Several species of tropical plants with enormous triangular-shaped leaves are referred to as elephant ear plants. In warm climates, elephant ear plants develop from tubers in the soil. Elephant ear plants can be grown indoors to give any sunny area a dramatic touch of foliage. Plants from the genera Alocasia, Caladium, Xanthosoma, and Colocasia are the most prevalent types of elephant ears.
Elephant ears are long-lived perennial plants with large ears. Elephant ears flourish in tropical gardens in partial shade or full sun in USDA zones 9 through 11. This plants may be grown as annuals in colder climes. You can alternatively dig up the elephant ear bulbs and store them for next spring’s replanting. Elephant ears grow best in indirect sunlight and average room temperatures, as with other tropical plants.
The plants are known by different common names depending on the elephant ear species. The African mask plant, Kris plant, and Mayan mask upright elephant ear plant are examples of plants in the genus Alocasia. Taro plants are the name given to many different kinds of Colocasia.
Most elephant ear plants have vivid green leaves with noticeable white or cream white veins, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The tropical plants have a stunning appearance due to the purple leaves of certain types of elephant ears (Colocasia).
On certain plant species, the huge elephant ear leaves have a lustrous green top side and a crimson-purple underside. This guide to caring for elephant ears indoors and outdoors is thorough. You’ll get valuable tips on resolving a variety of concerns affecting plant growth, in addition to guidance on growing elephant ears.
How to Care for Elephant Ear Plant
Elephant ear plants should be grown in moist, well-draining soil with a pH of slightly acidic to care for them. To thrive, elephant ear plants need a lot of moisture and require frequent watering. To encourage development, apply a high nitrogen fertilizer every week. Elephant ear plant should be grown indoors in indirect light. In full to partial sun, grow elephant ears.
Elephant Ear Bulbs
Elephant ear tubers (Caladium tubers) are tuberous roots that many people refer to as elephant ear bulbs. Cold hardiness does not apply to elephant ear plants. You’ll need to overwinter the bulbs indoors if you plant the elephant ears in colder climates. It’s important to avoid crushing the tubers while digging up elephant ear bulbs.
After removing the elephant ear plant bulbs from the ground in the autumn, rinse them. From the roots, remove any foliage. After a week of drying, place the elephant ear bulbs into a dark, well-ventilated area. Before you plant in the spring, wrap the bulbs in newspaper and store them in a chilly, dry area.
How to Plant Elephant Ears
In the spring after the danger of frost has passed, plant elephant ears in the earth. To avoid harming the elephant ear bulbs, it is essential that your garden’s soil temperature is at least 65°F (18°C). Plant the elephant ear bulb’s pointed side facing up in a hole that is 5″ (12 cm) deep. Regularly cover the pot with soil and water.
Instead, in early spring, before transferring them to a sunny location in your yard, you may put elephant ears in pots. Full sun is preferred by the majority of Alocasia, Colocasia, Xanthosoma, and Caladium types. Full shade is ideal for the taro plant Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic.’
Elephant Ear Care Guide
Growing elephant ear plants for spectacular tropical foliage in your garden landscape or home interior is easy with this guide.
Where to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs
Elephant ear bulbs should be planted in a sunny location with afternoon shade to yield the greatest results outdoors. Elephant ears thrive in filtered sunlight in hot, dry environments, preventing massive leafy plants from dying. Make certain that the soil for elephant ear plants stays moist.
The wind is also a problem for the elephant ear leaves. Therefore, a position with good wind protection for the decorative leaves would be ideal. Purple elephant ear plants prefer to grow in the shade and have black leaves.
How to Grow Elephant Ears in Pots
Large containers are suitable for growing a variety of elephant ears. In bright, indirect sunlight, elephant ears plants thrive the best. You’ll need warm temperatures, high humidity, and enough room to grow an elephant ear plant indoors. Remember that an elephant ear plant may reach 3 feet (1 meter) long and 2 feet (0.6 meter) broad.
Alocasia ‘Polly,’ Colocasia ‘Black Magic,’ Alocasia ‘Frydek,’ and the Elephant Ear ‘Tiger’ (Alocasia zebrina) are some of the best indoor elephant ear houseplants to grow in pots. Alocasia amazonica ‘Polly’ (Elephant ear plant)
Light Requirements for Growing Elephant Ear Plants
In bright sunlight and partial shade, grow Alocasia, Caladium, Xanthosoma, and Colocasia plants. It’s critical to keep the foliage away from direct sunlight while growing potted elephant ears indoors. The exquisite decorative leaves may be bleached or discolored by the intense sunlight. A sheer curtain should be used to protect the elephant ears in a south-facing window.
Elephant ear plant species typically grow outdoors without being scorched by the sun. In hot, dry countries, elephant ear plants need to be grown in partial shade. Suppose humidity is not a problem in your area. If humidity is low and you have hot, intense sunshine, you’ll need to give plenty of water in that case.
The Best Soil for Elephant Ears
In moist but well-drained soil, grow elephant ears. Elephant ears, Xanthosoma sagittifolium, thrive in rich earth with good drainage and moisture retention. Use a potting soil that is appropriate for elephant ears to grow them in pots. For growing potted plants, mix 5 parts bark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat moss.
Perlite improves drainage by holding moisture. Elephant ear plants need plenty of organic matter in the ground when growing in sunny backyards. To offer enough nutrients and retain moisture, you may work in compost.
The blubs don’t like sitting in waterlogged soil, despite the fact that elephant ear plants prefer moist soil growing in the ground or pots. As a result, your elephant plants should be happy if you have well-draining, loose organic-rich soil and plenty of water.
How to Water Elephant Ear Plants
To keep the soil slightly moist, water elephant ear plants on a regular basis. You may need to water potted elephant ear plants every day throughout the spring and summer. When watering elephant ear plants, always follow the soil moisture levels. Give the potting mix a thorough watering when the top layer of soil is practically dry.
Make sure the Alocasia and Colocasia plants are kept in wet soil outside. You may water elephant ears in your garden less often during the winter.
If you just water the top section of the soil when it is partly dry, it is difficult to overwater elephant ear plants. Elephant ears are not drought-tolerant plants and flourish in moist environments. You should, however, make sure that you do not overwater Alocasia and Colocasia plants.
Plants adapted to marshy environments include certain of the larger Colocasia species. Tuber roots are immersed in water at all times, and they flourish in water gardens.
Temperature Requirements for Elephant Ears
In warm temperatures, elephant ear plants flourish. Heat-loving tropical plants like elephant ear plants, which don’t tolerate the cold, are seen in this picture. Elephant ears can be grown between 65°F and 75°F (18°C and 24°C) in the ideal temperature range.
Elephant ear bulbs can be stored over the winter in a 45°F to 55°F (7°C to 13°C) basement. Outdoor USDA zones 9 through 11 are home to the majority of Colocasia, Alocasia, Caladium, and Xanthosoma species. In zone 7 or 8, a few types of elephant ears are cold-hardy. In zone 7, for example, the popular Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’ and Alocasia ‘Portora’ grow.
Elephant Ear Care — Getting Humidity Right
Indoor and outdoor environments need moisture in elephant ear plants. Indoors, potted elephant ear houseplants need higher than average moisture levels. Sitting the plant pot on a pebble tray with water in it can help to increase humidity for elephant ear plants. You may alternatively use a humidifier to increase the moisture in your room.
To boost moisture levels, you can water elephant ear leaves between them. Leaf misting, on the other hand, is better suited to the tropical greenery. Elephant ears growing in the ground are rarely an issue if you live in zones 9 through 12. To avoid the thirsty plant from drying out, you’ll need to water it frequently in a dry climate, maybe even every day.
How to Fertilize Elephant Ears
Heavy feeders include elephant ear plants. Extra nutrients are beneficial to all Alocasia, Caladium, Xanthosoma, and Colocasia species. Fertilize elephant ear plants with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to encourage healthy foliage growth. A NPK ratio of 20-10-20 is ideal for a houseplant fertilizer.
Throughout the spring and summer, fertilize elephant ear houseplants every two weeks. Around the end of August, stop feeding the plant. The elephant ears plant may require more micronutrients, which are indicated by yellow leaves. You could also improve the color of the plant’s leaves by sprinkling Epsom salts around its base every four weeks.
Pruning Elephant Ear Plants
Pruning is beneficial to the elephant ear plant, which removes dead or rotting leaves. Remove the yellowing leaves from the plant’s base using sharp tools. Plants like Alocasia and Colocasia continuously create new leaves. You may cut off the older leaves as new ones emerge to encourage healthy development.
In colder regions, elephant ear plants die back in late fall if you grow them as annuals. To winterize the elephant ear bulbs, remove all of the stalks from the plant, dig up the bulbs, and dry them in a dark, warm place. After that, you may keep them in a cold area during the winter.
Repotting Elephant Ear Plants
Annual repotting is beneficial to most indoor elephant ear plants. Potted elephant ear plants should always be grown in bigger pots than normal. Elephant ear bulbs need a large amount of space to thrive. A big pot also helps to keep the plant stable because of the big leaves.
Take care to gently remove the bulb from the pot while repotting the mammoth elephant ears plant. Examine the root for signs of deterioration or illness after shaking off any dirt. Select a pot that is one or two sizes bigger than the prior one. With a portion of the rhizome root exposed at the soil line, plant elephant ears bulbs up to 5 inches in diameter. Fill the pot with water and put it in a sunny spot.
How to Propagate Elephant Ears
Roots are divided to propagate elephant ears. By producing baby bulbs, elephant ear plant bulbs multiply. Dig up the rhizome roots carefully to increase the number of elephant ear plants. Using a sterile sharp knife, cut the small baby tubers attached to the main bulb.
To establish the smaller baby elephant ear plant bulbs, place them in a pot. Plant the tiny bulbs in a light, porous potting medium. Always put the tuber with the pointed end uppermost. Maintain a consistent moisture level in the soil. You may plant elephant ear bulbs outdoors in the earth when the surface temperature is at least 60°F (15°C) and fresh growth develops above the soil. Smaller plants, known as stolons, may spread from the tuberous root in the earth.
Pests Affecting Elephant Ear Plants
Aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs are common pests that affect Alocasia and Colocasia plants. by mixing 2 tsp. of dish soap with 1 cup water in an elephant ear A teaspoon of neem oil in a spray bottle, 1 quart (1 liter) of water and liquid dish soap Spray neem oil over the large heart-shaped leaves and allow them to dry. To get rid of any plant pests, use neem oil once a week.
Elephant ear plant leaves’ margins may brown due to pest infestations. Brown leaves on elephant ear plants, on the other hand, may indicate a nutrient shortage, insufficient water, or exposure to cold surroundings.
Diseases Affecting Elephant Ear Plants
Fungal diseases like root rot and leaf spot can affect taro plants and African mask plants. Prevention of fungal infections is best achieved by watering and humidity levels that are optimal. Excess humidity, for example, causes fungal leaf spot. Reddish-purple or light brown spots appear on the giant leaves.
Always water the ground, not the leaves, to avoid fungal foliage problems. Also, make sure that moisture can evaporate because there is enough air circulation around the big leaves.
Several elephant ear species don’t like being in soggy earth, despite the fact that some develop in water. Elephant ear bulbs rot and perish due to excess soil moisture. Soft or mushy stems and roots are common symptoms of this.
Irrigation methods are the greatest way to avoid elephant ears plants from becoming sick. Only provide enough water to keep the ground moist and allow for adequate air circulation.
Are Elephant Ear Plants Toxic?
Elephant ear plant leaves (Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma) may be eaten raw, but they must be boiled first, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Calcium oxalate crystals may be found in the leaves, which must be cooked before being eaten. Elephant ears tubers are cultivated for consumption and some species of elephant ears known as taro belong to the Colocasia genus. Before eating taro roots, however, they must be cooked.
Elephant ears from the Caladium genus are poisonous to dogs, cats, and horses, according to the ASPCA, and may cause oral irritation due to their insoluble calcium oxalates. It’s best to avoid ingesting it if you’re unsure about the type of elephant ear plant.
Why Do Elephant Ears Turn Yellow?
Elephant ear plant leaves may turn yellow if there is too much sunlight, if it is growing in the shade, or if it is overwatered. Cutting the yellowing leaves off at the base of the stem is a good way to remove them. To prevent future leaves from becoming yellow, you should address the underlying issue.
It’s also worth noting that yellow elephant ear leaves die naturally. You probably don’t have anything to worry about if just one of your Alocasia or Colocasia leaves is yellowing.
Why Do Elephant Ears “Cry”?
As water droplets form at the broad arrow-shaped leaves’ extremities, elephant ear plants seem to wail. Because of too much water, this plant produces a weeping effect. You shouldn’t be overly concerned as long as there are no further indications of overwatering. To prevent water from running off the leaves, just refrain from watering for a few days.
Types of Elephant Ear
The huge tropical leaves of elephant ear plants are well-known. Alocasia, Colocasia, Caladium, and Xanthosoma are four tropical plant species that are commonly known as elephant ears. You can create a tropical atmosphere to your yard or an indoor setting with a few of these gorgeous varieties of elephant ear plants.
African Mask Plant (Alocasia x amazonica)—Dark green triangular leaves with striking creamy-white pointed veins make this popular evergreen perennial elephant ear. In zones 10 through 12, grow the African mask plant as an attractive houseplant. The compact form of the Alocasia amazonica is known as the Alocasia ‘Polly’.
Elephant ear Alocasia x amazonica
Mammoth Elephant Ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza)—The huge green leaves of the giant elephant ears plant grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) long and 4 feet (1.2 meters) broad.
Elephant ear Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Lutea’
Alocasia zebrina— Large arrowhead leaves and zebra-like stripes on the stalks make this unusual houseplant stand out. In pots near a sunny window, grow the eye-catching elephant ear Alocasia zebrina.
Elephant ear Alocasia zebrina
Taro ‘Illustris’ (Colocasia esculenta ‘Illustris’)—With purple leaves and lime green veins, this is a stunning elephant ear plant. This giant elephant ear plant can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and 4 feet (1.2 meters) broad in the open outdoors.
Elephant ear Colocasia esculenta illustris
Taro ‘Blue Hawaii’ (Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’)—The broad green leaves with purple-red veins and stalks of this enormous elephant ear plant are big. One of the few cold hardy elephant ears is Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii,’ which grows in zones 7 through 11.
Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’ is a popular Elephant Ear cultivar.