What Causes Fittonia Leaves to Curl?

The people who love Fittonia are drawn by its attractive and beautiful foliage that is covered in vein-like patterns.

A tropical type of plant belonging to the Acanthus family, the Fittonia plant can be demanding in terms of growth.

If the conditions for proper development aren’t in place the plant could be suffering from leaf curling issues.

Inconsistently watering is among the main causes of Fittonia leaf curling. The stress of temperature, pests, and low humidity may also be the cause of the problem. If none of these are the cause of the leaf twisting You should examine your root systems for the fittonia.

Continue reading and you’ll discover how to manage Fittonia correctly and resolve the problem of curling.

Causes of Fittonia Leaves Curling


Fittonia naturally thrives in humid forests, where rain is frequent, so don’t forget about the watering.

When the ground is dehydrated, Fittonia roots are unable to supply a sufficient amount of moisture to the higher areas that make up the plant.

The mechanism of plant life known as ‘turgor pressure’ that provides stability and firmness to the plant. It is described as the force within the cell that pushes the cells membrane towards the cell’s wall.

Insufficient water supply causes lower pressure in the turgor and, as a result, leaves begin to wilt and curving down.

Fittonia small pot

How to Fix

It is important not to allow the soil surface to dry out and brittle. You can test the soil’s water content by poking half of your index finger into the soil. If you notice dryness in this area then it’s time to water.

Pruning the leaves in yellow to stop the plant from wasting energy on damaged tissues. Be sure that your plant is not exposed to sunlight’s rays directly.

Overfeeding Fittonia using Fertilizer

Alongside the benefits of the nutrition of plants, fertilizers also have disadvantages that result from over-fertilizing.

In addition, too much fertilizer can cause the accumulation of salts in the soil and also excessive nitrogen.

The high salt content decreases intake of water, leading to dehydration of the leaf and, consequently curving leaves.

The root cells undergo plasmalysis when the surrounding environment is extremely salty, as salt particles are able to absorb the water.

This means that the water is not available to the root , and the upper areas that are part of the plant. (Source: University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources)

The leaves are curled due to this, along being yellowed in the leaves and possibly shriveling the whole plant.

How to Fix?

If your plant isn’t affected it is possible to eliminate the salts that are accumulating. It is recommended to use water that has been distilled since it isn’t contaminated with any impurity or compound.

Leach the soil from the container. The soil should not become too wet. To prevent this from happening, create an effective drainage system.

The pot should have holes in its bottom to ensure that water drains.

It is recommended to switch to chemical fertilizers using organic compost. If you peel a potato or break eggs, do not throw away the peel.

They can be used to create a nutritious and healthy food for your Fittonia, and also to avoid soil salinization at the while.

If you’re trying to save a damaged Fittonia, it is recommended to move it to the fresh, new soil.


Temperature Stress

Fittonia isn’t able to withstand cold temperatures. In winter, temperatures can drop to lower than 10 oC (50oC) which can be harmful to the plant, which is used to temperatures in tropical climates.

The cold temperatures make the leaf cell’s water more viscous. Additionally, cell membrane’s permeability decreases.

Protein synthesis is slowed down when temperatures are cold. This causes damaged leaf tissue that can be seen in the curly and crusty leaves from the plant.

How to Fix?

The temperature of the room in the area where you keep Fittonia. The ideal temperature for Fittonia growth is around 20°C (70oF).

Do not water it with too cold water. It decreases the microbiological activity of the soil.

Additionally, the plant’s absorbs soil nutrients is very heavy. Cut off dead leaves and stems, and smooth the edges of the leaves with the help of a knife.

Root Rot due to overwatering

The large amount of water could be more harmful for the fittonia, than submerging.

The root is stiffened by the soil that has been soaked and creates anoxic conditions. This is the ideal environment for the growth of fungi that degrades roots’ tissue.

The result of this is the root that has gone rotten, that is evident by its smell of rotting and the moldy and appearance that is blackened. The leaves of Fittonia are shrunken and starting to curl down.

How to Fix?

Take the entire plant out of the pot and rinse the roots under an easy stream of water.

Remove the decayed pieces and cover the plant with newspaper. Discard the potting soil that is infected and wash the pot with soap to clean it.

After a couple of days, plant again in the new and nutritious pot mix. It is possible to add liquid fertilizer to aid in the process of recovery.

If the entire root is decayed If the root is rotten, cut off the healthy portion of the plant using the stem and place it into the water.

Allow it to grow adventive roots, and then plant it into the mix of potting soil.

Lack of Nutrition

In certain instances an underlying nutritional issue could be the reason for the Fittonia leaves curling.

Many minerals, like sulfur, iron, potassium manganese, magnesium and so on. are essential for the for the normal development and growth of plants.

Insufficient amounts of these can affect the essential metabolic processes of the plant, resulting in the appearance of yellowing and curling on the edges of leaves.

The soil could deplete following long-term use by plants. Additionally, a pH that is outside of the optimal range could cause the nutrients normally present in the soil unaccessible to the roots, and consequently, to the whole plant.

A pH that is too acidic leads to the release of nutrients and creates complex substances that plants don’t normally take in. (Source: The University of Arizona)

In the alternative, the nutrition is “trapped” in the soil. Since the leaves aren’t receiving the nutrients, they also experience chlorosis curving the leaves.

How to Fix?

Depleted soil

It is recommended to enrich the soil of your potting plant with the right fertilizer, or more effective compost made from your own or vermicompost.

Impaired soil pH

Make use of the water that is that is high in bicarbonates as well as calcium to last a few days. You can purchase this kind of water at many supermarkets.

It can help to neutralize the acidic environment as well as the breakdown of complex compounds.

Do not use humus for a few days, as humic acids can cause the problem to get worse.

Water Quality

The tap water that is used in homes can be contaminated with impurities as well as undesirable mineral deposits that can harm the Fittonia like complex salts. Chlorides, fluorides, and limescale.

The dissolving salts in the water alter the chemical conditions within the soil. The ions from the build-up of salts obstruct vital nutrients, resulting in the absence of these substances within the leaf. Additionally, salts “steal” the water from the roots by absorption.

How to Fix?

Cleanse the water from the tap by filtering it before making use of it to water your Fittonia.

Cover a funnel that is ordinary with filter paper, then place the funnel on top of the watering container.

Pour the water from the tap lightly and then wait for the water to evaporate. Discard the precipitate. You can purchase an industrial water filter to do this.

It is also possible to collect the rainwater to use to water your plants.

Too Much or Too Little Light Exposure

The right lighting conditions are crucial to ensure Fittonia growth. Sunlight can cause sunburns to the foliage.

Additionally, excessive light interferes with the photosynthesis process by affecting the electrons of photosynthesis chain.

In terms of low light conditions, tiny amounts of light can also disrupt photosynthesis.

The photochemical part of this process isn’t possible without sufficient light to trigger the reactions.

The leaves of Fittonia begin to lose their vibrant green hue and edges begin to become dry and curled up.

How to Fix?

Fittonia prefers bright indirect sunlight. If you wish to keep Fittonia in a window place the curtain that can block the effects from direct light.

To boost the amount of light it is possible to use an LED bulb since it is safe for plants because it doesn’t generate heat.

Insect Infestation

As with all species, Fittonia can be visited by unwanted guests like mealybugs, caterpillars, mites, aphids and others. They eat and suck the leaves, which can cause damage to them.

These wounds are similar to the opening for microorganisms that are infected and pathogens that target the inner leaf tissue.

After a while the leaves begin to curl upwards and downwards as the edges turn brown and crusty.

How to Fix?

Try showering Fittonia to decrease the amount of insects. This will reduce the issue to a certain degree, however, if a plant is infested with insects then you should apply a pesticide based on the species of pest.

To prevent the phytotoxic effects of pesticides, prepare an aqueous solution with sufficient pesticide in 1:1 ratio. Put the solution in an aerosol bottle and spray the areas that are contaminated with pesticides. If you apply pesticides to the soil, ensure that the drainage system is in good working order.

Low Humidity

Fittonia is a fan of bathing in the humid air due to it is their natural habitat. Dry air causes an increase in the transpiration rate, which results in the drying of the leaves.

The leaves are primarily bent down and the whole plant is an appearance of drooping. The entire leaf surface becomes wilted.

How to Fix?

Do not keep the Fittonia in close proximity to heaters and air conditioners. Anything that resembles winds can reduce the air humidity. Sprinkle the leaves with mist from time to time.

It is possible to place an ice cube tray next to the plant to boost the humidity, or make use of humidifiers. Place the Fittonia in the bathroom or dry the laundry in the space in which you keep the plant.

Type of soil

If you decide to select the soil to plant Fittonia plant, you must be careful. The soils that are compact like clay are prone to retaining water.

Drainage of these soils is not ideal and if you choose them, you could be faced with issues such as overwatering or root decay.

A poor choice of soil for potting can result in an anoxic root system poor aeration of the tissues, etc.

This is evident as damage to the leaves, described as curving the leaves and even rotting.

How to Fix?

Before you plant, select a loose and airy pot soil. Silt, loam, and fertile soils are excellent options.

If you have already experienced this issue, you could include peat or vermiculite into the soil to prevent the need to repot. Cut those damaged branches.

Pot size

This may not be crucial, but it is important to be aware of it. Fittonia is a tiny type of plant, so big containers could cause issues when excessive watering. The negative effects of having excessive watering within the soil is well all too well.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t cultivate your Fittonia in a tiny and small pot as it could result in roots being confined and a lack of space to allow for root to extend. A small pot will not provide enough water to the plant.

Overwatering (which is caused by growing Fittonia in large pots) and drowning (comes from the growing of Fittonia in smaller pots) and a stunted root can lead to leaves curling, and eventually losing the bright, green hue.

How to Fix?

It is recommended to transplant the Fittonia every 2 to 3 years into an even larger container.

In the event that your container becomes too large, it is recommended to give the plant only small amounts of water in order to avoid excessive watering.

However the small pot needs to be replaced with a bigger one, which is why you have to refill your Fittonia.

Final Words

To sum up the tale to summarize, there are some aspects you should be aware of when you are cultivating Fittonia.

Try to replicate the conditions of rainforest as closely as possible. Be cautious with these items:

  • Regularly irrigation. This is essential for all species of plants. The frequency and quantity of water is the most important factor. Make sure to water your Fittonia as soon when you notice that the soil is becoming dry.
  • Direct sunlight is the most sought-after. Fittonia is found in the soft shade of a large trees in rainforests. This means that Fittonia isn’t exposed to direct sunlight radiation, however it isn’t able to survive in darkness. Allow bright indirect sunlight conditions.
  • Good chemical environment conditions. Fittonia would not like acidic or salty soil. Fertilize moderately. Make sure you use pure water, free of hard substances that can alter the balance of pH.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)