Ever noticed small drops of water on the tips of your elephant ear plant’s leaves in the morning? Is it dew? Is your elephant ear plant crying? Is it stressed? Thankfully, water dripping from plant leaves is not a result of you being a bad plant parent. It is due to a natural process called guttation.
Elephant ear plants, and many other tropical plants, regulate the amount of water inside their cells by secreting excess moisture from their leaves at night. Guttation often occurs when the air is very humid or when the soil is very wet. It can be a sign of too much water but is not always.
So, is it a bad sign when you see droplets of water on your elephant ear plant’s leaves? Not necessarily. In this article, we discuss the natural process of guttation, why it happens, and how it helps to keep plants healthy.
What Causes Water Droplets on Indoor Plant Leaves?
When you are a new plant parent, watching your beloved plants very closely, it can be alarming to wake up to water dripping from your plants’ leaves. Is it a sign that something is wrong?
Take a deep breath. Plants are a lot more intricate than we often give them credit for. In many ways, they take care of themselves. Dripping water from their leaves is just one of those ways.
Plants have methods of regulating the amount of water inside them. Water droplets can form on the leaves of indoor plants for a few reasons, but most often with elephant plants, the reason is that they are getting rid of excess water.
The process of secreting liquid from their leaves at night is perfectly natural for plants. The process is called guttation. The term comes from the Latin word for droplet, “gutta”.
To understand guttation, we first need to develop a basic understanding of how plants function.
Processes Within Plants
The process of photosynthesis is key to a plant’s survival. It is how plants create their own food. The ingredients for photosynthesis are sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. Sunlight and carbon dioxide are absorbed through their leaves, and they take up water via their roots.
Water is continually pulled up into the stem of the plant and goes into the leaves, where photosynthesis takes place. At the same time, plants undergo a process called respiration. Respiration uses the sugars produced from photosynthesis to create energy for the plant to function.
One of the by-products of respiration is water vapor. Water vapor evaporates from the plant’s leaves through small holes called stomata. This process is called transpiration.
Transpiration causes a vacuum effect that draws more water up through the plant’s roots, causing the cycle to keep going. Transpiration occurs during the day when plants open the stomata on their leaves. During the night, they close their stomata.
The Process of Guttation
Guttation is a lot like transpiration because it involves water escaping via a plant’s leaves. However, there are key differences between transpiration and guttation.
Guttation only occurs at night when plants’ stomata are shut. The water that is lost via transpiration is in gas form (water vapor), whereas the water lost via guttation is in liquid form.
Guttation occurs when there is high humidity in the air, and the soil that a plant is growing in is saturated with water.
When moisture levels in the soil and air are high, plants absorb more moisture via their roots than they can use. At night, when the plant’s stomata are shut, and evaporative transpiration is not happening, plants are left with excess moisture in their cells.
The way that plants cope with this is through guttation. As the pressure in their leaves increases, they expel the excess water through small holes along the leaf margins, called hydathodes.
The liquid that comes from guttation is not actually pure water. The liquid, known as xylem sap, is mostly water, along with some minerals and organic compounds.
Guttation Is Common in Elephant Ear Plants
Elephant ear plants are particularly prone to guttation. But they are not the only plants that drip water from their leaves. Monsteras, philodendrons, dieffenbachias, arums, caladiums, aglaonemas, anthuriums, and ZZ plants are all commonly known to guttate.
What do all these houseplants have in common? They come from tropical regions of the world with warm, humid climates. Tropical plants have had to evolve ways to deal with excess water when high humidity levels and flooded soils prevent natural transpiration.
This is why guttation is such a common process for elephant ear plants and many other tropical houseplants.
When to Worry About Guttation
Now that we have established what guttation is and why it occurs let’s discuss what water dripping from your plants’ leaves means.
Firstly, it is a clear sign that the air is very humid. This is normal during summer if you live in tropical or subtropical regions. Guttation is also a sign that there is a lot of moisture in the soil.
Tropical plants like a lot of water, but too much can lead to problems, like root rot. If your elephant ear plant is dripping water from its leaves, make sure that you allow the soil adequate time to dry out before you water the plant again.
Check your elephant ear plant for other signs of stress – yellowing leaves, stunted growth, moldy soil, or brown areas on the stem. Root rot can be fatal to elephant ear plants, so use guttation as an early warning sign to know when you are watering a bit too frequently.
The reason that elephant ear plants drip water from their leaves is that they are getting rid of excess water. This process, known as guttation, is completely normal and does not indicate that the plant is under any stress. In fact, plants guttate in order to prevent stress.
Guttation can be a sign that your elephant ear plant is getting too much water. However, it can also just happen when the air is muggy during summer. Pay close attention to your watering regime and make the necessary adjustments if you suspect you are overwatering your elephant ear plant.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.