Elephant Ear Plant Dying: Quick Fixes & Steps For Recovery

Is your elephant ear plant dying?

A lot of the time, people might think that their elephant ear plant is dying when in reality, it isn’t. It can be hard to tell the difference, so I’ve created this guide for you.

In this guide, we’ll cover the signs to look out for to tell if your elephant ear plant is actually dying and a step-by-step procedure for recovering your plant back to health.

Keep reading to learn more!

Classic Signs Of A Dying Elephant Ear Plant

Here are the most obvious signs to look out for that indicate that your elephant ear plant is dying.

Lots Of Yellowing Leaves

It might not seem like a big deal if some of the leaves on your elephant ear plant are turning yellow, but it is actually something that you need to pay close attention to.

This is because yellowing leaves are an early indication of overwatering.

Over time, overwatering will lead to root rot, which can kill the entire plant. Root rot occurs for two main reasons:

  • Dormant fungi in the soil that is favored in overwatered conditions.
  • Roots that are suffocated by the water slowly die and start to rot. This then spreads quickly to the other roots.

Either way, if lots of leaves are turning yellow, there’s a good chance that the roots have started to rot. If this is left, the rot will spread into the stem and kill the entire plant.

Brown Leaves

Brown leaves are also something you need to watch out for.

Brown leaves are most often associated with either a loss of moisture through underwatering or intense direct sunlight alongside hot weather and dry air or damage to the leaves caused by pests.

If several leaves are turning brown, addressing the underlying cause is essential to keep your elephant ear healthy.


Diseases and pest infestations are serious problems that, if left alone, will kill elephant ear plants quickly.

Pests like mealybugs, aphids, and mites feed on the sap found within the leaves of elephant ear plants causing significant tissue damage, leading to holes and spots on the leaves. They also leave behind a sticky residue made of honeydew that promotes the growth of sooty mold.

Root rot is one of many diseases that can affect elephant ear plants; others include fungal leaf blight and rust. These diseases will quickly spread to other parts of the plant and cause significant damage.

Severe Drooping

Severe drooping also indicates that your elephant ear plant might be dying.

Several elephant ear plant leaves on a white background

Several things can cause drooping, but severe drooping means something is wrong, such as rotten roots or problems related to low temperature or humidity.

If only a few leaves are drooping, I recommend our article on why this can happen for more detail.

Identifying Causes Of Dying Elephant Ear Plants

Now that we know the signs of a dying elephant ear plant, let’s look at what causes these plants to die in the first place.

Overwatering And Underwatering

Both overwatering and underwatering can cause an elephant ear plant to die, although overwatering acts quicker:

  • Overwatering leads to root rot quite quickly, which can then spread to other roots and parts of the plant leading to death.
  • Extended periods of underwatering dry out the leaves and cause them to turn brown and crispy and then die. Eventually, the stem will also dry out, and the plant will die.

The likelihood of either of these occurring depends on how often you water, what the conditions are like, what type of soil you use, and many other factors that we will explore shortly.

Sunlight Issues

Sunlight-related issues can also cause elephant ear plants to die.

This may sound extreme, but it can and does happen. Excess sunlight, especially in combination with hot and dry weather, causes excessive leaf moisture loss.

This turns them brown and crispy, and if the plant is not watered, water will eventually be lost from the stem, and the plant will die.

On the other hand, if there isn’t enough sunlight, this can also lead to death. Sunlight is crucial for photosynthesis, and without it, the plant can’t make enough energy to grow and survive.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies are another reason for dying elephant ear plants.

Elephant ears, like all plants, require essential nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus to survive. These are usually found within the soil but can also be supplemented with fertilizer.

Without these nutrients, the plant’s overall health is significantly affected, and it can lead to death in severe cases.

Soil Problems

The soil mix that you use can create problems for two reasons:

  • If your soil lacks nutrients and you don’t supplement with fertilizer, your plant will suffer (see above).
  • If your soil doesn’t drain well, it can lead to overwatering and root rot quickly. On the other hand, if the soil drains too quickly, the plant will become underwatered.

We’ll get into creating your own soil mix later when we cover the steps for repotting, but the general idea is to choose a soil mix that drains well while retaining sufficient moisture.

Pests And Diseases

Pests and diseases are among the most serious problems affecting an elephant ear plant.

With pest infestations, you should be able to see the pests or signs of their damage if the infestation is large. Mealybugs, for example, are visible and usually found on the underside of leaves.

On the other hand, Fungus gnats are more challenging to see by the eye, but if there are lots present, you will notice them flying in and out of the soil regularly.

Diseases like root rot can be harder to see without repotting your plant and inspecting the roots, but others like leaf blight cause spots on the leaves that start yellow and then turn into an abnormal color like black or brown.

Reviving Your Elephant Ear Plant: Step By Step

Here are the steps you need to follow to revive a dying elephant ear plant.

Treat Pests Or Diseases

The first action when dealing with a dying elephant ear plant is to tackle any diseases or pest infestations affecting the plant.

Large pest infestations must be treated with an insecticide, and any damaged leaves must be pruned.

Diseases like root rot will be dealt with during the repotting stage, but if there are any fungal diseases on the leaves, these can be treated with a copper fungicide spray weekly or bi-weekly.


When saving a dying elephant ear plant, it’s essential to get the plant to focus its energy on new growth.

Several elephant ear plants in the wild next to a trunk

Pruning can help to promote new growth, so at this stage, remove any leaves that are yellow or brown with a sterilized pruning tool. This will also help the plant save its energy for recovery rather than sustaining dying leaves.


Repotting is an important step in the recovery process for several reasons.

Not only does repotting allow you to check the roots for rot or a root-bound state, but it also lets you make sure the pot has drainage holes and that you are using the correct soil mix.

To repot your elephant ear, gently remove it from its pot by pulling on the base. I recommend wearing gloves for this, and once it is free, gently scrape away soil around the roots.

Healthy roots should be white and firm to the touch, whereas rotten roots will be discolored, mushy, and smell foul. If any roots are rotten, remove them with a pruning tool and treat the rest with a fungicide designed for root rot.

If the roots are tightly bound, gently pull on them to loosen some up and cut into the root ball to further loosen them.

After this, repot in a new container around 1 to 2 inches wider than the current one to allow for new root growth. Make sure it has lots of drainage holes in the bottom, and use a fresh soil mix.

A good soil mix starts with a regular potting mix and then mixes in plenty of compost, peat, and chopped leaves. You can also improve drainage by adding perlite.

Adjust Watering Technique

After repotting, water the soil generously until it is moist.

When watering your elephant ear in the future, only water when the top inch or two of soil becomes dry. This will help to keep the soil moist without overwatering it.

Get The Other Conditions Right

After watering, all you need to do is meet the other care requirements of the plant to help it recover.

  • Temperature – Keep the temperature above 60°F (15°C) at night and ideally between 65-85°F (18-29°C) during the day for ideal growth.
  • Humidity – Aim for humidity of at least 50% or higher.
  • Sunlight – Bright, indirect sunlight is best.

Fertilizing is optional here. Before adding any fertilizer, I would wait a couple of weeks to see how the plant settles into its new environment.

Preventing Future Problems

Elephant ear plants are pretty hardy, so it isn’t common for them to die completely unless neglected.

Here are some tips for preventing future problems with your plant.

Monitor Your Plant

The key to preventing your elephant ear plant from dying is to monitor its health regularly to spot any symptoms early on.

For example, if you notice a few leaves turning yellow, you can check the soil to see if it has been overwatered. If it has, all you need to do is stop watering until it dries out again, and you’ll prevent severe problems like root rot from developing.

You don’t have to examine it thoroughly every day, but once a week, you should quickly look at the soil and leaves to ensure the plant is happy.


Fertilizing is a great way to boost the overall health of your elephant ear plant and make it more resistant to diseases.

I recommend using a diluted complete liquid fertilizer once per month in the growing season.

In Summary

If you follow the steps in this article, you should be on your way to saving your elephant ear plant.

It might take a while to see results, especially if you have repotted your plant, so give it a few weeks and be patient. If you’ve gotten rid of the underlying issue, like a pest infestation or root rot, your plant will recover and be healthier than ever.

Want to learn more about elephant ear plants? Check out some of our other articles below:

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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