Elephant Ear Plant Soft Stem: Common Causes & What To Do

Elephant ear plant soft stem is a serious problem that needs to be addressed quickly.

The section of the stem that has turned soft will need to be removed, and in some cases, you will not be able to save the plant, depending on how much healthy stem is left.

This guide will cover the main reasons why the stem of your elephant ear turns soft in the first place, as well as the steps to hopefully recover the plant. Let’s get into it.

Causes Of Soft Stem On Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants are known for their large and attractive leaves. However, they can be prone to some issues, including a soft stem.

If the stem of your elephant ear has gone soft, it has suffered severe tissue damage and needs to be addressed quickly.

Several large green elephant ear plant leaves with a white background

Here are the most common explanations for a soft stem on an elephant ear plant.


Overwatering is the most common reason for a soft stem on an elephant ear plant.

This may sound confusing at first, so let me explain.

When the soil is overwatered, there is a high chance of root rot developing. This can happen due to the roots suffocating in excess water and rotting as they die or dormant fungi (pythium rot) in the soil that becomes active in overwatered conditions.

Over time, this rot spreads to the stem and causes it also to go soft and mushy. Common symptoms of this include a soft base, as well as yellowing leaves or yellow spots on the stem.

Fungal Diseases

Other fungal diseases can affect elephant ear plants and cause the stem to turn soft outside of root rot.

The most common of these is fungal leaf blight.

Fungal leaf blight affects the leaves first, hence the name, and causes tiny lesions that ooze fluid and turn purple or yellow when dry.

Eventually, the entire leaf will die, and it will spread into the stem, causing it to have similar symptoms and turn soft.


Certain pests can also damage elephant ear plants and cause them to turn soft, while others, like fungus gnats, can spread diseases like pythium rot into the soil.

Frost Damage

Elephant ear plants are not suited for frost and will suffer tissue damage if subjected to freezing temperatures.

Frozen sections will turn soft as they unfreeze and will die shortly afterward.

You can read our guide for winter care here if you are concerned about your elephant ear during this time.

What To Do If Your Elephant Ear Plant Has A Soft Stem

If your elephant ear plant has a soft stem, there isn’t a high chance of saving it, but it can be done.

The steps below outline a procedure you can follow to hopefully save your plant.

Remove The Rotten Section

First, you should identify and remove the rotten section of the stem.

Use a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors to trim away the rotten stem tissue, making sure to cut at least 1 inch further than where the stem starts to feel firm again.

If the rotten section starts from the base, repotting or propagating a cutting will be impossible, but we’ll get onto that shortly.

Make sure to disinfect the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a solution of water and bleach before and after using it.

Insecticide/Fungicide Treatment

For large pest infestations, treating the remaining section with an insecticide like horticultural soap is a good idea to kill any remaining pests.

The same applies to diseases – treatment with a fungicide will help to kill any remaining disease in healthy sections.

Repot The Plant

After removing the rotten section, the remaining healthy stem can be repotted.

You can place the cutting straight into the soil rather than waiting for roots to propagate in water.

Several elephant ear plant leaves with water droplets on them

Choose a pot with proper drainage holes to prevent overwatering. Prepare a fresh, well-draining potting mix rich in organic matter, such as a mixture of equal parts chopped leaves, peat, and potting mix.

This will also help to prevent overwatering while providing the necessary nutrients to support growth.

Place the base into the soil and ensure it is leveled with the surface.

What If The Base Is Rotten?

If the base of the stem is rotten, this is likely due to root rot that has spread into the base.

Unfortunately, in these cases, your plant will not be able to be propagated as elephant ear plants are only able to be propagated through their tubers.

How To Prevent Soft Stem In The Future

It’s a much better idea to take steps to prevent soft stem from affecting your elephant ear plant than to deal with the consequences of it.

Here are some easy tips you can implement to make it less likely to occur.

Use The Right Type Of Soil & Don’t Forget Drainage Holes

The choice of soil is essential to prevent problems affecting the stem relating to overwatering.

Make sure you use a well-draining soil mix, which helps prevent waterlogged roots, eventually leading to soft stems. You can make your own soil mix by combining equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and potting soil.

This mix will provide the proper drainage and nutrients that your elephant ear plant needs. You also need to make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom to help excess water flow out.

Water Properly

I like to keep things simple when it comes to watering my elephant ear plants.

All you need to do is water when the top one to two inches of soil become dry, and that’s it. This will prevent underwatering and, more importantly, overwatering, which can lead to root and stem rot.

Keep Pests & Disease Away

There are no guaranteed ways to prevent pests and diseases affecting your elephant ear plant completely, but there are some tips you can follow to lower the likelihood of this happening:

  • Regularly inspect your plant for any signs of pest infestations or disease. The sooner you deal with them, the less chance that the stem is damaged.
  • Avoid overwatering your plant, as excess water can lead to stem rot and other fungal diseases.
  • Provide your plant with adequate ventilation and air circulation to prevent the growth of molds and mildew.
  • Don’t mist your elephant ear plants – excessive moisture on the leaves will attract pests and fungal growth.

Be Careful With Frost

Frost damage can cause significant tissue damage to the stem, so avoid low temperatures where possible and bring your plant inside during the winter if it is going to get cold outside.

Again, you can find more details for wintering elephant ear plants here.

In Summary

If your elephant ear plant has a soft stem, acting quickly is important.

Remember that it is much easier to prevent soft stem in the first place than to deal with the consequences, so make sure you are implementing the tips in this article to keep your plant healthy and happy.

Check out some of our other recent articles on elephant ear plants below:

Photo of author

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.

Leave a Comment