By Heather Rhoades
Nothing speaks tropical more so than the elegant foliage from a stand of elephant ears in the garden. If you haven’t yet tried growing elephant ears of your own, then now is the time. Keep reading for more elephant ear info.
Elephant Ear Info
Elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta), also known as taro, dasheen and malanga, is a member of the Araceae (Arum) family of plants and is a Hawaiian native. Elephant’s ear is very similar to caladium except that it is a much larger plant (ten times larger) and its leaves are primarily green with wavy edges, although there are some variegated varieties.
Elephant’s ears grow from large tubers, which in turn produce corms. Their corms weigh an average of one to two pounds each but can be as heavy as eight pounds. They are herbaceous perennials that can grow to a massive eight feet high and equally as wide. Each of the elephant ears’ green leaves can grow to be five feet in length and up to three feet wide. I don’t think they could have come up with a better name for this plant.
Elephant’s ear is prized for its beautiful tremendous leaves and usually only produces its white flower during the summer when planted in some tropical areas.
Pulp made from the growing elephant ears’ large corms are used to produce a Polynesian food staple called poi, but all parts of the plant are considered poisonous when uncooked.
How to Grow Elephant Ear Plants
Being a tropical plant, it is only considered hardy in zone 10 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map but can be grown anywhere there is a hot summer growing season. They can be treated as an annual or lifted from the ground before freezing temperatures set in and saved for use the following year.
Plant elephant ear corms, blunt end down, in humus-rich, moist soil in a spot where they will receive light shade after all danger of frost has passed in your area in the early spring. In northerly climates, they should be planted in full sun. They can survive in full sun anywhere if they are watered heavily during the growing period. Be sure to cover your corms with at least 4 inches of soil over their heads.
Elephant’s Ear Plant Care
Elephant’s ear thrives in a swampy tropical environment and like to be kept moist throughout the growing season. The warmer the temperature, the faster your elephant’s ear will grow.
Feed them with a light fertilizer (6-6-6) every two weeks during the growing season.
At the end of the growing season, you will need to carefully dig up and remove your elephant’s ear from the ground to be stored over winter in a dry, well ventilated area at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C.) to keep the corms from rotting or freezing. Next spring simply replant them for another magnificent display.
Elephant’s ear looks best when used as a tropical accent plant in your garden but can also be planted in mass along fences or at the back of a flower bed. They make a nice addition to a pond or pool area in your yard. They are quite popular for use as potted plants on patios and decks. Elephant’s ear is also commonly used as a decorative houseplant.