What Makes Calathea Zebrina Leaves Curl?

Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Stephanie

With its large striking ovate leaves that are adorned with different shades of color, Calathea zebrina is undeniable one of the most adored and loved species in the Calathea Genus.

But, any plant owner who has one of the Calathea zebrina will be able to agree that these beautiful tropical plants are also one of the most difficult to care for because they have specific requirements in water, light soil, humidity, and light.

If youre an Calathea Zebrina plant-owner as I am, then you might have seen at one point or another, those leaves on your beautiful leaves curving.

Calathea zebrina leaves curling , or curving inwards due to the absence of humidity, low temperature or lack of light or excessive watering. The most frequent reason for Calathea zebrinas leaves curving. Insect infestations and diseases can also be the cause for this issue.

In this post Ill share with you the most frequent reasons why your Calathea zebrinas leaves are curled and what you can do to treat them to ensure that you are able to bring back your beloved plant!

Causes of Calathea Zebrina Leaves Curling


Like other Calathea species the Calathea zebrina is a fan of soil that is well-drained, but moist.

Therefore, it is important be sure that you arent let the soil get dry. This is particularly true in the summer months when the plant needs more water.

If you dont provide the plant with enough water, and the soil is drying out it wont get enough nutrients, leading to curly, dry leaves.

Beware of this because it could cause stress to your plant and negatively impact the growth of your plant.

How to Fix

If you havent already started, create an irrigation schedule and adhere to it.

It is also possible to use this poke-a-finger method to determine whether its time to give your Calathea zebrina a drink. To determine this you must follow these steps:

  • Make a poke about 2 to 3 inches deep in the upper layer the soil.
  • If the soil is damp the plant is still at adequate moisture levels, which means you dont need to water for the rest of the day.
  • If its dry however its the right time to give your plant a good watering.

Although this plant isnt one to get dry, keep in mind that it doesnt want to be immersed in water all day long! Be careful not to overwater because too much water could cause mushy, yellow leaves.

Overfeeding with Fertilizer

Like other houseplants, it is essential to fertilize to ensure the growth of Calathea zebrina. A high amount of fertilizer can, however, harm the plant and create a variety of problems.

If you feed your Calathea too much Zebrina, it will soak up too much salt , which can draw moisture away from its root.

If this happens when this happens, the plant is at risk of dehydration and chemical burns which causes leaves to become brittle and curled.

How to Fix

If you suspect that youve been overfeeding your Calathea zebrina You must take action immediately. Clean the soil of this plant with water and let water streams flow through the drainage holes in its pot.

Let the water run off completely, and then wait until the soil is dry before you water your plant again.

It is also essential to keep in mind that you should not fertilize your Calathea zebrina in the winter months, since the plants arent actively growing during this time of year.

Temperature Stress

As a tropical plant Calathea Zebrina thrives in warm and humid conditions that resemble rainforests and tropical jungles.

You can grow the Calathea Zebrina inside, with temperatures that range from 65 to 75o F (18-24o C).

Also, do not place the Calathea zebrina in areas that are that are exposed to cold and warm drafts.

The stress of heat from warm breezes can trigger rapid evaporation of water, which causes leaves to form a curly shape to hold in the moisture. Cold drafts, on contrary, can cause the leaves to yellow and wilt.

How to Fix

Find a place within your home that has the right temperatures for Calathea Zebrina.

If your leaves are curled, you can adjust the thermostat and observe the plant over a couple of days. Continue to adjust the temperature until you see the leaves begin to loosen.

calathea zebrina leaves close up

Lack of Nutrition

The curling of leaves on Calathea zebrina can be a sign that your plant isnt receiving enough nutrients it requires.

A deficiency in Phosphorus is a nutrient that is required to develop the triphosphate adenosine (energy) as well as sugars and nucleic acids.

It causes Calathea Zebrina appear weak and hinders leaf growth, causing leaves to shrink and curl.

How to Fix

Fertilize your Calathea Zebrina in the spring and summer months with an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer like a 10/10/10 ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. It is possible to do this on a regular basis.

In order to feed your plant correctly It is also important to know the pH levels of the potting media.

The goal is to reach pH levels that range from 5.0 to 6.0 which is the optimal pH range for Calatheas. It is possible to adjust the pH by adding liming substances like dolomite or calcium carbonate, into the potting media. (Source: University of Florida, IFAS)

Root Rot due to overwatering

If the leaves on Calathea zebrina begin to curl, you might be able to examine the plant for signs of root rot, which is a problem caused by soil that is wet due to excessive watering.

Other nutrients and water cant get to the plants root when its decaying.

In the process, leaves begin to dehydrate and attempt to keep moisture in which causes drying and curling.

How to Fix

  • Take the leaves off the soil and examine the roots. If the roots appear like they are mushy and black They are likely suffering from root rot.
  • Clean the roots thoroughly under running water to eliminate the affected areas. If a large portion in the roots is damaged and taken away, cut back one-third to half of the leaves. In this means that the plant will be more likely to regenerate its roots since it wont have to support the same number of leaves.
  • Repot the plant using an all-new, well-drained mix of potting soil and put it in the ideal spot for its development.

Water Quality

Are you aware that tap water is contaminated with fluoride, chlorine, salt and other minerals that could be detrimental to plants?

The buildup of salt in the soil hinders the roots capacity to absorb the nutrients they require and causes that the leaf of Calathea Zebrina to curled.

How to Fix

The most effective way to deal with this issue is to filter the water from your tap with a filtering system.

If you do not have a filter then fill the watering bottle with water and then leave it open for a few hours so that the chemical will dissipate. To get the best results, you should use rainwater or distilled water.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Calathea zebrina prefers bright or medium, indirect light. A lot of direct sunlight particularly in the afternoon, which is the hottest part during the summer. It can put stress upon the plants, which causes the leaves of this plant to curl, in an attempt to decrease the amount of surface exposed to sunlight.

How to Fix

If youve left your Calatheas under the sun for too long, relocate the plant right away to a shaded or partially shaded area with some ambient sunlight, like an area with a shaded balcony or garden.

The best places to look for are rooms with good lighting that block direct sunlight, like greenhouses or conservatories.

Lack of Light

Plants, like your Calathea Zebrina, require sunlight to photosynthesise and create energy through glucose which is used to make leaves, stems, roots.

If your plant isnt getting enough sunlight, it will curled its leaves and then extend or lean toward the light source.

Lack of light can inhibit growth and could cause the plants to die due to the inability of it to produce food via photosynthesis.

How to Fix

If youve kept the Calathea within a dim area like a dimly lit room or bathroom with tiny windows, gradually adjust the plant by slowly shifting it to a brighter place.

It is also possible to use artificial lighting, ranging from fluorescent, incandescent LED, and even the horticultural lights to cultivate your Calathea Zebrina indoors, particularly when the rooms of your home receive little or the absence of sunlight.

Insect Infestation

Curling leaves, along with speckled discoloration, browning and drying could also be a sign that unwanted guests have invaded your Calathea Zebrina.

Pests from insects cause leaves to curl as they drink the juices of fresh or newly-formed leaves which remain growing.

The most frequent pests that attack the house plants such as Calathea Zebrina include fungus gnats mealybugs, aphids and mealybugs. scales, spider mites and.

How to Fix

  • First, you must separate your Calathea Zebrina plant from other plants in your home until the pests are completely under control.
  • Examine the infestations. If there is only a tiny and isolated portion that is affected then remove and eliminate the affected parts. When the root system of your plant is affected however you can take a cut and plant a new one in a pot that is clean and has clean and well-drained potting soil.
  • Use a cotton swab into ruby alcohol to remove mealybugs and aphids. It is possible to apply a fingernail or a nail to get rid of scales. To get rid of spider mites, you could spray the plant with water to eliminate the insects.
  • If the infestation is still in its beginning stage, you can spray the infested plants with soap for insecticide in order to rid the plant of insects.
  • If the problem is serious it may be necessary to remove the plant to ensure that it doesnt spread to other plants in your home.


The humid conditions that Calatheas Zebrina needs to flourish also promotes fungal and bacterial illnesses that can manifest themselves through curly leaves, wilting and the appearance of yellowing.

A common disease in Calatheas is a fungus that lives in soil known as fusarium. It can be a problem if the plants are put in an area with low lighting and poor air circulation.

How to Fix

It is possible to use an fungicide made of copper as a treatment for fusarium, however the most effective method is to take your plant out of the ground, get rid from the dirt, clean the roots, alter the potting medium and then repot it in an appropriate plant container.

Low Humidity

For plants like Calathea zebrina high humidity is a necessity! The plant absorbs moisture via its leaves. If the humidity is low the leaves begin to curl, and then turn brown.

Therefore, it is essential to increase the humidity in the area around the plant, particularly in the winter months.

How to Fix

Although its not a solution for the long term misting is the most efficient method to deal with low humidity since it will provide humidity for up or three hours.

If youre misting, ensure that the water you are using is clear to prevent fungal or bacterial overgrowth.

For achieving high humidity, you could consider using an humidity tray, or an electronic humidifier to supply the required humidity.

It is also possible to put your plant in the same area as other tropical plants in your living area to help increase humidity.

Calathea Zebrina Leaves Curling After Repotting

Calathea zebrina is not tolerant of regular repotting as it is prone to stress. Repot only your Calathea Zebrina every two years, in the season of spring or when its roots bound.

If youve recently repotted your Calathea and notice that the leaves are curving it could be showing signs of stress from repotting. The most common reasons for stress caused by repotting on plants, such as Calathea zebrina These are:

  • The use of a different kind of soil than that which the plant that was previously cultivated.
  • The roots are exposed to the air for a prolonged period of time in the process of repotting
  • Place the plant in an area with different lighting conditions.

How to Fix

  • Be sure to choose the same type of fertile soil that is well-drained and drains well.
  • Make sure the new container has enough drainage holes. If it does not have enough drainage holes, you could make holes in the new container to let the excess water drain.
  • Plant your plant in exactly the same place it was originally planted in to ensure that it has the same light and temperature it did before.
  • Make sure you feed and water the plant in order to encourage the growth.

How to Prevent Calathea Zebrina Leaves From Curling

If you now know the most frequent reasons why that the leaves on your Calathea Zebrina are curled and sagging, youre better prepared to prevent this from occurring.

The most effective way to stop the Calathea Zebrina leaves from curling is to supply your plant with the proper conditions for growth to ensure it is healthy and vigorous.

Plant the plant in a well-drained, fertile soil and adhere to a regular timetable for watering. The foliage should be protected against direct sun, however, give sufficient sunlight.

Give the plant the correct amount of nutrients, and be on the lookout for indications of disease or infestation.

The most important thing is to ensure that you provide your plant with an environment that is humid and warm that will allow for the growth of your plant to its maximum potential.

The care of Calathea zebrina may be a bit difficult because the plant can be delicate and requires a lot of attention and treatment.

With the right knowledge However, with the right amount of information, you can easily grow this beautiful vegetation and transform your home into a tropical oasis.



Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)