Money Tree Leaves Curling – Causes and Fixes that Work

Money tree (Pachira aquatica) leaves can curl if you do not balance specific growth parameters. The leaves can curl inwards, outwards, or in both directions. Prevention will depend mainly on the pattern of curling, but the leaves can eventually turn yellow or brown and fall off the tree if you do not fix the cause soon enough. So what causes leaf curl and how do you fix it?

Overexposure to direct sunlight, pest infestation, and underwatering are the main causes of curling leaves money tree leaves. To fix the curling and revive the plant, move it where it will receive bright indirect light. Also, apply neem oil to get rid of pests such as aphids and spider mites that may be causing leaf curl.

Why are money tree leaves curling?

Curling money tree leaves means your plant is losing too much water or getting too little water from the growth medium. Maintaining a watering schedule can sometimes be disastrous if you do not stop checking the soil or the hydroponic solution. Even on a schedule, check the sogginess and dryness of the soil first to lower the risks of curling.

Here are some of the reasons your money tree leaves are curling;

Overwatering and underwatering

Overwatering results in soil sogginess. The roots of the money tree take in significant amounts of water from the soil, and leaves begin to dome. Doming is when the money tree leaves curl outwards due to increased turgor pressure in the leaf cells. Overwatering also causes root rot and leaves that curl upwards.

On the other hand, underwatering will cause cupping of your money tree leaves. Since the plant lacks adequate water to keep the leaves turgid and healthy, money tree leaves will curl inwards. Check for overwatering or underwatering by sticking your fingers in the potting soil to determine the level of soil dryness and sogginess.

Low humidity

Money trees are native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, meaning they need relatively high humidity to stay healthy. The impact of low humidity on the money tree leaves is slow and noticeable after constant exposure to humidity levels below 40%. 

The first signs of low humidity in the money tree are yellowing and browning leaf tips and edges. Without sufficient moisture in the atmosphere, money tree leaves close the stomata to prevent water loss through transpiration. If not corrected, the leaves may curl and die. 

Very little or too much direct sunlight

Like most tropical plants, Pachira aquatica needs daily light to stay healthy. However, it thrives beneath tree canopies. Therefore, the money tree requires partial shade instead of direct sunlight. That was the mistake I made with my first money tree. 

I purchased four seedlings from the garden market and lined them in my backyard without considering the impact of light. In less than a month, my money tree leaflets appeared scorched. Some leaves were curling upwards. The once beautiful foliage diminished, sending me to a frantic search for a solution. 

I found that direct sunlight causes curling and very low light reduces the plant’s growth rate and foliage formation. Eventually, I managed to rescue my money trees. I will share the best fixes to help you save your money plant’s leaves from curling. 

Meanwhile, pests and herbicides can also cause curling in your money plant.

Pest infestation

Aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips often attack money trees. The pests usually target new leaves or young leaves that are still growing. They suck the sap and absorb nutrients from the plant’s system, causing its cells to lose turgidity. Coupled with nutrient deficiency, severe pest infestation destroys the plant’s genetic potential and causes the curling of money tree leaves.

Some pests are microscopic and may be difficult to spot with your naked eye. The first signal of pest infestation on money trees is the change of leaf color and texture. A closer look may reveal tiny moving black or yellow specks and spots on the leaves. The most identifying feature of pest infestation is white webs in the undersides of money tree leaves. 

Poor soil mix and improper application of fertilizer

Another cause of curling leaves on Pachira aquatica is poor soil mix and improper fertilizer application. Soil lacking in organic elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can hinder your plant’s healthy growth and development. 

Using a balanced fertilizer for your money tree will restore essential nutrients in the soil and discourage curling. Use a 20-20-20 all-purpose fertilizer.

Herbicides

A commonly overlooked cause of curling is the accidental application of herbicides to the money tree when controlling garden weeds. 

When the weed killers come in contact with a money tree, Glyphosphate and 2,4-D ingredients contained in them can cause your leaves to curl. If that is the case with your money tree, your plant will recover naturally. No action is necessary.

We’ve seen that the most common causes of curling money tree leaves are overwatering and underwatering. Other factors such as low humidity, direct sunlight, pests, herbicides, and incorrect fertilizer application may have the same impact on Pachira aquatica. You may notice doming or cupping on the leaves. 

However, there is no need to worry if the problem is still in the early stages.

Best Fixes for Curling Money Tree Leaves

Apply these fixes to revive the curled leaves of your money tree;

Water more in summer and less in winter

Water your money tree profoundly but infrequently. It is advisable to water when half or three-quarters of the potting soil is dry, watering until you see water coming out through the drainage holes. Alternatively, water the money tree every one to two weeks, depending on the prevailing temperatures. 

In summer, for example, evaporation and transpiration are generally high. I’d prefer regular misting of the leaves and watering once a week. Since money trees grow slower in winter, discourage curling leaves by watering them once every two weeks.

Raise the surrounding humidity

Money trees prefer moist atmospheres. The tree will thrive in a place with a temperature range of 60–75°F. Ensure that your money plant gets at least 50% humidity. Use a humidifier or pebble tray to create a humidity bubble around your tree. Your money tree leaves will soon become normal and healthy. 

Move the tree where it gets bright indirect sunlight

First, make sure you locate your money tree where it will receive light daily. Still, ensure the light is filtered as direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause yellowing and curling again. South-facing or west-facing windows are ideal locations for reducing the likelihood of cupping and doming of the money tree leaves.

If outdoors, keep the money tree under partial shade beneath taller trees. Indoors, use a curtain to filter excess light or move money trees further from the windows. 

Get rid of pests with neem oil

Mix neem oil with liquid soap and tepid water to create an effective pesticide against aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Put one and a half teaspoons of neem oil, one teaspoon of liquid soap, and one liter of water in a spray bottle and shake it well. 

When I do this for my money trees, I always test the mixture on one leaf before spraying the whole plant. Check the leaf after a few hours. If the money tree leaf is damaged, dilute the solution further and spray on the pest-infested leaves.  

Prevention

There are three basic ways to prevent curling in your money tree leaves. 

First, the pot size should be proportional to the money tree. Using a large pot for a small tree encourages overwatering and soil sogginess, which can overwhelm your tree. The tree can absorb more water than it needs, the roots can rot, and the leaves will droop. A small pot for a large money tree can also cause rootbound, which will lead to curling leaves.

Secondly, test the potting soil frequently, not just for water but also for nutrients. That will help you determine your watering and fertilizing patterns. Most importantly, grow your money tree in a glazed ceramic pot. These pots do not just enhance your home decor. They also reduce water evaporation from the sides.

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