Elephant ear plant leaves curling can be caused by many things, and in this guide, we’ll take you through 8 key reasons and the solutions to get your plant back in shape.
The most common reasons for elephant plant leaves to curl includes overwatering and underwatering, as well as incorrect sunlight and temperature levels.
In most cases, it’s easy to both identify and fix the issue at hand.
- 8 Most Common Reasons For Elephant Ear Plant Leaves Curling (With Solutions)
- How To Ensure Good Leaf Growth On Elephant Ear Plants
- What To Do With Dead Leaves On Elephant Ear Plants
8 Most Common Reasons For Elephant Ear Plant Leaves Curling (With Solutions)
If the leaves are curling downwards this is a sign that an elephant ear plant has been overwatered.
Overwatering can also lead to more serious issues such as root rot, which is where the roots sit in water for extended periods of time causing them to rot.
The key to avoiding overwatering is to check the top few inches of soil.
If they feel moist then don’t water them, but if they have dried out you can add water until it becomes moist. Elephant ear plants do favor moist soil, but there’s a fine line between this and overwatering.
On the other hand, if the leaves on an elephant ear plant start to curl upwards this indicates that the plant has been underwatered.
This is because the leaves are trying to retain water, which causes the edges to curl upwards as they dry out. Underwatering is less of an issue than overwatering, as it doesn’t lead to potential root rot or other problems such as attracting pests.
As before with overwatering, check the top couple of inches of soil.
If they’re dry then the soil has been underwatered and needs additional water until it becomes moist.
3. Too Much Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight can scorch elephant ear plant leaves over time, which creates brown marks and eventually kills the leaves.
Over short durations direct sunlight will cause the leaves to curl, both due to the effect of the sun on the leaves and also as it evaporates moisture from the soil, causing an underwatering effect.
Remedying this one is very easy, all you need to do is place elephant ear plants in areas with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
This is typically found near north or east-facing windows or shaded south-facing windows, and is ideal for elephant ear plants as it mimics their natural environment.
4. Lack Of Sunlight
Sunlight is crucial for plant growth as it plays a key role in photosynthesis which produces energy for plant growth.
If an elephant ear plant does not receive enough (indirect) sunlight, it won’t be able to create enough energy for growth and the entire plant will suffer. The leaves will curl and eventually die, along with the rest of the plant.
As before, move the plant to an area with more bright, indirect sunlight.
5. Lack Of Nitrogen
Nitrogen is the key nutrient responsible for leaf and stem growth in plants, and a lack of this will cause the leaves to curl up and eventually die.
It is so important because it is a key component of chlorophyll, which is responsible for turning sunlight into food. As nitrogen levels drop newer leaves will be favored as the elephant ear plant tries to survive; leading older, larger leaves to curl and eventually die.
Use a complete fertilizer that contains not only nitrogen but also phosphorus and potassium.
This will ensure the leaves have the right nutrients for growth along with the rest of the plant.
6. Low Temperatures
Most plant leaves, including elephant ears, curl up when temperatures become too cold.
If the temperature varies between 70°F to 85°F (18°C-26°C) you should have no problem, any lower than this and you risk the leaves curling up.
Some areas of the house are naturally cooler than others, so opt for a warmer area.
These tend to be places that receive more direct sunlight, such as rooms with lots of south-facing windows. As long as the plant stays out of direct sunlight it will thrive in areas like this that are warmer.
7. Lack Of Space
Elephant ear plants are huge, so if you don’t provide ample room for them to grow the leaves can curl up easily.
With leaves up to 3 feet in length (around 91cm) and the plant itself growing up to 5 feet tall (150cm), you need to consider the placement of an elephant ear plant carefully so the leaves don’t push up against other surfaces like walls or other household features and curl up.
This can also lead to other problems such as the stems breaking, which is more difficult to fix than curling leaves.
Elephant ear plants need a lot of room, so you’re going to need to find an area in your house that has enough space.
You’ll need to provide at least 5 feet in height, and around 3 feet in width as a minimum if you plan on growing it to its potential size.
8. Transplant Shock
Transplant shock occurs in pretty much every plant when they are moved from one container to another.
It’s a completely normal reaction to the new environment that the plant is introduced to, and one of the key symptoms is curling leaves. Elephant ear plants are no different, so if you have recently moved yours into a new container or pot there’s a good chance that the leaves will curl for a week or two as it settles in.
Transplant shock is very normal, and it should only last a few days or weeks at most.
As long as you’ve used the right soil mix and haven’t changed the conditions drastically it should settle in over time and return back to normal.
How To Ensure Good Leaf Growth On Elephant Ear Plants
Ensuring good leaf growth is essentially a combination of getting each condition right for optimal growth.
- Water Properly – Elephant ear plants can be hard to water correctly. The key is to maintain moist soil, and water cautiously when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Monitor the health of the plant to see how much water it can take, and reduce watering if any signs of overwatering such as yellowing or curling leaves occur.
- Sunlight – Provide plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves, while too little sunlight will stunt growth completely.
- Use Complete Fertilizer – Complete fertilizers contain all the key nutrients that elephant ear plants need to grow, including nitrogen which is crucial specifically for new leaf growth.
- Use Well-Draining Soil – If the soil doesn’t drain sufficiently well it can promote water build-ups which can lead to root rot or overwatering. Soil mixes that contain things like peat moss, perlite and vermiculite are great options.
What To Do With Dead Leaves On Elephant Ear Plants
If the leaves have curled and started to turn yellow or brown they are beyond repair and will need to be removed.
Don’t remove these leaves straight away, though, as the rest of the plant will slowly absorb nutrients from the leaf as it dies. Instead, wait for the entire leaf to turn yellow/brown and then remove the leaf.