Overwatered elephant ear plants can be tricky to deal with, but it’s vital that you address the issue quickly to prevent anything worse from developing.
The key symptoms of an overwatered elephant ear plant include yellowing, curling or drooping leaves. Other signs include visible water on the surface of the soil as well as pests or fungal disease.
In this guide, I’ll take you through 7 key symptoms of an overwatered elephant ear plant, what you can do about it and also share a few tips to prevent it from happening again in the future.
- How Often Should You Water An Elephant Ear Plant?
- 7 Key Signs Of An Overwatered Elephant Ear Plant
- How To Save An Overwatered Elephant Ear Plant: 2 Methods
- Method #1 – Mild Overwatering
- Method #2 – Severe Overwatering
- Tips For Preventing Overwatering
How Often Should You Water An Elephant Ear Plant?
A good rule of thumb is to water an elephant ear plant when the top few inches of soil become dry.
The aim is to keep the soil moist but not saturated with water. They are native to tropical areas with plenty of moisture, so it’s important to keep the soil nice and moist.
Can Elephant Ear Plants Get Too Much Water?
Although elephant ears can be planted in standing water when kept outside, it’s best to keep the soil moist rather than oversaturated with water when they’re planted in a pot.
In these cases, diseases like root rot can quickly develop which will damage the roots and can cause the plant to die if left unattended; which is why you should always check the soil before watering.
Overwatered soil also contains much less oxygen, as you would expect, which effectively drowns the plant and causes issues with growth.
7 Key Signs Of An Overwatered Elephant Ear Plant
Here are 7 signs to look out for if you’re concerned that your elephant ear might be overwatered.
1. Yellowing Leaves
One of the most common signs of overwatering on just about any plant – from the monstera to the moringa – is yellowing leaves.
If the leaves on your elephant ear start to turn yellow, I would recommend checking the soil right away to see if it’s saturated with water. Luckily, yellowing is one of the first signs so if you can remedy the problem quickly your elephant ear should return to full health.
It’s worth noting that sometimes the leaves might turn yellow in spots or patches initially rather than in uniform areas.
2. Curling/Drooping Leaves
Overwatering will also cause the leaves on your elephant ear to curl.
This is a natural response to the roots being unable to transfer enough nutrients to the leaves and is one of the preliminary symptoms of overwatering.
3. Browning Leaves
Leaves that turn yellow from overwatering will turn brown shortly afterwards and then fall off.
The transition from yellow to brown will be faster if the roots have already begun to rot, so you can use this as a way to determine how long your elephant ear has been suffering from overwatering.
Edema (also called oedema) is another very common symptom of overwatering in elephant ear plants.
Edema is a condition where the roots take up more water than the leaves can transpire, which causes spots to develop on the leaves that appear water-soaked. Over time, these spots can develop a white, powdery appearance.
5. Root Rot
Root rot is a condition where healthy roots die due to a lack of oxygen from overwatered soil. As the roots die they can start to decay and rot which spreads to other roots, causing them to rot as well.
It can also be caused by fungus within the soil that becomes active in overwatered conditions, but in both cases, it can be very detrimental to the overall health of an elephant ear plant.
Without functioning roots the leaves will become discolored and start to wilt. Given enough time root rot can kill an elephant ear completely.
6. Other Fungal/Bacterial Diseases
Although root rot is quite common, there are other fungal and bacterial infections that can affect an elephant ear plant due to overwatering. These occur as spores are picked up by the roots and transported to the leaves and stems of the plant.
These are usually characterised as leaf spot and appear as brown spots or splotches on the leaves.
Elephant ear plants can be susceptible to pests like most plants, and excess moisture caused by overwatering will attract pests directly.
Some common pests include mealybugs and aphids, and these leave behind white spots on the leaves. Others such as spider mites leave webs behind, particularly in the soil near to the roots.
How To Save An Overwatered Elephant Ear Plant: 2 Methods
If your elephant ear has been overwatered there are two methods you can use. These depend on how long the plant has been overwatered and what symptoms it’s suffering from.
Method #1 – Mild Overwatering
If you manage to spot the symptoms of overwatering quickly and there aren’t any signs of root rot or other diseases then it will be easy to save the plant.
Step 1 – Move To A Shaded Location
In mild cases of overwatering, you just need to reduce the amount of water that you provide and allow the elephant ear to process the excess water.
The first step is to move the plant to a more shaded area, as the leaves will be vulnerable to the sun as they struggle to process water from the soil. You can also remove any leaves that have turned brown at this stage, as they provide little to no value to the rest of the plant.
Step 2 – Reduce The Watering Schedule
Once you’ve moved your plant simply stop watering it at all. You need to give it time to process the water in the soil before adding any more.
Step 3 – Wait And Monitor Results
Monitor the plant closely for a few weeks for any new symptoms of overwatering. If the health of the plant doesn’t start to return to normal, then move on to method 2 which involves removing the plant from its container to inspect the roots and dry out the soil manually.
Method #2 – Severe Overwatering
If you suspect that the roots have started to rot, or if numerous leaves have turned yellow or brown, then you’ll need to repot the plant and inspect the roots. This is a lot more work than method #1, as expected.
Step 1 – Remove The Plant From The Pot
Use a digging tool to gently dig around the base of the plant. Once the root ball is visible and loose gently remove the plant – this may require two people depending on the size of the plant.
Step 2 – Inspect/Trim The Roots
Place the plant on a sterilized, clean surface and inspect the roots for signs of root rot.
If any roots have started to go brown and mushy they can be trimmed using sterilized pruning tools. If the soil is saturated with water you can gently remove as much as possible.
Step 3 (Optional) – Treat Roots With Fungicide
As an optional step, you can treat the remaining healthy roots with a fungicide to prevent root rot from affecting your plant in the future.
This is quite tricky, so here’s a link to a great resource if you want to explore this option.
Step 4 – Leave The Root Ball To Dry
Once the roots have been trimmed and excess saturated soil removed you need to let the plant rest for 12-24 hours so that the remaining soil can dry out.
Step 5 – Repot In Fresh Potting Mix
Once dry the plant can be repotted into a fresh soil mix.
Use well-draining soil and leave a few inches on either side of the root ball for new root growth. Once in place, water the soil until moist and place it in an area with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
Step 6 – Wait And Monitor Results
Transplant shock can be a big issue when repotting elephant ear plants, so it’s important to monitor the health of the plant in its new container for a few weeks to make sure it settles in properly.
Tips For Preventing Overwatering
Always check the soil before watering and remember that the goal is to keep it moist, not saturated with water.
Aside from that, here are a few other easy tips that can help prevent overwatering your elephant ear plant.
If you keep your elephant ear in a pot then you’ll want to make sure that you have drainage holes in place that help to flush out excess water.
Use A Well-Draining Soil
Well-draining soil is absolutely crucial for elephant ear plants.
Consider adding things like peat moss, perlite and vermiculite to your soil mix to boost its draining capabilities.