Red stem elephant ear

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Elephant ears prone to fungus

I planted a bunch of elephant ears last summer, and they were doing OK, but lately some of them have been deteriorating. Is this some sort of deficiency?
Jim Bailey
Leaf blight fungal diseases that attack elephant ear plants (Alocasia sp.) are quite common due to the plant’s moist environment. This fall and winter generally has been very warm and moist, making it ideal for fungal infections. Fungal symptoms include brown spots on the Alocasia leaves. If you look closely, you can see a “target print” and small black dots (with a hand lens) that are the pycnidia, or fungal spore producing structures. Every time it gets wet, the water coalesces to a low area on the leaf and further spreads the spores. Our wet, humid conditions in Florida bring about the infection and spread. Minimize the symptoms by only watering at the plant’s base. Keep the leaves as dry as possible. Open up the overhead canopy in the landscape and allow for sunlight to penetrate and dry the leaves off. Also, increase the air circulation around the plant. As a last resort, if blight is already present, you can apply a foliar fungicide. Make certain that it is labeled for landscape plants and be sure to follow the label directions for rate and frequency of application. This will not eradicate the fungus but it will dry out the spores and reduce the inoculums. In time, the dry pattern will return, and the plant will develop new leaves to grow out of the symptoms. Dispose of any dead leaves in the garbage to reduce the inoculums in the landscape.
This plant grows from bulbs. It blooms in the summertime. The plant grows in our condo garden in New Smyrna Beach. If you know the plant, can you tell me anything about it?
Judie Miller
Port Orange
Alligator lily, or spider lily, (Hymenocallis palmeri) is a plant in the family Amaryllidaceae (lily family). It is prevalent throughout Florida and the Southeast. It is commonly found in cypress swamps, wet meadows, open pine woodlands and wet roadsides. They like full sun or partial shade conditions and well-drained soil rich with organic matter or sandy loam. The alligator lily is very tolerant of drought and salt spray but will not thrive in cold temperatures. The plant grows fast and reaches a height of 1-3 feet. It reseeds itself easily and is usually propagated by bulb divisions. It is great for South Florida and will do well in our mild coastal landscapes.
Here is more information from UF for you to check out on the Internet:

Elephant Ear Plant Disease In Gardens: How To Treat Sick Elephant Ears

One of the most widely grown food crops is an elephant ear. This is known as taro, but there are numerous varieties of the plant, Colocasia, many of which are simply ornamental. Elephant ears are often grown for their huge, robust foliage. The leaves are prone to several diseases which mar this ornamental appeal. There are also diseases of elephant ear that can cause crown and root rot. If your plant has any of the following elephant ear disease symptoms, you may have a diseased Colocasia. Read further to find out how to handle elephant ear plant disease.

How to Spot Diseased Elephant Ear Plants

If you have a Colocasia, you probably know that they are not at all frost tolerant, require regular, even water and a full sun location. These large-leaved plants can grow quite quickly and their production of leaves is prolific. Although they need plenty of water, they can develop problems in standing water or if they are allowed to dry out for long periods of time. Diseased elephant ear plants may be suffering from cultural problems or they may actually have a pathogen or insect issue.

You may always know

when your children are ailing, but sometimes it can be difficult to see if a plant is feeling poorly until it is too late. Many signs that it isn’t feeling well will be showing on the leaves. For instance:

  • Stunted leaves may indicate a lack of a macro-nutrient.
  • Pale leaves may indicate a micronutrient deficiency.
  • Speckled or stippled leaves that are deformed can indicate spider mite damage.
  • Wilting or curling of leaves are indications of too little water.
  • Soft spots in the stems or roots can point to too much water.

Deciphering elephant ear disease symptoms can be confusing but just start with the most obvious cultural conditions and if those are not the problem, move on to possible fungal, viral or bacterial issues.

Diseases of Elephant Ear

The most common elephant ear plant disease is fungal leaf blight. It produces tiny round lesions on the ornamental leaves that may ooze fluid and turn purple or yellow when dry. When the fungus is in full bloom, there is also fuzzy growth. Over time the entire leaf collapses on itself and the disease travels down the corm.

Phyllosticta leaf spot is another very common problem in elephant ears. It is not life threatening but does mar the leaf appearance with numerous holes. Each starts as a brown lesion that then dries up and falls out of the leaf. Tiny black fruiting bodies are also observed.

Pythium rot can cause plants to die. It is most common in areas with too much water and humidity.

How to Treat Sick Elephant Ears

Fungal diseases respond well to a foliar application of copper fungicide. Spray on plants when they are at least 4 weeks old and apply weekly in rainy weather and bi-weekly in drier periods. Avoid overhead watering to prevent consistently wet leaves.

To prevent Pythium rot, use good sanitation practices and use pure irrigation water. Once plants are infected, it is too late to save them. Seedlings are the ones that most often get the disease. Fortunately, this disease is most prevalent in regions where there is high humidity and extreme heat. Provide plenty of ventilation to indoor plants and be careful with watering to prevent any disease.

Elephants Ear Care Instructions

Elephants Ear (Alocasia)

Native to Asia, Elephants Ear plants are also called African Mask Plant or Kris Plant. Its attractive foliage and ability to grow quite large, under the right circumstances, make it a great addition to a house plant collection.

There are about 70 different species of Alocasia. Some have large velvety leaves, while others have glossy leaves with striking white veins.

Depending on which species you have, you may find the plant “dying back”, or retreating, in winter. Some Elephants Ear plants enter a stage of dormancy, so there is no need to worry. You’ll notice this happening if everything above the soil dies off. Continue caring for the ‘empty’ pot by watering it as needed. Do not fertilize, and in spring you will find new shoots growing.

NOTE: The Elephants Ear plant is very poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.

Common Symptoms

  • Brown leaves: Brown leaves on the Elephants Ear plant could be caused by two problems: Overwatering or the cold. Check your watering schedule and ensure that the soil is moist and not soggy. Check that the plant is placed in an area where it is warm enough, 15°C or more.
  • Leaves are dry and/or crispy: Dry, crispy leaves are caused by low humidity. Increase humidity to address this.
  • Crown, leaf spot, and stem or root rot: These diseases are caused by overwatering and usually appear as dark brown or black spots on the leaves surrounded by a yellowish rim. To prevent this, avoid over-watering, keep the leaves dry, and provide it with good air circulation. If your plant does get infected, immediately remove the infected and damaged leaves. Treat it with an organic Fungicide.
  • Pale/Patchy brown leaves: This is caused by too much light, usually direct sunlight. This may also occur if you have moved the plant from a dark area to a very bright area too quickly. The plant may have been unable to adapt to its new surroundings sufficiently.
  • Pests: to prevent an invasion of Mealy Bugs, Scale, Aphids or Spider mites you can spray your plant with warm soapy water every few weeks. This will also keep the large leaves dust free. If you do find that you have an infestation of pests, spray the plant with an ultra-fine insecticidal oil, such as Neem Oil. This will kill the pests as well as the eggs.

Care Instructions

  • Origin: Asia
  • Height: Grow up to45cm – 1.2m, depending on the species.
  • Light: Requires very bright, indirect light but must be kept out of direct sunlight as that will burn the leaves. Avoid low lighting as much as possible.
  • Water: Water well and then allow the top 2-6cm of soil to dry out before watering again. Water the plant less frequently in winter when it is dormant.
  • Humidity: Elephants Ear grow best in high humidity. Increase humidity by placing it among other plants or placing it on a tray of pebbles and water. Ensure that the plant is not sitting in the water.
  • Temperature: Elephants Ear plants prefer indoor temperatures to be warm at 15 – 26°C. If the plant is exposed to prolonged temperatures below 15°C, it will become dormant and may drop all of its leaves. Keep the plant away from cold drafts.
  • Soil: Use an organic, well aerated soil mix.
  • Fertilizer: Use an all-purpose fertilizer diluted by half. Feed once a month, but don’t bother to feed it in winter (unless the plant is actively growing).
  • Repotting: Repot in springwhen it has outgrown its pot or has produced a lot of offsets.
  • Pruning: Remove any yellow or leaves developing brown/black spots immediately.
  • Propagation: Division – Remove any offsets (at the same time as re-potting your parent plant) that may have sprung up from the parent plant and pot. Best time to do this is in spring.

If in stock, shop for Elephants Ear here.

Problems With Elephant Ears

Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is the technical term for the elephant ear plant, according to the University of Minnesota. It was once the staple of the native Hawaiian diet, and archaeological evidence shows humans using the plant for food as far back as 28,000 years ago, according to the University of Hawaii. This wetland tropical perennial can survive down to USDA hardiness zone 5, but grows best in zones 9 through 11. Even a well-meaning gardener can sometimes experience various cultural, pest and disease problems when growing an elephant ear.


The elephant ear plant requires constant moisture; commercial farmers grow the plant in fields that are submerged for prolonged periods of time. For the backyard gardener, the University of Hawaii recommends keeping the plant’s soil perpetually moist but not to the point of puddling. Signs of dehydration include wilting, curling or yellowing of the plant’s iconic leaves.


The elephant ear plant has heavy nutrient needs. Signs of malnutrition include stunted foliage or corm development, pale green or yellow leaves and poor plant strength. To support proper development, apply a standard liquid fertilizer once a week. Follow the fertilizer’s labeled guidelines, as potency varies by product.


The plant grows vertically from a series of stalks, leaving the ground around the plant bare and exposed. This makes elephant ears susceptible to weeds that compete with the plant for space and soil nutrients, according to the University of Hawaii. Regular hand-pulling of weeds or cultivation with a tool like a hoe will keep weeds at bay. After the plant is four to five months old, its large foliage will shade the surrounding soil and minimize the germination of weed seeds. At this stage of growth, hoe cultivation should be avoided to keep from damaging the plant’s roots.

Leaf Blight

The leaf blight fungal disease attacks elephant ear plants often due to the plant’s perpetually moist growing environment. Symptoms include brown spots on the elephant ear’s expansive leaves. Unlike with other vegetation, the elephant ear can’t be dried out to kill the fungus. Blight risks can be minimized by only watering the plant’s base and not getting its leaves wet. If blight is already present, the University of Hawaii recommends any standard plant fungicide.

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