How to Revive Elephant Ear Plant? Health Issues & Reviving Tips

Elephant Ear Plants are popular tropical beauties known for their huge, ear-shaped leaves that add architectural merit or a  touch of the tropics to your home.

However, they are tender perennials and not frost-hardy, so can only be grown all year round outside in warmer zones (8-10)  or indoors as a houseplant in colder areas. Another alternative, if grown outside, is to either plant in pots to bring indoors during cold spells or dig the tubers up and store them over winter.

Although comparatively easy to grow under the right conditions, there are times when elephant ear plants can suffer stress factors that cause the plant to wilt and show general signs that all is not well.

This blog has identified and will explain several effective ways to revive your wilted elephant ear plant. Moreover, you will get an idea of different types of Elephant Ear Plants – each with its unique look, how to plant these architectural wonders and how to provide the ideal indoor or outdoor environment.

In addition, there will be tips on overcoming problems associated with pests and diseases.

Get ready to learn how to make these dramatic plants a show-stopping part of your green space!

A Few Ways to Revive the Elephant Ear Plant

If your elephant ear plant is showing signs of distress, the sooner it is remedied, the better it will be for the long-term health of your plant.

Below, we have identified ways to revive your elephant ear plant and bring it back to life.

Identify the Reason

The first step to reviving the elephant ear plant is identifying the problem.

Common causes of an unhealthy elephant ear plant include overwatering, underwatering, inappropriate light exposure, or infestations of pests.

To restore vitality, it is necessary to provide the plant with the correct amount of water and light conditions and remove any present pests.

Once you identify the cause of your elephant ear plant’s problem, you can take more steps to restore it to life.

Assess the Environment

The next step in how to revive the elephant ear plant is to assess the environment where it is growing.

Ensure the plant is receiving adequate light, water, and nutrients.

Once the environment is assessed and corrected, it is crucial to plant in soil that allows water to drain away but not rapidly.

This is important for elephant ear plants since they thrive best if the soil is kept wet but not soggy. Grown in the ground outside in warm zones (8-10), they can be grown in marshy areas.

Regular watering, if grown in pots or during dry seasons, is vital to keep the plant hydrated and to maintain lush and healthy foliage.

If hand watering, lukewarm water is the best temperature as it will allow the plant to absorb water more quickly and prevent it from becoming too soggy.

Lush Elephant Ear plant leaves with distinctive veins, crucial in reviving the health of the plant.

The Right Size of the Pot

Another important factor to revive the elephant ear plant is ensuring the pot is the right size. To allow efficient watering to reach the roots, choose a pot as large as possible for the selected site.

A pot that is too small will not allow enough room for the roots to expand or to receive adequate water, and the plant will need more room to grow to its full potential.

Also, consider allowing for plant stakes to support your plant as it grows.

Once the pot is correctly sized, consider the type of soil.

The soil should be lightweight, have good drainage, and contain plenty of organic material for your plants to thrive.

Healthy and Fertilized Soil

Another way to revive the elephant ear plant is to check the soil often and fertilize it regularly with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer

If the plant is wilting and the soil is dry, soak the whole root ball in the soil in a bowl of lukewarm water for a few hours before replacing in the pot. 

If growing outside, create a trench roughly three inches deep around the base of the plant and water. This will release the water more effectively down to the roots and avoid runoff.

Elephant ear plants prefer a rich, moist, well-draining acidic soil with a pH balance (5.5-7). Incorporating vermiculite with the soil will help maintain moisture around the roots.

Pruning

Pruning is another way to revive the elephant ear plants. This is a process of removing dead or diseased parts of the plant. Proper pruning can also promote new growth and help shape the foliage.

If the leaves are particularly long and drooping, it is recommended to prune them back to the length of not more than a third of the size of the plant.

When pruning, use clean, sharp scissors or pruners and only trim a few leaves at a time.

It is best to prune in the early spring, as this is the ideal time for new growth.

Pruning is essential for regularly maintaining the size and shape of the elephant ear plant and ensuring it receives adequate light and air circulation.

The Right Amount of Sunlight

Another way to revive the elephant ear plant is to keep it in direct sunlight for around four hours daily. Giving it too much or too little sunlight can stunt its growth.

It’s essential to ensure it’s in an area where it can get adequate sun.

Without the right amount of sunlight, the plant won’t be able to photosynthesize correctly and eventually succumb to the elements.

While they prefer bright light, they tolerate indirect sunlight and will do well in shady spots.

The ideal location suitable for an elephant ear plant receives direct sunlight for about 4 hours a day, with bright, indirect light for the rest of the day.

Too much sunlight could lead to it drying out and losing its lively green color.

Too little, however, will cause the plant to become lackluster and weak.

Pest Infestation

Lastly, pest infestation is one of the most common issues these plants experience.

Due to the large, broad leaves, elephant ear plants are especially susceptible to common pests, such as aphids and mealy bugs. Removing pests and insects is another way to revive the elephant ear plants. An effective method to do this is to use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Achieve this by spraying the leaves with soap or oil solution and rinsing them with water. An essential part of the process is ensuring the environment around the plant is also pest-free.

Removing  dead leaves will eliminate potential hiding places for pests and their food sources. Keeping the area free of weeds will remove unwanted plants competing for nutrients and light..

Why Elephant Ear Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

Elephant ear plants turning yellow can be due to several reasons, often related to their care and environment. Here are some common causes:

  • Watering Issues: Both overwatering and underwatering can lead to yellow leaves. Elephant ear plants prefer consistently moist soil that is not waterlogged. Overwatering can cause frequent root rot while underwatering leads to dehydration.
  • Nutrient Deficiency: A lack of essential nutrient components, especially natural nitrogen, can cause yellowing leaves. Regularly feeding your plant with a balanced and high-nitrogen fertilizer can help prevent this.
  • Light Conditions: While these plants enjoy bright, indirect light, direct sunlight for long can scorch the leaves, causing them to turn yellow. Conversely, too little sunshine can also lead to yellowing.
  • Pests or Disease: Check for signs of pests like spider mites or diseases like fungal infections, which can cause yellowing and other leaf damage.
  • Natural Aging: Older leaves at the bottom of the plant will naturally turn yellow and die off as part of the plant’s growth cycle.
  • Temperature Stress: Elephant ear plants are sensitive to temperature changes. Too cold or hot conditions can stress the plant, leading to yellow leaves.
  • Poor Drainage: Water can accumulate around the roots if the soil does not drain well, causing root rot and yellow leaves.
  • Transplant Shock: If you’ve repotted or moved the plant recently, it may experience transplant shock, leading to yellowing leaves while it adjusts to its new environment.

How to Mitigate Elephant Ear Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

  • Adjust Fertilization: Over-fertilization can cause nutrient imbalances, leading to yellowing leaves. Use a balanced fertilization schedule during the growing season with a 20-20-20 fertilizer, and reduce the frequency during the plant’s hibernation stage.
  • Optimize Watering: Ensure the plant’s soil is consistently moist but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to rotting of the root system and yellowing leaves, while underwatering can cause the plant to suffocate and lead to nutrient absorption issues.
  • Improve Humidity: Elephant ear plants thrive in humid environments. Using a personal mini humidifier or misting the plant can help it thrive.
  • Manage Sunlight and Temperature: Ensure the plant is not exposed to excessive sunlight, and maintain a consistent temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid stress.
  • Check Soil pH and Drainage: Improper soil pH and poor drainage can also contribute to leaf yellowing. Use well-draining soil and pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging and nutrient imbalances.
  • Consider Nutrient Deficiencies: If the plant’s leaves continue to yellow, consider the possibility of nutrient deficiencies and adjust the fertilization or soil composition accordingly.
Healthy Elephant Ear Plant in a pot on a wooden stand, with vibrant green leaves, for indoor greenery.

Elephant Ear Plant Types

Elephant ear plants, known scientifically as the Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma genera, are famous for their large, lush leaves. Each Elephant Ear Plant type has unique characteristics and care requirements. Here’s a detailed look at some of the most popular types:

Colocasia

Colocasia esculenta (Taro)

  • Appearance: It is known for its large, arrow-shaped leaves that can grow up to 2 feet long and are typically deep green.
  • Care: These large elephant ear plants prefer moist, well-drained soil and partial shade. They’re often grown in water gardens or as potted plants.
  • Special Note: The roots are edible when cooked and are a staple in many tropical cuisines.

Colocasia ‘Black Magic’

  • Appearance: Features striking, dark purple to black leaves, creating a dramatic visual impact.
  • Care: These black elephant ear plants need consistent moisture and fare well in full sun to partial shade. The dark foliage can scorch in too much direct sunlight.

Alocasia

Alocasia macrorrhizos (Giant Taro)

  • Appearance: Known for its massive leaves that can reach several feet in length. The leaves are glossy and have a rigid texture.
  • Care: Requires a warm, humid environment and does not tolerate cold. Prefers bright, indirect light.

Alocasia ‘Polly’ (African Mask Plant)

  • Appearance: Smaller than other varieties, with arrowhead-shaped leaves marked with bold veins. The leaves have a dark green color with contrasting white veins.
  • Care: Needs high humidity and indirect sunlight. It’s more suited to indoor growing due to its size and light requirements.

Xanthosoma

Xanthosoma sagittifolium (Arrowleaf Elephant Ear)

  • Appearance: Characterized by its arrow-shaped leaves that can grow quite large. The leaves are a vibrant green.
  • Care: Thrives in rich, moist soil and partial shade. It’s often grown for its edible tubers in tropical regions.

Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’

  • Appearance: Features bright lime-green leaves, adding color to any garden.
  • Care: Prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial to full shade. It’s sensitive to cold temperatures.

How To Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs?

Planting elephant ear bulbs (also known as tubers or corms) is a straightforward process, but it requires some care to ensure successful growth. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Choose the Right Time: When To Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs?

Plant elephant ear bulbs in the spring after the last frost when the soil has warmed up. They thrive in warm temperatures and will not grow in cold soil.

Select a Suitable Location

Choose a location receiving partial shade to the full sun. Some varieties may tolerate more sun than others. You need to ensure the planting site has rich, well-draining soil. Elephant ears prefer moist, fertile soil.

Prepare the Soil

Soil Preparation: Loosen the soil granules to a depth of around 8 inches and mix in compost or well-rotted manure to enrich it.

Plant the Bulbs

Identify the top and bottom of the bulb – the top is usually more pointed, and you may see some remnants of last year’s growth.

Plant the bulbs about 2 to 4 inches deep with the pointed side up. Space them about 2 to 4 feet apart, depending on the variety, as they need room to grow.

After planting, water the bulbs thoroughly.

Initial Care

Keep the soil consistently moist, not waterlogged. Elephant ears need a lot of water, especially as they grow. Apply a layer of good-quality mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Fertilizing

Once the plants start growing, fertilize them with a balanced, water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.

Ongoing Care

Watch for signs of growth, which should appear in a few weeks. If the weather is cooler, it may take longer for the plants to sprout. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Treat any issues promptly to prevent damage to the plants.

Winter Care (Overwintering)

Elephant ear bulbs should be dug up in areas with cold winters before the first frost. Allow to dry for a day or two, then store in a cool, dry place over the winter. Replanting again the following spring after the danger of frosts.

Tips for Success

  • Patience: Elephant ear bulbs can sprout slowly, especially in cooler temperatures. Be patient and keep the soil moist.
  • Watering: These plants love water, so during hot, dry periods, they may need additional watering.
  • Sunlight: If you notice the leaves scorching, it may indicate too much direct sunlight. In contrast, the plants need more light if they seem leggy or weak.

Final Words

Caring for elephant ear plants presents unique rewards and challenges. These dramatic beauties thrive by choosing suitable varieties, prepping planting sites properly, and attending to water, light, and nutrient needs.

Monitor for pest invaders or diseases threatening glossy foliage. Shelter tubers from cold weather, enabling reemergence each spring.

Though demanding, elephant ears’ spectacular size and shapes can add valuable and dramatic scale, shape and form to your indoor or outdoor garden.

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