Watermelon peperomia leaves curling is definitely not what plant parents signed up for or expect from a plant cultivated primarily for ornamental reasons.
That the curling leaves compromise the desired plant aesthetics is not in doubt, but what is more troubling is why this is happening.
Could the curling leaves be a symptom of a much bigger issue? Or could it be something that can be ignored hoping it would simply disappear given enough time?
These and many more questions are usually what keep many folks awake contemplating the best way to handle the problem and bring back the leaves’ glorious beauty.
Today’s article is primarily about all the factors responsible for curling leaves in watermelon peperomia.
As well as the reason responsible for this problem, we’d also look at all the possible solutions and vital care tips to prevent a recurrence.
Watermelon Peperomia Leaves Curling: Causes and Solutions
Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia), belongs to the peperomia family comprising over 1000 species.
It is arguably the most popular peperomia with its lush, oval-shaped leaves and striking leaf variegation: thick silvery stripes on the green surface lending them the appearance of watermelons.
They are low-growing plants that are easy to care for with the adult plant reaching a maximum height of about 8 inches.
They can be grown both indoors and outdoors but are hardy in only zones 10 -12 faring badly in wintry temperatures.
Watermelon peperomias don’t require some fancy care and maintenance routine to thrive.
They are perfectly fine with similar care that other houseplants receive well-draining soil, brightly lit environment, weekly watering, etc.
It’d be awesome if we can point to one or a couple of reasons responsible for the leaves curling.
This would make fixing the problem pretty straightforward.
Fact is, any number of factors linked to its care and maintenance could be responsible.
Often, the underlying cause could be about having too much of something or too little of it.
Let’s now take a look at some of the possible reasons and solutions.
Reasons Watermelon Peperomia Leaves Curl
Underwatering is the most common reason peperomia leaves curl.
When the soil becomes too dry, the plant compensates for insufficient water by cutting off the water supply to the leaves.
It also moves any water stored in the leaves to other parts of the plant.
Each leaf’s response to this is to curl inwards.
As well as curling, the leaves might also appear wrinkled, bent, or discolored with small bumps on the surface.
The leaves eventually begin to fall off if the issue is left unresolved
Solution – This is an easy problem to deal with. Simply water the soil very well until the excess flows out of the drainage hole at the bottom. The leaves should open up in a few days.
But if the water runs through the soil and exits via the hole(s) swiftly, it means the soil is extremely dry.
You’d need a different approach to revive your watermelon peperomia:
- Fill a drip tray or any saucer that can contain the pot with about 2 inches of lukewarm water.
- Sit the watermelon peperomia pot in the water.
- The soil would soak up water through the drainage hole at the bottom.
- Remove the pot from the water when the top of the soil becomes damp.
- Then keep the pot in a well-ventilated and bright area.
This process could take up to an hour depending on how dry the soil was.
Beyond finding a solution though, you could easily prevent this by watering frequently.
This means watering when an inch or two of the topsoil is dry. How soon the soil dries up depends on the weather conditions and the season.
Essentially, you are expected to water more often in the growing season and on hot days and less in winter.
No matter the weather conditions and season though, always adhere to the fundamental rule: water only when the top one or two inches of soil is dry.
A simple way to gauge the soil moisture level is by sticking a finger about two inches into the soil.
If the soil feels dry up to that depth, your plant needs watering. But if the soil is still moist, put off watering and repeat the test in a few days.
Too much watering can also lead to the same problem.
But the biggest issue with overwatering is root rot as the soggy soil promotes the growth of harmful fungi that destroy the roots.
With the roots decimated, there is a significant reduction in the uptake of water and nutrients to the leaves.
Deprived of water, the leaves curl, become discolored, and eventually drop off.
This disease affects the whole plant too and is almost always fatal if caught late.
Solution – To determine if root rot has set in, carefully uproot the plant from the pot and check the root ball. Infected roots are usually darkish with an off-putting odor.
If root rot is yet to set in but the leaves are beginning to curl, simply stop watering and move the plant to a brighter, well-ventilated area for the soil to dry out.
In early-stage root rot where only some parts of the root system are affected, you can simply cut out affected roots and repot the plant using fresh potting soil.
Use a new pot or the current one after disinfecting it by washing it with soap.
If most or all parts of the root system are over-taken by this disease, you’d have to discard the plant and potting soil.
Watermelon peperomias are happiest when exposed to indirect light.
As well as curled leaves, exposure to direct, high-intensity light would trigger several problems such as scorched and discolored leaves.
On the other hand, low-light exposure can give rise to the same problem.
In addition to the curled leaves, the stems might become leggy.
Solution – If your peperomia leaves are curling and you are sure watering isn’t the issue, check the position of the pot.
It might be getting too much light or too little of it. If you kept it on a windowsill or very close to the window, consider moving it a few yards away from that position.
And if the issue is insufficient lighting, moving it to a well-lit area might be what is required to resolve the problem.
Another option is to install bright, overhead lights if moving the plant is not possible.
Soil nutrient imbalance cuts in multiple ways: it can be too little or too much.
Even the absence of nutrients in the form of fertilization can cause the leaves to curl.
Watermelon peperomias are not heavy feeders.
But if there is a depletion of soil nutrients, especially calcium, growth is affected leading to weaker stems and curling leaves.
Many factors can lead to a case of insufficient soil nutrients.
For instance, the soil might be too tired after providing excellent service for years, or the plant was repotted in low-quality potting soil.
On the other hand, if you have fertilized recently and several weeks later noticed the leaves curling, it might be a case of over-fertilization or wrong application of fertilizer.
With too much fertilizer, salt buildup in the soil can hinder the absorption of water and nutrients by the roots.
The symptoms of excess salts buildup in the soil include splitting, curling, and/or discolored leaves.
Solution – Fertilize your peperomia about once a month in the growing season using balanced houseplant fertilizer if you suspect the soil lacks adequate soil nutrients.
Follow the instructions and dilute it to about half the recommended strength to avoid over-fertilizing it.
For overfertilization, the best solution is to repot the plant in new soil.
Pests infestations are rare in peperomias that are well-cared for.
But it does happen occasionally with spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealybugs the common agents of curling leaves.
As well as curling leaves, the activities of these pests can be fatal to the plant.
Solution – To control peperomia pest infestations, spray the foliage with an insecticidal solution like neem oil. You might have to keep doing this for several days until all the pests are eliminated.
The pests can be identified by examining both sides of the leaves with a magnifying glass.
For instance, you can easily spot fungus gnats as tiny black flies flying around the plant.
For mealybugs, you’d have to examine the underside of the leaves. They show up as grayish, wooly substances on the surface.
But if you see tiny webs and lots of small dots underneath the leaves, it is an indication that the plant is under attack by spider mites.
Humidity and temperature
Adverse environmental conditions such as low humidity and temperature extremes also lead to leaf curling in watermelon peperomias.
They are happiest in humid conditions and dislike dry air. Air conditioners in summer and room heaters in winter are all known to lower humidity.
In terms of temperature, the ideal temperature range for peperomias to remain healthy is between 65 – 85℉. Figures outside this range are stressful to them.
The leaves would curl as a result.
Solution – There are several simple solutions for low humidity and temperature issues. These include:
- Installing a humidifier
- Set the plant on pebbles in a tray or saucer of water. Evaporating water would raise the humidity in the vicinity
- Moving the plant to a cooler part of the house on hot days
- Move the plant away from a drafty location, heating vent, and other heat sources.
More Tips to Save Your Watermelon Peperomia Plant
If the leaves refuse to spread out after carrying out all the measures listed above, consider these backup plans so you don’t lose out altogether:
- Repot the peperomia in a new potting soil and
- Get some leaf cuttings and use them to propagate the watermelon peperomia
Hopefully, you know how to fix you Watermelon Peperomia Leaves Curling now.
When watermelon peperomia leaves curl, the prognosis can range from mild to severe depending on the factors responsible.
In most cases, these factors are linked to one or several care routines gone wrong.
This makes reversing the problem straightforward as long as the causative factor is identified.
However, the problem can also be caused by multiple factors acting at the same time.
This isn’t a death sentence on the plant though, it just means you’d have to apply several solutions to resolve the issue.
In extreme cases though, repotting or propagating your peperomia might be the only way to save it.