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Why Are My Milkweed Leaves Curling? | 4 Genuine Causes!

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If you are trying to attract the Monarch to your flower garden, you would be working on growing the milkweed plant.

The Monarch is a beautiful butterfly that feeds only on the juices in the milkweed plants.

Fluids in the milkweed plant are poisonous to us and are only meant for the Monarch. If you don’t have milkweed plants in your backyard, there will be no Monarch butterflies.

However, it is not easy to grow milkweed plants. Sometimes you may run into issues like the crumpling of the leaves and ask yourself, why are my milkweed leaves curling?

There are a few different reasons for the curling of milkweed leaves. The main reason is the presence of small, orange aphids and other pest attacks.

If you have spotted curling milkweed leaves, keep reading to know all the details.

Let’s begin!

Milkweed leaves are curling—why are my milkweed leaves curling?
Why are my milkweed leaves curling? – Image via Reddit.

Why Are My Milkweed Leaves Curling? | Causes & Solutions!

Here are the major causes of the milkweed leaves curling.

1. Aphid Attacks

Why are my milkweed leaves curling, you say? It might be because they have been attacked by aphids.

The aphids that feed on the milkweed leaves are tiny, orange or yellow, with black legs.

You will see them in groups or clusters formed on the leaves. These aphids suck out the sap and leave a sticky substance called honeydew. When they suck the juices out of the leaves, the leaves end up curled and crumpled.

This secretion of honeydew is not harmful to the plants directly, but black mold can grow on it can lead to the blockage of sunlight.

The lack of sunlight may cause the plants to become brown and eventually die if not treated.

How to Treat Aphid Infestation on Milkweed?

Some insects, like beetles and wasps, are natural predators of aphids and can help eliminate the infestation.

However, it can get pretty challenging if the infestation is bad.

So, it’s your choice to either wait for nature to do the job or take some responsibility yourself.

  • Wash the aphids off from the leaves by spraying them with a high-powered and fast stream of fresh water.
  • You can also apply insecticides to the leaves to prevent aphids from sucking the juices out of the leaves. However, be careful with insecticide application as it can also kill the caterpillars and eggs of monarchs laid on the leaves.
  • One of the safest methods to remove aphids from your milkweed plants is by handpicking them. This is a relatively slow method and can take time, but for anyone looking to attract and keep a herd of monarchs, this is the safest way to ensure their eggs aren’t squished.
  • To remove aphids by hand, don’t wait for them to grow into an army. Even when you see a few insects wandering around, put on thick gloves, take them off one by one, and press them between your fingers to kill them off. However, be careful not to kill the butterfly larvae during the aphid removal process.

Here you can learn more about milkweed aphid infestation:

Why are my milkweed leaves curling? | Aphids on Milkweed Plants – YouTube

Besides aphids, there might also be other insects that can harm the milkweed plants and lead to the curling of leaves, such as leaf miner flies, bugs, moths, and more.

2. Fungal and Bacterial Spots

Sometimes you may notice white fungal spots invading the leaves of milkweed.

These could also be bacterial spots.

Fungal and bacterial spots thrive in moist conditions. So, if you regularly overwater your plants or put water on the leaves, your plant may be more prone to getting infected with fungal and bacterial diseases.

The leaves with fungal and bacterial infections end up crumpled and curled.

These spots are harmful to the Monarch butterflies and can kill them if they feed on the sap of infected leaves. If you see symptoms of an attack, take out that leaf and burn it before the monarchs can feed on it.

3. Cucumber Mosaic Virus

The cucumber mosaic virus is a widespread infection that destroys a significant portion of crops every year.

It deforms the plant to the point of dysfunction. This virus can cause the milkweed leaves to get crinkled up and curled. It can also stop the growth of plants.

There is no complete cure for this infection. Once the cucumber mosaic virus has attacked a plant, you must get rid of it and burn it down immediately.

Don’t leave the plant lying around in the trash!

Burning or burying is the safest option to prevent other plants from being infected with the same disease.

4. Spider Mites

The curling and crinkling of leaves do not always mean that the plant is infected by the cucumber mosaic virus.

The milkweed plant could also be under attack by spider mites!

To ensure that you have spider mites, check the underside of the leaves. If there are white spots and webs, it could be an indication of spider mites.

If you find spider mites on your milkweed plant, you can:

  • Get rid of them by spraying the underside of the leaves with a stream of water.
  • Dust the area regularly to ensure no mites are accumulated there.

The use of chemical insecticides is not recommended as they can harm the butterfly eggs as well.

If you notice crumbling and browning of the leaves, you should pluck the leaves out and throw them away or burn them to prevent the butterflies from feeding on those infected leaves.

Monarch butterfly on milkweed leaves—why are my milkweed leaves curling?
Monarch butterfly feeding on milkweed leaves—Image via M. Dean.

To Sum up!

Why are my milkweed leaves curling, you asked? I hope this answers the question.

A summary:

  • The primary reason for the curling of the milkweed leaves involves insects and fungal diseases.
  • The fungal attacks cannot be treated once they invade the plant. You can only get rid of the plant or the infected leaves to ensure no further spread.
  • However, aphids and other insects can be treated to ensure they don’t cause deformation or curling of your leaves.
  • You can spray the insects off with a fast stream of water.
  • The use of insecticides is not recommended as they can also kill monarchs. You can also handpick them, which is a slow but effective method.

Enjoy your beautiful garden filled with bright monarchs and if you have any queries related to milkweeds, comment below, and we will answer you soon.