Elephant ears or Taro belong to the genus Colocasia and have a wide array of applications. From being a natural remedy to an edible delicacy, elephant ears are a useful addition to have in the garden. But, it’s not always easy growing them!
The reason why your elephant ears are turning yellow and brown could be due to Soil problems, Lack of humidity, Inadequate sunlight, Insufficient watering, Temperature, Nutrient deficiencies, Water quality, Pests, Diseases, or Old leaves (aging).
If you want to know how to solve your yellow or brown elephant leaf problems, read on.
10 Possible Reasons For Yellow And Brown Elephant Ears
Elephant ears are well-liked and admired for their green leaves that can grow to an enormous size and distinct “elephant ear” shape. So, when your elephant ears start turning yellow, understandably you are not going to be happy.
The yellowing leaf is an indication that some of your plant requirements are not being met. Here is a list you can check on to see why your elephant ears are not happy and turning yellow or brown in response to it.
#1- Soil Problems
The most overlooked reason why your elephant ears are turning yellow and brown is soil compatibility. But, most people fail to source the correct soil for this plant and are quick to blame other reasons.
Elephant ears need well-draining soil that has high organic material to satisfy nutrient requirements. Also, it needs an acidic pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
A lack of the right soil can imminently lead to the death of the whole plant.
Avoid using sandy or rocky soil that will prove to be too porous for the elephant ears. Using soil that is porous, adding organic material will improve drainage as well as improve soil fertility.
As for pH, use a readymade soil pH test kit to check the soil pH. You can check the instructions of the kit once you get the results. It will tell you how to increase or decrease the soil pH to make your elephant ears more comfortable and avoid yellowing.
Check out this Kensizer Soil Tester- Soil Moisture/pH Meter on Amazon
#2- Lack Of Humidity
The lack of humidity in the air might be bothering your elephant ears. Elephant ears enjoy high humidity. So, if their leaves are yellowing, the plant can be struggling with low humidity.
Remember even though you might find the atmosphere okay in your house the same does not apply to plants. Your taro or elephant ear might find the atmosphere too dry. This can especially be the case in summer seasons or times of drought.
You can shift your elephant plant to an area in the house that offers more humidity. Or place humidity trays around the plant to increase humidity.
If all fails you can purchase a humidifier which can solve the problem for other house plants as well. Keep the humidity levels to 60% or more around the elephant ears to see a noticeable change.
#3- Inadequate Sunlight
Elephant ears need bright indirect light. Inadequate light can make the taro leaves turn yellow. An excess amount of direct sun is likely to cause leaf scorch. Therefore, you need to monitor the type and amount of light your plant receives.
Your plant needs light for photosynthesis, this is the process through which plants manufacture food. If there is no light or very little sunlight, the plant will be starved of food. Then the plant will start dying off bit by bit. Starting with the yellow and brown leaves.
Move the plant as soon as you can. Your plant will be better off if you can relocate it to a spot with bright indirect light. Monitor the plant to see that it is improving. You can give the plant a half turn once a week to ensure even growth throughout the plant.
Also, sunlight requirements will fluctuate when seasons change as well. More sun may be necessary for the winter months when sunlight is rather weak. Partial sunlight is advisable during the hottest times of the year.
#4- Insufficient Watering
Watering your elephant ears correctly is very important. If you overwater the plant it can present you with problems. But, underwatering is also a problem bound to present you with yellow or brown elephant ears.
As this is a tropical plant it needs moisture. But, this does relate to soaking wet conditions. It must not be bone dry either! If the heat suddenly increases, check the plant as they can suffer from heat stress and might need extra water.
NOTE- Another point to take note of is how you water them, spraying them may lead to the water being repealed and sliding off onto the ground. Elephant ears are hydrophobic. Instead, you are better off watering the ground in which it lies.
You have to strike a balance between overwatering and underwatering elephant ears. Here is how to get it right.
- Make sure that your container plant has enough drainage holes adequately situated. Then when watering, water, until you see the water, drains out at the bottom.
- Let the water run out into the saucer below and then drain out the saucer.
- Use room temperature water and make sure it’s also chlorine free.
- Check the soil before you water your elephant ears.
- Insert your finger into the soil (depth of 3-4 inches) to check if it is dry.
- If it is dry water the plant or else let it dry more.
#5- Unusual Temperature
With the onset of climate change, we are seeing unusual weather patterns. Extreme heat or cold can affect the elephant ears and cause the leaves to discolor. Either yellow or brown leaves will be visible.
Heat waves or even cold weather will create changes in the appearance of your elephant ears.
If your plant is indoors protect it from cold draughts, windows, doors, and air vents. As this plant originates from a tropical area it needs warm temperatures to survive. Keep it at temperatures of 70℉ to 85 ℉.
Too much heat can cause a plant heat stress. So, moving it to a cooler location can help. You can provide extra moisture to help your elephant ears cope with the heat. Observation is key in taking care of your plant and averting any disasters.
Want to tackle climate problems then try 7 Easy Steps To Grow Plants In Glass Containers
#6- Nutrient Deficiency
Your plant could be lacking essential nutrients and minerals. Without a balanced fertilizer, your plants will suffer without nourishment. You will see that the leaves are beginning to turn yellow and then brown, leading to a domino effect!
And before you know it, the leaf will die leaving an unappealing sight in the process.
Your plant needs a properly balanced fertilizer in order to thrive. You can buy a balanced fertilizer online or at your garden store. Read the instructions carefully before administering the fertilizer. Remember too much fertilizer can cause burns to the plant.
If you are unsure as to which fertilizer to buy, a soil test can be done to determine what nutrients are lacking in the soil. You also have the option of using organic fertilizer. Getting your elephant ears healthy, vibrant, and green again is easy once their needs are met.
#7- Water Quality
Most often the problem of a plant deteriorating can be the water quality. Yellowing leaves or yellow spots are a sign that the water quality is poor.
Salt accumulation and fluoride toxicity are just a few things that are in the water that are harmful to elephant ears.
Using distilled water or rainwater can prevent the yellowing and browning of elephant leaves. If you have access to a variety of water sources, you must test for a better quality water source. This won’t just benefit your elephant ears but all of your houseplants in the long run!
All it takes is a simple water quality test kit to provide you with answers to whether your water source is safe or not. Based on this you can choose what water to give your elephant ears. Also, you’ll have one less thing to blame if your elephant ears get yellow/brown again.
Elephant ears also fall victim to small pests that start off with low numbers but steadily become high if you do not keep them in check. These insects fix onto the leaves and feed on leaf sap.
In large numbers, their effects can diminish the health of your elephant plant’s leaves, affecting the whole plant!
To the naked eye, aphids appear as minute specs that are usually present in large numbers on the underside of leaves or accumulated at the midribs or stems. They are either white, black, or brown in color and will probably need a second look to identify.
The appearance of white minute insects with a somewhat powdery texture shows mealy bugs are on your plant. While they don’t bite or pass on infections, the very environment that favors them favors disease as well.
Spider mites are another insect whose excessive sap feeding can damage elephant leaves and even lead to discoloration and death. The appearance of yellow spots and webs is a sure sign that spider mites are infesting your elephant ears.
Avoiding disease and pests depends on frequently checking your plants to ensure they are free of pests. Catching these conditions and pests early can help to diagnose and resolve them before leaves become yellow and eventually brown.
Keeping your elephant ears free of aphids, mealy bugs, and mites is possible through frequent applications of Neem or Horticultural oil. Pest infestations can be lowered by spraying with high pressurized water or the application of soapy water.
Elephant ears turning yellow or brown can be brought on by diseases. The majority of diseases affecting elephant ear plants occur when microorganism populations increase. Usually, moist and warm conditions induce rapid population multiplication.
Preventing a plant disease is better than having to treat one as you may not be able to save it in time. Reducing the chances of a disease can be done by reducing overly moist and humid conditions. This is done by ensuring your plants are getting enough sunlight and air circulating between leaves.
Also, ensure watering is kept to a need only. Excessive water in the soil can lead to root rot, an easy access point for bacteria and fungi.
#10- Old Plants
Not all yellowing leaves are a problem! Sometimes it may just be nature’s way of getting rid of the old leaves to make way for the new leaves. Sometimes the bottom leaves will turn yellow and age. This can be due to dormancy or the process of aging.
Your plant is merely letting go of old leaves so that it can focus its energy on new growth. The leaves most affected by this will be the leaves at the base of the trunk of the plant.
There is not much you can do here as it is a natural process. In fact, if you know the leaf is approaching its end, you can help it grow new leaves by removing the old yellowing and browning leaves.
Also, just to be sure, examine the leaves and the plant. This is to ensure that you have not overlooked anything such as a disease or pest infestation. It could be easy to miss such things on large leaves.
Elephant ears turning yellow can mean a lot of things since several factors can be responsible for this discoloration.
Reasons, why your elephant ears are turning yellow or brown, are:
- Soil problems
- Lack of humidity,
- Inadequate sunlight
- Insufficient watering
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Water quality
- Old leaves (aging)
Now you have the problem and the solution to stop your elephant ears from turning yellow and brown. They are bound to stay green from now onwards!
Should I cut off yellow elephant ear leaves?
It depends on the reason for them turning yellow and if they can be salvaged or not. But yes, old leaves that are yellow and reaching their end should be removed from the bottom stem with a sharp pair of shears.
Are elephant ears toxic or poisonous?
Elephant ears can be mildly toxic to children when they are touched. They can induce irritation and skin rashes. But, otherwise in many countries, taro (elephant ear corm) and leaves are cooked and eaten.