Pink china elephant ears

More Information About Colocasia

The elephant ears for sale from Plant Delights Nursery differ from the mundane green, box-store elephant ear bulbs. We offer many new and hard-to-find colocasia (taro plant) selections with unique colorful leaves and stems as well as giant elephant ear plants like Thailand Giant. Whether you are looking for a chartreuse, red, or black elephant ear, we have what you want…even variegated elephant ears. We are particularly excited to offer the new Royal Hawaiian® series of colocasia for sale from Hawaiian elephant ear breeder, Dr. John Cho. Although Colocasia esculenta is the main species grown in gardens and as commercial taro plants, we also offer other hard to find exotic species of elephant ear plants including Colocasia gigantea, Colocasia fallax, and Colocasia affinis.

Elephant ears are heavy feeders, so if your plant isn’t growing enough, you either need more heat or more nutrition (Learn more about how to grow elephant ears). Although suitable for soggy conditions, the cold-hardiness of colocasia is increased in soil that is not soggy during the winter. (Learn more about how to overwinter elephant ears)

Elephant ear (taro plant) tubers eventually work their way upward through the soil, so every few years, re-bury your elephant ears at least 6″ deep to ensure winter hardiness. Where elephant ears remain in the ground over winter, they will be quite late to re-emerge in late spring or early summer, unless covered with 3-6″ of mulch in early fall. A few of the newer colocasia cultivars do not form large tubers and, if dug in winter, cannot be stored dry due to a lack of adequate food reserves. These small-tuber elephant ears are best over-wintered in containers in a cool basement or garage that remains 15-20 degrees above freezing.
Elephant ears bulbs, like many tropical aroids, will not take a notion to grow vigorously until the summer temperatures escalate into the upper 80’s…just like real elephants, elephant ears like it hot. Like many semi-tropical plants that have some cold hardiness, elephant ears should be well established prior to the onset of cold weather. If you buy colocasia for your garden, then it is better to do so earlier in the year rather than later.

Plant Delights Nursery has one of the largest collections of new, unusual, and rare elephant ears on the market today. If you are looking to buy elephant ears/taro plants, please check out our list of colocasia for sale!

Check out our in depth article on Elephant Ears.

Check out our article on how to over-winter tropical plants.

Check out our many blog posts about Colocasia.

All About Elephant Ears

While Elephant Ears perform best in full-sun, many gardeners in hot and humid climates are able to treat them as a shade plant.

Winter Care for Elephant Ears

Every gardener can grow elephant ears, but not every gardener can grow elephant ears as a hardy perennial/bulb. Many varieties are cold hardy to zone 7b and have to be lifted and stored for the winter in zones 7a to zone 3.

To store elephant ears for winter wait until a frost has knocked back the foliage. Then dig up the corm (bulb-like structure) and cut off the foliage. Clean off the soil and store the corms in a cool, dry place until spring.

You can also overwinter elephant ears as houseplants. Cut off all but a few of the youngest leaves and pot up. Bring inside to a sunny location and water when the soil is dry. Plants won’t grow as much as they will outside during the summer, but this method of overwintering will give you a head start on the spring.

Growing your own Island Oasis

I am not a fan of just plunking an elephant ear into the middle of a garden bed and calling it a day. Like other big tropical plants, I think elephant ears look best in context, which, for me, means growing alongside other tropical or tropical-looking plants. It’s a tricky balance, though, finding annual or perennial plants that evoke an island experience while requiring the same types of conditions as elephant ears. Plant selections change the further north the garden, as well.

Hosta would look great as an underplanting with elephant ears, but ‘Black Magic’ is the only elephant ear that can handle as much shade as hostas require. (It’s a great plant for shade combinations.) Lantana looks tropical, but it prefers drier soil than elephant ears.

Here’s what to plant alongside your sun-loving elephant ear varieties instead:

  • Caladiums—they need more shade in warmer climates, but gardeners in cooler climates can get away with planting caladiums under elephant ears. Cannas and elephant ears are also frequent container companions.
  • Sun-loving coleus—for nice color contrasts.
  • New guinea impatiens—they look tropical and they can handle sun as long as they receive plenty of water.
  • Cannas—other sun-loving, water-loving, fertilizer-loving tropical plants.
  • Tropical hibiscus—for bright color.
  • Cucumbers—if you’re into foodscaping, cucumbers need a lot of water and can scramble up the elephant ears for support.
  • Lysimachia—a good trailing plant for containers or groundcover for garden beds.

Growing Elephant Ear Plants in Your Garden

Learn how to grow and care for elephant ears, plus discover 7 great varieties By Jenny Andrews

Share:

Elephant ears bring to mind lush, tropical forests, adding drama to both gardens and containers. The most recognized forms have heart or arrow shaped leaves (often oversized) with decorative veining, inspiring the common name elephant ears. No plant satisfies the craving for a taste of the tropics like alocasias, popular in Victorian times, they have enjoyed a rebirth in the recent craze for zonal-denial, exotic plants.

COMMON TYPES OF ELEPHANT EARS

  • COLOCASIA
  • ALOCASIA
  • CALADIUM
  • XANTHOSOMA

Colocasia Esculenta Illustris. Photo by: Proven Winners.

Zones:

7-12

Exposure:

Full sun/part shade

Soil:

Medium to wet, organically rich

Height:

3 to 10 feet

Spread:

2 to 10 feet

Originating in tropical parts of Asia and India, Colocasia plants like it warm and humid. Their leaves point downward and they have edible tubers, called taro. Their size makes them a great specimen plant and if you’re lucky yours may produce calla lily-like flowers. Warning: certain Colocasia species are considered invasive along the Gulf Coast.

Photo by: Daniel Fung / .

7-11 Part shade/full shade Moist, but well-drained, organically rich 2 to 6 feet 2 to 6 feet

Hailing from subtropical Asia and parts of Australia, Alocasia plants are sometimes called African mask plant. Unlike other elephant ears, their leabes point upwards and their tubers aren’t edible.

Photo by: mspoli / .

9-11 Part shade/full shade Moist and acidic 6 inches to 3 feet Up to 2 feet

Caladium plants, sometimes called angel wings, are well suited for small gardens or growing indoors. Natives of South America, they offer an incredible range of colors, including green, white and red/pink.

Photo by: Garden World Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

8-10 Part shade/full shade Moist, but well-drained and organically rich 2 to 4 feet 1 to 4 feet

Natives of tropical America, Xanthosoma plants like very warm and humid weather. Like Colocasia, the tubers of Xanthosoma are edible. This type of elephant ear is less common for growning in home gardens than the other types.

Love interesting foliage? Join 75,000 other plant lovers who learn more about plants, landscape design, and garden problem solvers each week.

ELEPHANT EAR CARE

High drama and bold texture are the signature benefits of showcasing alocasias in a garden or container. Growing elephant ears is simple — they like filtered sun or shade and rich, moist soil. Elephant ear plants, which are grown from tuberous rhizomes, can reach impressive sizes quickly.

In warm climates, similar to their native humid and tropical Southeast Asia, elephant ears will grow as perennials. In cooler areas they will need to be replanted each year.

How climate affects elephant ears:

  • Fully hardy in Zones 9 to 11
  • Many are proving root-hardy in Zone 8 and a very few in Zone 7
  • Most can endure temperatures down to 30 degrees
  • Will go dormant with a frost or temperatures below 45

Overwintering:

In zones colder than 8, or with less hardy alocasias, the tuberous rhizomes can be stored over winter.

After a frost, do the following:

  1. Cut back foliage
  2. Dig up rhizomes
  3. Allow to dry for a few days
  4. Store in an open container with peat moss or dry potting soil barely covering the rhizome
  5. Keep them cool (45 to 55 degrees), and dry

For winter protection outdoors in Zone 8 (and Zone 7 if you’re feeling lucky), cover the base of the plant with four to 12 inches of mulch.

Most alocasias prefer filtered sun or shade, but some tolerate full sun. In general, green types can take higher light levels; dark-leaved ones need shade.

Alocasias need rich soil that is moist (not saturated) but well-drained. No elephant ear likes wet feet (the big-leaved plants you see in water gardens are the close cousins colocasias, also sometimes called elephant ears), though a few are tolerant of wet conditions. A general rule is big, green alocasias are practically indestructible and can tolerate variable moisture conditions; dark-leaved types will suffer if over watered and can stay dry for several days.

Watering:

To prevent disease problems, water alocasias in the morning so they go into the night dry. If possible, water from below at the root zone rather than from above, to keep water off the leaves.

Fertlizer:

Alocasias are not heavy feeders. Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting time; in a pot, a tablespoon per six-inch pot is plenty; use incrementally more for larger containers. If foliage shows yellowing, it’s probably a micronutrient deficiency. A fertilizer with micronutrients can be applied, or sprinkle Epsom salts around the base of each plant on a monthly basis.

ELEPHANT EAR VARIETIES TO GROW

Their rapid growth creates a show even during a short growing season, making them worthy as one-shot annuals of benefit to northern gardeners. But among the 70 or so species and their cultivars are alocasias small, medium and large, in leaf shapes from wide hearts to slim arrowheads, with colorful veining and textures from slick and glossy to thick and waxy. While their use in gardens has given them their current cachet, many also make good houseplants.

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners.

COLOCASIA ESCULENTA ILLUSTRIS

This variety grows three to five feet tall in the garden. Its leaves have dramatic green veining against a black background. Illustris loves wet conditions and is also adaptable as a houseplant.
Hardy in Zones 8 to 11.
Buy now from Proven Winners

Photo by: Proven Winners.

COLOCASIA COFFEE CUPS

This award-winning, easy-care variety grows three to five feet tall in the garden. Its dark green foliage and height make it a perfect thriller centerpiece when used in containers.
Hardy in Zones 8 to 11.
Buy now from Proven Winners

Photo by: Chelsea Stickel.

ALOCASIA ‘CALIDORA’

Big, dramatic hybrid of A. gagaena and A. odora, reaching five to seven feet tall with rounded, sky-pointing, dark green leaves nearly four feet long and three feet wide. Forms a “trunk” and thick sturdy stalks. Easy and fast in a partly sunny location.
Hardy in Zones 9 to 11.

Photo by: Pam Mclean.

A. MACRORRHIZA ‘BLACKSTEM’

A large elephant ear, three to five feet tall, with upward-pointing, two-foot wide, dark green leaves, slightly ruffled along the edges. Leaf stalks and veins on the leaf undersides are a striking ebony purple. Prefers part sun to shade.
Hardy in Zones 9 to 11.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

A. LAUTERBACHIANA

A native of New Guinea previously included in the genus xenophya. Long, narrow, swordlike leaves, green with a bluish cast on top, mauve-purple beneath, and scalloped on the edges, are unusual for an alocasia and make a dramatic vertical statement. Can reach five feet in height.
Hardy in Zones 9 to 11, maybe Zone 8 with extra winter protection.

Photo by: Pam Mclean.

A. MICHOLITZIANA ‘FRYDEK’

Velvety emerald-green leaves with prominent white veins are eight to 12 inches long and arrowhead shaped. Grows two to three feet tall in the shade garden or a container. Attractive purple-banded leaf stalks add extra interest.
Hardy in Zones 9 to 11; also makes an easy houseplant.

Photo by: Pam Mclean.

A. ‘HILO BEAUTY’

Striking elephant ear with a mosaic pattern of green, cream and yellow on its foliage. Plant usually stays under three feet tall, with leaves one foot long and six inches wide. A robust grower for a garden with shade or filtered light. Can also be grown in a terrarium while a young plant then moved outdoors or into a container.
Root-hardy as far north as Zone 8; goes dormant at 45 degrees.

Photo by: Pam Mclean.

A. ‘PURPLE PRINCE’

A hybrid elephant ear with waxy, arrowhead-shaped, purplish green leaves with iridescent veining and eggplant colored undersides, one to two feet long. Can reach three to four feet. Prefers shade or bright diffused light.
Hardy in Zones 9 to 11.

Photo by: Pam Mclean.

A. RUGOSA

Even when you touch this elephant ear, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Thick, quilted leaves with nubby texture feel like plastic. A smaller alocasia, typically eight to 12 inches tall.
Hardy to Zone 9 outdoors but makes an easy houseplant (or terrarium specimen) since it is slow-growing and can take the low light and dry air typical of indoor situations.

DESIGNING WITH ELEPHANT EARS

  • Add oversized elephant ears to the perennial border for a dramatic focal point. A plant with large green leaves also gives the eye a rest amidst masses of colorful flowers.
  • Alocasias make good companions and dramatic centerpieces in mixed containers, used with other foliage plants and flowering annuals that like filtered sunlight and moist soil. Use one of the larger types in a big pot for a showstopper.
  • Purple-foliaged species combine well with silver, pink and chartreuse plants.
  • Combine elephant ears with other tropical-looking plants like cannas, bananas, variegated tapioca, caladiums and coleus for a summer jungle garden.
  • An alocasia in a container placed out in the garden can be a movable focal point, and can hide the bare spot left when spring-blooming bulbs go dormant.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are elephant ears poisonous?

Elephant ear plants are poisonous if ingested in large quantities. The plant’s leaves and stems contain oxalic acid, which can cause serious illness in children or pets. However, cooking renders the toxins harmless and many cultures have safely eaten them for years (specifically taro root, or Colocasia esculenta). See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.

Do elephant ears bloom?

Yes, elephant ears can bloom; however, it is not common or predictable. Some gardeners report blooms (called spathes) in spring after bringing their plants outdoors and fertilizing, while other gardeners never see their elephant ears bloom. These plants are grown primarily for their tropical foliage.

Are elephant ears perennials?

Most elephant ears are perennials in Zone 9 and warmer where they will come back each summer. If gardening in cooler zones you can treat them as annuals or dig up the tubers before the first frost and keep them in a cool, dry place over winter.

When do elephant ears sprout?

Elephant ears usually sprout three to eight weeks from planting. Sprouting occurs when the weather begins to warm in spring. In warmer climates, elephant ears will sprout faster than in cooler climates. To speed up the process you can start them inside and move them outdoors once it warms up.

Why are my elephant ears turning yellow?

If the leaves of your elephant ear are turning yellow it could mean there is a problem. Try changing the amount of sunlight or water the plant gets and possibly apply a fertilizer. Alternatively, the plant may be going dormant for the season. Cut back the yellow leaves and wait for it to return next spring.

Do elephant ears spread?

Some elephant ears spread along the ground, while others grow in clumps. Runners will quickly form a large mass of plantings, which can be good or bad. If you’re worried about elephant ears spreading out of control, choose a clumping variety.

Can elephant ears grow in full sun?

Full sun is not ideal for most elephant ears-they grow best in bright, but indirect sunlight. Too much sunlight can burn elephant ear leaves, while too little sunlight can cause yellowing. There are certain varieties that can tolerate full sun.

Can you plant elephant ears in a pot?

Yes, elephant ears can be planted in pots. Since they grow quite large, you’ll want to select a container that is roomy and stable. Container grown elephant ears can easily be moved inside when cold weather arrives and enjoyed as houseplants.

Why are my elephant ears drooping?

Elephant ears may droop because there is a problem. Try adjusting the amount of light or water or applying a fertilizer. Another reason for dropping is that the large leaves become too heavy. Staking can help support the plants and prevent dropping.

Last updated: January 8, 2019

RELATED:
20 Great Shade Plants
Top Foliage Plants for Your Garden
Tropical Gardens
Bromeliads
Hostas

Colocasia, Elephant Ear, Taro ‘Pink China’

Category:

Bulbs

Ponds and Aquatics

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Foliage:

Grown for foliage

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Spacing:

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Unknown – Tell us

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Berkeley, California

Fresno, California

San Anselmo, California

Cordele, Georgia

Louisville, Kentucky

Russell, Kentucky

Cato, New York

Rochester, New York

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Athens, Ohio

Stilwell, Oklahoma

Ladys Island, South Carolina

show all

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *