Elephant Ears Plant: How To Grow The Colocasia

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You’ve seen them! The elephant ear plant – colocasia, with its spectacular growth and huge leaves, adds 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…

Clump of Colocasia - Purple elephant ears Pin

The Elephant Ear plant or taro elephant ears is the common name for the genus Colocasia, a Perennial tuber coming from the tropical swamplands under the family Araceae.

These plant-type bulbs or tubers of Elephant ears are grown in Northern and Southern gardens primarily for their very decorative, ornamental foliage and need lots of room.

The large, dark green, heart-shaped leaves of the elephant ear resemble a shield that can reach 3′ to almost 4′ feet in length and overall plant heights of 6′-7′ feet tall.



Grown indoors, the flowering of elephant ears 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.

What Light and Temperature Should I Grow Elephant Ears?

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, they will do fine.

Close-up of a large, variegated green leaf with a heart shape and pronounced veins.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @le_fzl

Some can take the direct sun, but the green foliage types prefer higher light than your plant with dark green leaves.

However, by providing a light partial shade but still strong light, elephant ear 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.

Growing Colocasia inside requires high humidity. Use a humidifier in the room where you plan on growing Colocasia inside. 

Regular room temperatures are fine, and the plant can tolerate temps in the 60-degree Fahrenheit range.

Overall, it is best to grow the elephant ears outside during the summer.

Watering and Feeding

When growing elephant ears, remember they crave water. They are a swamp plant that develops a good, hardy, underwater root system.

Dark purple heart-shaped leaves with water droplets, set against bright green ground cover in black pots.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @gardendetone

A splash of winter sunlight is acceptable as long as the soil moisture is regularly observed, with complete avoidance once summer comes along. Due to the species’ sensitivity to chemicals,

Over-watering symptoms include a collapsed base, yellowing older leaves, moldy soil, and plant death. If you feel that root rot is to blame, remove the affected leaves, roots, and soil and replace them with a fresh batch of houseplant compost.  

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.

Colocasia Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Colocasia Esculenta
  • Common Name(s): Taro, Elephant Ear
  • Synonyms: Colocasia antiquorum
  • Family & Origin: Araceae family, native to Southeast Asia and India
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 8-11
  • Size: Grows up to 6-7′ feet tall and 3-4′ feet wide
  • Flowering: Produces small, insignificant flowers
  • Light: Prefers partial shade to full sun
  • Humidity: Requires high humidity levels
  • Temperature: Thrives in warm temperatures between 60-90°F
  • Soil: Needs well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter
  • Water: Requires consistent moisture, but avoid overwatering
  • Fertilizer: Feed with a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs, and fungal diseases
  • Propagation: Propagated through division or by planting corms
  • Plant Uses: Used for its edible corms and leaves, as well as for ornamental purposes in gardens and landscapes.

Being a fast grower, elephant ear plants are also heavy feeders. They can be fed at every watering and respond well to foliar fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers, but they need to be high in nitrogen.

Elephant Ear Plant Care

When you plant elephant ear bulbs of any variety, but especially Colocasia esculenta, you’ll need to plant them in the ground or in large containers for several reasons.

A close-up of variegated green leaves with a distinctive splatter pattern.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @floridaroider
  • 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, rich, moist soil is preferred.
  • Stability… The large heart-shaped Colocasia leaves and leaf canopy make the plant top-heavy and can easily allow the plant to be blown over.

The potting soil should hold water well with lots of organic material. Fertilize using a ‘Houseplant’ labeled feed every four glasses of water in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.  

In the spring, as stored tubers of elephant ears begin to sprout and grow, place tubers in pots just big enough to hold them in a potting mixture of peat moss, 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 these tropical plants outdoors, give elephant ear plants plenty of space, approximately 3′ – 6′ feet between plants. During summer months, provide them with lots of water and plenty of full sun or partial shade.

Grooming Elephant Ears Plant

A close-up of green leaves with prominent yellowish veins, some water droplets visible, and a human hand partially seen.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plantwithida

The only “grooming” required is to remove old leaves as they die off and withered material in the fall season before winter arrives.

If you want to overwinter elephant ears in your yard, advice will differ slightly depending on the hardiness zone in which you live. 

Most colocasia are hardy in zones 8b through 11 – so can be grown outside year round – but require special winter protection when grown in colder regions,’ explains gardening expert Melinda Myers.

Propagation

Use offset tubers that the parent plant has grown during the course of the summer.

Landscape Uses For Growing Elephant Ear Plants

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, elephant ear plants provide a very tropical landscape look even for a short period and make good additions near water gardens.

ColocasiaPin

Elephant ears 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 back and remove all foliage
  • Store tubers with soil attached at a temperature around 45° – 55° degrees Fahrenheit until the spring growing season (after frost possibilities have passed)
Dark purple leaves with striking pink veins of a Caladium plant, surrounded by green foliage.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @finegardening

Plants growing in pots:

  • When the 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 a temperature between 45° – 55° degrees Fahrenheit until the spring growing season (after the danger of frost has passed).
  • Check the tuber to make sure they do not dry out or rot.

Propagation by division of tuberous taro roots at spring potting time.

Related: More on Digging Up Elephant Ears

Colocasia Plant

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.

Close-up of a vibrant green leaf with dark purple veins against a light background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plant.endeavours

The food crop plant must be properly cooked before eating. Otherwise, it can 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 called giant elephant ears or plants under the same family, such as Xanthosoma sagitifolium and white caladium. This is probably the elephant ears formerly known and sometimes still known as Caladium esculenta in the plant list.

Elephant Ear Leaf Problems and Pests

Colocasia plants are very robust growers and drink a lot of water, which 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.

A potted plant with large, dark green leaves prominently displayed indoors.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @vienna.foliage

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 their system. It may cause severe discomfort to the lips, throat, mouth, and other parts of the oral cavity.

This comes from microscopic needle-like raphides made of calcium oxalate monohydrate, the plant used as self-defense against herbivores who would try to eat it.

If you are looking for landscape patio plants with a tropical look and feel or in need of plants for wet areas… check out Colocasia – the elephant ear plants.

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