Tomato leaves curled/rolled, slightly stunted growth

jmhewitt(8a Coastal NC)June 17, 2005

I have a raised bed with 7 tomato plants in it. 4 of them are growing well, but the lower 3 are not. they have curled/rolled leaves and are much smaller than the other 4.

the leaves don't exhibit any particular pathology other than the curl, although some of the Neves show a light attack of bacterial speck and the Traveler has some Early Blight, it looks like.

I do use a lawn service, so herbicide damage is not beyond the realm of possiblities, but I would be surprised.

the bed slopes down toward these plants, so maybe it could be excess water? that would be surprising, as hot as it has been here.

the link below is to 4 photos, all with captions.

Here is a link that might be useful: 4 photos of the problem

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


I see that you've double posted both here and in the main tomato Forum, so I've decided to let folks answer there first, since it can get "wiggy" with the same thread running in two places at the same time.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 5:09PM
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This might be useful to you: (from GrowItGold)

"Leaf Roll:

During very wet seasons, tomato plants frequently show an upward rolling of the leaflets of the older leaves. At first this rolling gives the leaflet a cupped appearance. Later, the margins of the leaflets touch or overlap. The rolled leaves are firm and leathery to the touch. One half to three-fourths of the foliage may be affected. Plant growth is not noticeably checked, and a normal crop of fruit is produced. Frequently leaf roll occurs when tomato plants are pruned severely, and it is very common when unusually heavy rains cause the soil to remain moist for long periods of time.

To prevent leaf roll, keep tomato plants on well-drained, well-aerated soil, and protect them from prolonged periods of heavy rainfall if you can."

Also this: (Univ. of Colo.)

"Leaf roll, or leaf curl, is a physiologic distortion that may develop with periods of cool, rainy weather. It cause the lower leaves to roll upward and become thick and leathery. Leaf roll does not affect plant growth or fruit production and requires no treatment.

Leaf Roll

Herbicides can distort the foliage and fruit of tomatoes. They are especially sensitive to 2,4-D. Damage can bend the leaves down, causing cupping and thickening. New leaves are narrow and twisted and do not fully expand. Fruit may be catfaced and fail to ripen. Exposure can occur when herbicides are applied to lawns for weed control and the spray "drifts". Resultant fumes can also effect the plants for several days after treatment. Clippings from grass that has been sprayed with a herbicide should not be used as mulch in the vegetable garden. If the exposure is minimal, the plant will outgrow the injury. Be sure to water the affected plants thoroughly and often."

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 6:08PM
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nctom(8 nc)

Farkee's posting is the most reasonable explanation for your problem. I too live in E.NC and the weather of late could be your culprit. 98 degree weather for a few days and then a diluge from a thunderstorm may be "stressing" the plant.Leafcurl with no other symptoms is generally disconcerning for a few days.

However if you notice any yellowing of the edges and veins or perhaps some purpling in the plant then virus becomes a concern. Just for precaution give your plant a good shake and see if there are any whiteflys having a party.Whiteflys are a big culprit of TCV.

I really respect the advice that both Farkee and Carolyn post. Lots of what I share with others I have learned from them.

Carolyn, I would love for you to post your opinion soon.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 6:34PM
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jmhewitt(8a Coastal NC)

"Plant growth is not noticeably checked...." THAT is not the case here....what attracted me is the stunted appearance of these three plants, right beside their brothers planted in the same soil at the same time. pls taka a look at the pictures...

what I am worried about is whether they have a virus and need to be pulled out....

unfortunately, if it were only herbicide damage U would expect it on the other plants too.

Anyone else got any ideas??? Carolyn?


    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 6:41PM
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You said the bed slopes towards these plants so I was assuming too much water which effects roots which effects nutritional uptake which effects growth.

You don't mention mosaic or mottling patterns or malformation of leaves. No yellowing (as seen in fusarium). No shoestrings or bushiness. No fan shaped lesions (vert.)

You can get leaf rolling with a TMV virus and some variaties are effected worse than others. ("Leaf rolling is the result of TMV infection interacting with the wilty gene (wt) found in some tomato varieties. Individual leaflets are tightly curled adaxially (inwardly), which is an undesirable condition. U of Fl."

But I am stumped so you are wise to call upon Carolyn.

(If it was my plant though--that little short one on the end I would remove even if I did not know the cause.) Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 8:11PM
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jmhewitt(8a Coastal NC)

farkee: my thoughts too, but it is like killing a pet...:-(

actually, there are two little short ones on the end: Neves and Traveler. the Creole isn't good either.


Here is a link that might be useful: pretty distinctive leaf deformity

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 10:01PM
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nctom(8 nc)

What you were given is pretty solid. I read your posting and saw Carolyn's reply and just wanted to help.
While what was offered may not be dead on it certainly provided you a few more explanations to consider. Farkee gave you an exact copy from the web site concerning leaf curl. I don't think he overlooked your small plants next to your other ones.

I don't clam to be a tomato guru. I just love growing them and helping others. I have questions too.

You were offered some information on virus associated with leaf curl.

Good luck. I trust Carolyn's opinion as well and hope she post a reply soon.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 10:42PM
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Actually, Jim , I still think that picture you reposted looks to be physiological to me (ie older leaves, curling upward) they don't look that they are suffering from leaf deformity only curling. BUT I understand your concern especially with the 2 small non-growing plants as normal leaf curling doesn't stunt plants.

And it is painful to pull out plants--I can barely stand to do it. Farkee

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 12:34AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Bummer, now I can't see the photos ( says website not responding) and I wanted to review them.

Now the reason I didn't post last night and am not here until now is b'c the Queng ho and the Emergents were just at the point of attacking Arachna and it was so exciting I HAD to continue reading to see what happened and I read far into the night and me with one eye that has ptosis ( dropped eyelid) which makes reading difficult as my eyes tire.

But I digress.

I do remember what the pictures looked like, in general, and I have read all the excellent suggestions given, and would go along with the problem being physiological b'c I saw no good evidence of infection or herbicide drift.

But, what troubles me Michael is that you keep saying that the plants you're referring to are stunted, and that's a conclusion only you can come to based on your direct observation of the plants. You say you put them out at the same time as the other ones, but since each variety is different in terms of plant habit, again, your stunted comment is meaningful only to you.

It's often hard to say there's a meaningful difference between leaf curling and leaf roll, but that becomes somewhat meaningless as well, re your comment about stunting.

I think I remember seeing that your mulch was red something. What is it and is it possible it's thicker at the bottom portion of your raised bed and there might be something leaching out of it in higher conecntrations? Just a wild suggestion.

When I've had stunted plants it's happened shortly after setting them out at about the one foot level and I jsut pull them, assuming it's something common like seedborne CMV. And in my case it's been plants of the same variety in any one season.

So at this point the stunting seems to be your main concern and that's more likely to occur due to a virus infection than anything else, including physiological problems, and since my memory of your photos didn't indicate other symptoms that might go along with a well recognized virus infection , and I wouldn't expect three plants of different varieties to all have the same virus while others in the same bed are OK, then this goes right back into your lap, I'm afraid.

I wish I could be of more help, but others have given several suggestions that haven't perked you up as in aha, that's it, and I'm afraid I have no eurkea statements either.



    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 11:17AM
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jmhewitt(8a Coastal NC)

Since the plants have both the curling and are stunted in relation to the other plants in the bed and others of that variety (I have Creole, Traveler and Neves Azorean in other places and they are normal size indeterminants), I think something is going on that I don't like.

the varieties are elsewhere so I will get the fruit to try, and the size of the plants show that they aren't going to give much production. I spade pruned them this morning. :-)

the other four plants in the bed (Supersteak Hybrid, Park's Whopper Improved, Bucks County Hybrid, and German Red Strawberry) are growing so well that I would hate to have something spread.

so we are grieving today....

Unless you think I shouldn't, I have some starts to put in this bed for late production. can't really change the dirt at this point.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 1:52PM
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I have the same problem. I talked to a local farmer here in south jersey he said the plants need (copper). He gave me this thick blue liquid said to mix 2 ozs with 1 gallon of water and spray on the leaves. I just did it I will post the results. He said it is a disease that may have been in the plant when it was purchased. hope this helps!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 2:27PM
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We planted all plants same time. All are about 3 feet tall. The one on the edge is about 2 feet and has leaves that all roll upward into almost closing into what a cigar would roll into when leaves are fused together. I told my DH I think when plants do this they are affected in the root area already when planted and the results are the above. I feel that this plant would be best just taken out of the ground. No evidence of insects whatsoever. Why not plant another one that will yield later on when the original planting group has almost reached its end of producing? Is there any remedy that will clear up this problem with this plant that would make it worth being left in the ground to continue growing?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 10:39AM
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I'm hoping one of you guys would be so gracious as to respond to this:

Noticed my leaves curling on the tomato plants today. And they sprayed my yard yesterday for weeds. After all of your postings, I'm guessing this is the problem. So my question is: Will the plants return to normal or should I just toss them and start over?


    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 10:47PM
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I used household cleaner to spray for fruitflies just to chase them away while I bagged the fruits of the guava tree yesterday. Some of the mist must had carried by wind and now the leaves of my tomato plant is curled up. It had been quite healthy until now.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 8:24AM
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I have the problem with one variety that's growing a few feet from other varieties that aren't affected. We're in drought conditions right now (Paris area), so I have put in porous hoses for drip irrigation. I suspect I have over-watered. I'm going to travoiding watering the affected plants for a while to see if that changes anything. Top tier leaves are fine. I've also sprayed with diluted white vinegar (10%) just in case it's a bug thing.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:12AM
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This is the second year I have had this problem.

Both times the UPPER new growth atrophied.

Last year, the top growth suddenly balled, and growth, if any, was spindly. Tomato yield was only in the lower areas and scant. My neighbor has a weed patch of old wild nature that he's slowly thinning, and at one point sprayed against weeds. That's what I attributed this to.

This year up until recently (10 June '11) my six plants, (3 celebrity and 3 beef) both 24" tall were growing well. Today (15JUN'11) they show similar stress: Celebrity is slightly distorted, and Beef (closer to neighbor) top growth is severely curled and quite stunted. Neighbor is not at home; I left a message. I see that he has just cut half this weed patch.

Comments will help.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:59AM
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My four cherokee purple plants came from tomatoes I grew last summer, that came from a tomato I ate in NC the summer before. Last year I had a huge yield from 4 plants. This year, all 4 plants have been stricken with leaves curling up, new and larger leaves. Leathery, really curly little leaves and curled (up) larger leaves. Some small brown spots on larger, older leaves, no yellowing, no dead edges. Growing conditions are ditto to last year. Plants leaves are stunted, growth is stunted. You can see through the plants and overall, the leaves are small yep, and curled. I was told to use Happy Frog fertilizer due to calcium shortage. I don't think this will work. I am going to spray for fungus AND insects. These tomatoes are the best I ever ate, and I've eaten a lot of them. No more seeds available. I should have saved a few.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:32PM
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In my case it was only the new growth that had the curled leaves. The plant was very leggy--6-8 inches between branches. I let 3-4 shoots develop and all had curled leaves on the new growth. I always grow a couple of extra plants, so this one got pulled. Fungicides and insecticides might affect the vectors of a virus, but have no effect on the virus itself.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 12:00PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

When describing a problem of whatsoever kind, images can be worth the oft-said 1000 words.

Someone please start with images BUT on your own thread.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 6:07PM
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Here is a Colorado link that speaks of the issues you have with your tommies.

Here is a Northern Territory Government, Australia link too.

I hope that these links can assist in diagnosing your issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: colorado state

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:46PM
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I have six tomato plants and 5 have curled leaves. Before I planted them I worked in some partially-composted compost from my own compost pile. Where the 6th plant with normal leaves is growing there is none of that compost! The compost is made of maple leaves, veggie scraps, and coffee grounds. Maybe because it was only partially broken down it is causing poor drainage OR...maybe I drink too much coffee.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 2:30PM
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