Incorporating Elephant Ears into Your Summer Garden

Incorporating Elephant Ears into Your Summer Garden

Landscaping with Elephant Ears

By Published August 05, 2018 Updated April 18, 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.

With the arrival of summer, gardeners everywhere are eagerly planning and preparing their outdoor spaces for the months ahead. If you're looking for a unique and eye-catching addition to your summer garden, consider incorporating colocasia, also known as elephant ears. These large, tropical plants are sure to make a statement with their striking foliage and can be a beautiful and dramatic addition to any outdoor space. In this article, we'll explore the many ways colocasia can be used in the garden, as well as provide tips for planting and caring for these impressive plants. So whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting out, read on to discover the beauty of colocasia and how it can enhance your summer garden.

Using Elephant Ears in Your Landscape

Incorporating tropical colocasias into your summer garden can seem daunting if you're a new gardener, but with a little bit of planning and preparation, anyone can do it. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Choose the right location: Colocasias prefer moist, well-drained soil and partial to full sun. When selecting a spot in your garden, choose an area that receives 6 or more hours of sunlight, and avoid planting in areas that are prone to drying out.

  • Prepare the soil: Colocasias prefer rich, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. Amend your soil with compost or well-rotted manure before planting to ensure that it is nutrient-rich and drains well.
  • Plant the bulbs: Colocasias are typically grown from bulbs, which can be planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Dig a hole that is slightly deeper than the bulb and plant it with the pointed end facing up. Cover with soil and water thoroughly.
  • Water regularly: Colocasias require consistent moisture, so be sure to water regularly, especially during dry spells. However, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
  • Mulch: Adding a layer of organic mulch around your colocasia plants can help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.
    Image of Rudbeckia maxima
    Rudbeckia maxima

With these tips in mind, even a new gardener can successfully incorporate tropical colocasias into their summer garden. Just remember to choose the right location, prepare the soil, plant the bulbs correctly, water regularly, and mulch for best results.

Elephant Ear Companion Plants

When planning a summer garden with colocasia, it's important to choose companion plants that will complement and enhance the beauty of these tropical plants. Here are some summer blooming perennials that would pair well with colocasia:

  • Coneflowers (Echinacea plants): These cheerful, daisy-like flowers come in a range of colors, from classic pink and white to bold orange and red.
  • Giant Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): With their sunny yellow petals and dark centers, black-eyed Susans are a classic summer flower that pairs well with the bold foliage of colocasia.
  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis): These easy-care perennials come in a wide variety of colors and can bloom for weeks on end, providing a long-lasting burst of color in the summer garden.
  • Coreopsis: With their delicate, yellow or pink blooms, coreopsis can provide a soft, airy contrast to the bold foliage of colocasia.
  • Salvias: These fragrant, low-maintenance perennials come in a range of colors and can bloom throughout the summer, making them a great choice for planting with colocasia.

When selecting companion plants for colocasia, be sure to choose perennials that have similar growing requirements, such as soil moisture and light levels. By pairing colocasia with these summer-blooming perennials, you can create a beautiful, dynamic garden that will thrive all season long.

Colocasia, also known as elephant ears, can be a stunning addition to any garden, but some species can be more difficult to grow than others. Here are a few species of colocasia that are known for being relatively easy to grow:

  • Colocasia esculenta: This is one of the most commonly grown species of colocasia and is often used for cooking as well as ornamental purposes. It can grow in a wide range of soil types and prefers partial to full sun.
  • Colocasia gigantea: As the name suggests, this is one of the largest species of colocasia and can grow up to 10 feet tall in ideal conditions. It prefers moist soil and partial shade. Recently, this plant has had a name change and is now known in the nursery trade as Leucocasia gigantea.
  • Colocasia 'Fontanesii': This species produces yellow flowers that smell just like papayas.
  • Colocasia affinis 'Jenningsii': This species is native to Japan and Korea and is known for its striking black stems and green leaves. It prefers partial shade and moist soil.
  • Colocasia esculenta 'Black Coral': This is a Plant Delights introduction and a result of the breeding program of Hawaii's Dr. John Cho. Black Coral forms a 3.5' tall clump of glossy, jet-black leaves that provide a wonderful contrast to colorful flowers in the summer garden.

When selecting a species of colocasia to grow, be sure to choose one that is well-suited to the growing conditions in your garden. With proper care and attention, these easy-to-grow species of colocasia can provide a stunning focal point in your garden.

Incorporating colocasia, or elephant ears, into your summer garden can be a wonderful way to add a unique and striking element to your outdoor space. With their bold, tropical foliage and ease of care, colocasia can be a great choice for both experienced and novice gardeners alike. By choosing the right location, preparing the soil properly, and selecting companion plants that complement their beauty, you can create a stunning and dynamic summer garden that is sure to impress. Whether you choose to plant colocasia in containers or in the ground, with a little bit of planning and attention, you can enjoy their beauty all season long.

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