Why are Leaves Curling or Clawing? (“The Claw”)

by Nebula Haze

The following symptoms are for when your cannabis leaves are “clawing” or curling up or curling down. Sometimes known as “The Claw”. I’ll give a short explanation with pictures of each problem, plus links to the solutions! Fix this common (but hard to diagnose) marijuana problem today!



Nitrogen Toxicity

A Nitrogen toxicity is the result of the plant getting too much Nitrogen (usually from too high levels of nutrients overall, or by using a Vegetative nutrient in the flowering stage). It causes dark green leaves and curled tips (“the claw”).

One of the main symptoms of a Nitrogen toxicity is curled tips (“the claw”)

This marijuana plants has been fed too much nitrogen


A plant with a Nitrogen toxicity tends to be dark green all over

A Nitrogen toxicity can also cause certain leaves to turn yellow, but other than that it looks nothing like a cannabis nitrogen deficiency

Learn more about a cannabis Nitrogen Toxicity



Wind Burn

Caused by too much wind. You’ll notice that the leaves further from the fan don’t have symptoms.

These clawed leaves were wind-burned

Example of cannabis wind burn - the leaves are twisted and pointing upExample of too much wind on your leaves

Learn more about cannabis wind burn


Bad Soil / Overwatering / Underwatering

You can help prevent over and under-watering your cannabis plants by always starting with good soil or coco coir.

Bad Soil

Bad soil is usually thick and muddy. Plants in poor soil will droop (often with unhappy curly leaves) no matter your watering practices.

Avoid thick soil that stays wet for a long time and doesn’t drain well

This seedling started "damping off" (dying) due to terrible soil


Overwatering makes leaves fat with water, and they tend to curl down and droop

Overwatered marijuana plant - pot is too big

Overwatering (especially when combined with heat) can also cause leaves to curl up

This marijuana plant was overwatered for over a week, causing these odd symptoms in addition to persistent droopiness

This plant was grown in muddy soil, and the curling, unhealthy leaves kept getting worse and worse over time!

Example of curling, clawing leaves caused primarily by overwatering


Underwatering causes symptoms that often look like overwatering, but you’ll know it’s underwatering if the plants perk up each time after you water them.

Under-watered cannabis seedling



Root Problems

Although often caused by overwatering, once the roots are sick you’ll see symptoms for a little while even after you start watering your plants properly.

Unhealthy roots can cause all sorts of problems including curling and clawing!

Unhealthy Roots in Soil/Coco

This plant’s roots were damaged from being overwatered and too hot for several days. As a result, the leaves took on a strange, blistery appearance.

This seedling has cupping leaves due to marijuana root problems

This plant suffered from heat combined with overwatering for several days. This damaged the roots and gave it this odd leaf curling.

This odd cannabis leaf curling was caused by a combination of heat, overwatering, and incorrect root pH

Learn more about root problem and symptoms

Root Rot

Root rot is something marijuana hydroponic growers can suffer from if pathogens attack the roots. It is often triggered by heat and/or lack of bubbles near the roots.

Example of the clawing, curling leaves caused by cannabis root rot (root problems)

Root rot can cause curling leaves and brown patches as well as sometimes other nutrient deficiencies

The burnt discolored leaves of a cannabis plant with root rot


If a plant stays in the same container for too long, the roots will eventually start wrapping around the edges of the pot. This is known as being “rootbound” and causes symptoms similar to other root problems.

A rootbound plant has been in the same container for too long. Roots wrap around the edges and “choke” the plant.

This cannabis plant needs to be transplanted ASAP, it's suffering from drooping and leaf symptoms in the flowering stage because its roots are rootbound

Rootbound plants often droop, appear yellow, get nutrient deficiencies, and stay small. Even if you’re caring for them perfectly!

If you see tons of white roots when transplanted, that means the plant was in that container too long

When this happens, the main solution is to transplant the plant into a bigger container. Another solution is to grow in fabric pots or air pots. These types of pots let air in from the sides, killing the circling roots (“air-pruning” them) and prevents the plant from getting rootbound for months.

To help a rootbound plant, transplant to a bigger container with fresh potting mix

Or start with air pots or fabric pots in order to prevent plants from getting rootbound at all

Examples of Smart Pots (fabric pots) and Air Pots (containers with holes along the sides)



Heat Stress

If plants are experiencing a lot of heat, it can make leaves droop and/or curl. Some strains can handle a lot of heat, while other strains tend to droop when it gets warm.

Heat can cause leaves to curl up

Heat Stress on a thirsty outdoor cannabis plant

Read more about heat and growing weed:



Light Burn

Plants can get light burn (sort of like a sunburn) even if the temperature is completely under control. The symptoms are usually concentrated close to the grow lights. Sometimes this can cause leaves to claw and curl downwards.

Light burn can cause the leaves closest to the light to turn yellow

Cannabis suffering from light stress

Learn more about light burn



Bugs & Pests

Often a bug infestation caused general plant unhappiness, but these are some of the most likely to cause curling or clawing leaves.

Broad Mites

Usually, you can’t see broad mites because they live inside the plant. The main symptom of an infestation is strange leaf curling that is specific to this pest, as well as “wet” looking leaves.

The top of this marijuana plant is droopy because it's been attacked by broad or russet mites. You can see the edges of the leaves are starting to get glossy

Example of twisted new growth caused by cannabis broad mites

Hemp Russet Mites

Hemp russet mites can also cause drooping and other strange symptoms, but the bugs are so small many growers don’t realize what they’re dealing with.

Hemp russet mites cause drooping and yellow mold-like growth on the tops of plants

Drooping leaves as the result of an intense hemp russet mite infestation on a cannabis plant

A closeup of the hemp russet mites

Closeup of hemp russet mites on a marijuana plant with drooping leaves

Learn how to get rid of hemp russet mites!

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats look like tiny flies buzzing around your topsoil. Although a few fungus gnats won’t really hurt your plants, a big infestation can damage the roots, causing symptoms similar to other types of root problems.

Fungus gnat damage on a flowering cannabis plant

Learn about other types of bugs and pests that can attack your cannabis plants!


Jump to…

7 Step Fix to 99% of Cannabis Growing Problems

Pictures of Marijuana Plant Problems

What does pH have to do with nutrient deficiencies?

10-Step Quick Start Guide to Growing



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