Tomato Plant Leaves Curling – 4 Causes And How To Solve

You lovingly start tomatoes from seeds. You tend to the plants carefully transplanting them on. You check every day and pinch out the suckers. Then you notice the leaves are curling up? You did everything but now this!! What is wrong, is this a sign of disease? Did you do something wrong? Why are my tomato plant leaves curling up? Don’t panic in this article I will cover everything you need to know. First we will look at how to identify tomato leaf curl. Then we will go into how to treat tomato leaf curl.

What Causes Tomato Plant Leaves To Curl?

As with yellowing tomato leaves, this curling is a sign that something is wrong. The leaves curling is a sign that the tomato plant is in distress. But the good news is you have caught it early and now is the time to act.

Don’t ignore leaves curling up or down as this is a sign the plant is in distress.

Let’s move on and look at how to identify tomato plant leaves curling with pictures. If you have a similar problem please let me know and send a picture.

Pictures Of Tomato Leaf Curl

I spotted this leaf curl in my allotment greenhouse. As you can see the lower leaves are starting to curl upwards but just on this one plant.

Tomato Plant Leaves Curling
Picture of tomato leaf curl
Tomato Plant Leaves Curling
Upwards Leaf Curl Images Submitted By Reader Sandra Rowland!
Tomato Plant Leaves Curling
Upwards Leaf Curl Images Submitted By Reader Sandra Rowland!

It’s also common for leaves to curl downwards as seen here.

Ok so now we have identified what leaf curl is it’s time to look for the possible cause and treatment.

Does The Direction Of Curl Matter?

If the leaves curl down then this may indicate root rot. Leaves curl down to prevent further uptake of water if this is the case try reducing the frequency of watering. Look and review the fixes below in addition to this. It’s more common to see tomato plant leaves curling up. This is a sign of stress let’s now look at how to fix tomato leaves curling.

Tomato Plant Leaves Curling
Picture of tomato leaf curl

How To Fix Tomato Leaf Curl

The thing is tomato plants are fussy. Not enough water or too much water and they will let you know. The good news is that leaf curl is the tomato plants way of telling you that something is wrong. Too much fertiliser/heat/humidity or too little etc. You will need to tweak a few things to find out what works. Let’s look at the causes of tomato plant leaves curling and how to treat tomato leaf curl.

See also  How To Save Tomato Seeds Without Fermenting?

Environmental

Look at the position of the plant and the impact the environment has. If the plant is outside has the weather changed recently or have there cold or hot spells. These changes in weather can cause the plant stress.

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What is the position of the plant? is it overcrowded with other tomato plants or companion plants? Consider spacing the tomato plants 24″ apart to allow adequate ventilation.

One thing I get emailed a lot about is tomato leaf curl. And it’s nearly always environment or stress. A common issue is people start their tomato seeds indoors and then move them outside. This simple transition even in good weather can shock the tomatoes. What is important to do is harden the tomatoes by progressively introducing them to a new environment. I will follow up with an article on this very important process.

Watering

What is the watering schedule like has recent environmental changes like rain caused the plant to take on too much water? Has the plant been watered enough? A little water multiple times a day is better than over-watering once on very hot days. Are you using a drip feeder to water and is it set up correctly.

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Nutrient’s

Are you using fertilizer on a weekly basis once is starts flowering? Is the fertilizer in date and is it a well-trusted brand like Tomorite.

Disease

Look for other signs of disease like yellow leaves. Check the leaves and fruit for signs then look to fix issues. There is also a virus called tomato leaf curls. Lets look at this next specifically.

Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus

Your plants may have this virus if it displays the following symptoms:

  • Stunted Growth – bushy appearance
  • Flowers Don’t Develop and Form Fruit
  • Leaves Curl AND Go Yellow
See also  Why Do Tomatoes Split?

If you do have the Yellow Leaf Curl Virus then it may be best to destroy the plant than let it spread to others. But most of all don’t worry if your tomato plant leaves are curling. Try all of the above methods before destroying the plan. I am a believing that a plant should not be destroyed if its still showing positive signs of growth.

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Do I Need To Destroy The Plant?

I will usually never give up on a tomato plant as long as it’s still growing and has healthy fruit. If you have other signs of diseases then just isolate the plant.

If it’s dry crispy and has not fruit or signs of life… Yeah sorry for your loss and get rid of it. If it’s diseased then don’t compost it. Consider burning it or putting it in the garden waste bin.

Yellow Leaves On Tomato Plants In Containers

It’s more common to see tomato plant leaves curling when the tomato plants are in containers. This is mainly down to the following reasons:

  • Insufficiently Sized Container – Look to re-locate to larger sized 1to 2 square feet.
  • Inconsistent watering – Containers dry out more easily so review your watering schedule and consider drip feeding
  • Soil Quality – The soil quality may not be enough, consider mulching with organic matter like kitchen compost
  • Nutrients – As well as the above, make sure you are feeding on schedule. This is important with tomatoes in containers because nutrients can easily escape.

Preventing Tomato Leaf Curling

There are steps you can take to prevent the risk of leaf curl. Some things you have to accept are largely outside of your control such as the weather and environmental conditions.

  • Plant Disease Resistant Varieties
  • Regular Consistent Care – watering, feeding
  • Correct Pruning
  • Correct Plant Spacing
  • Consider other plants

Another preventive measure to consider is companion planting. The types of plant you grow with Tomatoes can help prevent diseases and even improve the flavour of your tomatoes.

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See also  Apple Tree Black Rot

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you find out why your tomato plant leaves are curling. This is a common symptom of the sensitive tomato plant being stressed so don’t panic it may simply grow out of it (see what I did there). I always enjoy hearing people’s tomato plant problems and I am passionate about helping people. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below and send me your problems or success stories!

So remember if you spot tomato plant leaves curling:

  • Don’t Panic – it’s not a major problem
  • Go through the list of possible issues
  • Start making small changes and review every week

Reach out via email or in the comments if you have a question. I enjoy helping to solve problems and would like to share your stories with other readers. Please include a picture so I can help you to solve this problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Tomato Plant Leaves Curling Up?

Leaves curling up is a sign of stress either from the environment or physiological. The root cause is often unclear but look at recent changes in damage, fertilizer methods, temperature, pruning or damage.

What Are The Signs Of Overwatering Tomato Plants?

Look for cracked fruit this is the first sign as well as yellow leaves at the base of the plant. Adjust watering and this should get better.

15 thoughts on “Tomato Plant Leaves Curling – 4 Causes And How To Solve”

  1. Hi
    Im a newby at this
    But growing in containers inside with led grow lites
    Some of the tomatoes are doing good
    Some of them the branches are dying
    Any idea?

    Reply
    • Hi Harold, what variety of tomatoes do you have? When you say the branches are dying are they going a certain color? How do the leaves look? I have added the option to add attachments as its easier if you can take a photo so show us and other readers please.

      Reply
  2. Howdy,
    I recently transplanted my Better Boy & Roma tomatoes. They are under artificial lights. The leaves have really curled since transplanting & placing back under the artificial lights. I was fertilizing with an organic sea food fertilizer. I was told by a local greenhouse that the plants were not getting enough Phosphorus. So I switched to a liquid fertilizer with high phosphorus. I would love to add my photos however, I cannot seem to attach them in a viewable format? Currently, I have moved the plants to a different location away from all my other plants & will continue to monitor. However the new growth is extremely curled.
    Thank you for your assistance.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the feedback. I’m sorry to hear you cannot attach photos. I would like to put them up on the website. I would like to know more about the environment you are growing them in. They may just need a few weeks to acclimatize etc. Are all of your plants showing the same symptoms?

      Reply
  3. Hi there-it’s my first time growing tomatoes and I had brought back a pot of tomatoes from the workshop I had attended at the end of September. This week I transferred it to a bigger pot but prior to that, the top part of the leaves were abit curled under and it’s still the same with the new pot. They are growing indoors with some sun on my bay window. I like to attach photos but not sure how I can do that here.

    Many thanks

    Reply
  4. 2022 March. I have started tomatoes from seed and my Sweet Treats are about 6″ tall in solo cups and very deep green and thick, but some are getting leaves that are curling up into tight little balls. They actually look healthier than my other varieties of tomatoes with the exception of the ones that are curling. Unfortunately, it does not look like I can attach a picture to this comment. I am probably about three weeks away from planting in my garden (if the curling does not kill the plants before then). I place all the solo cups in a tray that holds water and I drilled holes in the bottom of the solo cups… so they have been staying consistently moist… but maybe too wet at the bottom? They are a very deep green so maybe too much fertilizer… not sure what to do at this point to fix. I have treated the other tomatoe varieties the same and none are curling, but also none are quite as deep of a green or thick.

    Reply
    • Thanks for writing in Ric. I am working on being able to attach pictures but please email them into greg@homegardenveg.com if you can I would like to put them up on the site so other readers can comment. There might be a number of things going on here too much water might be the problem especially if they didnt initially have good drainage. Also placement is key as some of mine that I had on the outside of the greenhouse got too cold. Some losses are to be expected I tend to grow more than I need and put them in 2 or 3 seperate locations to prevent any cross contamination of airborn diseases. Please keep me updated.

      Reply
  5. I am also growing indoors with full spectrum led lights, in a tent where I can control the environment. I am using pro-mix ultimate organic soil in 3 gal fabric pots, temp stays mid to high 60s, humidity between 45-80% depending on exposed water in tent, usually higher right after watering. Leaf curl started out pretty mild but is getting worse. I also don’t see an option to attach pics.

    Reply
  6. Hi
    I’m in NC and the lowest temperature at night was 41 since putting out my tomato plant in a pot I bought from Lowes. I’m trying to assess if it got too cold? not enough water? Too much water? too much wind? Plant is droopy despite organic fertilizer, water and leaves are curling. How can I upload picture?

    Reply
    • yes 41 is too cold and I suspect this has shocked the plants. I hope you see signs of recovery. The best thing to do in the future is to slowly acclimatize the tomato plants. This is known as hardening off the process takes a week or more and involves slowly putting the plants outside during the daytime and putting them back indoors at night. Do this until nighttime temperatures is above 50 then you can leave them outside. This time of year in April I can get away with keeping them in the greenhouse once established approx 6″ high.

      Reply
  7. I’ve got the same problem at the moment! I think it might be the fact that I’ve just transplanted these tomatoes into bigger pots, they are in the poly tunnel. but with the door open there is quite a bit of wind coming in, maybe it’s the position they are in. If they were further into the tunnel there wouldn’t be as much room for them. They only started to curl within a day or so of being potted on. I’ve enclosed pictures of both of them.
    I have watered them quite a lot, thinking they were needing it because of the curling leaves so that may be why. I wonder what you think about what I should do? They haven’t set any trusses yet so haven’t started feeding tomato feed yet.
    I’ve emailed the 2 images.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Sandra. I think you are right here in that the position they are in and the fact that they have been re-potted has shocked them. Hopefully this will clear up in a few days / weeks. I will post your images so others can see.

      Reply

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