ZZ Plant Leaves Curling? Beginners Troubleshooting Guide

Are your ZZ plant leaves curling? Some of the most common reasons to cause ZZ plants’ leaves to curl are water stress due to under / over watering OR shock due to sudden changes in its surrounding environment. This could involve changes in light, or your plant being exposed to cold drafts.

The good news is most, if not all, of these causes are within your control. And with the help of this Beginner’s Troubleshooting Guide for sick ZZ Plants, any brown thumb will be able to problem-solve your way back to a healthy, vibrant ZZ plant in no time.

ZZ Plant Leaves Curling

Welcome back to the Garden Bench Top. In today’s article, we are going to help you revive your ailing ZZ plant. If you are new to indoor plants, you’ll soon realize houseplants can be a touch sensitive. But that shouldn’t deter you from creating a beautiful indoor green space. It’s just their way of telling you that something needs attention.

So if you’re ready, put on your problem-solving hat, because we’ve got some investigating to do.

How to Fix ZZ Plants with Curling Leaves

As a community, we always want the journey for fellow gardeners to be a positive experience. We find the best way to achieve this is by helping you understand the road ahead.

We’re not going to sugar coat it, a gardener’s journey is full of ups and downs, with plenty of patience. And it will be patience that will see you achieve a full recovery for your ZZ plant.

A common approach to troubleshooting involves researching the problem (what you are doing right now) and then implementing solutions using trial and error. Even though changes are easy to implement, it may take days or weeks to see any discernible positive (or negative) effects on your plant.

But, we assure you the wait will be worth it. Each time you practice patience with your plants, the more experienced a gardener you will become. Before you know it, indoor plant problems will become instinctual, and you will know exactly what is causing your plants to look unhappy.

credit: tenor

Okay, that’s enough of the pep talk – let’s get into troubleshooting your sickly ZZ plant.

Troubleshooting Guide to ZZ Plant Leaves Curling

Below is a list (in no particular order) of potential causes that will make ZZ plant leaves curl. As we mentioned above, we recommend first reading through all the problems in their entirety. Below each problem, we’ve detailed solution(s) that you can implement.

Remember to listen and observe how your plant responds to the changes. If you don’t see positive changes within a few days (a week max), come back to this article and try another solution. Patience is the key.

zz plant in pot

Water Stressed ZZ Plants

Hands down one of the most common causes for ailing houseplants is water stress.

Water stress can be caused by an overzealous indoor plant owner watering too much, or on the other end of the spectrum, neglected and not watered enough.

Whenever a ZZ plant doesn’t receive the right amount of water, it will begin to show signs of stress like curling leaves. Some other symptoms of water stressed ZZ plants, include drooping leaves and stalks and/or yellow stems.

How to Fix Water Stressed ZZ Plants

When it comes to the water management of indoor plants, we always recommend our default technique of using the soil moisture finger test. It is a simple and effective technique for managing your watering frequency and understanding when to top up your ZZ plant with water. We love this technique because it simultaneously resolves both problems of over watering and under watering your plants.

To test your soil, push your finger approximately an inch into the top layer of your soil. You are essentially feeling the soil for any signs of moisture. If soil readily sticks to your finger, it is also a sign that moisture is present.

If the soil feels dry, give your ZZ plant a healthy dose of water, and make sure any excess water drains out of the container to prevent root rot.

Changes in Lighting Conditions

zz plant in sunlight
credit: Unsplash

When a ZZ plant is exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time, it can have a detrimental impact on the plants’ health. Intense direct bright light will quickly dehydrate your ZZ plants’ leaves, causing them to curl and even feel slightly crispy.

The ideal light for a ZZ plant is 6-8 hours of indirect light during the day. You can use artificial lights, or grolights to substitute for the hours of light your ZZ plant may be missing (especially during the shorter days in winter).

How to Fix Sun Stressed ZZ Plants

This solution is simple once your attention has been made aware of the problem. Immediately moving your ZZ plant to a position out of direct sunlight will help prevent any further damage to the leaves.

If you caught the issue quickly enough, your ZZ plant should make a quick recovery. However, if the leaves have been severely sunburned (brown and crispy), your plant may decide to sacrifice those leaves and focus its energy on producing new leaves.

Sudden Changes in Temperature

Most indoor plants, including ZZ plants, are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Particularly, if the change in temperature is associated with wind flow directed at the plant.

When a plant is in the path of a draft or air flow from an air conditioner, it will experience shock, resulting in your ZZ plant leaves curling. You will also notice your plant appearing limp, and even some brown leaf tips.

zz plant with other indoor plants

How to Fix Temperature Shocked ZZ Plants

Again moving your ZZ plant immediately out of the cold wind will help to stabilize it. If a change in temperature is the culprit for your ailing ZZ plant, you should see a reasonably quick bounce back of your plant within a day.

If your ZZ plant is still looking limp, try giving your ZZ plant a little boost of humidity to perk it up with a humidifier. Not only will it ensure there is enough moisture during your plants’ recovery, it should also gradually increase the temperature in the immediate vicinity.

Is Your ZZ Plant Root bound?

Another possible explanation for your curly ZZ leaves is a problem that is not as easy to detect – bound roots. Crowded roots can cause a plant to sulk and appear weak and droopy.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you changed your ZZ plants pot? If it has been longer than two years, then it is likely that your ZZ plant needs a new home.

One way to check if your ZZ plant is root bound (without pulling the entire plant out of its pot), is to look at the drainage holes at the bottom. If you see roots, it is time for an upgrade.

How to Repot Your ZZ Plant

There are no special instructions for repotting ZZ plants besides the usual practices when you repot any other indoor plant.

  • find a pot slightly bigger than its current pot
  • inspect the root ball for any rotten or diseased roots (remove were necessary)
  • tease out the roots to encourage them to grow outwards, rather than continuing to get tangled in the rootball
  • try making your own DIY indoor plant soil for the ultimate growing medium

Check out this quick video by Everything Plants to see how he repotted his rootbound ZZ plant:

how to repot a rootbound ZZ plant

Frequently Asked Questions about ZZ plant Leaves

Will curled ZZ plant leaves recover?

The answer depends on the extent and nature of the damage to your ZZ plants’ leaves. If it is simply curling due to a short period of dryness (due to a lack of water), then it is likely to recover once water is provided.

However, if your ZZ plant leaves are curling and brown because they have been sunburned, they will likely continue to weaken and eventually die and drop off. In this case, we recommend removing the damaged curled leaves.

Are ZZ leaves toxic?

Yes – all parts of the ZZ plant are known to be toxic to humans and common household pets like cats and dogs. It is for this reason, we encourage you to be vigilent in pick up any dropped leaves and stems from the ZZ plant.

Should I remove ZZ plant brown or yellow leaves?

Yes – once a plants’ leaves begin to yellow or brown, it will not recover. The ZZ plant has made the decision to sacrifice the leaf and concentrate on strengthening other parts of the plant. By removing the sacrificed leaves, it will also prevent your plant from using unnecessary energy on the leaf and prevent any potential pests and diseases.