Why Is My Elephant Ear Plant Dying?


Elephant ear plants add beauty and lushness to your garden or home, and they can be pretty easy to care for as long as you know what they like.

Your elephant ear plant is dying because it isn’t getting the right amount of water, light, or nutrients. I can also die if grown in an unsuitable climate. Some other reasons are the roots are not getting enough space. Or the plant is suffering an attack from pests and diseases.

Don’t despair if your elephant ear plant isn’t looking so great right now. In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know to bring it back to its former glory.

Why Your Elephant Ear Plant Is Dying

If your elephant ear plant is wilting or developing yellow or brown leaves, it isn’t a good sign, and you’re probably concerned that your plant is dying.

This might be the case, but if you catch the signs of plant distress early enough, it is possible to save your plant. Elephant ear plants have tubers, and even when the leaves die, it is possible to revive them by carefully caring for the tuber.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons your plant might appear that it is dying.

Growing an Elephant Ear in the Wrong Hardiness Zone

All varieties of elephant ear plants originate from tropical or near-tropical climates, which means that like humidity and warmth. Check your zone on this map. Now, here’s what to expect from the hardiness zone you live in:

Hardiness Zone How an Elephant Ear Plant will Respond
Zones 1-7 Winters may be too cold for an outdoor elephant ear plant.
It is best to keep your elephant ear plant in an easy to relocate planter or pot.
Zones 8-9 The elephant ear will likely die back each winter, but the tuber will send out fresh leaves as warm weather approaches. It may appear to be dying in the winter months, but it is not.
Zones 10-11 Your elephant ear will probably be evergreen and thrive in outdoor conditions with proper care.

If you live outside of the proper hardiness zone and you keep your elephant ear plant outdoors, it is probably showing signs of distress because of the climate.

Just because you live in a non-tropical zone does not mean that you can’t enjoy an elephant ear plant. Many varieties of elephant ear plants do well in pots and other containers.

In incompatible hardiness zones, you can keep your elephant outdoors in the summer and indoors anytime nighttime temperatures dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Giving an Elephant Ear Plant Too Much Sun (or Not Enough)

When an elephant ear plant is getting too much sun, the leaves may turn brown, and it will look like it is dying. If your elephant ear plant isn’t getting enough sun, its leaves will turn yellow. Leaves can also turn these colors if there are other issues with the plant, so leaf color is not a sure fast way to troubleshoot what is going on with your plant.

Most varieties of elephant ear plants do really well in partial shade and indirect sunlight. Generally speaking, light green elephant ear plants are less picky about this. They can handle having more sun. Elephant ear plants with darker leaves are pickier and will show signs of distress if they are getting too much sun.

Elephant Ear Plant Needs More Water (or Less)

Elephant ear plants, like most tropical plants, prefer moist soil, but it doesn’t want to sit in a bog either. When you dip a finger gently into the soil, it should damp, but not soggy.

  • If it feels anything less than moist, your plant needs more water. Never let the soil dry out as you might with a plant that prefers drought-like conditions. But don’t go overboard!
  • In general, soggy soil isn’t a good thing for any plant (with some exceptions), and the elephant ear plant is no different. Wet, standing water just isn’t great for a plant that had a tuber. It can lead to issues with rot and fungus.

Some types of elephant ear plants, like those you see in water gardens, will tolerate wet soil, but they don’t require it.

Elephant Ear Is in a Location that is Too Arid

If you live in an area without much humidity or your elephant is indoors, it might be languishing in the moisture-vacant air. Elephant ears can be divas about their humidity. An elephant ear in need of more humidity may have dried out leaves or may simply get a little droopy.

If you suspect your elephant ear is missing moisture in the air, you can try one of the following solutions:

  • Mist your elephant ear plant regularly. Use a spray bottle on a gentle setting to spray the leaves of the plant.
  • Use a humidifier during the day to keep the area around the plant humid if your elephant ear plant is indoors.
  • Keep a water source near the plant. This could be a bowl of water, a pebble tray, or a water feature.
  • Keep the plant in a location in your home with more humidity. Kitchens and bathrooms are notorious for having higher humidity levels.

Your Elephant Ear Plant Needs Nutrients

In the tropics, elephant ears are used to rich soil, and that is what they’ll want from you as well. If you keep your elephant ear plant in a pot or container, you’ll have to replenish the soil with nutrients. If your elephant ear is planted directly in the ground, you may still need to provide fertilizer, but probably not as often.

If your elephant ear plant is losing some of its luster or yellowing, it might need to have its soil augmented with fertilizer. Most outdoor elephant ear plants need fertilizer every month or so, but it can vary depending on your soil and the variety of elephant ear you have. For indoor elephant ears, you’ll need to fertilize more frequently, likely twice a month.

Elephant Ear Plants Don’t Like to Be Crowded

Exactly how much spacing an elephant ear plant requires depends on the variety, but a good rule of thumb is to plant them about 4 feet apart. If you have any other plants closer than that, your elephant ear is likely feeling the pain of too-close neighbors taking all the nutrients and water from the soil.

You can transplant your elephant ears or the other plants to solve this issue or fertilize and water with more frequency to see if that helps.

Your Planter is too Small for an Elephant Ear

It’s no secret that elephant ear plants can get huge. It is one of the things we love about them. As the plant grows, it will require a larger planter. A planter that is too small does not hold enough nutrient-rich soil and water for the plant to survive on.

Large elephant ear plants will need a planter that is at least 17 inches wide and deep, and it may require one up to 36 inches in diameter. If you keep your elephant ear plant outdoors, then it should also be sturdy enough to keep the wind from knocking over the plant. Ideally, you want to stick to one tuber per pot.

If your elephant ear plant is still just a baby, you can slowly increase the pot size by a few inches over time, but it is better to have a too big pot than a too-small one.

Your Elephant Ear Plant is in Shock

Plants might lack a central nervous system, and they don’t have feelings as we do, but when you bring an elephant ear plant into a new environment is might seem like it does. Essentially, your plant is going through some things as it adjusts to the new environment.

If you just brought your plant home, it might wilt or have some yellowing leaves, but once it adjusts, it will be just fine. Of course, it is always important to make sure you’re meeting its basic needs of light, water, and nutrients.

Is My Elephant Ear Plant Dead?

Elephant ears plants are generally pretty easy to care for as long as you know what they need. The right amounts of moisture, nutrients, and light are key to keeping your elephant ear plant happy.

If the leaves die off your plant, you may still be able to revive it. Cut back the dead leaves and continue to care for the tuber. You should eventually see new leaves coming from it.

If in 2 months you don’t see new leaves, then your elephant ear plant has likely passed on to the garden in the sky. Before trying again, consider the location you keep the plant and whether it offers all an elephant ear requires so that the next time you plant one, it doesn’t meet the same fate.

Kevin

Kevin’s sick of eating mass-produced vegetables that contain harmful chemicals and lack nutrition and taste. He wants to grow his own food and help others do the same even with limited growing space.

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