If the leaves of your Elephant Ear plants are curling, there are several reasons.
To bring it back to life, you have to figure out the issues and take action. This article will help you identify and fix these problems.
Elephant Ear Leaves curling due to scorching, dehydration, soggy soils leading to root rot, over-fertilizing, low humidity, temperature stress, and pest attacks. Surprisingly, a smaller pot would stunt growth and make the leaves curl.
Keep reading to learn how you can make your plant thrive. It’s time to stop worrying and start prepping!
Causes of Elephant Ear Leaves Curling
When plants are sick, they communicate through the only language they know —their appearance.
The leaves, stalks, and petioles become discolored, rough-textured, curly, or dry. The Elephant Ear plant is no different.
Dehydration from Underwatering
If you underwater your Elephant Ear plant, the massive leaves will try to save the existing water in them.
This makes the leaves curl, turn yellow, or wilt. If you continue to neglect it, it will dry up.
Elephant Ear plants drink lots of water. Ensure that the soil is wet. Set up a watering schedule where it gets at least 2-3 inches of water each week.
Water once a week. Don’t miss a single cycle. Water daily during summers.
Take care not to water it so much that it pools in the soil and has trouble draining.
Root Rot from Overwatering
Similar to not watering enough, wet soil is unhealthy. Your Elephant Ear leaves might flop or curl to show that it has received too much water.
If the drainage is not enough, excess water will turn the roots soggy. This type of condition is favorable for root rot pathogen. The base will seem collapsed, the leaves will curl, and droop.
Even though the Elephant Ear plant loves water, there is a watering threshold depending on your plant’s size and age.
Ensure that the soil is completely dry before you water, and water it in the mornings.
Water quality plays a significant role in how your plant looks and feels. Tap water contains salt, chlorine, and fluoride.
The elephant ear plant is intolerant to hard water. Over time, the leaves will show their discomfort by curling or developing brown patches.
You can either use rainwater after saving it up or use bottled water. If these options are unavailable, you can store the tap water in an open container overnight.
These chemicals in the water dissipate, making it easy for your plants to flourish.
Light, Temperature, And Humidity
Overexposure to Sun
Elephant Ears thrive in the sun. But too much sun is harmful because it makes the plant overactive.
When the intensity of light is too much. For example, when the sun shines directly on the plant for long periods, the leaves turn brown around the edges and curl.
They also turn crisp and brittle. This is similar to paper scorching under too much heat.
Place the plant in an area where the sunlight is indirect. Moving the plant around the house according to the change in temperature and sun conditions throughout the year, keeping the soil moist, and misting the plant regularly during the warm months should do.
Since Elephant Ear plants do well in tropical climates, they need to be grown in warm temperatures that range from 65° to 75°F (18-24°C).
High, chilling or freezing temperatures and cold draughts shock the plant, inducing cell dehydration and membrane damage. This makes them curl up from the stress.
During the summers, water it thoroughly. The winter sun is agreeable but placing the plant in a warm and bright spot indoors is better than placing it outside.
Elephant ear plants are sensitive to temperature drops. It is best to dig up the tubers and place them in a paper bag in a dry and warm spot until spring when you can repot it. (Source: Purdue University)
Low Humidity Issues
The elephant ear plant grows gloriously when the humidity is at least above 60%.
If you live in a place where the temperature drops below 30°F (-1°C), is generally dry and has severe winters, the moisture content in the air is extremely low.
Low humidity condition cause elephant ear leaves to lose more moisture and this causes them to curl.
To combat the dryness in the air during cold months, you can use a humidifier to create a tropical environment for your plant. Don’t be afraid to try. I use one during the winters too.
Misting the plant helps increase the humidity in the air.
The other trick is to place a pebbled-tray with water in it, so the water will evaporate, and the humidity levels in the room will rise.
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Fertilizers, Herbicide, And Pests
Feed the Elephant Ear plants with enough fertilizer to make up for their size because they are heavy feeders.
However, feeding the wrong fertilizer, overfeeding, spraying fertilizers on the leaves, and fertilizing when the plant is dormant leads to the leaves curling, or getting brown spots.
Ironically, this will make it susceptible to diseases and invite pests. In worse cases, it might even kill the plant.
Use the right amount of fertilizer. You can use a slow-release, 20-20-20 fertilizer, which consists of an equal percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and other nutrients for your Elephant Ears plant.
Dissolve it in a gallon of water, mix well and feed the plant once a month.
If you have overfed the plant, cut off the curled leaves and wait for them to grow and regenerate anew.
In winter, the plant is dormant, and it is not advisable to fertilize.
When you treat an invasive plant using herbicides, the strong vapors from the sprays unintentionally drift and reach your plant, damaging the tubers and burning the corm.
This results in twisted or whorled stalks, stunted growth or cupped foliage as the plant uses up all its energy reserves to battle these harsh chemicals in its system.
The moment you know herbicide is the culprit of curled leaves, you should snip the affected leaves, so it does not seep deep and spread to the roots.
If you suspect it has moved to the tubers, the only way is to dig it up to inspect it.
If there is any damage, instantly discard that part of the plant. This is the only way to salvage it. Fret not, your elephant ear plants are fast growers.
The biggest menace for elephant ear plants is pest infestations. Cotton aphids devour the plant with a killing vengeance that draws out all minerals and nutrients from the plant.
They are usually found on the underside of the leaves. This causes leaf curling, deformation and impedes the plant’s ability to photosynthesize normally.
A quick way to get rid of them is to use a water-gun or hose and blast water so the aphids fall off.
You can also mix neem oil or rubbing alcohol in water, pick a cotton swab, and apply them to the infested areas.
Lack of space for roots
Elephant ear plants are gigantic! They grow fast and big — especially when the weather conditions, soil, watering systems, and humidity requirements align well.
As your plant grows and matures, the root systems will need more space. When it is unable to cope, the leaves crimp up to survive.
If you see the roots growing out, pick a plastic pot with enough drainage holes, make sure it is bigger than the current size of the plant, (but not too big that the soil takes longer to dry out) give space for the roots to grow as it pleases, and finally repot it.
Another advantage of planting your elephant ear in a pot is that you can bring it inside during cold months.
Curly Leaves After Repotting
Despite looking sturdy and magnificent, the elephant ear plant is fairly vulnerable to stress factors.
After you repot it, you may see the leaves curling. Do not panic.
The plant is initially shocked at the sudden displacement and takes time to acclimatize to its new home. Be patient. It will perk up in a couple of hours.
Before you repot the plant, make sure it is in its growth phase and not in the dormancy phase. For this reason, repotting it in summer or spring is advisable.
If you have adhered to this rule, and the plant still doesn’t perk up, you need to inspect the root systems.
How to Prevent Elephant Ear Leaves from Curling
- Make sure your plant is not underwatered
- Do not overwater as that might cause root rot
- Ensure that the quality of water you use aids in the growth of the plant.
- Place your plant where it can get enough light but not so much sun that it scorches the leaves
- Elephant ear plants are not well suited to cold seasons. Protect them by bringing them indoors during winters
- If there is less moisture in the air, mist during summers, and place a tray of water near the plant during winters
- Use the correct amount of fertilizers; feed them during their growth phase
- Snip out leaves that may have suffered accidental herbicide sprays
- Keenly observe your plants and remove pests before they can transmit to other plants or turn into a menace
- Ensure that your plant has enough space to breathe and grow. Repot them accordingly.
- Understand that your plant can go into displacement shocks.
Elephant Ear plants are extremely sensitive to their environment. There are some watering problems; brightness, climatic changes, and humidity issues; fertilizers and herbicides that wreak havoc, and finally its growing capabilities as well.
Now, you know what to do if you see your elephant ear plant’s leaves curling. Most importantly, keep calm.