Why are my elephant ear leaves turning brown [5 reasons & fixes]

Huge and attractive leaves are a beautiful characteristic of the elephant ear, a tropical perennial plant that can grow easily and adorn any room.

These houseplants require full to partial sunlight and rich and moist soil to thrive indoors. Their magnificent arrow-shaped or heart-shaped leaves can burn if placed in direct, intense light, and the plant requires a humid environment to maintain the beauty of its foliage.

Elephant ear plants are the focal point of any room they are kept in, so it is necessary to maintain their appearance. Even though the plant is quite forgiving to beginner plant owners, a common concern associated with elephant ear plants is the browning of its leaves.

There are many reasons elephant ears turn brown, but the good news is that if you properly take care of this plant’s needs, you can prevent the leaves from losing their luster.

Elephant Ear Alocasia - Live Plant in a 10 Inch Pot - Alocasia 'Ordora' - Florist Quality Air Purifying Indoor Plant

Reasons Your Elephant Ear Leaves Are Turning Brown

The most common reason elephant ear plant leaves turn brown is leaf burn, which means that if the plant is exposed to bright and intense sunlight for long periods, then too much heat can scorch its leaves. Other reasons for brown leaves in an elephant ear plant include excessive fertilizers, too little humidity, pests, diseases, etc.

The browning of leaves can develop on edges and tips at first, but gradually it progresses until there are larger brown patches on the leaf, leading to the complete leaves turning brown.

You must constantly check the leaves of your elephant ear plant so that if such an issue arises, you can resolve it before it irreversibly damages the plant.

1. Inadequate Watering

The elephant ear plant thrives on water and humidity, which is evident from its lush green foliage. If you witness your plant leaves turning brown, it can indicate that you are not watering them properly.

Signs That Your Elephant Ear Plant Is Dehydrated

An elephant plant is thirsty if you notice its leaves curling and wilting. In addition, a shortage of water for weeks can also cause the plant’s root system to turn dry and crispy.

The leave starts developing a brown color on their edges and tips. The elephant ear plant gets large brown patches on its leaves if the matter remains unresolved.

The leaves of an underwatered elephant ear plant appear burnt and crispy, and the outer and older foliage develops the symptoms earlier than other leaves. If the plant is dehydrated for an extremely long period, the leaves that turn brown will wilt and drop from the plant.

What Can You Do to Fix It?

Your instinct will tell you to supply lots of water to the plant as soon as you notice any brown spots. First, place your finger deep inside the soil, and if it is completely dried out, you must water it immediately.

Take your plant under a running faucet and water it until water starts draining out from the drainage holes. After that, insert your finger into the soil again. If the soil is not dry anymore, leave the plant for a few days to dry out its soil before you water it again.

To prevent this problem in the future, make sure you remember to water your plant frequently, but do not go overboard and overwater your plant.

2. Too Much Watering

Brown leaves do not only indicate dehydration of the plant but rotting of its leaves as well. Frequent and excessive watering can invite fungal and bacterial diseases, evident from the accelerated browning of elephant ear plant leaves.

Signs of Overwatering Your Elephant Ear Plant

Like underwatering, overwatering can cause the plant leaves to develop a brown color on their edges and tips, eventually turning the whole leaves brown. The plant can suffocate under too much water stress and cannot absorb the nutrients properly.

Common signs that you have overwatered your plant are that the leaves develop wet and brown spots on their tips, edges, and eventually the whole surface. The edema can cause watery blisters to spread on foliage, and yellow spots are evident on the leaves closer to the ground or roots.

Overwatering can also cause root rot, which causes extensive damage as the rest of the leaves quickly start turning brown and drop off the plant. You must resolve this problem before the whole root system is permanently damaged.

What Can You Do to Fix It?

Trim the browned edges of your elephant ear plant leaves, and remove the dead or drooping leaves. After that, check the root system of the plant. Cut any rotten roots, and apply a good quality fungicide if there is a fungal infestation.

If the plant saucer has standing water, drain it, and if the potting mix is extremely wet and soggy, then replace it with a fresh potting mix.

In the future, ensure that you constantly monitor how much moisture is present in the potting mix, and throw away excessive water drained from your plant pot and deposited in the saucer.

3. Leaf Burn

Intense sunlight can also contribute to brown spots on your elephant ear plant leaves. This problem arises more frequently in summer than winter, and leaves cannot be revived once burnt.

Elepaio Elephant Ear (Ele Paio) Live Plant - Colocasia

Signs of Leaf Burn and Drying Out

An elephant ear plant’s leaves can turn an unappealing brown color and look withered and dried out. This is the most prominent symptom that too much sunlight has scorched your elephant ear plant.

Elephant ear plants need a humid environment to maintain their leaves’ green and healthy look, and intense heat dries out all the moisture from them.

While leaf burn cannot kill your plant rapidly as it’s just superficial damage, it can dramatically decrease the beauty of your elephant ear plant. The leaves look dry, curl and droop until they eventually fall off the plant.

Besides too much sunlight, other factors contribute to leaf burn, including excessive feeding, lack of humidity, and underwatering.

What Can You Do to Fix It?

You must remove the dried and brown leaves first, as they will not develop a green color again. Once trimmed, place your plant in an area that receives plenty of natural light that is diffused or filtered.

Placing your plant in front of an east-facing window will ensure they receive soft and gentle light in the early morning. Mist and water your plant frequently and allow it to recover slowly from the leaf burn effects.

4. Low Humidity

Low humidity is another cause of increased dryness and dehydration of elephant ear plants. The elephant ear plant is a tropical plant that loves warm but humid environments. It turns its leaves brown when the surrounding environment is too dry for the plant.

Signs of Low Humidity

An elephant ear plant’s curly and browned edges are the main indication that it is facing extreme dehydration. When an elephant ear plant’s surrounding environment is too dry and the humidity levels are extremely low, the leaves will curl up and appear crinkled.

The dry and crispy leaves turn brown, starting from the tips, and eventually, the whole leaf succumbs to its effects.

However, this is a fairly easy problem to combat, and here are some approaches you can take.

What Can You Do to Fix It?

The easiest way to fix the dry leaves is to mist your plant regularly and frequently using a spray bottle. A pebble tray is also an effective tool that you can use to maintain a constantly humid environment around your elephant ear plant. Pebble trays are easily available online, and you can also make them yourself by filling a tray with small stones and then filling it with fresh water.

Elephant ear plants can be used to decorate the kitchen and bathrooms, as these areas of your house have the most humid environment. You can also use a humidifier and place it near your plant.

5. Fertilizer Burn

Fertilizer burn is another reason that causes your elephant ear leaves to turn brown. Even though the plants are heavy feeders, using a high quantity of fertilizers can burn the leaves and roots of the plant.

Elephant Ear Potting Soil Mix (8 Quarts), Colocasia Esculenta Potted Plant Blend

Signs of Fertilizer Burn in Elephant Ear

The lower leaves of your elephant ear will turn yellow and develop brown edges or tips. The plant faces a lack of growth if overfed, and the leaves will wilt and fall off the plant.

What Can You Do to Fix It?

Once you detect the leaf browning and salts accumulation on the potting mix surface, it is time to stop over-fertilizing your elephant ear.

If you think you have overfed your elephant ear plant, you can irrigate it until the water flushes out of the bottom drain holes of the plant pot. You can also repot the plant and replace the potting mix.


Elephant ear leaves can turn brown or yellow for several reasons, some of which have been discussed in this article. Identifying the root cause properly and bringing an efficient solution can help you return your plant to its former glory.

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