8 Reasons Your Elephant Ear Plants Are Turning Yellow or Brown

Trying to figure out why your elephant ear plant's leaves are turning yellow or brown? The good news is, that many of the reasons why this happens are quite common and not something to be overly worried about. Some causes are more fixable that others. In this article, you'll learn all the different reasons why your elephant ear plant's leaves may be turning yellow or brown.

Elephant Ear Plant at Sunset


Elephant ear plants (colocasia) are certainly captivating plant. There’s something truly majestic about them, with their tall stalks and the wide leaves that give them their name. More than this, their deep, gorgeous green color is definitely pleasing to the eye. Keeping an elephant ear plant can be a real joy both in and outdoors. It’s also a great choice for beginner gardeners who want a focal point for their home or garden, since the plant is pretty easy to care for.

However, there can be cause for concern when you see that your beloved plant’s leaves have begun to turn yellow or brown. There are a few different causes for this, some of which can be more serious than others. It’s a good idea to look into the needs of your plant so you can identify what’s causing your plant’s leaves to lose their luster.

In this article, you’ll learn eight different reasons as to why your elephant ear plants may be turning yellow or brown. Let’s take a closer look at each reason, as well as explore solutions to remedy the situation.

Natural Life Cycle

Beautiful Colocasia Plant in Season
All plants have a natural life cycle, including colocasia.

When your elephant ear plants turn yellow or brown, the first reason to look into is its natural life cycle. Sometimes a plant will discolor just based on how long it has been around. You’ll notice older leaves turning a different color before eventually shedding.

This is a normal process and isn’t really anything to worry about. This is especially true with the changing of the seasons. As the weather gets colder, the plant gets ready to go dormant. When this happens, it’s a good idea to cut back the yellowing leaves to make room for new growth in the springtime. Plants with larger leaves will go yellow in late autumn. Some plants like hostas have larger leaves, making their yellowing seem more alarming than it really is.

When faced with the natural life cycle of your plant, there isn’t really much to do, since this is simply how life is for it. This is a good cause for relief. Simply ensuring that your plant is getting the right temperature as it goes dormant can really make a difference when it comes back in the springtime.

While elephant ears are fairly winter hardy, it’s a good idea to give them a covering of mulch if you live somewhere very cold. This protects them from harsher winter temperatures. While we’re on the topic of temperature, let’s move into the next reason why your colocasia esculenta could be discoloring.

Wrong Temperatures

Plant Near River in Autumn
Like most plants, the colocasia’s leaves will change during different seasons.

If you find that your elephant ears have been losing their green color a little too early in the season, another reason to look into is the temperature. It could be that they had been exposed to a cold draft that caused the yellowing. Cold temperatures will turn most tropical plants yellow, including elephant ears.

If you keep your plant indoors, then keeping it next to an air conditioner or vent blowing out cold air could also contribute to its discoloration. Some colocasia will turn outright brown when exposed to the cold for too long. Regardless, this is a problem you should work to solve.

It’s important that your elephant ear plant is properly protected and not in direct exposure to chilly breezes. Since this plant comes from the tropics of Southeast Asia, it’s ideal to keep them in warmer temperatures of around 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is especially true if you keep them indoors, so ensure that you have the heater on in the colder months. It may also be a good idea to move your plant to a warmer spot in your house if you are able. Misting them can also help with maintaining the humidity they like, which should make them perk up even more.

Improper Sunlight

Brown Elephant Ear Leaf
Too little or too much sun can cause plants to wither, turn brown, and die.

In line with temperatures, you should know that this particular plant loves warmth. However, leaving them in the direct sun is usually not a good idea. Colocasias prefer filtered light, coming from partial shade. Light-sensitive plants like colocasia will show their yellowing leaves faster than others.

Bright, indirect sunlight is the way to go for these plants. This way, they get the temperature they need to thrive without the danger of their leaves burning. It’s worth noting that if your plant’s leaves are brown, but have a crispy texture, then it’s probably in the wrong spot, so you should move it as soon as possible!

Similarly, keeping the plant in a place with too much shade can also cause yellowing. Keeping your plant in a dark room is a recipe for disaster if you aren’t exposing it to regular sunlight. Sunlight is essential to photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants make their food. Not enough sunlight will mean starving your plant, which will definitely cause discoloration sooner rather than later. You will notice the lower leaves yellowing before eventually falling off your plant.

This is a good indication that your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight. You will notice the yellowest parts being in the places that get the least amount of sunlight. Moving your plant to an appropriate spot in your garden or home can really make all the difference in perking them up. Even turning the pot your plant is planted in once every few days is effective.

Improper Watering

Freshly Watered Colocasia Plant
Too much or too little water can cause leaves to turn yellow or brown.

One other factor to consider when your elephant ear plant becomes discolored is watering frequency. Both over-watering and under-watering can cause the leaves of any plant to form yellow spots, before the color takes over the whole leaf.

Over-watering causes the plant to suffocate, thus making it unable to absorb the nutrients it needs. Similarly, the plant cannot absorb nutrients when it is under-watered either, as water is the medium necessary to transport nutrients to the plant.

Now, it can be difficult to determine if you’re giving too much or too little water if the end result is the same. Luckily, the solution is simple. The best way to determine if you’re giving too much or too little water to your plant is to take a look at the soil. Insert one of your fingers a few inches into the soil to determine moisture.

Do this before you try watering. If it is too dry, be sure to give your plant a good drink of water. It may be a good idea to leave the pot on a dish so that the plant can collect excess water that has overflowed. If the soil is still moist after the finger test, then leave it for a few days.

As a rule of thumb, the soil should dry out a little bit before you try watering again. These plants need around 2 to 3 inches of water every week. Employ temperance when watering your plant, and it should start turning green again.

Soil Conditions

Plant in Dry Soil
Soil conditions play a part in the health of most plants.

While still on the topic of watering, you should know that any discoloration that happens can come from unfavorable soil conditions. The soil you use should be porous and well-draining to prevent moisture stress from over-watering, as previously mentioned. Crumbly loam should do the job well. Avoid rocky soils as this could damage the corms of your plant.

Beyond this, it’s essential that the soil has a good pH for colocasias. These plants enjoy soil that is acidic, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Anything higher than this can be detrimental to the plant’s health, thus causing yellowing or browning.

Soil pH is important because this is what makes nutrients available to the plant; no amount of fertilizer will be able to help your plant if they’re planted in the soil with the wrong pH. You can purchase a soil test kit to determine your soil’s pH. These products will also often come with recommendations on additions to your soil to adjust the pH to optimal levels.

It’s also essential that your soil is imbued with plenty of organic matter to give your plant the nutrient boost it needs. Too little organic matter from things like compost and fertilizer could mean poorer soils for your plant, which could then cause yellowing from lack of nutrition. On that same note…

Lack of Nutrition

Poorly Nourished Colocasia Plant
Plants with poor nourishment can end up changing colors and even dying.

One big issue that could be causing your plant’s discoloration is lack of nutrition. This could be caused by improper sunlight, improper watering, and unfavorable soil conditions, as previously discussed. Lack of nutrition is detrimental to any living organism’s health, and your elephant ear plant is no exception.

Nutrient deficiency can be seen if the leaves’ tissues are yellow, but the veins are green. You will also notice the top leaves yellowing first. If this is what your plant looks like, then you will need to balance the nutrients you are giving it.

Too little fertilizer is definitely a problem. This is easily remedied by feeding your plant some plant food. However, it’s important that you follow the package’s directions as well as possible. Giving too much fertilizer can also burn a plant, which causes discoloration, so follow the instructions closely.

If keeping the colocasia plant as a houseplant, buy a houseplant fertilizer and fertilizer in the spring and summer. Fertilizing in the fall and winter is not necessary and may be detrimental to your plant’s health. If you are stuck wondering which nutrients your plant needs the most, you can purchase a soil test kit. Meeting your plant’s nutrient needs will certainly bring it back to its lush, green self.

Root Damage

Plant with Root Damage
Plants with root damage can end up changing colors.

Root damage can cause discoloration as well. This can happen in a myriad of ways, such as too small a pot, shoveling too harshly, and even root rot. Compacted roots happen when your plant has outgrown the pot it lives in. Elephant ear plants tend to grow too big for their pots quite quickly. This can cause the leaves to yellow and fall off, as it will inhibit oxygen, water, and nutrient movement.

Taking a look at your plant’s bottom tray can help you tell if your plant has gotten too large for its pot. If the roots are sticking out, it’s time to repot! This can really bring your plant back to good health. Ensure that you check the roots often as your plant grows, as you may need to repot fairly often to ensure that your plant has enough room.

Pruning the roots a little can also help make a difference. In the case of landscape plantings, you can prevent root damage by ensuring that the soil is well-aerated. Regardless if indoors or outdoors, using a soil with good drainage can help prevent compacted roots.

When you take a look at your plant’s roots, note the color. Healthy roots are a pale, whitish yellow color. Darker roots often indicate rot, especially if there is a foul smell. In this case, unfortunately as it may be, it is time to discard your plant and start over.


Recently Planted Colocasia Esculenta
Plants that have been recently planted will sometimes change colors as they adjust.

The final reason this plant may be becoming discolored is simple acclimation. This is the last factor to consider, so be sure to come to this conclusion only after ruling all the others out. When buying new plants, it’s only natural for them to be a little shocked when brought into a new environment.

They are used to the conditions of the greenhouse they were grown in, after all, so being in a new place can be difficult for them. The symptoms are alarming, with the death of the lower leaves, droopiness, and the discoloration of the plant. However, it could very well be that your new plant just needs time to warm up to its new home.

As dramatic as your plant may be acting, understand that acclimation is a natural process that you have to help it through. Make sure your plant is cared for by following the tips we have listed here, and you should notice it coming back into good health.

A few weeks in its new home should give it the time needed to adjust. The yellowing or browning should eventually cease, and new growth will come in. It’ll bounce back soon enough, so be patient and keep on top of its care.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has shed some light on why your elephant ear plant is turning yellow or brown. While there are a few different reasons, identifying the issue is fairly simple. It’s important to monitor your plant to ensure that it is getting proper care. Having its needs met can easily remedy any discoloration that may be happening.

From there, you can enjoy having your plant back to its former glory. If you have any further questions about plants turning a different color, feel free to let us know in the comments below! We’re always happy to answer queries from fellow gardeners.

orchids dropping leaves on the table

Plant Problems

5 Reasons Your Orchid is Dropping Leaves

Is your orchid dropping its leaves, and you can't seem to figure out why it happens? There are actually a few different issues that may arise that cause the leaves to start falling off your plant. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss walks through the most common causes of leaves dropping from an orchid plant.

Yellowing Christmas Cactus Sitting in pot on table

Plant Problems

11 Reasons Your Christmas Cactus is Turning Yellow

Is your Christmas Cactus turning yellow? There are a few different reasons this can happen, and the good news is that most of them are reversible. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley looks at the most common reasons that your Christmas Cactus has yellowing leaves, and how to fix it.

african violet wilting

Plant Problems

7 Reasons Your African Violets Are Wilting and Dying

Are your African Violets wilting and dying unexpectedly? There are a number of different reasons that this can happen with these popular flowering houseplants. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at the different reasons your African Violets may be wilting, and dying early.