Why Is Your Elephant Bush Dropping Leaves?

Have you been noticing lately that your elephant bush has been dropping leaves? If so, don’t worry – you’re not the only one. This is a common problem with this plant, and there are several reasons it might be happening.

The number one reason your elephant bush is dropping leaves is likely because of a lack of water. This plant needs to stay hydrated for it to thrive, and if you’re not providing enough water, the leaves will start to dry out and fall off. 

This article will further discuss the most common causes of leaf drops in elephant bushes and how to prevent or fix them.  

Too Much Sun

If you notice your elephant bush starting to drop leaves, it’s likely due to too much sun exposure. Elephant bushes are native to Africa, where they grow in shady woodland areas. In their natural habitat, they rarely experience direct sunlight.

When grown in sunny locations, elephant bushes can become stressed and start to lose leaves. Planting your elephant bush in a shady spot is the best way to ensure it thrives and grows as expected. 

Try planting it near a taller plant or placing it on the north side of your house, where it will be protected from the hot afternoon sun. With a little TLC, your elephant bush will soon be looking green and healthy again.

Insufficient Sunlight

On the other hand, your elephant bush may be dropping leaves due to a lack of sunlight. This plant needs bright light to produce food through photosynthesis, and if it isn’t getting enough sun, its leaves will begin to drop off.

If you want to fix this problem, try moving the elephant bush to a spot where it can receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. If that isn’t possible, you can also supplement with artificial lights or use plant growth lights for extra brightness.


It’s easy to underwater your elephant bush without even realizing it. The telltale sign that this is happening is when the leaves start to drop off.

When the roots don’t have enough water, they’ll start to pull the water from the leaves to survive, which causes them to turn yellow and eventually drop off. If you notice this happening, you should increase the amount of water you’re giving your elephant bush and ensure that the soil is draining well.

Additionally, try not to let the soil dry out completely between watering as that will stress the plant and cause even more leaves to drop. With a little extra care, you can get your elephant bush looking healthy again in no time.


Are you watering your elephant bush every day? Overwatering is a common cause of leaf drop in this tropical succulent. It’s easy to forget that these plants are drought-tolerant and only need to be watered about once a week.

One way to tell if you’re overwatering your elephant bush is to check the soil. If it’s constantly soggy or feels waterlogged, that’s a sure sign you’ve been overdoing it. Another clue is yellowing or wilting leaves.

Yellow or wilted leaves indicate that the roots are not getting enough oxygen and that the plant is struggling to survive. If you think you may be overwatering, cut back on watering and see if your plant starts to recover. Overwatering is often fatal to elephant bushes, so it’s important to catch it early.

If you want to learn more about overwatering and underwatering, check out my article. I’ll discuss the most common signs plants display when they are underwatered and overwatered and show you some things you can do to help remedy the situation: Overwatering vs. Underwatering Plants (Signs and Fixes)

The Soil Is Not Well-Draining

If you notice your elephant bush starting to drop leaves, it may be a sign that the soil doesn’t have good drainage properties. Elephant bushes need well-drained soil to thrive. If the soil is too soggy, the roots will start to rot, which can negatively affect your plant’s health and even lead to death if the issue isn’t addressed early enough. 

If you think your elephant bush might be suffering from poor drainage, you can do a few things to help. 

  • Check the drainage in the area where the plant is located. 
  • If the ground seems very wet or soggy, it may be a good idea to improve the drainage by adding some gravel or sand to the soil. 
  • You can also try planting the bush in a raised bed or pot to help improve drainage.

Plant Diseases 

Here are some common diseases that your plant might be facing if it is dropping leaves:

Root Rot

This disease is caused by over-watering and poor drainage. Elephant bushes do well with sporadic watering, meaning day-to-day watering will do more harm than good to your plant.  If overwatered, the roots of your elephant bush start to rot, which increases the chances of death due to the inability to absorb vital nutrients from the soil. 

How To Fix – Water Wisely

Watering too often or leaving standing water around the base can lead to root rot. If your elephant bush needs more water than usual due to hot weather, let the topsoil dry out completely before giving it another drink. This will help keep the roots from becoming saturated with too much moisture.


Botrytis is a fungal infection caused by the pathogenic fungus called Botrytis cinerea. It affects a wide range of plants but is most commonly seen in succulents such as elephant bush (Portulacaria afra).

The disease leads to the formation of grayish-brown spots on the leaves that combine to form large patches of dead tissue. If left untreated, botrytis can lead to a significant reduction in the quality and quantity of your plant’s growth. 

How Does Elephant Bush Botrytis Spread? 

High humidity can increase the likelihood of this disease. Botrytis spreads when an infected plant comes into contact with a healthy one. The disease can also spread when an infected plant releases its spores into the air. The spores then land on a susceptible plant and cause infection. 

It’s important to note that this fungus doesn’t just affect the elephant bush. Other succulent plants, such as aloe vera and echeveria, are also susceptible to infection. 

How Can I Treat Elephant Bush Botrytis? 

There are several ways to treat elephant bush botrytis, as explained below. 

  • Remove any affected leaves from the plant as soon as possible so that they don’t spread the infection further.
  • You can use fungicides such as copper sulfate or neem oil to help fight off the infection.
  • Make sure your plant is getting enough light and just enough water; too little light can make it more susceptible to infection, while too much water can cause root rot which can also increase susceptibility. 


Rust is caused by a fungus that develops in wet plants in moist conditions. It appears as yellow or orange spots on the leaves of plants, which eventually turn brown and fall off. If not treated quickly enough, the fungus will spread throughout the entire plant and cause severe damage. 

How To Treat Rust on an Elephant Bush 

If you notice any signs of rust on your elephant bush, it’s important to act quickly to save your plant.

  1. Remove any affected leaves with a pair of scissors or pruning shears.
  2. Spray the entire plant with neem oil or fungicide every few days until all signs of rust have disappeared.
  3. Be sure to keep the area around the plant clean and dry to prevent further outbreaks of rust in the future. 

Preventing Rust on an Elephant Bush 

  • The best way to protect your elephant bush from developing rust is by keeping it in an environment that is well-ventilated but not too humid.
  • Make sure that there’s plenty of space between each potted plant so that air can circulate freely around them.
  • Be sure not to overwater your plants, as this can create too much humidity in their environment and make them more susceptible to fungal problems like rust. 

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease known to affect a wide range of plants. The condition mostly affects plants in warm and humid weather conditions.

The fungus’ spores settle on the leaves of the plant and draw out moisture, resulting in white or gray patches of fungi on the leaves. As the infection progresses, it can cause discoloration, wilting, and even death in extreme cases. 

How Can You Prevent Powdery Mildew? 

The best way to protect your elephant bush from powdery mildew is by increasing air circulation around the plant. Make sure that no other plants are blocking your elephant bush from getting enough light and airflow.

You should also check your watering routine, as too much or too little water can contribute to a powdery mildew infection.

Finally, consider using a fungicide spray specifically designed for powdery mildew on your plant if necessary. When using a fungicide, be mindful not to overuse these products as they may damage the delicate balance of microorganisms living in the soil surrounding your plant! 


Anthracnose is a broad term used to describe a variety of fungal diseases that are common in plants. It is caused by fungi from the genus Colletotrichum and affects almost all types of plants.

The fungal disease affects both indoor and outdoor plants and can cause the following: 

  • Leaf spots 
  • Blights 
  • Cankers 
  • Wilting leaves

On elephant bushes specifically, anthracnose causes yellowish-brown lesions on the leaves, as well as dark spots on stems and branches. These lesions can grow larger over time if left untreated. 

How To Treat Anthracnose on an Elephant Bush 

If you suspect that your elephant bush has been affected by anthracnose, there are some steps you can take to help treat it. Increasing air circulation around the bush by pruning any nearby trees or shrubs that are blocking airflow is one great way to treat the disease. 

You should also avoid overwatering your plant, as too much water encourages fungal growth. Additionally, applying fungicides can help prevent the further spread of the fungus as well as reduce existing symptoms.  

Southern Blight

In recent years, the elephant bush has started dying off due to a fungal disease called Sclerotium rolfsii, also known as “Southern blight.”

Symptoms of this disease include: 

  • Yellowing of leaves 
  • Wilting of stems 
  • Rotting stems 
  • Black spots on foliage caused by the fungal spores growing on the plant’s surface. 

Without treatment, this disease will eventually kill an infected plant.  

How To Treat Southern Blight

If you have an elephant bush in your home or garden that appears to be infected with Sclerotium rolfsii, there are steps you can take to save it.

  1. Trim off any affected parts of the plant so that they do not spread the infection further.
  2. Remove any fallen leaves or debris around the base of the plant, as these could be harboring spores of fungus as well.
  3. Treat your plant with fungicides( thiram and quintozene) specifically designed for treating Southern blight—this should help stop further damage if caught early enough! 

Pest Attack

The most common pests that attack elephant bushes are: 

  • Mealybugs: These are small white insects with a waxy coating that feed on the sap of plants by piercing the leaves with their mouthparts. 
  • Spider mites: These also feed on plant sap and cause damage to foliage by sucking out chlorophyll.
  • Thrips: They’re tiny black or yellow flying insects that suck the juices out of plants’ leaves. 
  • Aphids: These are small green or brown bugs that secrete honeydew and cause leaf curl

All these insects can cause serious damage to an elephant bush if left unchecked. 

Treating an Elephant Bush Infestation 

If you notice any signs of pest infestation on your elephant bush, it’s important to treat it immediately by doing the following.

  • Remove any affected leaves as soon as possible to limit the spread of the infestation.
  • Use a pesticide spray specifically designed for dealing with insect pests on indoor plants like yours.
  • Spray all parts of your elephant bush thoroughly, and be sure to cover both sides of each leaf so that all areas are treated properly.
  • Monitor your plant regularly for any signs of pest activity so that you can act quickly if necessary. 

If you think that your plant is suffering from any of these diseases, it’s important to take action quickly. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage or death to your plants.

How to Deal with An Elephant Bush With Dropping Leaves

Scratch the Stem To Check for Revival

If your elephant bush is dropping leaves, don’t despair just yet. There’s still a chance that you can revive it. The key is to scratch the stem to check for signs of life. If the stem is greenish, then there’s a good chance that the plant can be revived.

But if you scratch the stem and find it brown, chances are your plant is damaged beyond repair and is already on its deathbed. 

Cut Leggy Stems First

When you’re ready to start reviving your elephant bush, the first step is to trim off any leggy stems. This will help encourage new growth and also promote bushier foliage. 

As a good rule of thumb, you should use sharp pruning shears, as blunt ones can damage the plant. Moreover, you should properly disinfect the pruning shears when cutting off affected parts to avoid spreading diseases or infections. 

Change the Potting Soil

Once you have trimmed the leggy stems, it’s time to give the plant some fresh potting soil. A good mixture of compost, coco chips, and soil (with good drainage) should be enough to give your elephant bush the nutrients it needs to thrive.  

Fertilize Regularly

Finally, regular fertilization is essential for reviving an elephant bush. Choose fertilizer specifically designed for succulents and cacti, and make sure to follow the package instructions for proper application.

The frequency of fertilization will depend on the health of your plant and the time of year. But in general, you should aim to feed your elephant bush once every month during active growth periods.

Wet the Soil With Rain Water

In addition to the steps above, ensure you are also wetting the soil with rainwater. This will help keep your elephant bush hydrated and promote healthier growth as it doesn’t contain any chemicals or potentially harmful salts and minerals. 

If you find that your elephant bush is not recovering, then it may be best to discard the plant and try again with a new one.

You should start to see a turnaround in your elephant bush’s condition within a month of starting the reviving process. Be sure to monitor your plant closely and take note of any changes that occur. With enough care, you can help bring your elephant bush back from the brink!

Wrapping Up

There are several possible causes of elephant bush leaf drops, including: 

  • Environmental changes 
  • Overwatering  
  • Poor soil quality 
  • Too much sun exposure 
  • Pest or disease infestations 

If you notice your elephant bush dropping leaves, it’s important to identify and address the underlying cause as soon as possible to prevent further damage. As long as you provide the right care for your plant, it will be healthy and happy!

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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