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6 Causes of Elephant Ear Bulb Not Growing (Solved!)

The dramatic, heart-shaped leaves of an elephant ear in full bloom are a sight to behold. So it’s a huge letdown when your elephant ear bulb doesn’t grow for no apparent reason.

The bulb may be sitting in the growing medium doing nothing, if not mocking your eagerness to see any sign of life.

But, on the other hand, if your elephant ear bulbs aren’t sprouting or growing, there are a variety of possible causes. To that end, let us begin our investigation.

Little germination in elephant ear bulbs is often due to too cold soil.

To encourage the bulbs to sprout and grow, you must raise the soil temperature to 70-90°F (21-27°C) and provide adequate lighting and watering.

The elephant ear bulb could also be dead, decaying, or dormant.

First Up – How Long Does It Take Elephant Ear Bulbs to Sprout?

There are three plant genera collectively referred to as “elephant ear”: Xanthosoma, Alocasia, and Colocasia.

Even so, elephant ear bulbs typically sprout or show the first signs of growth after planting for 3 to 8 weeks. (Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Reasons Why Elephant Ear Bulbs Are Not Growing 

[1] Soil Temperature is Too Cold, Causing Elephant Ear Bulbs Not to Grow

So, this indicates that growing an elephant ear corm requires patience and time.

However, you don’t have to be concerned if your bulbs don’t show signs of growth for eight weeks.

Then, look at the bulb to see any apparent problems, such as rotting.

When grown outside USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a through 12b, elephant ear bulbs are not hardy.

This includes species grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a through 10b.

In addition, the bulbs will not sprout if the soil is too cold, and the plant cannot tolerate temperatures below 70°F (21°C).

Plants native to tropical regions, such as elephant ear bulbs and plants, are more vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

As a result, elephant bulbs, tubers, and corms must be planted in a warm soil bed and kept at a constant 70-90°F (21-27°C).

You should remove the bulbs from the ground as soon as you see the first frost flakes.

Then, to keep the bulbs healthy through the winter, place them in a cool, dry place, like peat moss, sawdust, or wood shavings.

How to Fix

Your elephant ear bulbs or corms must be planted in the spring when frost and winter cold are no longer a threat to them. 

A temperature of at least 50 °F (10 °C) at night is required if you intend to grow it outdoors. For most USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, mid-April to early May is typical.

If you’re planting indoors to control the soil temperature, keep the temperature around the pot or container between 70-90°F (21-27°C).

Your elephant ear bulbs should sprout in as little as three or eight weeks if the weather and other factors are ideal.

[2] Elephant Ear Bulbs Cannot Grow in Dry Soil

Wetlands in Africa, South America, Central America, Australia, and Asia are the natural habitat for elephant ears.

Since they’re water-loving plants, it’s no surprise that they require consistently damp soil. Colocasia, for example, can survive in water up to six inches deep.

These plants grow quickly, so they require a lot of soil moisture to help them absorb the nutrients, minerals, and other resources they need to stay healthy and strong.

So it doesn’t matter what the situation is; you should never allow the soil to dry completely.

You may have allowed the growing medium for your elephant ear bulbs to become too dry or even bone-dry if they aren’t flourishing.

How to Fix

To keep elephant ears healthy and happy, water them regularly. This is especially true if your plant is potted and needs daily irrigation.

In the summer, you may have to water your plant several times throughout the day.

Irrigation can be more accessible if you use the growing medium’s surface as a guide. If the top half-inch of the soil is dry, you should add more water.

Irrigate just enough to keep the soil from becoming sodden, but not too much.

As a general rule, you should avoid allowing the soil to become excessively wet, which can suffocate the roots and encourage root rot.

[3] Elephant Ear Not Getting Enough Light

Your elephant ear bulb may not be sprouting because you placed the pot in an area with insufficient light. Either partial shade or direct sunlight is ideal for this tropical plant.

For example, if the sun is too hot, the soil will dry out faster, and the bulbs will not grow properly.

If your elephant ear bulb doesn’t get enough light, the soil won’t be warm enough to encourage sprouting and growth.

Do you see any yellowing of the sprouting leaves? That indicates that it is situated in a low-light area.

How to Fix

Your elephant ear needs more sunlight, and that is all. Place it in an area that gets a lot of indirect sunlight.

Ideally, it should be exposed to the sun for at least three to six hours daily.

However, the sunnier the location, the more frequently you must water your elephant ear.

[4] The Elephant Ear Bulb is Still in Dormancy

 Elephant Ear Bulb in Dormancy
Elephant Ear Bulb in Dormancy

Because elephant ears are susceptible to frost damage in the winter, I usually withhold watering and dig up the bulbs late fall (right before the first sign of frost).

This will cause my elephant ear bulbs to be dormant, avoiding problems like frost damage or root rot.

As a result, you can plant your bulbs on warmer spring days to help them break dormancy.

However, the elephant ear bulbs may sometimes fail to break dormancy, explaining why they are not sprouting or growing.

How to Fix

The simplest solution is to assist your elephant ear bulb break its dormancy. Here’s how it works:

  • Fill a five-gallon pot almost to the top with an organic, well-draining potting mix.
  • Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes.
  • Plant your bulb’s side up, with the tip below the soil line.
  • Irrigate the soil around the bulb until it is moist but not soggy.
  • Maintain temperatures around the bulb at 70-90°F (21-27°C).
  • If you intend to plant your elephant ear outside, begin the process indoors at least 6 weeks before transplanting.

[5] Elephant Ear Bulb Rotting

Another common reason your elephant ear isn’t sprouting or growing is bulb rot.

But, again, this could have happened if you didn’t correctly overwinter the bulbs. Make sure to dry out the bulb after cleaning it. 

How to Fix

  1. First, you must stop watering from last fall to allow the soil to dry out and force your elephant ear into dormancy. Then, the first winter frost should cause the stalks and leaves to naturally die back. 
  2. You can then dig up the bulbs and brush off as much soil as possible from the bulb.
  3. Keep the bulbs in a dry, room-temp area away from direct sunlight to allow cuts to dry.
  4. Pack the bulbs in a bucket of dry peat moss, sawdust, or wood chippings after one week. Ensure the storage area is cool & dry and maintain temperatures at around 50 °F (10 °C)

[6] Elephant Ear Bulbs Are Dead

Another reason could be that the elephant ear bulbs are already a goner. They could have succumbed to early frost, rot, disease, physical damage, or even been eaten by rodents or pests.

How to Fix

In most cases, a dead elephant ear bulb cannot be rescued. Instead, you must cut your losses and start afresh with another plant or set of bulbs.

How To Plant Elephant Bulbs for Quick Sprouting

The Right Season

You must plant your elephant ear bulbs during spring when the soil has warmed enough to around 70°F (21°C).

Then, of course, you can start your elephant ear bulbs indoors six or so weeks before the date you plan to transplant outdoors.

The Right Temperature

Elephant ear bulbs will sprout and thrive if you maintain temperatures within 70-90°F (21-27°C).

The Right Planting Mix

You must use an organic-rich but well-draining planting mix, such as sand or peat growing medium (Check the latest price on Amazon here).

Soak Elephant Ear Bulbs before Planting

The elephant ear bulb needs plenty of moisture to break the dormancy.


What happens if you plant an elephant ear bulb upside down?

While planting an elephant ear bulb upside down won’t stop it from sprouting; it will delay the time it takes for the stem to break through the surface by days, if not weeks.

How do you tell the top from the bottom of an elephant ear bulb?

The top of an elephant ear bulb is pointed, while the bottom is rounded and features some divots or bumps.

Can you cut an elephant ear bulb in half?

Yes, you can cut an elephant ear bulb in half, but you must allow the cuts to dry out before storing them in dry sawdust or peat moss.

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