Colocasia “Elephant Ear” Plant Care & Varieties

The elephant ear plants have spectacular growth with large leaves that add a tropical feel to any living or outdoor space. Here, you’ll learn everything about the Colocasia tropical plants and their requirements for growth. So, let’s start.

What is Elephant Ear Plants?

Colocasia esculenta is an edible plant. These elephant ear plants are not only grown for ornamental purposes. Many people grow them for their large edible tubers, becoming an important food source for many locals.

Taro elephant is the common name for the Colocasia genus, a perennial tuber originating from the swampland and a member of the Araceae family. You find the plant growing in North and South American gardens as decoration. But unfortunately, these plants need loads of space to grow.

In the same genus, you also find the Colocasia antiquorum, which is more of an ornamental plant with huge leaves with variations of margins and veins in purple. Gardeners refer to it as the black elephant ears or black magic.

Another plant, the Xanthosoma sagitifolium, and white Caladium go by the names elephant ear and cocoyam.

The elephant ears surely bring huge attraction in many spaces. Most of these plants have arrow-shaped or heart-shaped leaves, looking like the elephant’s ears.

These plants come from southeast Asia and India.

Difference Between Colocasia and Alocasia Plants

colocasia @feedipedia

You must agree that both these plants look pretty amazing. They both belong to the Araceae family and are popular indoor plants. Both have huge leaves looking like elephant ears. But novice gardeners get confused with the two as their appearance is almost the same.

It’s important to note that some things do set them apart. The main difference is the leaf characteristics. You find the Alocasia leaves growing horizontal while the petioles extend into the leaves and point upwards. In contrast, the Colocasia leaf stems connect down from the notches located in the leaves. Thus, their leaves hang downwards and are larger.

alocasia

The Alocasia has narrow heart-shaped leaves and a glossy or waxy appearance along with prominent veins. Meanwhile, Colocasia leaves have a matte green touch and are more round in shape.

Another difference is that Colocasia loves moist soil compared to other plants in the family. So, you find them growing and standing in water. On the other hand, the Alocasias don’t like wet feet but need a constant moisture supply. Alocasia grows best in partial shade with well-drained soil and Colocasia prefers sunlight with a lot of water.

Some Similarities of Both Plants:

  • Both have the same name, elephant ears, and belong to the same family Araceae.
  • Both these tropical plants have huge leaves and are easy to grow. You can grow them in cold climates.
  • The two are rare plants, and both are perennial, with Alocasia growing in the USDA zones 8 to 11. At the same time, Colocasia is perennial in zones 8 to 11.

7 Best Colocasia Varieties

You can find some beautiful Colocasia species to grow as indoor and outdoor plants. So why not check them out and add them to your tropical collection.

Calocasia esculenta 'Tropical Storm' @katob427

Calocasia esculenta ‘Tropical Storm’

This is a striking plant with almost black leaves that develop with creamy white centers as the seasons change. The plant grows up to 2.5 feet tall and wide and is more compact than your other elephant ear plants.

The important thing to grow your plants is to provide them with warmth, nutrients, and water as it is heavy feeders. Your plant thrives in organic-rich soil and it does not enjoy drying out as the leaves can burn.

The growth rate is fast and it is a perennial plant with showy foliage making for an interesting addition to your home or garden.

Colocasia esculenta Black Magic

Colocasia esculenta Black Magic

Grown outdoors, the elephant ears taro looks spectacular. The Colocasia taro is a new breed in the species. It is a green-leaved giant used in ornamental displays.

The shapely form gives a bold tropical look and a lot to get excited about. In addition, the foliage is a beauty when planted in rich soil in warm temperatures and loads of light.

The swamp plant can drink up a lot of water when you plant it in a container and reaches heights of six feet tall.

The leaves are dark purple sitting atop a red-ebony stem and look great on a patio. The best growth is when it is planted in a six-inch watering trough with standing water.

They do great in partial shade in the afternoon in hot summers, and the leaves have a radiant glow as light passes through.

You can grow them as an evergreen perennial bulb while they bloom a yellow-green spathe and spadix. The blooms are not showy, and it is more about the foliage. Keep the soil moist but well-drained but not wet.

You can plant them in the USDA hardiness zones 8 to 12.

Colocasia esculenta

Colocasia esculenta

The plant comes from the tropical areas of Asia. It can grow up to six feet tall and has a main tuber where the roots grow covered with more tubers around it.

The leaves look like big elephant ears in a heart-shaped form with a touch of lime in them. These plants are grown as a food crop to enjoy with food as the corm has a sweet flavor similar to potatoes.

Planted outdoors, it can take up to seven months to mature in partial sunlight and warm temperatures. After that, it needs regular watering as it thrives in wet soil.

With high humidity, it flourishes but keeps the soil well-drained. Another important thing for this elephant ear Colocasia is feeding a high potassium fertilizer every three weeks.

After fertilizing, you can collect the seeds and sow them to dry to germinate in 21 days to propagate. Another method is dividing the corms, collecting offsets, or dividing the plantlets.

Colocasia esculenta Hawaiian Punch

Colocasia esculenta Hawaiian Punch

The plant is another elephant ear variety growing as a tuberous yet stemless perennial. Some people call it the calla lily and grow six feet tall and wide. Finally, the Hawaiin Punch is a variegated plant growing from a bulb.

It has the same heart-shaped leaves that look arrow-shaped and yellow-white spathes with a spadix hidden by the foliage.

The plant grows best in organically rich potting soil kept medium to wet, standing in full sun to part shade. If you live in hot summers, this plant enjoys afternoon shade.

It needs regular moisture in dry summer times and needs regular fertilizing. Also, grown outdoors, it helps to provide them with protection from winds.

You can grow elephant ears in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10. But plant the tubers in the mid-spring growing season. Then, you can dig it up in early fall after the first frost to overwinter in a dry location.

The plant has bright green leaves and grows for its foliage more than its flowers.

Colocasia esculenta Fontanesii Black Stem

Colocasia esculenta Fontanesii Black Stem

Planting outdoors to make your garden look spectacular, you need this Colocasia plant with its dramatic foliage.

You can grow them in beds, containers, and borders, and looks great in an attractive vase shape with a floral arrangement.

The elegant black stem is attractive with its glossy leaves. Yet, it needs ample moisture, and you can overwinter the tubers if living in cold zones. Then, when spring or summer arrives, you can plant the tubers.

Another great thing is to provide them with a sheltered location to protect them from the wind. The entire plant can grow up to three feet wide.

It has a fast growth rate grown in full sun to part shade. Keep the soil medium to wet, and it only needs little maintenance.

Colocasia tea cup

Colocasia esculenta Tea Cup

These Colocasia plants have a sophisticated look creating interest no matter where you plant them. The upright elephant ears grow up to six feet tall.

It has a sleek dark stem, and the most stunning part is the foliage. The leaves are shiny green with black veining, and when the sunlight hits them, they look spectacular.

The cup-shaped leaves make for a great display when it rains. The leaves bend over to pour out the water as the cups fill up.

The elephant ear varieties thrive in water, and you can grow them in a pond making for a fast-growing plant.

Please keep them in the shade of your garden or on a border for an exquisite display.

Colocasia esculenta elephant ears Mojito @https://hgic.clemson.edu

Colocasia esculenta elephant ears Mojito

The mojito is a mutation of the Colocasia esculenta’ Midnight’ with large dramatic arrow-shaped leaves. It grows upright with ovate variegated leaves from dark purple to black.

The elephant ear stems are a light green streaked with dark purple and fade to pink. You can expect them to grow up to five feet tall and wide.

They look great as a marginal plant around ponds or grown in pots or beds in moist soil. You will notice yellowish-white spathes growing on a spadix in summer but is hiding behind the foliage.

The best for growing these elephant ear plants is in full sun, as the more light it receives, the better. But they can expand in different light levels.

It is not a heavy feeder, and you only need to fertilize moderately as too much will start to burn its leaves and roots.

You can provide it with more water during summer, and you can grow them directly in water, as mentioned in ponds. But, on the other hand, you can place them near a water edge.

When grown in containers or the garden, keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Then, during winter, you can dig up the tubers to store in your basement in a dry place. But keep it on some sphagnum with a bit of moisture around the roots.

Alternatively, you can grow them as indoor plants to brighten up your living space.

Colocasia Elephant Ear Care

The high drama yet bold textures is the signature mark of the elephant ear plants. Growing elephant ear plants is simple, and we have got you covered when the time comes for planting elephant ears right here.

  • Zones – growing elephant ears are full hardy in zones 8 to 11. Yet, when it comes to elephant ear plant care, they thrive in warm areas but can grow in cooler regions but need replanting each year.
  • The majority of these plants grow under a leaf canopy in filtered sun or shade. Some can take the direct sun, but the green foliage types prefer higher light than your plant with dark green leaves.
  • Soil – the plant elephant ear loves growing in moist but not saturated rich soil that drains well. They do not like wet feet, but a few can tolerate wetness. These are mostly your big leaved ones thriving in water gardens. The rule of thumb is if your elephant ear plants are big and green, they can tolerate different moisture levels. At the same time, dark-leaved plants suffer if you overwater them or leave them dry for too long.
  • Watering: To prevent fungus from forming on your plant’s leaves, the best time to water is in the morning to into the night dry. The best is to water them from below at the roots.
  • Fertilizing: Your plants are not big feeders, and it helps to apply a slow-release fertilizer. If you notice yellow leaves, it has a micronutrient deficiency. You can also use some Epson salts around the plant base monthly.

Overwintering and Cutting Back Colocasia Plants

If you live in colder USDA zones, you can dig up the Colocasia tubers to store them in a warm area for winter. Or you can leave them in the pot or ground.

  • For zones receiving frost, you can cut back the foliage to the ground when you notice it turns brown, usually after three days when it is killed by frost. Then, dig up your rhizomes and leave them to dry. Please place them in a container with some peat moss barely covering them and keep them dry.
  • Warmer zones: When you notice the leaves turning brown, do the same and cut it back to the ground. You can keep the elephant ear bulbs in the environment or its pot for the winter. Keep them protected from frost by covering the plant base with up to 12 inches of mulch.

Propagating Elephant Ear Plants

As with any plant, you want to make sure your elephant ear plants are always available in your garden. The best way to achieve this is using the following propagation methods:

Propagating Colocasia Plants in Water

There are some species like the Taro or Colocasia esculenta illustris you can pot in some shallow water. Still, if you try this method, we recommend adding some mulch to help as many types grow as swamp plants or in marches.

Propagating With Elephant Ear Runners

You can find the plant with clumpers or runners a name for the stolons appearing above the ground in some species. The rhizomes help the elephant ear plants to colonize. When growing on their own, they can become overwhelming in limited space, creating too many plants. You can divide the runners to create new plants.

Elephant Ear Seed Propagation

If you do not want to use elephant ear bulbs, you can plant the seeds. You can collect the seeds and spread them on top of the soil. Keep the seed moist by misting them as they will germinate fast. You will notice new growth in a few months and transplant to larger pots.

Final Thought

By now, you know the elephant ears is a perennial and is one of the best survival foods found globally. It is a hardy plant coming from South Asia.

Their large corm found below the ground surface, and substantial heart-shaped leaves with thick stalks make them a big attraction in the garden.

You can grow them in containers or outdoors in the ground making for a tremendous all-year-round plant. They thrive in warm temperatures, and you can dig up the bulbs for overwintering in colder places to plant as annual.

They thrive in moist soil but do well in most soil types but should not be left to dry. Still, you cannot eat them in the raw form as it will irritate your lips, mouth, and throat.

For culinary purposes, the veins need removing on the leaves and corms and left in cold water overnight. You will need to cook them well before eating.

Mix the leaves and corms with other ingredients like soups, curries, casseroles, or stirfries. At the same time, the stem gives a nice texture to most dishes.

The entire plant you can use from the stalks leaves to corms. Still, if you prefer not to eat your plant, you can keep it on display for all to see.

Now you know this beauty and how to take care of them, best to get them now at Plantly for you to have a giant masterpiece in your indoor garden.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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