Elephant ear leaves drooping is very discouraging for any home gardener especially if you’ve worked hard to let your plant grow huge, lush leaves.
Dropping or wilting can quickly turn an otherwise green, vibrant looking plant into something very sad, weak and unhealthy.
As such, it is very important to pay attention to this change and figure out what is going on.
Why are my elephant ear leaves drooping? Underwatering and overwatering are the most common reasons for drooping.
But there are other causes as well. These include lighting issues, fertilizer problems, water quality, pests and diseases.
At times, it is just the sheer size of the leaves that puts too much weight on the plant.
Why Are Your Elephant Ear Leaves Drooping?
Elephant ear leaves drooping can mean different things. But they all mean that something is not right.
And it is your plant’s way of telling you that it needs your help to remedy the issue.
As such, it is important to spend some time to figure out what is going on. More importantly, narrow down the root cause so you can treat the problem.
Below, I’ll go through the list of possible reason for elephant ear leaves drooping or wilting.
Note that usually, it is only one problem that’s occurring at any given time. Although, sometimes, you may have a couple of issues happening at once.
The Plant is Top Heavy
Elephant ear plants are called as such because of their large leaves. This gives them their wonderful exotic look. It is also what makes them very attractive.
When you do a very good job at caring for this plant, its leaves will become huge.
And the size of its leaves is what will make the elephant ear droop.
The sheer size and weight of the leaves will pull down on the plant as they get too heavy to keep up.
How to Fix it
The good news is that you do not need to trim the leaves or reduce their size. That would be a complete shame given how beautiful they look.
Instead, you can use stakes to help the plant support the extra weight.
This will allow the large and heavy leaves to stay up. Thus, fixing the problem of a droopy elephant ear plant.
Note that sometimes, the large leaves bringing the plant down may just be a diversion.
And there could be another reason for your droopy elephant ears.
So, it is always worth taking the extra time to check the other possible causes below.
Lack of Water
Elephant ear plants enjoy moist conditions. They do not like to be saturated nor do they like to go dry.
Instead, they’re used to very consistent environments.
As such, when the plant feels a little dry, it is time to water the plant.
This makes it a bit more picky when it comes to its water requirement.
Thus, this is not the plant you want to neglect or leave unwatered for weeks at a time.
If you underwater your elephant ear, it won’t take long before you’ll see it droop or start wilting.
In part, this is because plants are made up of 90% water. But at the same time, the plant will start conserving water which causes it to become droopy as well.
This means that it is important to observe the leaves of the plant since if they’re underwatered and you don’t give them something to drink, you’ll soon see its beautiful leaves dry up and start browning on the edges and tips.
That would be a shame considering that the damage and discoloration will not heal or turn green again.
How to Fix it
The good news is that your elephant ear responds well to rehydration and watering.
Therefore, it does not take long for it to start perking back up.
But before you add water, always check to make sure that the cause of the elephant ear leaves drooping is in fact underwatering.
Overwatering can also cause droopy leaves in elephant ears plants.
As such, the mixed signals can make it very confusing.
So, to make sure, always check the soil by touching it to confirm overwatering from underwatering.
With an underwatered elephant ear, the soil will be dry. In most cases, the soil will be dry all the way down the root ball or nearly all the way down.
On the other hand, an overwatered elephant ear will have wet, soggy soil.
If your elephant ear is drooping due to lack of water, give it a good soak.
You can water it from above. Just make sure that you water thoroughly so the root ball is drenched. This will allow the roots to get the drink they need and want.
After that, allow the plant to completely drain.
Similarly, you can use bottom watering.
This takes more time. But it also ensures that the soak is properly saturated. Bottom watering also reduces the risk of overwatering.
Once the top 2-3 inches of soil feel moist, you can take the pot out of the water bath.
Again, make sure to let the plant completely drain after.
As mentioned in the previous section, overwatering can also cause elephant ear leaves to droop.
Between overwatering and underwatering, this one of way more dangerous.
So, it is very important to watch out for this.
Again, your first warning sign is wet, mucky soil especially if it has been at least a few days since you last watered the plant.
The problem with overwatering is that the excess moisture will fill the air pockets between the soil particles.
In doing so, the roots will either end up sitting in lots of water. Or worse, they can be drowning in it.
Elephant ears don’t like this.
And while there’s lots of excess moisture, the liquid prevents the roots from functioning properly.
They get clogged which results is less absorption of moisture and nutrients.
As a result, your elephant ear leaves will droop due to the water shortage and nutrient deficiencies.
It will also struggle to grow properly due to this.
What’s worse is that overwatering can lead to root rot.
This is when the excess water deprives the roots of oxygen which they need to breathe in to survive. If the overwatered condition persists, the roots will eventually die from suffocation then rot.
That’s when you get root rot.
This is why overwatering is the number one cause of houseplant death.
Therefore, in addition to an unsightly droopy elephant ear plant, it now has bigger problems.
How to Fix it
Overwatering is usually caused by one of three things. Sometimes, it is a combination of two or more things.
- Watering the plant too frequently
- Poor drainage soil
- Using a pot with insufficient drainage
So, it is important to cover all three factors.
In most cases, watering the plant too often is the main cause of overwatering.
As such, it is important to always check the soil before you add more water. If the soil is still moist or wet, don’t add water.
You want to wait until the top 2-3 inches of soil has dried between waterings.
This allows you to avoid watering too frequently.
The next thing is to make sure to use well-draining soil. This allows excess moisture to drain from the soil in order to avoid waterlogging and overwatering.
Finally, choose a pot with drainage holes to allow any excess liquid to drip out.
What if your elephant ear leaves drooping is caused by overwatering, what do you do then?
If your plant is already overwatered, the goal is now to let it dry as quickly as possible.
In case the issue just recently happened or the overwatering is minor, try to pour out or drain any excess moisture from the pot.
You can also poke holes in the soil or turn the soil over to aerate the potting mix.
This will speed up drying.
Keep the plant in a well-lit location with no direct sunlight. Also, position it where there is good air circulation.
However, if the overwatering has been happening consistently or is a chronic issue, you want to be more aggressive.
Here, take your elephant ear plant out of its pot.
Then, place the root ball on top of a few newspapers. The old newspapers will help absorb the excess moisture.
Keep the plant is bright, indirect light with good ventilation.
The goal is to allow the root ball to dry.
If you have a medium or large sized elephant ear, it will take a few days for the soil to dry. So, keep the plant unpotted in a secure place.
Also, throw away any excess liquid in the pot.
Once the root ball has dried, you can repot the plant in fresh, dry soil. Then start watering again.
But this time, adjust your watering routine to avoid overwatering.
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Too Much Fertilizer
Elephant ear plants are able to sustain their growth by being heavy feeders. These plants need a lot of nutrients to produce their large, gorgeous leaves.
However, as with all plants, there’s such a thing as too much.
Additionally, feeding errors will also cause your elephant ear leaves to droop.
In most cases, this happens because of too much fertilizer. That’s because people often have the misconception that plants need to feed very regularly.
But that is not the case.
As such, using the incorrect type of fertilizer, applying too much plant food, feeding too often, fertilizing when the plant is dormant are all potential causes of a droopy elephant ear plant.
When you give the plant too much fertilizer, the root system can eventually get damaged or experience fertilizer burn.
This prevents the damaged roots from absorbing moisture and nutrients.
As a result, no matter how much you water the plant or feed it, the plant won’t be able to use the moisture or nutrients.
This causes elephant ear leaves drooping. It also weakens the plant and result in leaf discoloration.
How to Fix it
There are two things to consider here.
- What to do if you overfertilized your elephant ears plant?
- How to prevent overfeeding in the future?
If your elephant ear leaves are drooping due to overfertilization, then diagnosis is the first step.
You’ll likely see a white crusty layer or sections on this in the soil. These are the salts that have built up in the soil.
Additionally, if you feed the plant more than once or twice a month then you’re likely overfeeding it.
Similarly, if you fertilize it during fall and winter, you’re likely giving it too much plant food.
So, if you suspect this, the easiest fix is to flush the soil.
To do so, run a hose or keep pouring water onto the soil. Don’t wet the leaves. Instead, water directly onto the soil.
Keep this running for a 2 to 5 minutes.
You can reposition the water so different sections of the soil get moisture.
The goal here is to allow the water to trickle down from the bottom of the pot. As it does, the excess debris, salts, minerals and other particles will flow out with the water.
This will flush the excess salts and minerals that have accumulated in the soil.
After you’re done, allow the plant to completely drain.
If you want a more aggressive solution, you can unpot your elephant ear plant and remove any excess soil from the roots. Rinse the soil and root system water.
This will get rid of the soil as well as any remnants of the fertilizer.
Then let the roots dry.
Once the plant has dried, repot it in fresh, dry soil. This immediately lets the plant get away from all the excess salts and minerals in the old soil.
Finally, remove any damaged, discolored or droopy leaves.
Just as importantly, adjust our feeding schedule and routine to avoid overfeeding in the future.
Elephant ears need a lot of nutrients (NPK) to grow their large, lush leaves.
Use a 20-20-20 balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength if you’re growing the plant in a pot.
Feed the plant once a month during its growing season, which are spring and summer.
Stop feeding around early to mid autumn. And do not feed the plant in winter as it will go dormant. It won’t need plant food then.
Alternatively, you can also use a slow-release fertilizer as well.
Avoid the temptation of feeding the plant more than it needs in hopes that it will grow faster or bigger. While this will work initially, it can cause imbalances in growth or legginess.
Similarly, overfertilizing will eventually result in a buildup of salts in the soil which will burn the roots and eventually reach the leaves as well.