Why Are My Tomato Leaves Curling

Do your tomato leaves tend to curl? Gardeners may become frustrated and uncertain of the reasons for tomato plant leaf curl. Learning to recognize the symptoms and reasons for curling tomato leaves can help prevent and address the problem.

Yellow Leaf Curl Virus in tomato leaves could show a viral infection. Whiteflies or contaminated transplants are the most common ways for this virus to spread. Plant growth gets stunted, and your fruit output is drastically diminished.

Other reasons can be physiological; leaf curl on your tomato plant is also known as leaf roll. Although the specific cause is uncertain, it is thought to be self-defense. In very cool, moist circumstances, leaves may roll upward and become leathery to reject excessive moisture. (Read White Spots On Tomato Leaves – What to Do)

tomato leaves curly

Curling tomato leaves can also be caused by unbalanced irrigation, extreme temperatures, and dry spells. To conserve water, leaves curl upward, yet they do not take on a leathery appearance.

There are many reasons, and not all need you to panic. In our guide, you can find the answer to why are the leaves on my tomato plant curling?

By the end, you’ll know more than enough to see why you have tomato plant leaves curling and what you can do to get rid of the problem.

Why Are My Tomato Leaves Curling Up?

Tomatoes are not the hardest plants to grow, yet they can be extremely sensitive to certain things.

Here, you can find out common reasons for curling leaves.

watering tomato

1. Incorrect Watering

Watering is essential for all plants yet is especially important for tomatoes.

Water is required by the plants, particularly for producing juicy fruits. Because watering is so important for tomato plants, they can be finicky if they aren’t watered properly.

Water stress comes from under and over-watering. The plant won’t grow if it is underwater, and you get tomato leaf curl as they try to retain after. When over-watered, the roots suffocate, and you can end up with root rot.

Here, the leaves curl inward because of this stress. However, when plants are overwatered, you’ll often see other signs are more likely to appear before the leaves curl.

heated leaves

2. Excessive Heat

This is frequently combined with watering concerns to cause environmental stress in your tomatoes. It could be because of a lack of water, which is beyond your control.

Tomatoes may struggle to adjust as the temperature warms up and the sun becomes more intense in the summer. Although tomatoes are sun-loving plants, they suffer from heat stress when temperatures continuously exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rate of stomatal transpiration, the process of water loss from the plant’s leaves, increases as the heat rises. The leaves curl inwards once more to shield the plant from the sun and protect against water loss.

There are a few techniques to protect your plants safely from such environmental conditions and too much heat.

Many gardeners use a shade cloth during the hottest portion of the day but leave them exposed to the sun in the morning and late afternoon. (Read Can Pigs Eat Tomatoes)

3. Too Much Nitrogen

It’s preferable to use a balanced fertilizer with a decent mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium when planting tomatoes for the first time.

However, when the plant reaches maturity and produces fruit, a phosphorus and potassium fertilizer are recommended because these nutrients are required for flowering and fruiting.

Excessive nitrogen might cause curling and other issues with the leaves.

When there is too much nitrogen in the soil, the plant concentrates on producing leaves rather than flower buds and fruit yield.

After the leaves curl, they might thicken and turn a dark green color. You’ll notice such symptoms on heavily pruned tomato plants.

transplant shock

4. Transplant Shock

The most common cause of leaf curl in a newly transplanted tomato is transplant shock.

There is always the risk of root damage when moving tomato plants to a new location. The roots of the tomato are pretty fragile, and the slightest nick can upset the root system.

Wilting, yellowing leaves, and leaf curl can show when the plant settles into its new location, showing root damage.

Fortunately, modest transplant shock is not harmful. All you need is a little patience; in a few weeks, the plants sort themselves out.

Over-pruning young or a poorly established plant will cause so much stress it results in one plant curling, yellowing leaves, stunted plant growth, and decreased fruit production.

5. Over Exposure to Herbicides

Herbicides are toxic to tomato plants. 2,4-D or dicamba are the typical culprits, but others can cause leaf curl in tomatoes.

This leaf curl is different from the preceding stress-related rolling inwards. Herbicide-exposed leaves curl and twist around the stem. This is usual for new growth.

Mild damage may not impede new growth, but it will affect yield, and you can end up with malformed fruits.

Fortunately, this is rare. Unless your garden is near crops that will be sprayed, herbicide damage is unlikely. This tomato leaves curling up is likely caused by a herbicide tomato plants are sensitive.

6. Viral Disease

Tomato leaves curling up and turning pale green or yellow at the edges of tomatoes infected with the tomato yellow leaf curl virus.

This virus causes the leaves to turn slightly upwards in a cup-like pattern rather than rolling inwards as in stress-related cases.

It is spread by whiteflies, which will infect all of your tomatoes and any other tomato-related plants in your garden.

Tomato mosaic virus causes the leaves to roll inwards, but it can also be identified by other signs such as odd speckled coloring on the leaves and browning of the insides of the fruits.

Remove the plant from the garden as soon as you’ve discovered any viral diseases or other symptoms that cause severe leaf curl from viruses and insects, and destroy it instead of composting it, or you could have contaminated compost. (Read Tomato Hornworm Life Cycle Guide)

7. Root Rot

When your tomato plants get too much water from you or the rain, the roots decay, and the plant can’t take in more water. Root rot causes a plant’s roots to constrict and close; if overwatering continues, the roots will shut down and kill the plant.

Stop watering tomato plants. Let the plants drink it up. It usually resolves itself; it enhances garden bed drainage in the future.

How Do You Treat Leaf Curl On Tomato Plants?

Various reasons, such as environmental stressors, viral infection, and herbicide damage, can cause tomato leaves to curl or roll.

Here’s how you can treat environmental stresses and other issues:

Physiological Leaf Roll

Some cultural and environmental factors that might cause physiological leaf roll in tomatoes include excessive moisture and nitrogen, insufficient phosphorus, heat, drought, extreme pruning, root damage from tilling or hoeing, early planting, and transplant shock.

The damaged leaves tend to thicken and become leathery in texture, yet they keep their typical, healthy green color. All the affected leaves may be harmed over time and lead you to think you need severe pruning on your plants.

Physiological leaf roll is more common in vine tomato (indeterminate) varieties than bush tomato (determinate) varieties.

While this tomato leaf curl condition can occur during the growing season, it is more common as the weather transitions from spring to summer.

The good news is that the condition won’t decrease fruit production or plant growth.

To lessen physiological tomato leaf curl, apply the following:

  • Choose determinate tomato cultivars.
  • Harden off tomato seedlings before you transplant in the garden.
  • Transplant tomatoes when the weather has warmed.
  • Maintain consistent moisture and mulch around properly staked plants.
  • Avoid over-fertilization.
  • Avoid excessive plant pruning or root damage during cultivation by tilling or hoeing.
  • Site your tomato plants in the garden to receive late afternoon sun and shade during the middle of the day.

Viral Infections

Leaf rolling is also caused by some viral diseases in tomatoes. When tomato plants are infected with Tomato yellow leaf curl virus and mosaic virus, for example, new leaves become cupped and pale green in color.

Stunted growth, yellowing leaf edges, purplish veins on the undersides of leaves, and a decrease in fruit output may all be visible on the entire plant.

Tomato mosaic virus is another virus that causes leaf rolling; however, it is distinguished from physiological or herbicide-induced leaf roll by other symptoms such as mottled-coloring of leaves, tiny leaflets, and interior browning of infected fruit.

Plants afflicted with the virus have no therapeutic options. Therefore, it is advised that plants be removed and destroyed.

Controlling weeds surrounding the garden can help prevent virus transmission by insects such as broad mites that move from weeds. Because certain viruses are transferred mechanically through garden tools, disinfecting any tools used on diseased plants, such as pruners, is also beneficial. (Read Do Deer Eat Tomatoes)

Herbicide Damage

2,4-D herbicides cause downward-rolling leaves and twisted growth in tomato plants. Fruit may be distorted, and stems may turn white and crack. The plant may or may not survive exposure.

Herbicide damage is irreversible; however, new growth may be normal if the plant survives. When applying pesticide, be careful because it might float far.

Can Tomatoes Recover From Leaf Curl?

Most environmental causes of leaf curling are curable. However, leaf curling is a way the plant is sick.

Use your fingers to measure soil moisture and watch how much direct sun your plants get and how hot it is.

These plants need continuous drainage and watering. Use a soaker hose on a timer or hand-water thoroughly rather than sprinkling.

The leaves of tomato plants are prone to fungal infections, so stay them dry. Mulch the plant to retain soil moisture.

High temperatures, high dew points, and heavy rainfall can stress summer tomatoes.

Sunburned tomato plants exist! Temperatures exceeding 100 F can scorch tomato plants, depending on the cultivar.

Using a 30 percent sunblock shade cloth is a fantastic way to protect your plants. In addition, these shade cloths may be reused year after year.

Spray fungicide on tomato stakes after securing shade cloth. The cloth can stay over the plants throughout the growing season, depending on how many days are over 100 F.

Healthy plants are less likely to attract pests like aphids and broad mites.

Tomatoes are fast-growing plants. Indeterminate varieties grow quite large and need a structure to maintain their growth.

Whether you use pegs, cages, or trellises, anchoring your plant can prevent wind damage. Reduce suckers and lower leaves for better ventilation. To control aphids and broad mites, prune infested leaves.

Besides pruning, aphid- or broad-mite-infested plants can be washed with a powerful stream of water, which is no big deal to your plants.

Spray the water early in the morning to give the leaves time to dry as the weather warms. For moderate infestations, use neem oil or insecticidal soap, or pyrethrins.

Should I Cut Off Curled Tomato Leaves?

No matter how hard we try, saving a tomato plant is not always possible. That’s why it’s crucial to have a few backup plants in your garden if the existing ones fail.

You may easily root suckers in water as backups while pruning tomato leaves. You can compost the plant if the weather isn’t cooperating, and the plant doesn’t make it.

However, before composting, you must know the most common causes of mortality.

It’s crucial not to compost any infected plant or one that has been damaged by herbicides since the virus or chemicals can persist in the soil and infect subsequent plants.

Cure for Curling Tomato Leaves Although the physiologic consequences of tomato leaf curl have no effect on overall plant growth or yields, when a viral infection causes the tomato leaf curling, the infected plants must be removed.

To prevent future transmission to surrounding plants, you should also eliminate these tomato plant leaf curl infected plants. The best way to avoid tomato leaf curl is to prevent it.

Only pest- and disease-resistant varieties should be planted. Also, use floating row covers to protect garden plants from whitefly infestations and keep the area clear of weeds, which attract these pests.

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