Elephant ears can have quite a few different problems with their leaves, and I’ve covered many of these in other articles; but what causes holes in elephant ear plant leaves?
Holes are mainly caused by pests such as aphids, but can also appear as a result of diseases such as fungal leaf blight. Other factors relating to the general care of elephant ears can also play a role in creating holes in the leaves such as poor nutrition.
- 4 Main Reasons For Holes In Elephant Ear Plants
- How To Protect Elephant Ear Leaves From Forming Holes
- Other Common Elephant Ear Plant Leaf Problems
4 Main Reasons For Holes In Elephant Ear Plants
To make things a bit easier to digest, I’ve split it up into 4 of the main reasons why holes can form in elephant ear plant leaves in order of which is the most likely.
Elephant ears are prone to a variety of pests (especially when kept outdoors), but not all of them will cause holes in the leaves. The most common pests that cause holes are spider mites and aphids.
Some elephant ear plants like alocasias are particularly vulnerable to spider mites.
Spider mites are quite easy to recognise as they leave behind small webs near the base of the plant, around the leaves or in the soil. Some early signs of spider mites also include spots on leaves, but this can also be caused by quite a few other things so it isn’t as reliable as the presence of webs.
Spider mites pierce leaf tissue and feed on sap, which causes holes to form. Over time, these holes will turn yellow and brown around the edge and eventually cause the entire leaf to die.
Aphids are similar to spider mites in their feeding habits and also feed on the sap from the leaves.
They’re usually invisible to the naked eye and can appear in a wide variety of colors. They typically hide under leaves and can cause a wide variety of symptoms such as yellowing leaves and the presence of a sticky substance on the leaves which is left behind after they are done feeding on the sap.
Mealybugs (Honorable Mention)
Mealybugs can be a problem for elephant ears as they are very difficult to remove, and they can cause holes in two different cases:
- Exit holes from where the parasite emerges.
- Holes that develop as a result of leaf damage.
Mealybugs are covered in white powdery wax and have tapered tails. Large infestations will usually be quite easy to see with the naked eye.
They aren’t as common as aphids and spider mites, though, but it’s worth pointing out that they can cause holes in elephant ear plant leaves in some niche cases.
2. Sun Scorch
While some types of elephant ears can do well with direct sunlight, most types prefer indirect sunlight and can be at risk of sun scorch if they are placed in an area with too much direct sunlight.
Sun scorch will create yellow and brown patches on the leaves that can turn into holes over time, and it, unfortunately, cannot be reversed once the damage is done.
3. Disease – Fungal Spots/Blights
Fungal leaf blight (a collective term for several diseases) is the most common disease(s) that elephant ears can suffer from.
Most of these diseases appear as tan to brown spots on the leaves that slowly spread across to other leaves. Over time, as the leaf structure starts to die, the spots will turn into holes similar to those created from sun scorch but smaller in size.
4. Poor Nutrition
Nutrient deficiencies, particularly nitrogen which is responsible for the growth of new leaves, can lead to holes in elephant ear plant leaves.
Nitrogen can be supplemented, and I would personally recommend doing so by using a complete fertilizer once every few weeks during the growing months. Complete fertilizers are those that contain nitrogen, as well as phosphorus and potassium, and can readily be found in most garden or plant stores.
How To Protect Elephant Ear Leaves From Forming Holes
Let me just say that holes forming in elephant ear plant leaves are not very common, and preventing them is more a case of monitoring the health of your plant closely to make sure that it isn’t being affected by external factors such as pests or disease.
I’ll get into the details shortly of how to deal with both pests and disease, but the other important thing is to ensure that you use a good fertilizer and place your elephant ear in a location with lots of bright, indirect sunlight.
By avoiding direct sunlight and supplementing with the fertilizer you’ll reduce the chances of holes forming in the leaves by a good amount.
Dealing With Pests
The first step to remove pests is to prune any leaves that have suffered damage. Once these are removed wash the rest of the plant down with water to remove as many pests as possible.
Following this, you can use an insecticide that is suitable for elephant ear plants to treat the plant directly. There are a few options listed here if you want to explore these in more detail.
Dealing With Disease
Dealing with diseases is similar to pests in a way, and for the sake of this article, I’ll focus on fungal leaf blight as this is the most common disease that causes holes in elephant ear plant leaves.
Start as before by removing any affected leaves with a pruning tool. After this, apply a fungicide (rather than a pesticide) to treat the rest of the plant.
Monitor the plant over the next few weeks to check for any symptoms of the disease returning.
Other Common Elephant Ear Plant Leaf Problems
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve written quite a lot about the common problems that elephant ear plants, and more specifically the leaves, can face.
Here are a few links to these resources:
I’ll keep this section updated as I cover more content about this fascinating plant.