Elephant ears are one of those plant types that love plenty of water, whether you grow them in a garden or pot. But even with water-loving plants, too much water can be detrimental to the plant’s growth. But if they love moisture, can you give elephant ears too much water?
Although they like soil that’s always moist, overwatering elephant ears will trigger stem and root rot, causing the plant to wilt and droop and the leaves to turn yellow. As such, water your elephant ears generously at every watering, but ensure the soil is well-draining and does not retain water.
For most elephant ear growers, overwatering the plant may not appear as a concern, given the plant’s high need for water. But overwatering an elephant ear is possible. So, this article gives you the necessary info to ensure you do not give your elephant ears more water than they need.
Elephant Ears: Key Facts You Should Know
Elephant ears is an umbrella name given to plants in three tropical plant species within the aroid or arum genus in the Araceae family. The three plant species, Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma are popular for their large arrowhead-shaped leaves, which is also why they are called elephant ears.
Cultivars in the three species are generally grown for their ornamental leaves. The colors of the leaves can vary from dark green to purple to black with a silvery shine. Some species have lovely purple or cream-colored petioles and stalks.
Elephant ear plants flower rarely. The rare elephant ear flower is a spathe, a sheathing bract that encloses a rodlike spadix. The flower is unisexual.
Despite their similar appearance, elephant ear species have differences in structure and growth needs. For example, Alocasia and Xanthosoma plants have leaves that stand horizontally, with the leaf tips facing upwards. Instead, Colocasia elephant ear leaves tend to droop downwards.
Also, all three species of elephant ears grow from tubers known as corms. Although these corms are often called bulbs, they are not true bulbs. Alocasia tubers are thin and long, while those of Colocasia are large, rough, and swollen, similar to arrowroots.
Further, Colocasias grow well in direct sunlight and soil with plenty of water. They are also often grown in ponds. Alocasias, on the other hand, thrive better in moist, well-drained soil and part-shade locations.
These differences in sunlight and watering requirements explain why Alocasia elephant ears are more common as garden and houseplants. It’s also the reason why our mention of elephant ears in the rest of the article will majorly refer to the Alocasia plant. So, how much water do Alocasia elephant ears need?
How Often Should You Water Elephant Ears?
Elephant ears are native to the wetland and tropical regions. As such, they are thirsty plants accustomed to regular watering cycles, and thus, they love moist gardens or potting soil. This means elephant ear owners must consistently water their plants to ensure the soil is never completely dry.
If the leaves are drooping and wilting or turning brown or yellow, then there are watering issues affecting the plant. Dry soil is also a sign that your elephant ears need watering.
To protect your elephant ears from problems related to watering, water your plant as recommended.
Here’s how often you should water your elephant ears:
- If your elephant ear plant is newly planted, water it daily for the first 14 days to help it acclimate to the new environment and build a robust root system. Consider factors like rainfall and humidity levels and use them to adjust the watering routine for a new elephant ear plant. This will prevent overwatering.
- If your elephant ear plant is well established, water only when the soil on the surface is dry. You can tell if the soil is dry by running your fingers over it. However, assess the soil and water the plant at the slightest sign of dryness, especially if several days pass without rain.
- Water outdoor elephant ear plants regularly in drought seasons so that the plant gets at least one inch (25.4 mm) of water per week. You may not need water and an outdoor elephant ear plant if it’s raining.
- If you have elephant ears in planters, water them regularly to ensure the soil remains moist. That could even mean daily watering because the soil in planters drains faster than the ground. 2-3 inches (50.8 – 76.2 mm) of water per week is a good range for indoor elephant ears. Consider the size of the planter since the soil in a small elephant ear planter will dry faster than that in a larger one.
Note that watering an elephant ear plant in a pot can be done using one of these three methods:
- Watering over the soil. Use a can to pour water over the soil and let it flow until it starts to run out of the hole at the bottom of the pot. Be sure not to leave any water standing in the saucer below the pot. You can also water the plant by putting it under the faucet. Let the water run at low pressure until it drips out of the hole at the bottom. Allow all the extra water to drip before placing the plant back on the saucer.
- Watering from the bottom of the pot. Fill the saucer at the bottom of the pot with water and allow the soil to absorb it. Refill the saucer and repeat the process until the soil is all moist. Remove any water standing in the saucer after about 20 minutes.
- Give a water bath. You can dip your elephant ear planter in a bucket of water without letting the stem be underwater. Watch the water bubble to indicate the soil is absorbing water, and remove the plant once the bubbling stops. Allow any excess water to drain, and place the planter back on the saucer. Check the saucer after an hour and remove any standing water.
Whether you have a garden or an indoor elephant ear plant, the plant will need more watering during the growing season. This will help your plant build strong leaves and stalks. Likewise, you won’t need to water your plant as much during the colder months. The plant consumes less water in cold weather and has a naturally slower growth rate.
It’s not uncommon for garden elephant ears to go into dormancy during winter in extremely cold weather. In this case, pruning the stems and digging out the corms is advised. You can store the tubers inside your home and plant them again in the warmer spring months.
Alocasia Elephant Ear Watering Problems
Improper elephant ear watering can cause a number of problems, including the following:
Elephant ear plants will have brown leaves if they suffer from the cold or are overwatered. Water the plant enough to ensure the soil remains moist but that it’s never soggy. Overwatering can also be countered by ensuring the plant is in a location that’s warm enough, ≥ 15°C (59°F).
Crispy or Dry Leaves
An underwatered elephant ear plant or one in a spot with low humidity levels will have dehydrated leaves that feel crispy or appear dry. Water your plant if the soil doesn’t look moist enough to revive the leaves. If the plant is well watered but the leaves seem dry, spritz the plant regularly with cold water. In addition, ensure that the plant is not sitting in the way of a cold breeze.
Stem and Root Rot
These are usually caused by overwatering. The plant will appear to be drooping, and the leaves may have black or dark brown spots, while the leaf edges will be yellowish. To prevent stem and root rot, do not leave the soil waterlogged, and ensure the plant gets plenty of free-flowing air.
Alocasia elephant ears thrive best in part shade spots. If you expose them to strong direct sunlight, the leaves will turn pale brown. This mostly happens if the elephant ear plant was in a shady spot but got moved to an area with direct sunlight, causing leaf bleach.
To avoid this, acclimate an alocasia plant gradually to a new environment.
Elephant Ear Leaves Dripping Water at the Tips
If your elephant ear plant starts to drip water at its tips, it is a sign that it’s being overwatered. Reduce the number of times you water your plant in this case. Also, ensure you do not leave standing water in the soil after every watering.
Additional Problems Elephant Ears Are Prone To
Apart from problems caused by watering, alocasia elephant ear plant leaves can turn yellow due to too little sunlight. If you have an indoor elephant ear plant with yellow leaves, place your plant near a window where it can receive enough light. Garden elephant ear plants should be planted in a part-shade location right from the start.
Alocasia elephant ears can also be invaded by pests such as scale insects, spider mites, aphids, and mealy bugs. You can protect your elephant ear leaves from pests by spraying a mixture of mild soap and water every couple of weeks. Severe pest invasions can be treated with neem oil or a pesticide containing neem oil.
Elephant ears love plenty of water to sustain moist soil. However, if too much water is given and the alocasia elephant ears are consistently sitting in soggy soil, the plant can suffer from stem and root rot.
You’ll notice the leaves of your elephant ears turning yellow and the plant drooping if it is overwatered. Drips of water may also appear at the tips of the leaves. Water your elephant ear plant generously to keep the soil moist, but never overdo it. That’s if you want to enjoy the perpetually elegant elephant ear foliage and the occasional spathe flower.