Curled Tomato Plant Leaves: 8 Causes and Solutions for this Growing Problem

Remedies for leaves curling in tomato plants (Solanum Lycopersicum) depend on the cause of the curling leaves. Recognizing the signs and causes of curling tomato leaves can make it easier to treat and prevent.

The leaves of the tomato plant respond to different stresses by curling, rolling, and twisting. If your tomato plants suffer from leaf rolling, curling or twisting, some simple garden remedies can help determine the cause. However, planting disease-resistant varieties is a first step toward preventing severe tomato problems.

Causes of Curling Tomato Leaves

Curling Tomato Leaves

1 . Diseases

The Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, The Tobacco mosaic virus, and The curly top virus are diseases that can affect tomato plants. 

Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus

Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV), also known as Leaf Roll, is a disease caused by pathogens. It affects forty-four plant families across 300 species, and it is most common in locations with arid or semi-arid climates. The virus infects plants and stunts their growth which eventually leads to their death.

It also spreads physically through the silver leaf whitefly (Bemisia Tabaci). The insect picks up the virus while feeding on an infected plant. Once the whitefly is infected, it retains the virus for almost two weeks then it transfers viral infections to any other tomato plants it feeds on. The virus can happen during the growing season, but it mostly appears during late spring to early summer.

Tomatoes affected by the tomato yellow leaf virus will have several symptoms such as;

  • Yellowing
  • Leaf curling (also known as Physiological leaf roll)
  • Shriveling
  • Flower/fruit drop
  • Low fruit production
  • Stunted plant growth.

It can be challenging to identify this virus because the symptoms are closely related to other common diseases.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) causes the leaves to deform with light and green mosaic patterns. If your plant is infected with TMV, you will notice stunted growth, and the blooms may have brown streaks.

Unlike the Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), which spreads through whiteflies, the TMV is spread through contact. It can also live outside its host for a while and is mildly resistant to heat.

Curly Top Virus

The curly top virus affects beans, squash, and pumpkins but primarily affects peppers and tomatoes, which causes their top leaves to curl. The beet leafhopper vectors it, but it doesn’t transmit to other plants.

When Infected, the tomato plant looks stunted and stingy with light green, narrow, and upward curling leaves. Though it doesn’t affect fruit production, there will be much less of it. Also, the virus doesn’t spread to neighboring plants, but it affects the development of affected tomatoes.

2. Psychological Tomato Plant Leaf Curl

Psychological Tomato Plant Leaf Curl is sometimes called rolling and is the most common reason for tomato leaves to show abnormal leaf growth. This type of leaf curl is a reaction to environmental stress. Examples of environmental stress include Too much or little water, too much nitrogen, and excessive heat.

Sometimes, the psychological leaf curl causes leaf thickening and creates a leather-like texture. Though it usually doesn’t affect the plant’s production, the lower leaves tend to be affected first, with the curling affecting more of the leaves if the problem is not corrected quickly.

Tomato Leaves Curl
Tomato Leaves Curl.

3. Weather Stress

Tomatoes can be susceptible to climate conditions. Cool, rainy weather can cause the lower leaves to thicken and roll. However, it doesn’t interfere with fruit production or causcausesmanent damage to the plant.

4. Incorrect Watering

The Tomato Leaves need plenty of water for the formation of juicy fruits. Therefore, when watered incorrectly, they can be pretty fussy. 

When the soil is not watered frequently, it cannot transport water to the plant cells, which helps the plant stay rigid. The leaves will begin to curl inward to prevent further water loss from exposure to the sun.

5. Non-Parasitic Leaf Roll

Non-Parasitic leaf roll is another major cause of Tomato leaf curl. Here, irregular irrigation and improper pruning can cause the leaf edges to roll inward and, most times, to the point of overlapping.

6. Wind Damage

Low humidity and high wind, and blowing dust can damage the leaves and stems of tomato plants. Also, heat and low moisture can cause the edges of the tomato leaves to die back, twist, and curl.

7. Pest Infestation

Few pests can create a leaf curling effect in your tomatoes. One of them is the broad mite. The mites feed on the smaller, younger leaves of the tomato plant. While feeding on them, the broad mite injects venom into the leaves that cause them to become deformed and twisted.

8. Nutrient Deficiency

Sometimes, the reason for tomato leaves curling and yellowing at the bottom of the plant’s area is a sign of micronutrient deficiency, which means your soil is deficient in Molybdenum or Boron.

Ways To Treat Curling Tomato Plant Leaves

 Curling Tomato Plant Leaves

Before you begin treatment, note that the best time to start is when the whiteflies are at the Nymphal stage because when they mature to become adults, they are more active and tend to spread the virus to other tomato plants a lot faster. Here are a few ways you can treat curly tomato plant leaves;

1 . Regulate the temperature your tomatoes are growing. Keep in mind that warmer temperatures tend to boost the rate of metabolism of pests, especially those which lay eggs on the underside of leaves.

2. Plant varieties that are more resistant to diseases.

3. After treating the disease, ensure you enhance the harvest of tomatoes by feeding them Epsom Salt.

4. Regulate the water intervals in your tomatoes as soggy soil breeds whiteflies.

5. If the damage seems to spread far and wide on your tomatoes, use chemical control options. Spray the affected areas with Imidacloprid. This kills eggs laid by whiteflies on the underside of leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 . Can Tomatoes Recover From Leaf Curl?

A part of the tomato plant may show leaf curl if the growing point of the part of the plant is removed. However, if other growing points remain, the plant may recover.

2. Should I Remove Curled Tomato Leaves?

After identifying any viral disease that causes leaf curl, remove the plant from the garden and destroy it immediately.

3. How Do You Treat Leaf Curls Naturally?

Spray sulfur or copper after the leaf drops in the fall. Respray them in the spring.

4. Does Leaf Curl Affect Fruit?

Leaf Curl is a fungal disease. It affects stone fruit like peaches and nectarines. It also causes ugly puckering and distortion of leaves.

5. How Do I Get Rid Of Tomato Leaves?

When identifying a tomato virus, remove and destroy the infected plants immediately.

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