Elephant Ear plants really bring the tropics right into your home with their incredible large leaves. However, if something isn’t how your plant would like it, your Elephant Ear plant might start to develop brown leaves. This can often start as just brown tips or brown edges on the leaves, but if the issue is progressing you might notice larger brown patches or entire leaves turning brown. It’s important that you try to diagnose the issue as soon as you see it so that you can take the needed steps to resolve the issue before it kills your plant.
Too much water can quickly cause brown leaves
Overwatering is probably the most damaging of houseplant issues and is quite a common reason why Elephant Ear plants develop brown leaves. Your Elephant Ear plant won’t like it if the soil is waterlogged and it can very quickly mean that the roots will start to rot. Once the root system is damaged, it will cause the leaves to turn brown, as well as droop down and turn soft.
To figure out if overwatering is the reason your Elephant Ear is turning brown, check the moisture levels in the soil immediately. If you have been giving your Elephant Ear plant too much water, replace the potting mix and cut away any roots that are soft and dark brown.
In future, make sure to monitor how much moisture is in the potting mix before watering and remove any excess water that has run out of the drainage holes 20 minutes after watering. This allows enough time for your plant to take up as much moisture as it needs.
Consistent underwatering can also cause brown leaves
Although your plant can deal with a little bit of dry soil and the odd lack of water, it will struggle to go for several weeks or months without any moisture. This will start to dry out the root system, making it go crispy. The next thing that will happen is the leaves will begin to dry out and turn light brown in colour. It will usually show up as patches across the leaves, or begin at the tips and edges first.
Once you have established that underwatering is the cause of the brown leaves on your Elephant Ear plant, it’s vital that you fix the issue properly. Your first instinct might be to give it loads of water straight away but this can actually be harmful to your Elephant Ear if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should solve the problem.
To prevent the problem from happening again, we recommend creating a reminder on your phone to water your plants on specific days. This needs to be adapted throughout the seasons to account for environmental changes as you’ll need to cut back on how much water you give your plant during winter.
Another option is to pick up a self-watering pot, these handy pots take all of the guesswork out of watering and make everything so much easier!
Drafts that come through cracks in windows or doors can be the most harmful to your Elephant Ear and will cause brown leaves among other issues such as leaves falling off. Although you might think that the temperature is fine, there might be little spots in your home that are too cold (or even too hot if near radiators or in a hotspot formed by sunshine) for your Elephant Ear plant.
Make sure to draft-proof any windows or doors that are within 1 metre of your Elephant Ear or any other houseplants. We also recommend getting a thermometer to measure how the temperature changes throughout the day and across the year.
Low humidity levels can cause brown leaf tips/edges
If your Elephant Ear plant has started to develop brown and crispy leaf tips or edges, it might be caused by dry air. During winter, the air in your home can become quite dry as we have the heating on for a lot of the day. Paired with less ventilation, it could be drying out your plant, causing brown leaf tips.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to increase the humidity for your Elephant Ears, some of which are free, others which take nearly no effort at all:
Mist your plant
Use a spray bottle to mist the leaves at least a few times per week as this will boost the humidity for your plant. It’s also a great way to remove dust from the leaves, which can be a big problem for Elephant Ear plants as their leaves are so big!
Make a pebble tray
This requires a little DIY but it’s a great solution for Elephant Ears that have developed brown leaves due to a lack of humidity. Fill up a tray or bowl with small stones and fill it up halfway with fresh water. Place your Elephant Ear on top of the stones and the water will evaporate around your plant throughout the day.
If you have good lighting in your kitchen or bathroom then we recommend moving your Elephant Ear in there. The humidity level in those rooms is naturally higher because of steam released from showering and cooking.
Buy a humidifier
If you’re worried about the lack of humidity becoming a real problem, then buying a humidifier is the most reliable method of increasing the humidity and keeping it at a stable, consistent level.
They are super affordable devices that also have benefits for us, as well as our plants. They are thought to help to clear our skin as well as improve our quality of sleep. So as well as preventing any more brown leaves from developing on your Elephant Ear, humidifiers are great for our other plants as well as us too!
Too much direct sunlight
Your Elephant Ear plant may also be developing brown leaves because it’s receiving a lot of intense direct sunlight. This is only a real issue during summer as the sun is a lot stronger than in winter.
You can tell if your Elephant Ear is receiving too much sunlight if it is showing sights of sunspots. These are brown spots that start to show up across each leaf. Unfortunately, once the leaves have been burnt by the sun, there is no going back so it’s best to remove any leaves that have been significantly damaged.
The key to preventing your Elephant Ear Plant from developing brown leaves is to make sure that it is growing in the ideal environment. You need to make sure that environmental factors such as sunlight, warmth and humidity are right for your plant, as well as balancing watering so that your Elephant Ear Plant is getting what it needs.
Care requirements will be different for each plant so we recommend looking at our care guide for a more comprehensive overview.
Unfortunately, once the leaves on your Elephant Ear Plant have turned brown, there is no reversing this as that part of the leaf has died.
More often than not, brown leaves on your Elephant Ear Plant are a sign that your plant is starting to die. This can be caused by a whole range of issues that this article discusses. It’s important to act as quickly as possible to find out what is causing your Elephant Ear Plant to develop brown leaves as the sooner you start fixing the issue, the more chance you have at bringing your plant back to full health.
To make sure that you can make the right changes to solve the brown leaves on your Elephant Ear, we recommend going through each of the issues whilst with your plant, so you can check out the soil, the type of brown leaves that are on your plant and other environmental factors. This will allow you to make the right fixes to ensure no more brown leaves form on your plant.
Check out our Elephant Ear care guide for more information on how to best care for your plant and prevent any more issues from forming in future.
Written by Joanna Turner