Create a Zoo in Your Garden With Elephant Ears

Create a Zoo in Your Garden With Elephant Ears

Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs for Structure and Variety

By Published July 21, 2015 Updated March 06, 2023

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The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into many of the plants that we have sold over the years, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.

Tropical plants are renowned for their bold, exotic appearance and lush foliage. One such tropical plant that has become popular in gardens around the world is the elephant ear, also known as colocasia. With its large, decorative leaves and striking presence, the elephant ear can add a touch of the tropics to any garden or indoor space. However, growing tropical plants like the elephant ear can be challenging, especially if you live in a region with a cooler or drier climate. In this article, we'll explore some tips and techniques for growing tropical-looking plants like the elephant ear, including soil and water requirements, ideal growing conditions, and companion plants that can complement their exotic appearance. Whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting out, these tips can help you create a lush and vibrant tropical oasis in your own backyard.

Sun, Soil, and Water Requirements for Growing Elephant Ears:

Sun: Elephant ears prefer partial shade to full shade. They can tolerate some direct sunlight in the morning or late afternoon, but direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day can scorch their leaves.

Soil: Elephant ears prefer rich, moist soil that is well-drained. They do not tolerate standing water, but they do require consistent moisture to thrive. Adding organic matter to the soil can help improve drainage and moisture retention.

Water: Elephant ears require regular watering to keep their soil consistently moist. They can tolerate brief periods of dryness, but they will not thrive in consistently dry soil. During hot and dry weather, it may be necessary to water them more frequently.

It's important to note that elephant ears are not frost-tolerant and should be brought indoors for the winter in colder climates. Additionally, elephant ears can benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season to support their lush foliage. By providing the right sun, soil, and water conditions, you can enjoy the dramatic and exotic appearance of elephant ears in your garden or indoor space.

Growing Elephant Ears in Containers

  1. Growing elephant ears in containers can be a great way to enjoy their exotic foliage in a variety of settings, such as patios, balconies, or indoors. Here are some tips for growing elephant ears in containers:
  2. Choose a large container: Elephant ears have a large root system and need plenty of room to grow. Choose a container that is at least 14-16 inches in diameter and depth to give the plant enough space to thrive.
  3. Use well-draining soil: Elephant ears prefer soil that is rich in organic matter and well-draining to prevent waterlogging. A mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and compost can provide the ideal growing medium.
  4. Water regularly: Container-grown plants dry out faster than those grown in the ground, so it's important to water them regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. Colocasia are also very heavy feeders so you may have to However, be careful not to overwater and cause waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.
  5. Provide adequate sunlight: Elephant ears prefer partial shade to full shade, but they still require some direct sunlight to thrive. Place the container in a location that receives morning or late afternoon sun, but avoid placing it in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
  6. Fertilize regularly: Container-grown elephant ears may require more frequent fertilization than those grown in the ground. Use a balanced, water-soluble organic fertilizer during the growing season to support healthy growth and foliage.
    Image of Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Shock Treatment'
    Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Shock Treatment'
  7. Protect from frost: Elephant ears are not frost-tolerant and should be brought indoors or protected from freezing temperatures during the winter months.

By following these tips, you can successfully grow elephant ears in containers and enjoy their striking foliage in a variety of settings.

Plants That are Known as Elephant Ears

The common name "elephant ears" can refer to several different plants that have large, ear-shaped leaves. Here are some plants that are commonly known as elephant ears:

Colocasia esculenta: This tropical plant is native to Southeast Asia and is known for its large, heart-shaped leaves that can reach up to 3 feet long. It is commonly grown for its striking foliage and is also used as a food crop in some cultures.

Alocasia macrorrhiza: Also known as giant taro or giant elephant ear, this plant is native to Asia and Australia. It has large, arrow-shaped leaves that can grow up to 3 feet long and is often grown as an ornamental plant.

Xanthosoma violaceum: This plant, also known as arrowleaf elephant ear, is native to Central and South America. It has large, arrow-shaped leaves that can reach up to 2 feet long and is often grown as a food crop.

Caladium bicolor: This plant is native to South America and is known for its colorful, heart-shaped leaves that come in shades of pink, red, white, and green. It is commonly grown as an ornamental plant and is also known as angel wings or heart of Jesus.

All of these plants have large, striking foliage and are commonly referred to as elephant ears due to the shape of their leaves.

In summary, growing elephant ears, or colocasia, in containers is a great way to enjoy these tropical plants in a small space or in areas with colder climates. By choosing the right container, soil, and location, as well as providing regular water and fertilizer, you can create a lush and beautiful display of elephant ears in your patio, balcony, or even indoors. Remember to protect the plants from frost and pests, and to provide adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging. With these tips in mind, you can successfully grow colocasia in containers and enjoy their stunning foliage all year round. Happy planting!

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