- Elephant Ears
- Light and Temperature
- Watering and Feeding
- Elephant Ear Plant Care
- Grooming Elephant Ears Plant
- Landscape Uses For Elephant Ears
- Over Wintering Elephant Ear Bulbs
- Colocasia Plant
- Elephant Ear Leaf Problems and Pests
- Learn About Elephant Ears
- Elephant Ear Plant Cultivars & Their Uses
- Elephant Ears Leaves & Flowers
- What Are the Best Landscape Uses for Elephant Ears?
- Growing the Elephant Ear Plant in Sun or Shade
- Select High-Quality Jumbo and Giant Elephant Ear Bulbs
- Growing Elephant Ears As Foliage Plants in Pots or Large Containers
- Watering & Feeding Your Colocasia
- Grooming Your Elephant Ears Plants
- How Do You Propagate Elephant Ears?
- Overwintering Elephant Ear Bulbs
- How to Revive Stored Tubers in the Springtime
- Elephant Ear Pests & Problems
- The Pros & Cons of Elephant Ear Plants
One elephant ears plant – with its gigantic leaves and jungle look – is the ultimate in tropical in a South Florida landscape.
These plants are downright amazing in scope and fabulous as texture plants.
They’ll grow in any light but seem happiest in part sun to part shade, growing very large and spreading as they mature.
This is a gorgeous addition to a tropical style landscape. Its enormous size makes it an eye-catching centerpiece for a circular drive, a beautiful single specimen in the yard, or an exotic accent at the corner of the house.
Because of its immense size at maturity, it works best in large areas. Avoid placing one too close to other things that can be overwhelmed by this plant’s huge mature size.
Let it make a statement all on its own or use it as a backdrop well away from the plants in front of it.
There is quite a bit of confusion over this plant’s common name.
Many plants are called elephant ears – colocasia, alocasia, caladium and others – basically because of their similarities in large tropical leaves.
It’s even more confusing than the many plants called jasmine just because they have white and/or fragrant flowers but few of which are actually true jasmines.
But colocasia esculenta is the true elephant ears, though the species comes in many forms…there are over 200 known cultivars with leaves in colors like purple or lime-green.
This plant is usually sold as an unattractive potato-like tuber (sometimes erroneously referred to as a bulb or corm).
After planting, as the leaves emerge quickly and the plant matures, spreading into a clump that can grow very wide and form new plants.
A colder winter in South Florida may cause dieback. But once warm weather returns in spring, new shoots should appear and grow back into a large plant by summer’s end.
It’s best to avoid placement near preserves and wetlands where this plant can grow wild and become invasive.
All parts of these plant are used as a food source in the Caribbean, South America, Asia and elsewhere.
If you’ve been to Hawaii, you may have tasted it.
Hawaiians call the plant “kalo” and their traditional dish known as “poi” is made from a mashed, cooked tuber.
Though they are related to plants like philodendron which do contain toxins, these plants are unlikely to hurt anyone – though needle-like crystals on the surface can cause skin irritations in some people.
This plant can reach about 5 or 6 feet (or more) in height, and the wide-spreading stems and new plants will create an overall width of 8 feet or more.
Rate of growth is fast, and any light is fine.
The more sun you give these plants, however, the more water they’ll require.
Though considered cold hardy, elephant ear plants may die back a little or a lot in colder weather.
Generally, though, growing it anywhere in South Florida’s Zones 9B and 10 will work with a minimum of cold damage…especially if you choose a sheltered planting location out of the wind. (This also keeps the leaves from shredding.)
Add top soil (or organic peat humus) to the hole when planting.
Dig the hole a little deeper and twice as wide as the tuber’s diameter.
Set the bulb upright in the hole and cover with about 4 inches of soil.
Trimming will be necessary only to remove spent leaves and stems on occasion.
Water is very important to the health of this plant – it needs regular irrigation to thrive.
Fertilize 3 times a year – in spring, summer, and autumn – with a good granular fertilizer. You may want to supplement feedings with liquid fertilizer during warm months.
Plant tubers about 4 to 6 feet apart. Come out from the house at least 3 feet and in from walks and drives 4 feet or more.
Place these plants at least 4 feet – more if possible – from nearby small to medium sized plants. For planting near things that are or will be larger than this plant, allow about 3 or 4 feet.
Elephant ears will grow in a container for a while but does much better in the ground.
Landscape uses for elephant ears
- single yard specimen
- large accent for the corner of the house, deck or patio
- background for smaller plants
- filling the center of a circular drive
- to add height and interest along a blank wall
- around the trunk of a tree or palm
A.K.A. (also known as): Kalo, Taro
GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT: MAYBE – in a large yard in Zone 10
COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Nearby plants might include dioon edule, variegated arboricola, mini-leaf copper plant, thunbergia, and yellow elder.
Other plants you might like: Alocasia, Selloum Philodendron
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- Dracaenas, Lilies, Tropical Accents
- Elephant Ears
You’ve seen them! The elephant ears plant – colocasia with it’s spectacular, giant leaves adding a tropical feel to any landscape.
Learn all about growing them, their needs, pest issues and how to carry them over winter to enjoy again next year. Read on…
The Elephant Ears plant or taro elephant ears is the common name for the genus Colocasia. A perennial tuber coming from the tropical swamplands under family araceae.
Elephant ear bulbs or tubers are grown in Northern and Southern gardens primarily for their very decorative, ornamental foliage, and need lots of room.
The large heart-shaped leaves of wild taro plants resembling a shield can reach 3 to almost 4 feet in length and overall plant heights of 6-7 feet.
Grown indoors, flowering is rare, outdoors once established, the small green sheath holding a greenish-yellow cob of flowers is common. Most of the plant species have no special scent.
Light and Temperature
Some small elephant ear looking plant varieties such as Colocasia esculenta can handle full sun when grown outdoors. Leaves may burn at first but once acclimated to the sunlight will do fine.
However, by providing a light shade but still strong light, plants can grow massive.
Indoors provide as much light as possible. Good strong light is important to produce strong stems to hold up the large elephant ear leaves.
Regular room temperatures are fine and the plant is able to tolerate temps into the 60 degree range.
Overall, it is best to grow the plant outside during the summer.
Watering and Feeding
When growing elephant ears, remember they crave water. They are a swamp plant that develop a good, hardy, root system under water.
This is why the Colocasia finds itself “dressing up” shallow backyard ponds and a good option for those looking for landscape foliage plants to plant in wet areas.
Being a fast grower, they are also heavy feeders. They can be feed at every watering and responds well to foliar fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers but they need to be high in nitrogen.
Elephant Ear Plant Care
When growing any of the varieties but especially Colocasia esculenta you’ll need to plant them in the ground or in a large container, for several reasons.
- Colocasia esculenta can grow very large. To support its size it needs space to accommodate the root system.
- The soil needs to stay very moist and wet all the time. The soil should never dry out but well-drained soil is preferred
- Stability… The large heart-shaped Colocasia leaves and leaf canopy makes the plant top-heavy and can easily allow the plant to be blown over.
The soil should hold water well with lots of organic material.
In the spring as stored tubers begin to sprout and grow, place tubers in pots just big enough to hold them in a potting mixture of peat moss and sand or something similar.
The pots are just to get them started for planting outdoors when the weather has warmed up. Keep soil moist.
When planting outdoors give them plenty of space, approximately 3 – 6 feet between plants. During summer months provide them lots of water.
Grooming Elephant Ears Plant
The only “grooming” required is to remove old leaves as they die off and withered material in the fall season before winter arrives.
Use offset tubers which the parent plant has grown during the course of the summer.
Landscape Uses For Elephant Ears
These large ornamental types of bulb plants can be very impressive when placed and grown outside in a sheltered location during the summer. Especially in northern locations they provide a very tropical landscape look even for a short period and make good additions near water features.
They can live outdoors all year in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 – 11. In these year-round growing areas some consider the elephant ears to be an invasive plant.
In northern climates, they can be treated more as annuals where the elephant ears bulbs, corms or tubers are stored over winter for the next growing season.
Over Wintering Elephant Ear Bulbs
Plants growing in the ground:
After the first frost has hit…
- Dig out the elephant ears plants growing in the landscape/garden
- Cut off and remove all foliage
- Store tubers with soil attached at a temperature around 45- 55 degrees until spring growing season (after frost possibilities have past)
Plants growing in pots:
- When foliage color of the plants starts turning yellow
- Begin to withhold water until plants have died down
- Keep soil very dry
- Store pots with tubers in a basement or garage at temperature between 45-55 degrees until spring growing season (after frost possibilities have past).
- Check tuber to make sure they do not dry out or rot.
Propagation by division of tuberous taro roots at spring potting time.
Colocasia esculenta (Taro or Dasheen) – “esculent” meaning edible, is grown not only for ornamental purposes. It is also widely grown like rice around the world for its large edible, starchy tubers and is an important food source.
The food crop plant must be properly cooked before eating otherwise it can be upset the stomach. The sap can irritate the skin.
Colocasia antiquorum, an ornamental species with very large leaves has variations displaying margins and veinings of purple, sometimes called the “black elephant ears”, “black magic taro” or “black taro”.
Elephant ear and coco yam are used for giant elephant ears or plants under the same family such as Xanthosoma sagitifolium and white caladium. This is probably the elephants ear formerly known and sometimes still known as Caladium esculentum in the plant list.
Elephant Ear Leaf Problems and Pests
Colocasia plants are very robust growers and drink a lot of water, it is a thirsty plant. Never allow the plant to dry out.
It is susceptible to a few of the common garden pests. Spider mites love the elephant ear leaf and its texture. Especially plants growing where the air is very dry.
Look for typical spider mite webbing under the leaves. Try rinsing the plant thoroughly with a good blast of water.
If needed treat with a miticide. Follow the label!
Thrips can attack leaves and suck the juices out of the plant and develops silvery pale patches on the leaves.
Frequent misting will help keep the thrips away.
Spray with insecticide if required.
Different species of elephant ears may cause harm to humans due to the irritants in its system. It may cause severe discomfort to the lips, throat, mouth, and other parts of the oral cavity. This comes as a result of microscopic needle like raphides made of calcium oxalate monohydrate the plant use as self-defense against herbivores who would try to eat it.
If you are looking for a landscape with a tropical look and feel or in need of plants for wet areas… check out Colocasia – the elephant ear plants.
Learn About Elephant Ears
How to Plant Elephant Ear Tubers:
- Plant elephant ear bulbs outside after all danger of frost has passed and daytime temperatures remain above 70 degrees. Elephant Ears are tropical plants and cannot tolerate any frost. They only emerge when the soil is warm.
- Select a location in full sun or part sun with a good, rich, moist, organic soil.
- Prepare the bed for elephant ears by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Then, level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Most elephant ear plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a wonderful form of organic matter with a good balance of nutrients and an ideal pH level, and it can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available, top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will begin to breakdown into compost. After the growing season, a soil test will indicate what soil amendments are needed for the following season.
- Plant elephant ear bulbs 2-4 feet apart. Plant so the growing tip is up.
- Dig a hole so that the top of the bulb is 4 inches deeper than the soil line. Cover with 4 inches of soil.
- Tubers may be started inside 6-8 weeks before all danger of frost has passed. Plant the tubers individually in 6 inch pots using a good quality potting soil or seed starting soil. They require a warm soil in order to emerge so consider using a heat mat.
Planting Potted Elephant Ear Plants in the Garden:
- Select a location in full or part sun with quality soil that is moist, rich, and organic.
- To properly prepare the bed for growing elephant ears, start by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. After, level the soil with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Again, most elehpant ear plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a nurtient rich form of organic matter that has an ideal pH level, and can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available in your area, then top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will breakdown into compost over time. After the growing season, you can test the soil to find out what amendments are needed for the following season.
- Plants should stand 2-4 feet apart in the garden.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Set level with or a little deeper than the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
- Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
Elephant ears is the common name for a group of tropical perennial plants grown for their large, heart-shaped leaves.
“Elephant ears” is the common name for a group of tropical perennial plants grown for their large, heart-shaped leaves. Most of these herbaceous species in the arum or aroid family (Araceae) that are offered as ornamentals belong to the genera Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma, although there are others that have similar appearance and growth habits.
An Alocasia growing in Fiji along a roadside.
The first two genera are native to tropical southern Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, parts of Australia, or the Pacific Islands, while Xanthosoma is native to tropical America. Many of the species have long been grown for the edible starchy corms or tubers as an important staple food in tropical regions.
Taro (Colocasia esculenta) tubers (L) and tannia or tiquisque (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) tubers (C) for sale in a Costa Rican market, and Alocasia tubers for sale in Fiji.
The leaves are edible, but they (and all parts of the plant) contain needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate which are a skin irritant, so they must be cooked first.
Fields of taro, Colocasia esculenta, in Hawaii.
One of the most widely grown species is C.esculenta, called taro and many other common names. It has been cultivated in Asia and Polynesia for thousands of years, with over 200 cultivars selected for culinary or ornamental characteristics. This species naturalizes readily in wetlands in mild climates and is considered an invasive species along the Gulf Coast.
In cooler climates elephant ears are grown for their large leaves.
In the Midwestern garden these plants are grown for their flat sagittate (arrow- or heart-shaped) leaves that often have prominent veins. In their native habitat the smooth, waxy leaves will grow 3 feet long and 2 feet wide or more (depending on the species) but they tend to be much smaller when grown as a seasonal plant.
The leaves are held on the end of long petioles coming directly from the underground corm.
The leaves are held on the end of long, thick, succulent petioles coming directly from the underground corm. The petiole attaches near the center of the lower surface of the leaf (peltate) and the leaves are held perpendicular to the upright petiole with the leaves facing upward or outward.
Alocasia calidora showing upright leaves on long petioles.
The leaves of Alocasia and Xanthosoma are usually not peltate and are held more upright. These plants generally grow from corms (commonly called bulbs, although they are not true bulbs),
Large Colocasia corms.
but some types also produce long, slender stolons (above ground runners), and others do not form corms. The lumpy corms with rough ridges have a brown skin and a white or pink interior. Some types of elephant ears also produce smaller tubers or “cormels” (also called “eddos”) which grow off the sides of the main corm.
Although elephant ears are grown primarily as foliage plants, they can bloom – but flowers are not common in the Midwest. The inflorescences are the typical aroid type with a white to yellow or light green spathe surrounding the spadix. They can be large, fragrant and attractive, but are normally hidden underneath the foliage. Fruits are globular green or yellow berries containing several seeds.
The flowers of Alocasia are a typical aroid type (L) with a white to green spathe surrounding a white or cream spadix (LC, C and RC), and may be followed by globular berries containing several seeds (R).
The standard emerald green C. esculenta, with a matte finish, used to be about the only type of elephant ear available to Midwestern gardeners, but over the past couple of decades breeding programs have produced a lot of new ornamental varieties. They vary in size from 8 inches to over 9 feet, but most are in the 3 to 5 foot range. Some of the many interesting cultivars available include (C. esculenta unless otherwise noted):
‘Black Coral’ – one in the Royal Hawaiian® Series with huge, glossy all-black corrugated leaves.
- ‘Black Magic’ – was the first black cultivar with dusty purple-black leaves (with green undertones in shady conditions), the blades slightly folded upwards, and dark petioles. It does not form corms.
- ‘Blue Hawaii’ – one in the Royal Hawaiian® Series with medium green leaves with dark purple-black veins and a maroon underside.
- ‘Burgundy Stem’ – is a tall cultivar with deep purple petioles topped with big green leaves with a slight purple tinge.
- ‘Coal Miner’ – is similar to ‘Illustris’ but is much earlier, does not spread underground as vigorously, the background leaf color is darker, and the leaves have a velvety patina when they first emerge.
‘Coffee Cups’ (sometimes incorrectly called ‘Tea Cups’) – is a vigorous hybrid with smaller leaves on very tall dark petioles with the blades folded upward to form a cup-shape.
‘Diamond Head’ – has glossy purple, slightly puckered leaves (PP19939).
- ‘Elena’ – has chartreuse leaves similar to ‘Lime Zinger’ but with cream-colored petioles that change to purple where they join the leaf and veins where the stalk attaches. It will spread by aboveground rhizomes when planted in moist sites.
- ‘Fontanesii’ (violet-stemmed taro) – is a tall hybrid with dark green leaves with a shiny black cast on dark petioles.
‘Hilo Beauty’ – is a small variety (about a foot tall) of Alocasia with irregular yellow or cream flecks on the dark green leaves.
‘Illustris’ (imperial taro, var. antiquorum) – has dark green matte leaves with a purple to black luster and bright green veins and petioles. The plants spread by underground runners. Color is more intense in bright light, but the leaves are never as dark as ‘Black Magic’ or many other black varieties.
‘Jet Black Wonder’ – has light-colored veins on a black background.
- ‘Lime Zinger’ – is a brilliant chartreuse green Xanthosoma.
- ‘Mojito’ – has dull green leaves irregularly splotched, speckled, and streaked with black on dark or pattterned petioles.
It is less vigorous than many others. (PP21995)
- ‘Nancy’s Revenge’ – the leaves change as the season progresses, starting out all green, then developing butter yellow color in the center at the onset of flowering. The color leaks from the center down the main vein into the surrounding blade to eventually form an oval shape.
- ‘Pink China’ – has green leaves on pinkish stems. It is one of the hardiest elephant ears, with anecdotal reports of survival in zone 5.
- ‘Stingray’ – is an Alocasia with a distinct tail on the end of the leaf.
- ‘Thailand Giant Strain’ – is a mammoth selection of C. gigantea with blue-gray-green leaves up to 5 feet long and 4 feet wide on a plant over nine feet tall under ideal conditions. This species requires better drainage than C. esculenta.
- ‘Yellow Splash’ – is a yellow and green variegated type heavily splashed with creamy yellow patterns.
Elephant ears offer bold foliage in beds and borders.
Use elephant ears to add a bold, tropical look to the landscape in borders, mass plantings or in containers. These fabulous foliage plants add dramatic contrast with both the size and color of the leaves and their form. They combine well with other tropical plants such as bananas, castor bean, colorful caladiums,
Elephant ears combine well with caladiums.
Chinese hibiscus and mandevillea, but they also provide wonderful textural contrast with more typical temperate bedding plants, ferns, or ornamental grasses. Pair dark-leaved varieties with any white, yellow, or orange-flowering plant for vivid contrast. The clumping varieties have an attractive vase shape so a single plant can provide an interesting focal point in the garden when planted in the midst of low-growing annuals such as petunias or begonias. Add them to large aquatic containers in combination with papyrus and water lilies or keep them in individual containers to mix and match with other plants on a deck or patio.
Grow dark-leaved varieties in full sun for best color.
Many types of elephant ears can be grown in partial shade, but the darker colored varieties are best grown in full sun. All need rich, moist soil and nearly all are perfect at the edge of a pond. Most can be grown in a few inches of standing water, and can be added to water gardens as emergent plants (the roots in water and with the soil just covered with water, but the plants not submerged).
Dark-leaved elephant ear growing in a water garden.
These tropical plants grow best in warm temperatures and high humidity. They may languish in Midwestern gardens until warm summer conditions begin, and they will also falter when temperatures drop below 50F for prolonged periods of time.
Elephant ears pair well with other foliage plants.
The plants continually produce new leaves throughout the growing season. The older leaves that gradually die off can be removed to keep the plants looking tidy. Be sure to consider the potential for the elephant ear to shade out smaller plants as they grow when you choose a planting location in the spring.
Provide lots of water and fertilizer to grow large plants.
Although they can be grown from seed, to grow large elephant ears, start with a large bulb or rooted plant (many of the newer cultivars are only offered as tissue cultured plants that have not formed bulbs yet). It will take a few weeks for the first leaves to appear from the bulb. These frost-tender perennial plants are best started indoors, potting up the bulb in March, placing the top of the bulb close to the soil surface, and keeping it in a warm location until it is planted outside when the weather warms up, usually in late May or early June.
Elephant ears are best started indoors in early spring and placed outside when the weather warms up.
Provide copious water and fertilizer as the plants grow, especially for those in containers, as they are heavy feeders. For plain green-leaved elephant ears, you can purchase taro (also called coco yam) root in Asian grocery stores and grow it instead of eating it (if the corms haven’t been treated with something to prevent growth).
Although they are often treated as tender annuals, many types can be kept over the winter.
Elephant ears can be grown as annuals, starting with new plants each year, or may be kept over the winter (most are hardy only to zone 8). Plants that have formed bulbs can be dug, dried and stored like cannas or dahlias after frost has killed the foliage.
Illustris with other tender annuals.
Alocasia x amazonica ‘Poly’
Those without bulbs are harder to keep indoors, although it may be possible to keep them going as houseplants if kept in a warm, bright location. It is best to bring plants to be kept as houseplants indoors before temperatures get into the 30’s. Cut back all but the top two leaves and keep at room temperature in bright light. Keep plants on the drier side when they are semi-dormant and resume regular watering and fertilizing when growth resumes in the spring.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
The elephant ear plant (aka Colocasia) is a spectacular, jumbo-sized tropical plant that is popular in landscapes across the United States and valuable as a food crop in many tropical areas of the world.
In this article, we will describe the plant and provide sound advice on choosing, planting, and caring for it in your home or garden, even if you live in an area that experiences cold winter months. Read on to learn more.
Elephant Ear Plant Cultivars & Their Uses
There are several attractive Colocasia varieties. All are members of the family Araceae. One of the toughest is the edible Colocasia esculenta. This cultivar is also called Dasheen or Taro. This variety is grown in abundance in tropical settings. It produces a starchy tuber used as the basis for the diet in much the same way you find rice or potatoes used in many cultures.
Edible taro is a tough tuber that must be cooked correctly and thoroughly before eaten. Failure to cook it properly can result in gastrointestinal distress. Furthermore, care must be taken when harvesting the tubers because contact with the sap of the plant can cause skin irritation from the calcium oxalate (oxalic acid) in the stems and leaves.
The Elephant Ear plant can also be mildly poisonous to cats and dogs. If your pet ingests Elephant Ear, the result can be an upset stomach, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, vomiting, and irritation of the tissues of the mouth.
A purely ornamental cultivar is Colocasia antiquorum. This variety is also known as ‘Black Beauty Elephant Ear’ and was once listed as Caladium esculentum. This is a striking plant with dark purple veins and leaf margins.
The Xanthosoma, Alocasia, (good article here) a close relative of the elephant ear is also an upright variety. The plants have straight, sturdy, upright stems topped with arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves are quite striking with their starkly contrasting, prominent veins. Although this plant is manageable as a houseplant, when left to its own devices in an ideal setting, some varieties can grow to be fifteen feet high.
Elephant Ears Leaves & Flowers
The leaves of the Elephant Ear are often referred to as heart-shaped or shield-shaped. They come in green leaf varieties and varying shades that can be nearly black. The plant may flower nicely outdoors, but it will rarely flower indoors. Flowers are encased in a green sheath that splits to reveal a cob-like flower of greenish-yellow. The flowers are not fragrant, but they are quite visually appealing.
What Are the Best Landscape Uses for Elephant Ears?
With such a large leaf the Elephant Ear can add interest under tall trees and in other sheltered locations. They are the ideal plant to add elegance to any water feature.
In USDA hardiness zones 8-11, Colocasia is a carefree, year-round plant. In very warm, humid areas, such as Florida, they can even be considered invasive.
They provide a tropical touch to any landscape during the warm months of summer. They do well even in the northernmost areas of the US if they are brought in during the freezing months.
Remember that Elephant Ear plants are enthusiastic growers. Be sure to select a planting site that will give each bulb about 3 square feet of growing space. Don’t over-plant as you will very quickly end up with overcrowding.
When fully grown, Elephant Ear leaves can be three or four feet long. Colocasia can stand up to seven feet high. Alocasia can attain a height of 15 foot tall. For this reason, they need lots of space for their root systems.
The spread of the fast-growing leaves and foliage demands a great deal of space. Not only must there be room for the leaves to expand, but there also must be ample soil space available to establish a strong root system that can support these massive leaves. Without proper support, the stems will be weak. This can lead to breakage and collapse.
Growing the Elephant Ear Plant in Sun or Shade
The giant Taro Colocasia can grow well in full sun, but it is happier and more attractive in filtered sunlight or partial sun. For the most part, you are better off choosing a location that gets high light or light partial shade. These plants enjoy ample light; however, they generally do better when not exposed to punishing sunlight.
Select High-Quality Jumbo and Giant Elephant Ear Bulbs
You can purchase giant Elephant Ear bulbs like these at your local garden center, online, or from one of the many high-quality mail-order bulb houses. As with all bulbs and tubers, inspect your purchases carefully and shun any that have signs of decay or damage.
You want plump, healthy-looking bulbs for best performance. Remember it only takes a few of these jumbo plants to fill a space, and they will multiply quite abundantly!
Growing Elephant Ears As Foliage Plants in Pots or Large Containers
Because they can grow to be so large, keeping these plants indoors can be a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that the plant needs plenty of light to grow strong stems that support the weight of the heavy leaves.
Still, if you have a generously-sized planter in an area that gets sufficient indirect sunlight with a comfortable room temperature (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit), you can give indoor growing a go.
Some gardeners believe that the best candidates for this are the Alocasias, as they are upright Elephant Ears. The leaves grow straight upward, so you may not have quite as much competition for space using this type of plant as a houseplant.
No matter which type of Elephant Ear you choose to keep indoors in wintertime, you will need to provide high humidity. A humidifier can be very helpful. It is also wise to elevate the pot by placing a layer of pebbles between the bottom of the pot and its saucer. This will help humidify the air surrounding the plant. It will also help prevent root rot.
Be sure to move your indoor Elephant Ear outdoors during the warm spring and summer months so that it can get a growth, health, and energy boost from the fresh air and sunlight. Your plant will produce young rhizomes during the warm growing season.
Watering & Feeding Your Colocasia
Elephant Ears are very hungry and thirsty plants. In the wild, they are swamp dwellers. They develop very extensive and hardy underwater root systems and have access to lots of nourishing decayed organic matter and ample water. This trait makes them a good choice for low areas in your yard. They are also the perfect water garden or pond-side plant.
When you plant these tropical plants in a bed, you must be certain to set it up with good, nitrogen-rich, well-drained soil. Be prepared to water and fertilize often. They respond well to slow-release fertilizers. Unlike many types of bulbs and tubers, Elephant Ears like to have the soil moist at all times. Adding a thick layer of mulch to prevent evaporation is a smart idea.
Grooming Your Elephant Ears Plants
Luckily, the foliage of these handsome plants does not require much care. Because the leaves are so huge, you would be wise to establish your planting area in a sheltered setting to avoid wind damage. Avoiding harsh, direct sunlight is also a good idea to prevent leaf burn.
Trimming and pruning are mostly unnecessary. Just remove spent leaves and flowers throughout the growing season. Cut back withered foliage in the autumn before preparing your tubers for the winter months.
How Do You Propagate Elephant Ears?
In the summertime, when your plant is outdoors in the ground or in a large pot, it will produce several offset tubers. When you prepare your bulbs for overwintering, you can separate these corms, store them, and use them in the coming year to produce new plants.
Alternately, you can start these new bulbs indoors to enjoy young Elephant Ears as houseplants through the winter months.
Overwintering Elephant Ear Bulbs
If you live in a northern state, you will want to treat your Elephant Ears as annuals. To do this, you should dig up the tubers and store them through the winter. You can replant them in the spring. Here are the steps you should take to over-winter your bulbs.
For plants growing in beds:
Just after the first frost, you should:
- Cut back spent foliage.
- Dig up your tubers, leaving a good amount of soil attached.
- Store your tubers (soil and all) in a cool (45-55 degrees Fahrenheit), dry, dark place until springtime.
For potted and container plants:
- When leaves start to yellow, withhold water and allow the foliage to die back.
- Do not water again.
- Store the plants in containers in a cool (45-55 degrees Fahrenheit), dry, dark place until springtime.
- Check on the bulbs from time to time for signs of drying out or rotting.
- Discard any bulbs that go bad.
- In the springtime, divide and repot your tubers.
How to Revive Stored Tubers in the Springtime
When spring arrives and the days begin to warm, you will want to put your stored tubers into pots just large enough to hold the tubers. Surround the bulbs with a light soil consisting of peat moss, coco coir, and/or sand. It should not be too rich.
This step is just to give your plants a head start on the growing season. Be sure to keep the soil mixture moist in these early days.
Transfer the bulbs to outdoor beds after all danger of frost has passed. Be sure to give them plenty of space, approximately 3 – 6 feet tall between plants. During summer months, provide them lots of water.
Elephant Ear Pests & Problems
Colocasia is a robust and enthusiastic plant, and you should have few problems if you are prepared to provide it with abundant water and lots of fertilizer. A strong, healthy plant can fight off most pests and problems on its own. Nevertheless, you may occasionally encounter some challenges. Here are some of the most common problems.
Elephant Ear Leaves Turning Yellow:
This condition is chlorosis, and it may happen for several reasons. Among them are:
- Old age
- Too little sun
- Too much sun
- Too little water
- Too much water
- Too few nutrients
- Too much fertilizer
Clearly, yellowed leaves are a symptom of a variety of ills. To determine what the problem is, you will have to do a little sleuth work to uncover the cause and then adjust your regimen accordingly.
These little pests are drawn to the big, shady, water-holding leaves of the Colocasia. This is especially true in dry climates where water is at a premium. If your plant is infested with spider mites, you will see gray webbing on the undersides of the leaves.
You can try giving the plants a good spraying with a strong stream of water. Sometimes this is enough to dislodge and discourage the pests. If this doesn’t work, use a reputable brand of miticide. Be sure to follow packaging directions closely.
These little pests also love to attach themselves to juicy leaves and suck the life out of plants. If your Elephant Ears are infested with thrips, you will see pale, silvery patches on the plant leaves. Misting your plants often will help discourage thrips in the first place. If they do invade your plants, use a reputable insecticide and follow packaging directions closely.
The Pros & Cons of Elephant Ear Plants
Colocasia is beautiful and easy to grow, but on the downside, in areas where the plant does tend to grow aggressively, its large heart-shaped leaf can block the sun for smaller, native plants and can cause damage and species loss.
You may also have a problem with Elephant Ear leaf blocking the sun for your smaller garden plants unless you plan your planting carefully. Personally, I like to keep them in containers!
There are even some states where these plants have been deemed invasive. In Texas, for example, it is against the law to plant or transport Elephant Ear and residents are urged to report sightings of it to the Department of Parks and Wildlife. If you live in a southern state, you should check your local regulations before planting.
In areas where the plant cannot go wild and overrun your yard and surrounding area, Colocasia is an elegant, easy-to-grow springtime and summertime addition to your landscape. It can also make a lovely houseplant during the winter months.
A List of Popular Elephant Ear Varieties
- Colocasia gigantea ‘Laosy Giant’
- Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Bikini Tini’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Coal Miner’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Jack’s Giant’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Nancy’s Revenge’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Coral’ PP 23,896
- Colocasia affinis ‘Jenningsii’
- Colocasia fallax ‘Silver Dollar’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ (aka black elephant ear)
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Marble’ (aka Colocasia ‘Multiflora’)
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Runner’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’ PP 20,003
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Chicago Harlequin’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Coal Miner’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’ PPAF
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Hawaiian Eye’ PP 19,884
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’ PP 20,108
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Beauty’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Lime Aide’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ PP 19,625
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ PP 21,995
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Nancy’s Revenge’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Pineapple Princess’ PP 20,982
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Pink China’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Rhubarb’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Royal Cho’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Surf City’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Tiger Stripe’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Yellow Splash’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Big Dipper’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Burgundy Stem’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Jack’s Giant’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Ruffles’
- Colocasia ‘Fontanesii’
- Colocasia ‘Blackwater’
- Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’
- Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain
- Colocasia heterochroma ‘Dark Shadows’
- Alocasia nycteris “Batwing” (formerly A. advincula)
- Alocasia alba (crassifolia)
- Alocasia brisbanensis
- Alocasia chaii
- Alocasia cucullata
- Alocasia culionensis
- Alocasia cuprea
- Alocasia gageana
- Alocasia sp. “Green Giant”
- Alocasia hypnosa
- Alocasia infernalis
- Alocasia lowii
- Alocasia macrorrhizos
- Alocasia macrorrhizos “Big Mac”
- Alocasia macrorrhizos “Black Stem”
- Alocasia macrorrhizos “Borneo Giant”
- Alocasia macrorrhizos “Lutea”
- Alocasia nebula ‘Imperialis’
- Alocasia odora
- Alocasia odora “Blue”
- Alocasia odora “Indian”
- Alocasia portei
- Alocasia reginae ‘Miri’
- Alocasia reginula
- Alocasia reticulata
- Alocasia reversa
- Alocasia ridleyi
- Alocasia robusta
- Alocasia rugosa
- Alocasia sanderiana “Nobilis”
- Alocasia sarawakensis
- Alocasia “Serendipity”
- Alocasia sarawakensis ‘Dark’ Green petioled type
- Alocasia “Sarian”
- Alocasia sinuata
- Alocasia scabriuscula “LRO”
- Alocasia tigrina superba
- Alocasia “VangieGo”
- Alocasia villeneuvii
- Alocasia watsoniana
- Alocasia wentii
- Alocasia zebrina
- Alocasia ‘Maroon Shield’ (Alocasia x cupredora)
- Alocasia x calidora (Our selection of Alocasia x calidora)
- Alocasia ‘Pixie Teardrops’ (selections of Alocasia x calidora)
- Alocasia ‘Thunder Waves’ (Alocasia x portora)
- Alocasia ‘Giant Shield’ (Alocasia x novodora)
- Alocasia ‘Ripple Effect’ (Alocasia x albartei)
- Alocasia ‘Emerald Shield’ (Alocasia x albaeana)
- Alocasia ‘Corrugate Shield’ (Alocasia x odoralba)
- Alocasia x saridora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia “Sarian”)
- Alocasia ‘Brisbane Blue’ (Alocasia brisbanensis x Alocasia odora “Azurea”)
- Alocasia x porteana (Alocasia gageana x Alocasia portei)
- Alocasia ‘Blue Blush Odora’ (Alocasia odora x Alocasia odora ‘Blue’)
- Alocasia x vangidora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia ‘VangiGo’)
- Alocasia ‘Brisbane Tigress’ (Alocasia brisbanensis x Alocasia tigrina superba)
- Alocasia ‘Calidora Giant’ ((Alocasia x calidora) x Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’)
- Alocasia ‘Brisbane Giant’ (Alocasia brisbanensis x Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’)
- Alocasia ‘Borneo Mac’ (Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Big Mac’)
- Alocasia ‘Imperial Giant’ (Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia ‘VangiGo’)
- Alocasia ‘Brisbane Waves’ (Alocasia brisbanensis x Alocasia portei)
- Alocasia ‘Sinuate Mac’ (Alocasia macrorrhizos “Big Mac” x Alocasia sinuata)
- Alocasia “Frydek-Bullata” (Alocasia micholitziana ‘Frydek’ x Alocasia bullata) Note: This hybrid was developed by Brian Williams
- Alocasia x microdora
- Alocasia x sanderidora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia sanderiana ‘Nobilis’)
- Alocasia ‘Giant SilverShield’ (Alocasia ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia watsoniana)
- Alocasia ‘Royal Sarawak’ (Alocasia reginae ‘Miri” x Alocasia sarawakensis)
- Alocasia x reginora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia reginula)
- Alocasia x nyctedora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia nycteris)
- Alocasia ‘Manta Ray’ (Alocasia “Borneo Giant” x Alocasia nycteris)
- Alocasia ‘Giant Zebra’ (Alocasia “Borneo Giant” x Alocasia zebrina)
- Alocasia ‘Reticulate Giant’ (Alocasia “Borneo Giant” x Alocasia reticulata)
- Alocasia x robudora (Alocasia odora x Alocasia robusta)
- Alocasia x ‘Watson’s Giant’ (Alocasia odora x Alocasia longiloba ‘Watsoniana’)
- Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘blackstem” x Alocasia alba
- Alocasia ‘Borneo Tsunami Waves (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia portei) x Alocasia alba
- Alocasia ‘Borneo Tsunami Waves (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia portei) x Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘blackstem’
- Alocasia ‘Imperial Giant’ (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia ‘VangiGo’) x Alocasia ‘Borneo Tsunami Waves (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia portei)
- Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘blackstem’ x Alocasia ‘Imperial Giant’ (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia ‘VangiGo’)
- Alocasia ‘Imperial Giant’ (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’ x Alocasia ‘VangiGo’)x (Alocasia micholitziana ‘Frydek’ x Alocasia bullata)