How To Save A Dying Elephant Ear Plant?

How To Save A Dying Elephant Ear Plant

Elephant ear plants, with the scientific name Colocasia esculenta, are widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. These fast-growing tropical perennials belong to the family Araceae, and are native to southeastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent. They are also known as taro, and have huge, heart-shaped leaves. Like most plants, they are also prone to problems and diseases which could damage them or threaten their survival if not promptly addressed. 

How to save a dying elephant ear plant

Ensure that your plant is getting the correct level of sunlight.

Leaf scorch is often the culprit if your elephant ear is looking worse for wear. The leaves get burnt along the edges, which can affect the appearance of the foliage even if it does not necessarily kill the plant. Provide ample light, but make sure to shield the plant from very high temperatures or when the sun is at its hottest. Provide a shade, such as a garden umbrella, to shield it from the sun’s rays, or transfer the plant to a shadier part of the garden. 

Water and feed your plant to help revive it. 

Your elephant ear could be dying because it is dehydrated or nutrient-deficient. If you notice dry, crinkly leaves, provide a deep watering to remedy this, but do not let excess water sit stagnant in the pot. 

Plants that are starved of nutrients could also wither and die. Remember to feed your plant with a high-nitrogen plant food during springtime and mid-season to ensure healthy foliage. 

In cold weather, bring your Colocasia plant indoors. If its leaves wither or die, clip them off and unearth the tubers. Wrap these sphagnum moss and re-pot them in early spring. 

Check for pests and diseases, and treat the plant accordingly.  

Pests like aphids and mealybugs could ravage and weaken your plant. These pests suck sap from the plant’s tissue and may kill it if left unchecked. Eradicate them by washing or spraying the leaves with horticultural soap.  

Fungal diseases can also affect your plant, especially if it has developed root rot due to waterlogged soil. Treat this with a fungicide and transplant the affected plant using fresh soil mixed with one-third peat moss. 

To know whether the plant is on the brink of death or can still be saved, look for signs of green in the stems and roots. If all of the roots or stems appear rotten and mushy, it is unlikely that the plant can be saved.

If there are still green stems and roots, trim back the dead parts to encourage new growth, taking care to leave parts of the stems intact. If the plant’s roots are still alive, do not trim the stems down to the roots. 

Determine the reason the plants are dying, so that you can remedy it properly. Common reasons include pests, diseases or watering issues. 

Reasons your elephant ear is dying

1. You are growing the plant in the wrong area or hardiness zone. 

Elephant ears thrive in tropical or near-tropical climates. They like humidity and warmth, so if you live in a country with cold weather, it is not ideal for this type of plant and they may not survive. Likewise, elephant ears in very dry areas will crave humidity and their leaves may dry out or droop.

Here are some ways to increase the humidity level in the air:

  • Mist the plants regularly using a spray bottle. 
  • Use a humidifier to maintain humidity if the plants are indoors. 
  • Place a water source near the plants, such as a pebble tray or a bowl of water. 
  • Keep indoor plants in a room where there is more humidity, like the kitchen or the bathroom. 
  • It could be due to too little or too much sun. 

If the plants are exposed to too much sun, the leaves may turn brown and the plants may eventually die. Similarly, plants that are exposed to too little sun may turn yellow and also wither. Provide indirect light and partial shade for the plants to regain their healthy luster. 

2. It could be due to water issues. 

Elephant ear plants thrive in moist soil, but they do not like waterlogged soil. Push your finger into the soil to check that it is damp but not soggy. Water your plant if the soil feels dry, but just enough to soak the plant and hydrate it. Soil with standing water is not good for plants with tubers, such as taro plants, as this can encourage rot and fungus. 

3. It could be due to nutrient deficiency. 

Elephant ear plants prefer nutrient-rich soil and, in its absence, they could slowly die. Replenish the soil with nutrients by adding fertilizer at least every month, although the frequency will vary depending on the soil type and plant variety. Indoor taro plants need to be fertilized more frequently. 

4. It could be due to transplant shock. 

Elephant ears that are transferred to a new environment are likely to suffer from transplant shock. They need time to adjust, especially if you have brought them from the outdoors to the indoors, or vice versa. Try for a gradual transition; do not subject the plants to sudden changes that could harm their health.

5. The planters are too small for the plants. 

Elephant ear plants may also die due to cramped planters. These plants can grow really big, and the volume of soil in small pots may not hold the level of nutrients they need. Large plants should be placed in planters at least 17 inches in width and depth, and 36 inches in diameter. You can increase the pot sizes as the plants grow. 


Elephant ear plants are tropical perennials native to southeastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent. These plants are also referred to as taro plants, and like most plants are prone to problems and illnesses that could threaten their survival if not given prompt attention. You can help revive your dying elephant ear by providing optimal growing conditions, including correct levels of light and adequate water. Also feed them with high-nitrogen plant food, and eradicate diseases and pests using pesticides and fungicides.

Image: / Milju Varghese