ZZ Plant Leaves Curling

ZZ plants are the perfect choice for novice plant enthusiasts; they can tolerate months of neglect and still thrive. However, it does not mean that the Zanzibar gem is invincible; curling leaves are the most prevalent issue that ZZ plants suffer from if given improper care. So, why are your ZZ plant’s leaves curling?

The ZZ plant’s leaves curl for several reasons, including prolonged exposure to bright and direct sunlight, improper watering routines (both under-and-overwatering), temperatures below 50°F, lack of humidity, root-bound problems, insect or pest infestations, and acclimation.

Characterized by spotless deep green and upward-shooting, waxy leaves, the Zanzibar gem often gets mistaken for an artificial houseplant. However, the ZZ plant shows signs of deterioration and health problems through curling leaves. So, continue reading for tips about the main culprits behind your plant’s curling leaves and how to treat these issues.

Primary Reasons Why ZZ Plant’s Leaves Curl

ZZ plant leaves

Although the ZZ plant is exceptionally hardy, it can suffer from health problems if you neglect it too long or follow an improper care routine.

Generally, the Zanzibar gem has thick, waxy, and deep green leaves. However, if you notice that its leaves are suddenly curling upwards, it’s the most prevalent sign that your plant is receiving an inappropriate care regimen.

Before assuming that you know why the ZZ plant has curling leaves, it is vital to examine the plant before implementing the wrong measures. Fortunately, most of these common problems are easily fixable.

The primary eight reasons that cause a ZZ plant’s leaves to curl include:

  1. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
  2. Underwatering
  3. Overwatering
  4. Extreme temperatures
  5. Lack of humidity or moisture
  6. Root-bound plant
  7. Pest or insect infestations
  8. Acclimation

Let’s look at each factor along with pro tips on how to solve these problems.

Direct Sunlight Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

The ZZ plant typically tolerates a wide range of lighting conditions, making them well-suited as indoor houseplants. However, it is native to the forest regions of East Africa, growing under a canopy of trees; therefore, it tolerates shade or low-lighting conditions above too much direct sunlight.

While the ZZ plant can survive in low-lit places without natural light, they prefer bright, indirect light and tend to become leggy when given less than ideal amounts of sunlight exposure.

Most importantly, the ZZ plant does not tolerate prolonged exposure to direct sunlight very well as it tends to scorch the plant’s foliage. Extended exposure to direct sunlight is one of the main culprits behind the leaves curling up.

The leaves typically curl as a mechanism that helps the plant to prevent excessive water loss.

A quick fix is to place the ZZ plant in a location with gentle sunlight; consider putting it near an east-facing window to encourage healthy growth without damaging the plant.

Users Also Read: Zz Plant Drooping

Under-Watering Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

Thanks to the Zanzibar gem’s naturally thick rhizomes, it is an extremely drought-tolerant plant that handles infrequent watering well; it can survive months without water.

The ZZ plant prefers rewatering once the soil completely dries; this is once every seven to ten days depending on its growing conditions.

Although ZZ plants are drought-tolerant, water remains an essential facet in facilitating physiological activities. Therefore, an underwatered ZZ plant can also experience curling leaves.

The curling leaves occur due to the ZZ plant trying to retain the small amount of remaining watering in its tissue and cells.

To prevent this from occurring, you do not have to develop a strict watering schedule, but try to water the plant once the soil completely dries out. On average, you will want to water it every second week during spring and summer and once per once in fall and winter.

When watering the plant, ensure you provide enough moisture by allowing the water to run out the bottom of the container, and be sure to throw out the excess water.

Overwatering Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

Watering jug

In contrast to underwatering, overwatering the ZZ plant can have similar side effects. However, overwatering can cause more damage to this hardy plant.

In addition, the ZZ plant cannot tolerate a wet or soggy environment. Overwatering problems can occur from frequent watering schedules or improper soil drainage.

Symptoms of overwatering include curling leaves or yellow foliage with mushy, brown stems. Additionally, overwatering can cause root rot and fungal issues.

So, to prevent overwatering, test the soil’s moisture levels before watering it again. You can test the soil’s moisture by using a moisture meter or sticking your finger into the ground to see if the top few inches of soil are dry.

Also, consider re-potting the ZZ plant into the soil with ample drainage and cutting off all the soggy, damaged roots before placing the Zanzibar gem in its new pot.

Extreme Temperatures Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

ZZ plants are native to subtropical or tropical regions of East Africa; they thrive in temperatures ranging between 65 to 85°F. In addition, Zanzibar gems also tolerate average household temperatures well.

However, it does not tolerate temperatures below 45°F. Furthermore, the ZZ plant’s leaves will start to curl in temperatures less than 50°F, indicating signs of distress.

So, avoid stressing the plant by moving an outdoor ZZ plant indoors during the late fall and winter. Additionally, keep indoor Zanzibar gems away from drafts, air-conditioners, fans, or particularly cold and dry places in your home.

Related: Variegated Zz Plant

Low Humidity Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

ZZ plants are native to tropical regions and enjoy humidity levels of around 50%. So, they will grow well in homes with average moisture.

However, if the humidity drops below 40%, the dry air will enhance the water loss in the plant, causing the ZZ plant’s leaves to curl to retain the leftover water in the tissue.

Therefore, if you stay in an area with a dry climate or low moisture levels, consider investing in an electric humidifier to increase the humidity in your home or place the plant atop a tray with pebbles and water.

A Root-Bound ZZ Plant’s Leaves Can Curl

Generally, the ZZ plant is propagated from rhizomes; these bulbs store the water and nutrients the plant requires while growing. However, if the ZZ plant outgrows its pot, the limited space makes it challenging to absorb the necessary food effectively to thrive.

Due to a lack of nutrients and water, the plant’s leaves start to curl as one of the first symptoms of the underlying deficiency.

To prevent curling leaves and a sick Zanzibar gem plant, be sure to re-pot the plant every few years into a slightly larger (two inches) container with ample drainage holes. Additionally, keep an out for the plant’s rhizomes pressing up through the soil, against the pot, or peeking through the drainage holes as an indication for re-potting.

Lastly, be sure to re-pot the plant during the spring or summer to help the ZZ plant better tolerate the disturbances during its active growing season.

Pests Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

Adult Fungus Gnat

The Zanzibar gem is virtually disease-free, but like all houseplants, you’ll need to keep an eye out for pests like mealybugs, aphids, scale, thrips, and fungal gnats. These awful sap-sucking insects can distort the plant’s health and leaf appearance, causing its leaves to curl upwards.

To solve this problem, spray the ZZ plant with insecticidal soap or diluted neem oil to help eliminate the pests.

Acclimation Can Cause The ZZ Plant’s Leaves To Curl

Your home’s environment can be vastly different from the nursery or store where you bought the ZZ plant. So, if you notice that the plant’s leaves curl after placing in its new home, don’t worry; it is a common phenomenon after purchasing a ZZ plant.

Give the plant a few days to adapt to the indoor growing conditions and ensure that you follow an appropriate care regimen to prevent other issues from occurring.


ZZ plants are generally hardy plants, but they can experience curling leaves from improper environments or care routines.

The most common reasons a Zanzibar gem’s leaves curl is from too much direct sunlight, cold temperatures, overwatering and underwatering, inadequate humidity, root-bound problems, pests, and acclimation.

You’ll want to examine the ZZ plant first and then follow the appropriate care regimen to fix the problems causing curling leaves.