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Elephant Ears Curling Up – Causes And What To Do

Elephant ears are one of those plants that will amaze you for their foliage. The enormous leaves of many species have led to the colloquial name "elephant ears." However, growing them might be difficult since you may have to deal with problems like leaves that curl. Want to know why this plant curls and what to do when this happens? Well, we researched the causes and solutions to this problem to share with you.

Any of the following factors may cause an elephant ear plant to curl:

  • Excess of water.
  • Lack of water.
  • Excessive sun exposure.
  • Low humidity environment.
  • Extremely cold weather.
  • Inappropriate fertilizer feeding.
  • Pest invasion.
  • Hard water sensitivity.
  • Insufficient spacing.
  • Drifting herbicide vapors.
  • Sudden displacement.

In resolving the curling issue on your elephant ear, you need to:

  • Establish proper draining.
  • Schedule watering.
  • Relocate into the indirect sunlight spot.
  • Combat dryness.
  • Protect against temperature drops.
  • Use accurate fertilizer dosages.
  • Get rid of the pests.
  • Use softened water.
  • Allow space for the roots to expand.
  • Remove the parts where herbicide was applied.
  • Repot on its growth phase.

To keep your elephant ear plants looking as healthy as ever, we'll go into detail in this post about the reasons for this curling phenomenon and how to fix it.

 giant upright elephant ear is a flowering plant native to East and Southeast Asia, Elephant Ears Curling Up - Causes And What To Do

Why Elephant Ears Leaves Curl Up

A photo of Elephant Ears curling up due to environmental stresses

Plants use the only language they are capable of using—their outward appearance—to communicate when they are sick such as the curling of the elephant ear leaves. Its curling could be caused by several reasons, including the following:

Excess Of Water

a group of alocasia houseplants in the backyard is being watered in the morning

If the elephant ear plant receives too much water, the leaves may flop or curl. If there is insufficient drainage, enough water will cause the roots to become wet. Root rot pathogens thrive in these kinds of conditions. The leaves will curl and droop, and the base will appear collapsed.

Lack Of Water

Tropical plants like elephant ears require sufficient moisture to survive. Leaf curling or drooping may occur if plants do not receive adequate water. The leaves will become dry and crispy if the leaf curling problem is not addressed. They might die in the end.

Excessive Sun Exposure

The sun is ideal for elephant ears. But because it makes the plant hyperactive, too much sun is bad for it. When the amount of light is excessive, the leaves curl and become brown around the edges. They also become brittle and crisp. This is comparable to overheated paper scorching.

Low Humid Environment

Elephant ear plants thrive in humid environments, just like other tropical plants. They require at least 60% relative humidity to develop well. 

The air is dry and the moisture content is low if you reside somewhere that has extremely low temperatures below 30°F or harsh winters. The elephant ear loses water when the humidity is low. The leaves wilt because of the dry conditions.

Extremely Cold Weather

Elephant ear plants require warm temperatures between 65° and 75°F for growth because they thrive in tropical climates. High, chilly, or freezing temperatures, as well as cold drafts, shock the plant, resulting in membrane damage and cell dehydration. They become stressed out by this and curl up.

Inappropriate Fertilizer Feeding

planter hand giving fertilizer Alocasia macrorrhizos leaf in pot of local plant farm

Elephant ear plants are heavy feeders, so feed them with extra fertilizer to compensate for their size. However, fertilizing when the plant is dormant, overfertilizing, spraying fertilizer on the leaves, or using the incorrect fertilizer can cause the leaves to curl or develop brown spots.

In an ironic twist, this will make it more prone to illnesses and attract pests. In worst-case scenarios, the plant might potentially die.

Pest Invasion

Invasion of cotton aphids on the back of Elephant Ears plant.

Invasion of pests is the largest danger to elephant ear plants. The plant is ravaged by cotton aphids, which drain it of all minerals and nutrients with a fatal vengeance. You can typically find them on the underside of the. As a result, the plant's regular photosynthetic process is hampered, and the leaf curls and deforms.

Hard Water Sensitivity

Your plant's appearance and health are significantly influenced by the water quality. Fluoride, chlorine, and salt are all found in tap water. Hard water is intolerable to the elephant ear plant. The leaves will eventually curl or form brown spots as a result of their discomfort.

Insufficient Spacing

The elephant ear plant is enormous! They expand quickly and greatly, particularly when the soil, irrigation systems, weather, and humidity needs are favorable. The root systems of your plant will require additional area as it develops and flourishes. The leaves crimp up to survive when they are unable to adapt.

Drifting Herbicide Vapors

Herbicides are used to treat invasive plants, but accidentally drifting vapors from the sprays might damage your plant's tubers and burn the corm. As a result, the plant develops twisted or whorled stems, stunted growth, or curved foliage as it expends all of its energy to defend itself against harmful chemicals.

Sudden Displacement

The leaves may begin to curl after you repot it. Don't freak out. The plant needs some time to become used to its new surroundings after initially being stunned by the abrupt relocation. It will improve in a few hours.

What To Do When Elephant Ears Leaves Curl?

fresh elephant ear leaf

It is disappointing to see your beautiful elephant ear leaves curl. But don't panic because below are a few suggestions that will come in handy when you realize they aren't looking as vibrant or beautiful as they could.

Establish Proper Draining

Even though your elephant ears may enjoy the water, you shouldn't drown the plant and soak the soil. Let the soil dry if there are any signs of overwatering before applying further water. You should drain any excess water that has accumulated by using a pot with bottom holes.

Schedule Watering

Elephant ear plants consume a lot of water. Make sure the ground is damp. Schedule watering so that it receives at least 2” to 3”. Once per week, water the plants. Especially during the summer, water them every day. Be careful not to overwater it to the point where water accumulates in the soil and cannot drain.

Relocate Into The Indirect Sunlight Spot

A location with indirect sunlight is best for the plant. You should move the plant around the house as needed throughout the year to accommodate changes in temperature and sunlight, maintain wet soil, and water the plant frequently in the summer.

Combat Dryness

You could take a few actions to raise the humidity levels. One is to use a humidifier in your home to simulate the climate of the tropics. This will lessen the chance of your indoor elephant ear curling. To raise the air's humidity, you can also spray the area.

Think about putting your plant in a humidity or pebble tray with water. It will maintain moisture in the air and prevent leaves from curling.

Protects Against Temperature Drops

Give it plenty of water during the summer. Although the winter sun is pleasant, keeping the plant within in a warm, well-lit area is preferable to leaving it outside. 

Temperature drops affect elephant ear plants adversely. The best course of action is to dig up the tubers and store them in a paper bag in a warm, dry place until spring when you can repot them.

Use Proper Fertilizer Dosages

For your elephant ear plants, you can use a slow-release 20-20-20 fertilizer, which has an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium along with other nutrients.

Click here to see this 20-20-20 fertilizer on Amazon.

Once a month, feed the plant by dissolving it in a gallon of water and thoroughly mixing it. Cut off the curled leaves and wait for them to develop and regenerate if you overfed the plant. Since the plant remains dormant throughout the winter, fertilizing is not advised.

Get Rid Of The Pests

Using a water gun or hose to spray water so the aphids fall off is a quick approach to get rid of them. Alternatively, you can use a cotton swab to apply neem oil or rubbing alcohol after diluting them with water.

Click here to see this neem seed oil on Amazon.

Use Softened Water

You have two options: use bottled water or collected rainwater. If none of these alternatives is available, you can keep overnight tap water in an open container. Your plants have an easier time thriving since these toxins in the hard water disperse.

Allow Space For The Roots To Expand

If you notice the roots spreading, choose a plastic container with adequate drainage holes, and make sure it is larger than the plant's present size. But not so large that the soil takes longer to dry out, and then repot the plant.

Remove The Parts Where Herbicide Was Applied

As soon as you identify a herbicide as the cause of curled leaves, you should remove the afflicted leaves to prevent the herbicide from penetrating deeply and spreading to the roots.

The only option if you think it has moved to the tubers is to dig it up and look at it. Remove any damaged plant parts right away and throw them away. There is no other method to save it besides this. Do not worry; your elephant ear plants will grow quickly.

Repot On Its Growth Phase

Green plant In the pot

Make sure the plant is growing and not in a dormant state before repotting it. This makes spring or summer the best times to repot it. If you've followed this rule and the plant is still not growing, you need to look at the root systems.

Final Thoughts

 giant upright elephant ear is a flowering plant native to East and Southeast Asia, Elephant Ears Curling Up - Causes And What To Do

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why elephant ear leaves might curl. Your plant will grow lush and healthy if you provide it with the right environment. If you see any indication of curling, this article will help you identify the cause and solve the problem right away. 

Check out some other interesting elephant ear plant facts below.

Are Elephant Ears Invasive?

Are Elephant Ears Annuals Or Perennials?