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When we think of the elephant ear plants, one thing comes to our mind. We see some tropical vibe added to our gardens and home. Elephant ears are composed of different species with either a massive arrow or heart-shaped leaf. Some have decorative veins that stand out.
Today, we will look at growing elephant ears to create an exotic spot in your living space or garden.
What Are Elephant Ear Plants?
Elephant ear plants are tropical perennials that grow huge leaves instead of flowers. In the plant genera of Alocasia (African Mask Plant), Xanthosoma, Caladium, and Colocasia elephant ears is a common name. The most popular one is Colocasia esculenta which goes by the name taro.
These plants grow fast and can quickly reach full size in two months. No matter what species you have, they are exotic and dramatic at the same time. The leaves reach up to three feet long and two feet wide. You will find them growing in Central America, Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia.
Elephant Ear Plant Care
Growing elephant ears is not that difficult, and the care is almost similar to all of its relatives.
Scientific Name: Alocasia, Xanthosoma, and Colocasia
Common Name: Elephant ear plants
Plant Type: Tropical perennial
Native to: Central America, Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia
Shape: Big leaves with bold textures
Maximum Size: 3 to 8 feet tall
Watering Requirements: Moderate to frequent watering
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Preferred Humidity: High
Preferred Temperature: Warm to moderate temperatures
Soil or Potting Medium: Loamy, evenly moist soil
Fertilizer: Premium balanced fertilizer
Propagation Method: Division
Vulnerability: Fungal leaf blight
Toxicity: Toxic to pets and humans
Recommended Soil For Elephant Ears
The ideal soil for these tropical plants is loamy and evenly moist. You can mix some organic matter such as dried leaves, peat moss, or worm castings.
You can also add some sawdust as it is a great option and cheaper. But do not use thick or sandy soil as it can absorb the water making your poor plant susceptible to infections. When planted in a container, make sure it has enough drainage holes to allow the excess water to flow through.
Check out this interesting article as to why plants need water drainage.
Ideal Lighting Conditions
Plant elephant ears in an area with lots of light. However, exposure must not be too long as the foliage can lose moisture fast. So, how do you achieve the proper lighting? Provide ear plants with a balance of full sunlight to partial shade if treated as an outdoor plant. Be mindful of what species you have as some may prefer partial to deep shade.
When you have an elephant ear plant indoors, start with some dappled light. Then, you can keep track of the progress for ten days deciding if the foliage needs more light. Elephant ears grow well outside under the shade of trees, or you can use a mesh net.
Watering Elephant Ear
Most elephant ear plants get up to three inches of rainfall a week when growing as tropical plants. So, you can water your plant every two days or provide it with up to three inches of water per week.
But, make sure to keep the leaves dry by watering the buds and roots. Or you can water them when the ground is dry. If you notice the soil is still wet, do not water your plant and wait for a few days. But keep checking that soil for constant moisture.
Grow elephant ears in moderate to warm temperatures higher than 70 degrees F for growth and blooming. But during the night, a temperature of 65°F (18°C) or higher is ideal.
To avoid complications, do not let the temperature drop below the latter. Your elephant ears may undergo root rot or frost ceasing their growth.
Now, if there is one thing your elephant ear plants respond to well is high humidity levels. It helps your plant flourish and look vibrant. The overall moisture level should be 50% or higher.
To keep the humidity ideal indoors, you can install a moisture meter or group it with other indoor plants. Or you can give it an occasional misting to help keep those dark green leaves flourishing.
The Best Feed is a Slow Release Fertilizer
Invest in a slow-release fertilizer that is water-soluble to feed your plant once a month. The important thing is that the feed needs to have nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. You may also use an instant release fertilizer to be fed every two weeks.
The best propagation method for elephant ears is using the division method at the end of the growing season in the fall.
Your Colocasia esculenta and Caladium has tuberous roots, while both your Alocasia and Xanthosoma have corn-like roots called rhizomes. Another propagating method is to collect the seeds from the flowers, but it is very time-consuming and not recommended.
For Alocasia and Xanthosoma species, here are the steps for the division technique:
- Gather your supplies from a sterile knife, gloves, newspaper, tray, paper bag.
- Dig up the rhizome or tuber wearing your gloves to help protect your skin from the irritating sap.
- Divide the roots into clumps with at least one growing node. Leave the bulbs to dry on a tray.
- Leave it at room temperature inside for a week.
- As one-week passes, take a piece of paper and wrap them in a bag to store in a cool spot.
- The above step applies if you live in cold areas and must wait until spring to plant.
- If you live in warmer climates, step five does not apply, and you can plant the root pieces in your garden or a container after the division.
- When leaving the roots to overwinter, keep checking them for rot.
To plant the roots, place them in the soil with the growth nodes facing up. If you have rhizome-type roots, then plant them with the pointy side up about five inches deep.
USDA Growth Zone
Planting elephant ears in USDA zones 8 to 11 is possible as they thrive in warmer areas. Still, while you can plant them in colder regions, they will need replanting every year. So for colder climates, you can dig up the elephant ear bulbs to store them indoors to plant in spring.
Potting and Pruning
The good news about planting elephant ears is that they do not need often repotting. The only time you need to transplant them is when the roots circle the pots. You may find your plant outgrows the container in about two years.
We recommend repotting your elephant ear in an enormous container. Also, remember to replace the medium with some organic soil.
One thing these tropical plants love is pruning. You can cut back the foliage depending on the growth every few weeks. Doing this helps to remove the old leaves, unruly vines, and diseased foliage.
Elephant Ear Varieties
While the most common elephant ear is the taro, there are many other species as well.
The plant has a dusty purple yet blackish leaf. The leaves fold upwards and are a show stopper in any garden or home.
The plant is a royal plant with medium green leaves with very dark purple-black veins. The underside of the leaves is maroon.
Wow, now we feel like a mug of Joe thinking of the name of this elephant ear plant. The foliage is a hybrid with small leaves folding upwards to form the shape of a cup.
Elephant Ear Diseases & Pests
You may have some concerns with spider mites as they love the shade quality of your plant. Other problems are more significant when looking at the following:
Leaf blight is a big concern with your plant as you notice tiny round lesions forming on the leaves. Next, it starts to ooze a transparent fluid turning yellow or purple.
After a while, these spots spread further, and a white fuzzy material develops, making fungal spores. Eventually, your tropical beauty dies.
For treating this disease, it helps to use a copper-based fungicide to spray the infected parts. Or you can place your plant under bright sunlight for a while.
The disease attacks the root system resulting from parasites that love humid climates. As a result, the plant stops growing and can die within days of the infection in the stems.
The best to prevent this from happening is to remove your elephant ear from a very moist environment and stop watering it.
Leaf spot, while not drastic it can make your plant look less appealing. The brown lesions drop, leaving the foliage with a poor appearance.
The best to prevent this from happening is to keep your plant dry and avoid overwatering.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main benefit of the elephant ear is the stem leaf you can cut and rub on insect sting areas. Doing this helps prevent pain and swelling. Moreover, the leaves are rich in vitamins, while the tubers contain rich starch and amino acids.
Yes, the plant is poisonous to humans when ingesting large quantities. The stems and leaves contain oxalic acid that causes severe illness for humans and pets. While many people eat the taro root when cooked
Not all elephant ear plants clean the air, but some species, such as the elephant ear philodendron, do. It grows on buildings, trees, and more. The plant can remove formaldehyde from the air, but it is toxic to animals when eaten.
Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!