding drainage and compaction can further complicate things and eventually lead to major wilting and even the death of your precious pilea!

Having said that, I know it can be confusing for beginners to tell these apart. Use this simple table to figure out what’s the problem with your Chinese money plant.

Watering ProblemOverwateringUnderwatering
Leaf Curl DirectionOutward
Other SignsYellowing leaves
Leaf drops
Mushy stems
Plant rot
Yellowing leaves
Brown leaf tips
Crisp leaves
Leaf drops
Pilea Leaves Curling Due to Watering Issues

Between these two, I honestly think that overwatering is a much bigger and more common cause of leaf curling.


Adjust your watering frequency as needed. In general, I don’t recommend watering it more than 1–2 times a week, even during the hot summer months.

Don’t worry though! Pilea plants are quite tolerant of short periods of drought. In fact, it deals better with a bit of dry soil than an overly saturated one. So let it dry between waterings.

Check the pot for drainage holes, to make sure it doesn’t get waterlogged. It’s also a good idea for the soil’s texture and quality. You may need to amend and aerate the soil to prevent watering issues in the future too.

2. Low Humidity

Keeping a pilea plant in an area with very low humidity will result in drooping and leaves curling down from dry air. Thus, it’s best to set a humidifier to 40–60%.

Like it or not, the reality is that the air inside most homes can get incredibly dry around winter. Indoor humidity during such times of the year can dip way below 20%.

Besides being inadvisable for humans, such low humidity levels can also be incredibly detrimental to our house plant’s growth and development.

Pilea Leaves Curling
Aurelien B. (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Pilea Leaves Curling

The only exception to this rule is succulents and cacti which thrive in arid regions. In other words, yes—your pilea plant can develop curly leaves because of insufficient humidity.

Other common signs that your pilea plant isn’t getting enough humidity include:

  1. Drooping
  2. Yellowing leaves
  3. Brown leaf tips
  4. Brown leaf margins
  5. Dead leaf spots
  6. Drying leaves
  7. Leaf drops


Of all the available methods, having a room or a whole-house humidifier (like the one below from Amazon) is ideal for maintaining a moderately humid environment for your coin plant.

Just set it to a humidity range of 40–60% and you’re good to go!

You could also place a pot of water next to your pilea, place it on top of a water-pebble tray, move it closer to other houseplants, or keep it in a small enclosed space like a terrarium.

Misting isn’t as effective for raising the humidity! 

3. Incorrect Lighting

Inappropriate lighting conditions lead to leaf curling in pilea. Their leaves curl to either catch more light or avoid too much of it. Moderate lighting is recommended.

Depending on where exactly you place your pancake plant around the house, the direction in which its leaves curl will be different. To see what I mean, check this simple table.

Lighting ProblemToo Little LightToo Much Light
Leaf Curl DirectionOutward
Other SignsLegginess
No new growth
Small leaves
Light-colored leaves
Brown leaf spots
Brown leaf margins
Drying leaves
Pilea Leaves Curling Due to Lighting Issues

Simply put, with too little light the leaves of pilea plant will curl down on itself as its stems stretch in search of more light. This will happen if you put your potted pilea in a dark corner.

7 Ways To Fix Curling Leaves On Your Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant)

On the other hand, placing your delicate-looking pilea right on a windowsill facing south where it directly gets tons of intense afternoon sunlight will cause the opposite.

In such a situation, you’ll notice pilea leaves curl up on themselves in an attempt to reduce the amount of light they are getting.


Transfer your pilea to an area where it can get bright indirect light throughout the day. It can also handle direct exposure to morning sun for about 2–6 hours every day.

If you don’t have a bright naturally lit window at home, provide your Chinese money plant with supplemental lighting. Choose a grow light that has a power rating of 10–20 Watts.

Wondering how that would affect your electricity bill? Get the answers now! 

4. Temperature Stress

High temperatures over 80°F (27°C) and low temperatures under 50°F (10°C) can lead to leaf curling in pilea plants. It prefers cooler temperatures within 55–65°F (13–18°C).

Similar to previous cases I mentioned, the way your pilea’s leaves will curl is based on whether it’s exposed to freezing or sweltering temps.

Temperature ProblemLow TemperaturesHigh Temperatures
Leaf Curl DirectionOutward
Other SignsDrooping
Stem injury
No new growth
Yellowing leaves
Leaf drops
Brown leaf spots
Brown leaf margins
Drying leaves
Crisp leaves
Leaf drops
Pilea Leaves Curling Due to Temperature Issues

Personally, I’ve seen pilea leaves curl more often because of high heat. They aren’t that fond of warm temperatures, unlike many other tropical houseplants.

Compared to more familiar foliage plants grown indoors, the ideal growing temperature range for pilea is a cool 55–65°F or 13–18°C.

5 Reasons why your Pilea plant leaves Curling

But it can still tolerate slightly warmer daytime temps of 70–80°F (21–27°C).


Grow your Chinese money plant in a cooler area of your house, away from heating and cooling elements like vents, fireplaces, and the like.

You also want to avoid drastic swings in temperature so don’t keep your pilea near entryways and big open windows to avoid cold and hot drafts that can harm it.

5. Insufficient Space

Once they have outgrown their container, pilea plants will bend over and their leaves will curl and wilt. As such, pot-bound pilea need to be up-potted by about 1–2 inches.

Surprisingly, I don’t hear other people mention this when it comes to the talk about the causes of curling pilea leaves.

If you’ve never heard of it before, I’m glad you came across this article so you can also share this helpful information with your other plant-loving—and hoarding—friends!

Because here’s the thing, although the UFO plant can thrive in relatively small pots that you can tuck in tiny nooks and narrow shelves, they can still outgrow it after a couple of years.

When it has run out of space to grow, its roots will get all tangled up and have trouble absorbing water and nutrients for what little soil they have left in its pot.

In short, insufficient space can cause pilea leaves to curl due to the lack of water their roots can get.


Check on your plant every year or so to see whether it needs to be repotted to a bigger container to avoid significant leaf curling.

How to Find the Best Pot Size to Stop Pilea Leaf Curling
How to Find the Best Pot Size to Stop Pilea Leaf Curling

Avoid going for pots that are too big when up-potting. Look for pots with a diameter that’s around 1/3 of the plant’s height, starting from the soil line.

6. Overfertilization

Applying too much fertilizer can cause pilea leaves to curl inwards as a consequence of accumulated salts damaging the roots. Fertilize Chines money plants sparingly.

Sure, there is evidence of deficiencies in plant nutrients, such as phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and zinc, causing leaf distortions and curling in some plants.

Explore proper plant nutrition in greater detail! 

However, I couldn’t find anything on pileas in particular despite the claims of some people that it’s mainly caused by a nitrogen deficiency.

After I looked further into things, I came to realize that the opposite is much more likely to cause curled leaves in pilea!

When its roots are damaged from all the extra salt left in the soil, your pilea will struggle to take in water and nutrients, causing its leaves to curl up on themselves.

Below are additional signs of overfertilization in pilea:

  1. Yellowing leaves
  2. Brown leaf tips
  3. Brown leaf margins
  4. Leaf drops
  5. Wilting


Frankly, pilea plants do just fine without any fertilizer especially when they’re in small pots and receive only indirect light in a relatively cool area.

But if you want to promote lots of new growth, only fertilize it every 1–2 months from spring to fall. Don’t feed it in winter when it’s dormant.

A diluted application of a completed and balanced liquid fertilizer should do the trick!

If you suspect that your coin plant has been over-fertilized, flush its soil with water for a few minutes to get rid of the excess salts. Then going forward, feed it only at half-strength.

7. Chemical Injury

Leaf curling in pilea can indicate chemical injury due to unsuitable pesticide application. Most commercial pesticides are not suitable for such houseplants.

As it turns out, injury due to pesticide applications in houseplants like pilea isn’t as unheard of as most people think.

Chemical injury from pesticides can also show up as

  1. Stunted growth
  2. Yellowing leaves
  3. Leaf burns
  4. Leaf distortions
  5. Leaf spotting
  6. Leaf drops
  7. Root damage
  8. Wilting

The good news is that despite the significant damage it may cause, the affected plant can usually recover after a few weeks to a couple of months with proper care.


Whenever dealing with pest infestations, opt for more natural methods of getting rid of pesky critters and preventing more serious cases in the future.

Only consider using commercial pesticides as your last option. Always check the labels if it’s safe for use indoors on your houseplants.

8. Pest Damage

Damage caused by serious aphid or thrip infestations can be seen in leaf curling for pilea plants. These small pests can be removed using organic materials like neem oil.

Though I haven’t heard of this happening a lot, it can still happen especially if you also have a garden outside the house.

It’s fairly easy to inadvertently let pests like aphids and thrips that were hiding in your yard into your home!

Both of these unwelcome guests wreak havoc on various plants, including pileas, by sucking out the all juices and nutrients stored in them—leaving the foliage curled and distorted.

Unfortunately, they don’t stop there. Aphids, specifically, also excrete sticky honeydew which can attract ants and induce the development of sooty mold.


Pest Control to Prevent Pilea Leaf Curling
Pest Control to Prevent Pilea Leaf Curling

Once you spot these little critters hiding in your Chinese money plant, immediately remove them. You can also cut off severely damaged stems and leaves. Dispose of these properly.

Afterward, apply organic pesticide sprays using things like neem oil and castile soap.

9. Powdery Mildew

Pilea leaves may also curl inwards after they get infected by a serious case of powdery mildew. It can be treated with the use of copper fungicide sprays.

According to experts, powdery mildew is one of the most common plant diseases that often affects pileas.

This can be caused by overly humid conditions, which sometimes result from watering the plant later in the day and having water splash all over.

You see, the fungi spores of powdery mildew can easily spread

Symptoms of powdery mildew in pilea include:

  1. Yellowing leaves
  2. Leaf curling
  3. White patches all over
  4. Defoliation


Infection can be avoided with proper care. To be more specific, maintaining moderate humidity, watering early in the morning, providing adequate lighting, and ensuring good temperatures can prevent cases of powdery mildew in pilea.

Pilea plants that have already caught the fungi that cause powdery mildew can readily be treated with a fungicide that’s safe for houseplants like this one from Amazon.


Is it normal for new Pilea leaves to curl?

New pilea (Pilea peperomioides) leaves often grow curled in on themselves. Then as the plant leaf ages, they unfurl and form a more flattened circular shape that they’re famously known and adored for. However, it is quite normal for even older leaves to have a slight dip at the point where it connects to the stem underneath it just like peperomia plants.

Does a Chinese money plant flower?

Chinese money plants do indeed flower. This pilea plant typically blooms during spring. Even though their flowers are very small, they are no less interesting and attractive. Pilea produces several clumps of delicate little round flower buds ranging from white, pink, and purple with hints of light green.

What is the difference between leaf cupping and doming?

The difference between leaf cupping and leaf doming lies in the direction the leaf curls toward. Doming is when leaves curl out and down on themselves, whereas cupping is when leaves curl in and upon themselves. Likewise, their causes are often opposite each other. For example, doming is to overwatering whereas cupping is to underwatering.

Summary of Why Do Pilea Leaves Curl

Contrary to popular belief, there are a host of potential reasons why pilea leaves curl inward and outward. The way their leaves curl can be indicative of the specific problems they’re experiencing when it comes to watering, lighting, and temperature.

Aside from that, pilea leaves may also become curled and distorted because of very low humidity, insufficient growing space in pots they’ve outgrown, applying too much fertilizer too often, chemical injury from applying pesticides, aphid and thrips infestations, and cases of powdery mildew.


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