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Elephant ear plants are fun and generally easy to grow. Although they don’t require a lot of maintenance, they are prone to certain issues every now and then so you might want to be aware of them.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common elephant ear plant problems and the solutions so that your elephant ear plant will be the key attraction it is meant to be.
About Elephant Ear Plants
Elephant ear plants, as the name indicates, have leaves that resemble the ears of an elephant. It is a perennial evergreen much loved for its lush foliage that brings a tropical feel to your garden or home. It is known for its air-purifying qualities and medicinal benefits.
This fast-growing plant is usually grown in the spring and achieves its full size in just a couple of months. They are literally very big and can become as long as 3 feet and as wide as 2 feet when growing in the tropics!
The most distinct and prized feature of this plant is its broad, heart-shaped leaves and these leaves are the ones that face the most problems. These leaves may turn yellow, start to wilt or develop yellow or brown spots on them, when leaves become dull, the entire plant loses its beauty and grandeur. This makes it important to care for and maintain the lush foliage all year round.
Common Elephant Ear Plant Problems and Solutions
Here are three important things that you must do to keep your elephant ear plant growing well:
If you see any brown or yellow edges of the leaves of the plant, then trimming them off is a good idea. Just do it along the natural lines and shape of the leaf. With elephant ear plants, damaged growth can be pruned or cut off so that the leaves are back to the parts that have only living tissue. If the leaves are foul-smelling, mushy, slimy, or oozing, then cut the whole leaf off.
The large leaves naturally start to droop as they grow old. A good way to let the plant give its energy to new leaves is to trim off these old leaves using sharp disinfected scissors or a clean blade. You can snip the elephant ear leaves off about 2 inches above the ground, near the base of the plant.
Clean the plant from time to time to remove dust and other debris, so that the plant can absorb as much light as possible. You can spray water on the leaves to clean them or use a damp cloth to gently clean the leaves with care not to damage them. Hold the underside of the leaves to support them as you wipe them.
Growth Requirements for Elephant Ear Plants
While these plants may not need a lot of care while growing, they do need a large container if growing indoors or a large space to grow freely if planted outdoors. Let’s look at the growth requirements for elephant ear plants along with problems when these requirements are not fulfilled:
Sunlight is needed for any plant, and elephant ear needs bright, indirect sunlight, part shade, or filtered sun. The dark-colored elephant ear needs shade or filtered light, while the green type takes a higher light level.
A common problem: The leaves start to turn brown, indicating that it is getting more sunlight than it needs. When the leaves turn yellow, it means that the plant is receiving a lesser amount of sunlight than its requirements.
Solution: Put your elephant ear in a place where it gets bright, indirect sunlight, part shade, or filtered sun.
Elephant ear plants are heavy drinkers, you may need to water them daily or weekly to keep the soil moist. Avoid overwatering as it can cause the roots to start rotting.
A common problem: If the plant is overwatered, the tip of its leaf may start dripping water. On the other hand, if the plant is underwatered, the tips of the leaves might start to droop.
Solution: Keep a check on how moist the soil is and maintain a consistent level of moisture so that the plant has adequate water, however, avoid giving too much water to make the soil soggy.
3. Temperature and Humidity
Elephant ear plants grow best in places with above-average or high humidity levels.
A common problem: The leaves may turn yellow or brown.
Solution: To increase the humidity, place a pebble tray near it, or a humidifier, or mist the plant or spray it with water from time to time.
The ideal temperature for elephant ear plants to thrive is between 65F and 75F and remember to keep the plant away from cold drafts.
Elephant ear plants are big feeders and need a lot of fertilizer. Your elephant ear plant could be suffering due to a lack of nutrients.
A common problem: Yellowish or brownish colored leaves, drooping leaves, and eventually plants can die.
Solution: Use a slow-release or liquid fertilizer once every two weeks to provide the nutrients your plant needs. Add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to half a liter of water and spray your elephant ear plant. Epsom salt helps the leaves grow rich and dark.
Are Elephant Ear Plants Toxic?
Elephant ear plants contain protein and oxalic acid that are toxic to both humans and animals. The common signs of elephant ear poisoning are diarrhea, burning of the mouth and throat, swelling of the mouth or eyes, nausea, and vomiting.
Pests and Their Remedies
Common pests affecting elephant ears are:
- Aphids: Use a strong spray or insecticidal soap to wash them off. Introduce natural predators to feed on the aphids, such as wasps and lady beetles.
- Root Maggots: Introduce natural predators in the area.
- Mealybugs: Try to rub the mealybugs off by washing the infected parts of the Elephant Ear. Or place natural predators to feed on mealybugs such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, or lacewings.
- Spider Mites: To control the spider mites, try insecticidal soap or hot pepper wax.
Elephant Ear Problems and Solutions – Signs to Look Out For
Here are some common problems with Elephant Ear plants and their remedies.
1. Drooping Leaves
Problem: When the plant is under stress, it starts giving signs of leaves wilting and dying. If you don’t take the necessary steps to stop it, the plant could ultimately die. A possible cause for this can be the wrong conditions, such as too much or too little water, pest issues, diseases, and inadequate lighting.
Solutions: To solve the issue of drooping leaves, you first need to determine the reason behind this.
- If the soil feels dry, then underwatering can be the cause of leaf drooping. Water the plant regularly, depending on the weather conditions of your area.
- If the soil seems soggy and wet even after a few days since you last watered it, then overwatering is the culprit behind wilting leaves. Re-pot or replant the plant in dry soil to prevent the roots from rotting or let the soil dry out before you water it again.
- During the cold temperature months, the plant may go into a state of dormancy, and the leaves wilt. Leave the plant on its own until it starts growing again and comes out of dormancy.
- If the place you have your plant in is low in humidity, then it may be causing the leaves to droop. Spray the plant thrice each week to balance the humidity level.
2. The Plant Not Doing Well (Looking unhappy)
Problem: This is when there are no pests attacking the plant, no fungal infections, or other identifiable causes, but still, the plant looks dull and distressed. You may notice:
- The leaves are not growing at their usual rate
- The stems start to droop and are not able to carry the load of the leaves
- The leaves and stalks lose their healthy color and become pale or ashen
- The roots have spots that stay there for a long time
- The leaves are deformed
Solution: A possible disease or the growing conditions not being perfect can be the reasons for these, which can be determined by closer observation of the leaves, roots, and stems. Here are some possible solutions:
- A lack of soil nutrients can be the possible reason for pale and discolored leaves. Apply plant food supplements containing zinc, iron, boron, copper, and magnesium in small quantities and note the plants’ performance.
- Improper growth can be a result of poor soil nutrients. Apply a 10-10-10 nitrogen fertilizer every 10 days.
- Drought stress can be the cause of wilting and collapsing stems. Water the plant regularly.
- A spider mite infestation may be a possible reason for deformed leaves. Rub the leaves with a swab soaked in alcohol or spray neem leaves on the leaves to get rid of the pests.
- Root spots can be a sign of waterlogged soil. Stop watering the plant till the soil dries out and then watch how often you water the plant.
3. Yellow Leaves
The leaves have their own lifecycle, and they turn yellow, wither, and die naturally. But if you notice most of the leaves on the plant turning yellow at once, then it could hint at a problem.
Problem: The reasons include the following:
- Pest infestation
- Low humidity
- Not the right amount of light
- Not the right amount of moisture
Solution: You should first determine the cause of leaves turning yellow, and then move on to finding a possible solution. Some common fixes are:
- If pests such as bugs and spider mites are causing the issues, then spray neem oil on the plant to get rid of the pests.
- If low humidity is the culprit, then try improving the humidity with a humidifier, putting a tray of water close to the plant and some pebbles, or misting the plant from time to time.
- Water the plant carefully, too much water or too little water can both be damaging to the plant.
- Make sure the pot has drainage holes and use good-quality potting soil.
4. Plant Stops Growing
If the plant seems frozen and shows no signs of growth for a long time, then it seems there is a growing problem.
Problem: It can be caused by low humidity levels, overwatering, underwatering, or excessive sunlight.
- Have sandy and loamy soil
- Water the plant regularly. Since less watering can lead to low growth rates and higher watering rates can result in waterlogged soil.
- Put a curtain in front of the window or place the plant at some other location to cut down the amount of direct sunlight the plant gets.
- Keep the place humid using a humidifier or misting the plant.
- Keep the plant at a place with a temperature between 85 F during the day and 60 F during the night. Temperatures below 60 F can make the plant cease its growth.
The elephant ear plant is a beautiful perennial when it is given the right care. Although it is a very easy plant to grow, the elephant ear plant will have certain problems that will affect its growth. Usually, the leaves get impacted and this makes the plant look unhappy.
The important thing is to identify the problem correctly and then move toward finding a suitable remedy. Hope our guide to elephant ear plant problems and solutions helps to make your elephant ear look grand and prized once again.