Why is my Elephant Ear Plant dying?

Last Updated: September 27, 2022

Loved for their large heart-shaped leaves, the Elephant Ear Plant is a real centrepiece of the room. This can make it even more devastating once you start to notice signs that your plant might be dying. 

There are several different factors that might be causing issues for your plant and below we will go through each one in detail. We recommend going through the list whilst inspecting your plant, its root system and potting mix so that you can make the right diagnosis.

A dying plant can indicate overwatering

Too much moisture in the soil of your Elephant Ear Plant is one of the quickest killers. Not only will it rot the roots, but it often won’t show up as an issue above the soil until significant damage has already been done.  

Once the roots have started to rot, your plant can become unstable and also cannot get needed nutrients from its root system.

Signs that your Elephant Ear Plant is dying due to overwatering include brown or yellow patches on the leaves, drooping stems, soft leaves and the lowest leaves falling off your plant entirely. 

Check the soil moisture to confirm the issue. If you find that the soil is waterlogged, replace the potting soil straight away (rather than waiting for it to naturally dry out) so that the roots can begin to recover.

To prevent the issue from causing more harm to your plant in future, adjust your watering schedule so that you are either watering less frequently or not giving your plant as much water each time you do. Essentially you want to make sure that the soil has enough time to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot. 

Drainage issues may be to blame

Sometimes you might not be giving your plant too much water but the lack of drainage still means the roots start to rot. 

Luckily, there are several really easy ways to increase the amount of drainage and allow for excess moisture to flow out of the pot. Firstly, we recommend mixing a small amount of perlite into the potting mix. This will make it far easier for water to flow through and out of the drainage holes of your pots and also helps with the aeration of the soil, which is a bonus. 

You also want to make sure the pot has sufficient drainage holes and that they aren’t blocked by anything. Another easy step is to add a few small stones or pebbles to bottom of your pots, this helps in making sure that the drainage holes are never blocked by soil or any loose debris.

If your Elephant Ear Plant is growing in a plastic pot then you should also consider switching this to a terracotta pot. This is because the clay they’re made of is permeable which means that some of the water in your soil can evaporate through the sides of the pot. This reduces the harmful effect of accidental overwatering.

A dying Elephant Ear Plant can suggest underwatering

Another common reason that your Elephant Ear Plant is dying is a lack of water. Although the plant will forgive you for occasionally forgetting to water, consistent underwatering can lead to a variety of serious issues if not solved in time. 

The most common signs of an underwatered Elephant Ear Plant are dry leaves, light brown spots on the leaves and drooping stems. You can also look at the soil for signs of underwatering as it will be very light brown in colour and may be coming away from the sides as it has compacted without moisture.

Before you start watering your plant more frequently, it’s important that you confirm the issue is underwatering. You don’t want to increase how much water you are giving your plant if it doesn’t need it as this can cause even more problems. 

Take your plant out of its pot to see how dry the potting mix feels. You also want to check out the root system to see if it has started to crisp up. 

To solve the issue, we recommend watering your plant a little bit once a day for a full week. This will help to moisten the soil without shocking the plant (which can happen if their environment changes suddenly). A moisture meter can help with knowing when to water here too and can be a really useful tool to adjust your watering schedule in future.

Direct sunlight might be killing your plant

Another problem that may be causing your Elephant Ear Plant to die is too much direct and intense sunlight. This only really happens in summer though as the sun is a lot stronger and out for a lot of the day which can be really harmful to plants near windows. 

Intense sunlight can dry out the leaves very quickly causing them to turn brown and it can also burn them causing yellow patches. This is unfortunately irreversible so we recommend trimming away any burnt or dry leaves to help revive your dying Elephant Ear Plant.

To solve this issue and revive your dying Elephant Ear Plant, move your plant a little further away from the windows during the summer so it gets less of that intense light directly falling onto its leaves. You might need to move your plant around depending on the seasons so that you are maximising on the winter sunshine but protecting it from the intense summer light.

Check your Elephant Ear Plant for pests

Although rarer than other factors (especially if your plant spends the entire year growing indoors), another reason why your Elephant Ear Plant might be dying is a pest infestation. 

If you spot pests lurking on your plant the first thing to do is isolate it from any of your other houseplants. Pests can jump across plants if they are close so you want to avoid the problem spreading to any of your other plants. Check over your other plants to check for pests and keep them far away from non-infested plants.

You also want to check for signs of pests which include brown or yellow spots, small holes in the leaves, droopy stems, white powder or webbing across the stems and leaves falling off your plant. 

To stop the infestation from growing, you want to trim off any badly affected leaves or stems. This will initially curb the growth of the infestation by cutting the actual number of pests. You then want to shower your plant down and replace the potting mix to try and get rid of as many pests from the plant and soil before treating with an insecticide and neem oil.

Those are the most common reasons why Elephant Ear Plants start dying. Moving forward, we recommend conducting regular checkups of all of your houseplants so that you can start to spot any issues early on. This is key to reviving your dying Elephant Ear Plant. 

To learn more about keeping your plant thriving, take a look through our Elephant Ear Plant care guide.

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