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Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping (12 Causes and Solutions)

Sudden leaf drooping can be alarming and disheartening for any Elephant Ear plant owner. This is especially true if your houseplant appears bold and vibrant one minute, only to start looking withered the next. 

In most cases, Elephant Ear plant leaves droop due to overwatering or under-watering. Other common causes of this problem include pest infestation, disease, low humidity, fertilization errors, and insufficient lighting. Identifying the causal factor and readjusting your care routine can help your Elephant Ear plant recover and grow to its full potential.

Fortunately, Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping is a common problem that can easily be fixed. As with any problem, my approach is to help you identify the cause, then supply you with proven solutions.

Why Are Your Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping?

Plants communicate their discomfort through their appearance. When your Elephant Ear plant is not getting enough water, for example, its leaves might become discolored and dry.

Similarly, drooping Elephant Ear plant leaves are almost always a sign that something is wrong. The following are the most common causes of Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping and helpful tips to help you get your leaves back to their vibrant selves.

1. Under Watering

Elephant Ear plant species naturally grow in highly consistent conditions, making them intolerant to receiving too little or too much water.

If you underwater your plant, it reacts to this irregularity by conserving the water already present in its leaves. This, in turn, makes the leaves wilt or droop. They could even dry up if you do not change your watering schedule.

Solution

The best solution to under watering is to increase the amount of water you provide your Elephant Ear plant. Consider the following tips when setting up a watering schedule:

  • Water your Elephant Ear plant once a week
  • Make sure it gets at least 2 to 3 inches of water every week
  • Maintain the soil in a wet but unclogged condition
  • Water your plant every day during the summer

It is crucial that you don’t water your Elephant Ear plant so much that water pools in the soil and has trouble draining. 

2. Overwatering

As already mentioned, receiving too much water can be stressful to your Elephant Ear plant. The clogging in the soil restricts proper air circulation in the roots, preventing them from absorbing the nutrients and water your plant needs for growth. 

This results in leaf drooping. Poor drainage also encourages the presence of root rot pathogens that can have the same effect on your leaves.

Overwatering refers to any watering schedule that causes the soil to remain waterlogged and soggy for a prolonged period. Some symptoms that you are overwatering your Elephant Ear plant include:

  • Wet, brown spots on the leaves
  • Leaves turn brown and yellow
  • Watery blisters on leaf surfaces, otherwise called leaf edema
  • Soil that stays wet and soggy for many days after watering
  • A rotting smell emanating from the roots, a sure sign of root rot.

Solution

The Elephant Ear plant flourishes from just the right amount of water. Cut back on your watering frequency if you notice any of the signs described above.

Additionally, always ensure the soil is completely dry before watering, water your plant in the morning, and drain any clogged soil.

3. Fertilizer Application Errors

Elephant Ear plants make up for their size by being heavy feeders. Providing them with enough fertilizer is crucial to normal and healthy growth.

However, fertilizer application errors such as using the wrong fertilizer, spraying it on the leaves, and overfeeding can be detrimental to your Elephant Ear plant.

When you apply more fertilizer than your plant can consume, you might burn the root system, impeding its ability to absorb water and nutrients. The unfed leaves may then begin to droop. 

Solution

The best fertilizer for an Elephant Ear plant is a slow-release 20-20-20 blend, with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK). Consider the following tips when applying it:

  • Always dissolve the fertilizer in about a gallon of water and mix well
  • Fertilize your Elephant Ear plant once a month
  • Cut off any overfed leaves (they will be the drooped ones) and allow them to regenerate
  • Do not fertilize in winter when the plant is dormant.

Elephant Ear leaves that appear droopy and burnt may be a sign of over-fertilization. If you notice this, flush your pot with plenty of clean water and reduce your fertilization frequency.

4. Lack of Nutrition

The average Elephant Ear plant requires a sustainable amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, and other nutrients to grow properly.

This is why it is advisable to apply a slow-release fertilizer to your plant during planting and at least once every month after that. If you fail to do this, your Elephant Ear plant may develop a nutrient deficiency that manifests as drooping.

Solution

The solution to this problem is obvious; you need to feed your plant regularly. Consider fertilizing the soil 1 to 2 times a month in the summer and spring, and supply the plant with foliar feed or indoor plant food throughout the year. Keep the following in mind:

  • When using chemical fertilizer, go for an NPK ratio of 20-10-20 or 20-20-20
  • If you decide to use organic products, supplement with Epsom salts every month
  • Mix one-eighth of a cup of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and apply once a week for one month
  • Only water the edges of your pot when Epsom salt is present

5. Temperature Stress and Drafts

Elephant Ear plants are native to tropical climates, which is where they do well. They thrive in areas with annual daytime temperatures ranging from 68°F (20°C) to 77°F (25°C).

If exposed to chilling, freezing, or too high temperatures, the shock could induce membrane damage and cell dehydration in the plant structure. Cold drafts can have the same effect, leading to Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping.

Solution

While the winter sun is agreeable, perennial plants like Elephant Ear plants do better when placed in warm and bright indoor spots than in the sun outdoors.

If your plant is indoors and still shows signs of drooping, check that it is not located close to any heating or cooling vents. Moving it should solve your problem.

Please note that Elephant Ear plants are very sensitive to temperature changes, and moving the plant may not always be enough to revive drooping leaves. Nonetheless, doing so can allow healthy regeneration.

6. Low Humidity

Elephant Ear plants grow in areas where the humidity is at least above 60 percent. Low humidity causes your plant to lose moisture at an unprecedented rate, leading to drooping leaves. Moreover, the increased transpiration rate could raise the risk of under watering, with similar results.

Replicating the humidity conditions of the Elephant Ear plant’s tropical home can prove challenging. This is more so if you live in an area with severe winters, where the temperatures tend to drop below 30°F (-1°C). That said, there are artificial solutions you can apply to this problem.

Solution

If you are worried about low humidity, I recommend getting a hygrometer and thermometer to help monitor the humidity and temperature levels in your home.

Use a humidifier or humidity tray during cold months to increase humidity in the air around your Elephant Ear plant. You can also group your houseplants so that they can feed off each other’s warmth.

7. Elephant Ear Drooping After Repotting

Like any plant, the Elephant Ear plant is vulnerable to stress factors and may react negatively to sudden changes. You may notice this after repotting your plant and observe the leaves drooping.

Do not worry; this is a normal initial response to the shock of displacement. Once the plant acclimatizes to its new habitat, the leaves will perk up again.

Solution

While drooping after repotting is often a temporary problem, you can make things easier for your Elephant Ear plant. Consider the following tips:

  • Always repot then your plant is in its growth phase, not during dormancy
  • Report during the spring or summer
  • Allow your plant a few hours after repotting to perk up on its own
  • If it doesn’t, inspect the root systems for any problems

8. Water Quality

The quality of the water you feed your Elephant Ear plant is just as crucial to its growth as is the amount. Most Elephant Ear plant plants droop or leaf turns brown when supplied with tap water.

Generally, this is because tap water contains fluoride, salt, and chlorine, and Elephant Ear plants are intolerant to hard water. If you notice your leaves drooping despite you adjusting your watering schedule, this might be the problem.

Solution

Hard water is a pass for your Elephant Ear plant. If you only have access to tap water, try filtering it or storing it in an open container overnight. Doing so allows the chemicals present in the water to dissipate. You can also use bottled water or stored rainwater.

9. Insufficient light

Elephant Ear plant plants do well under bright, indirect lighting. Insufficient light promotes slow growth, which can increase the risk of overwatering and lead to leaf drooping. On the other hand, too direct or bright light, such as that from the sun, can burn your Elephant Ear plant leaves.

Solution

The best place to situate your Elephant Ear plant is close to a window that allows in plenty of bright, indirect light. It is vital to remember that light varies during the year, so you should keep rotating your plant. The following tips should help you maintain sufficient lighting for your Elephant Ear plant:

  • Place your plant near a north or south-facing window
  • Protect your plant from direct sunlight
  • Rotate the pot every month for balanced growth

10. Pest and Insect Infestation

The Elephant Ear plant species can be very prone to pest infestation from mealybugs, scales, spider mites, thrips, and aphids.

The latter attach themselves to the underside of your plant’s leaves and devour its mineral and nutrient supply, often leading to drooping and deformation. 

Drooping as a result of pest infestation is easy to identify. Keep an eye out for the following telltale signs:

  • Physical evidence of the pests
  • Pest droppings in the pot
  • Yellow spots on the plant leaves
  • Holes and tears in the leaves

Solution

Aphids are fairly easy to get rid of, and you can use a water gun to blast them off your plant. You can also apply a mixture of neem oil and water on infected areas using a cotton swab.

Alternatively, you can collect a sample of the pests or insects, send them to a lab, and employ their recommended solution.

11. Diseases

Some of the most common diseases that affect the Elephant Ear plant are stem rot and bacterial soft rot. Stem rot is caused by fungi that live in the soil and causes characteristic spots on the lower part of the plant stem.

Once a plant is affected, the rot spreads rapidly to the roots, causing decay. With the roots unable to absorb nutrients and water, the leaves soon wilt and droop.

Bacterial soft rot, on the other hand, is caused by bacteria and is considered one of the most destructive bacterial diseases in the world. It affects succulent plant parts such as stems, tubers, and bulbs.

The bacteria damages pectate molecules that are responsible for binding plant cells. Ultimately, this leads to the plant structure falling apart and the leaves drooping.

Solution

Unfortunately, once your Elephant Ear plant is affected by stem rot or bacterial soft rot, there is not much you can do. By the time you notice the telltale spots on the stem, the root system is usually already compromised. Your only option is to immediately remove and discard the affected plant parts.

That said, you can protect your Elephant Ear plant from future infections. The key is to avoid wet conditions, which encourage bacterial and fungal growth, by:

  • Adding organic matter to the soil to improve soil drainage
  • Controlling watering amounts and times. Provide your plant with adequate but not excessive water
  • Ensure oil fertility is optimal

12. Root Bound

Elephant Ear plants are huge and tend to grow big very fast, especially under optimum conditions. Root bound refers to a condition where your Elephant Ear plant’s root systems grow too large for the pot in which they are contained. When this happens, the leaves try to survive by crimping up and drooping.

Solution

Growing Elephant Ear plant roots may stick out of the current pot once they grow too big. If you notice this, transfer your plant to a plastic pot with sufficient drainage holes and larger than the plant’s current size. Give the Elephant Ear plant enough time to grow in this pot as it pleases, then repot it.

Final Words

The most common culprits of Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping, in my experience, are often watering problems. Always start by checking whether you are under or overwatering your plant.

If not, assess the different care conditions you provide your Elephant Ear plant, including nutrition and lighting, until you identify the problem. A problem identified is a problem easily fixed.

(Source: NC State University)