Proven Ways to Grow and Care for Elephant Ear Plants

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Elephant ears are flowering herbaceous plants known for their very large leaves. They are valued mainly for their buoyant fancy foliage, some for both foliage and flowers; which provide fascinating tropical effects in homes and gardens.

The name ‘Elephant ears’ is gotten from their large leaves, shaped like a large ear or shield reminiscent of elephant ears, commonly called angel wings or the heart of Jesus.

In this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know on choosing beautiful varieties of Elephant ears, keeping them in tip-top condition to help you grow and nurture them successfully, I promise.

Today, I will share with you the following:

  • How to care for elephant ear plants
  • Growing elephant ear plants indoors
  • Planting and propagation of elephant ear plants
  • Types of elephant ear plant
  • Elephant ear plant uses
  • How to overwinter elephant ear plants
  • Major pests and diseases of elephant ear plants

How to care for Elephant ear plants?

Light

Elephant ears flourish best when placed in the brightest light possible or part shade area, away from direct sunlight.

Elephant ears subjected to a long period of direct sunlight may result in leaf burn because the plant is not accustomed to such light intensity.

As a result, the leaves will generally appear bleached, losing their decorative foliage effects and colouration from your landscape.

However, Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’, Caladim ‘red flash’ and, Xanthosoma Lindenii are few exceptions in that they can tolerate direct sunlight, and still retain their foliage effects.

Teperature

Ideally, Elephant ears should be exposed to a temperature range of 65°F to 75°F with a correspondingly high level of humidity, which is essential for pot plants in warmer rooms.

You can Increase humidity by standing pots on trays of moist pebbles or use a humidifier and mist-spray leaves daily.

Watering

Being a tropical plant, Elephant ears need moderate watering, just enough to keep the compost moist, especially during the active growth period.

Reduce the frequency of watering by watering sparingly during the rest period, say once a month. If you allow water to dry out from the compost in-between watering the plant may go dormant. In that case, you harvest the tuber and save until the temperature gets warmer.

Feeding

Elephant ears are heavy feeders. Apply standard liquid fertilizer at half strength twice a month during the active growth period (follow feeding instructions on how to apply).

Growing Elephant ear plant indoors

Successful growing of Elephant ears in pots and other indoor plants starts with proper shopping. You need to how to buy and what to check when buying your plants.

your plant will only be as good as the compost they grow in.

Nowadays, elephant ears are everywhere available for everyone especially to plant lovers, but choosing a healthy one that will flourish is not always a straightforward task.

Here’s what you need to know about navigating the whole experience.

How to propagate Elephant ear plants?

Elephant ears can easily be propagated by easy division in healthy plants with multiple tubers or corms.

Detach the small tubers from the mother plant with care, so as not to injure the mother. This is best done in spring.

Ensure the tubers are potted upwards into appropriately sized pots. For example, 3 inches pots are appropriate for small tubers, and 5 inches pots for larger tubers.

How to root elephant ears?

For dormant tubers, they should be buried facing upwards in the pot at about their own depth from the surface. For instance, plant a 2 inches tuber an inch below the surface.

Varieties of elephant ears

There are four major types of elephant ear plants namely:

Alocasia

Colocasia

Caladium

Xanthosoma

They come in several varieties with different leaf shapes, sizes and patterns. Gardeners love them because they add contrasting effect in any landscape setting.

Alocasia

Alocasia is an interesting tropical plant, having the characteristics of arrow-shaped leaves.

The leaves are conspicuous, and grow to a length of 20 to 90cm on long stalks arising directly from the tubers. The genus Alocasia has about 79 varieties. Some varieties are widely cultivated for their foliage shape.

 

Common varieties of Alocasia

  • Alocasia amozonica
  • Alocasia macrorrhizos
  • Alocasia odora
Alocasia amozonica

Alocasia amazonica

Distinctive featurearrow-shaped leathery leaves with wavy edges and silvery leaf veins
Common namesAlocasia Polly, African Mask Plant, Elephant Ear Plant
Plant typePerennial
Plant size2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerGreen spathe (flowers not easily seen)
LightBright indirect light
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelLow
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly as ornamentals
Alocasia macrorrhizos

Alocasia macrorrhizos

Distinctive featureArrow-shaped gigantic leaves pointing skywards
Common namesGiant taro, Elephant Ear Plant
Plant typePerennial
Plant size12 to 15 feet tall, and 6 to 8 feet wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerYellowish-green spathe (flowers not easily seen)
LightBright indirect light
Temperature65 to 75°F
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelLow
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for food and animal fodder. Roots and leaves for medicines in some countries. Good as ornamentals

Alocasia odora

Distinctive featureBright-green paddle-shaped leaves pointing upwards. Nicely scented at night
Common namesNight scented lily, Asian taro, and Giant upright elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size4 to 8 feet tall, and 2 to 3 feet wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerPale peach spathe (flowers not easily seen)
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelLow
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals and medicine

Caladium

Caladiums are widely cultivated in tropics and subtropics as ornamentals. The heart or arrow-shaped leaves vary considerably in size, an average of 30 to 45 cm in length on long stalks arising directly from the tubers.

The large leaves stand out pointing skywards. The genus Caladium has about 7 species and over 100 cultivars widely cultivated.

 

Common varieties of Caladium

  • Caladium ‘Rose Glow’
  • Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton’
  • Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’
  • Caladium ‘Pink Symphony’
  • Caladium ‘Postman Joyner’
  • Caladium ‘Red Flash’
  • Caladium ‘Candyland’
caladium rose glow

Caladium ‘Rose Glow’

Also known as Heart to heart, shade caladium and Caladium hortulanum is known for their decorative foliage leaf effect.

The leaf colour is a blend of fancy pink originating from the centre of the leaf and spreading outwards, with marbled green along the edges.

They look fascinating in any landscape settings, containers, and hanging baskets. They can be grown indoors as houseplants. Rose glow caladium can grow 12 to 24 inches long, and 10 to 18 inches wide.

Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton’

Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton’

Creates colour speckles of contrasting foliage effects in any landscape. They are greatly prized for their decorative foliage display.

The leaves generally appear spotted, veined, blotched, or marbled red, pink, or green adorned with a tinge of green along the edges.

A great centrepiece in containers, baskets, and bedding plants. It is an excellent indoor plant. Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton can grow 14 to 18 inches long, and 10 to 12 inches wide.

caladium miss muffet

Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’

Often grown as ornamentals in gardens. The heart-shaped leaves are spotted with pink or red on pale green.

The dark pink veins bleed outwards staining the pale green background. Therefore, adding further colour contrast.

A Great plant to add to any landscape especially for hanging baskets. They can be grown indoors as houseplants. Miss Muffet caladium is sun tolerant and can grow 12 inches long and wide.

Caladium ‘Pink Symphony’

Sometimes known as Fancy-leaved caladium. The leaves are all pink with just the faintest tinge of green along the veins.

Pink symphony is suitable for indoor plants, bedding plants, container plants, and hanging baskets. It can grow 10 to 15 inches long, and 12 to 16 inches wide.

Caladium ‘Postman Joyner’

They are shade-loving plants, adorned with variations in the colouring of leaves.

The blotched pink leaves appear to originate from the centre and spread outwards, with green or shade along the edges spreading inwards as if each colour variation are struggling for dominance, thereby adding further colour contrast.

‘Postman Joyner’ Caladium will provide spectacular colour contrast to your landscape and is highly used in containers and baskets.

Caladium ‘Red Flash’

Generally prized for its fancy eye-catching large leaves.

The leaves generally appear painted with brilliant red veining with pink or red speckles on olive green, creating a splash of the bright red effect that never ceases to amaze all season.

They can be grown indoors as houseplants. ‘Red Flash’ Caladium is sun tolerant and can grow 24 to 36 inches long and wide.

Caladium ‘Candyland’

Thrives better in partial shade, but can tolerate early morning and late afternoon direct sunlight.

The leaves generally appear spotted with speckles of pink or olive green. Veins appear showy with silvery-white lines spreading outwards adorned with green along the edges.

A great centrepiece in containers, baskets, and bedding plants. It is an excellent indoor plant, border plant, and container plant. Caladium ‘Candyland’ can grow 12 to 18 inches long and wide.

Colocasia

Colocasia is widely known for its large corms, leaves, and petioles. In some parts of Asia and Africa, large corms are used as a staple food.

The leaves are arrow-shaped or round-shaped and grow to a length of 20 to 150cm on long stalks arising directly from the large corm on or just below the ground surface.

 

Common varieties of Caladium

  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’/li>
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Fontanesii’
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Hawaiian Punch’
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’’
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Coffee Cups’
Colocasia black magic

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’

Distinctive featurepurplish black leaves pointing downwards. leaves are giant heart-shaped
Common namesTaro, elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size3 to 6 feet tall and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerYellowish white spathe
LightBright indirect light
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelLow
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for food and ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Fontanesii’

Distinctive featureBlue-green leaves pointing downwards. Dark-green veins and purple-black leaf stalks. leaves are giant heart-shaped are giant heart-shaped
Common namesBlack stem, taro, black stem elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size5 to 6 feet tall, and 4 to 5 feet wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerPale yellow spathe
LightBright indirect light
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelLow
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’

Distinctive featureBright yellow-green leaves pointing downwards. Purple stain on mid veins. leaves are giant heart-shaped
Common namesElena elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size2 to 4 feet tall, and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerPale yellow spathe
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelModerate
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’

Distinctive featureGlossy purple-leaves pointing downwards. Purple stain on mid veins. leaves are thick and giant heart-shaped
Common namesDiamond head, elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size3 to 4 feet tall, and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerYellowish green spathe
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor (Avoid direct sunlight)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelModerate
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Hawaiian Punch’

Distinctive featureGlossy red leaf stalks. Red veins and margins on leaves. Green leaves are thick, giant heart-shaped and downwards.
Common namesHawaiian punch elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size2 to 3 feet tall, and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix, poorly draining (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerYellowish green spathe
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor, near pond (6 inches standing water)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelModerate
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’

Distinctive featurePurple to black speckles on lemon green leaves. Giant heart-shaped leaves pointing downwards
Common namesMojito elephant ear, Imperial taro mojito
Plant typePerennial
Plant size4 to 5 feet tall, and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix, poorly draining (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerPale yellow spathe
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor, near pond (6 inches standing water)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelModerate
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Colocasia esculenta ‘Coffee Cups’

Distinctive featureGlossy purple leaf stalks. Purple veins and margins on leaves. Cup-shaped leaves pointing upwards
Common namesCoffee cups elephant ear
Plant typePerennial
Plant size3 to 4 feet tall, and wide
Soil typeWell-draining potting mix, poorly draining (clay, loamy, sandy)
FlowerPale yellow spathe
LightIt can take sun, but bright indirect light is ideal
Temperature65 to 75°F. Below 60°F may trigger dormancy
PositioningIndoor and outdoor, near pond (6 inches standing water)
WaterWater when the surface begins to dry. Reduce watering significantly in winter
Maintenance levelModerate
HumidityHigh humidity levels, above 50% humidity
Propagation timeBest in spring
Garden usesGrown mainly for ornamentals

Xanthosoma

Xanthosoma is primarily grown as root a vegetable or as ornamentals for decorative purposes in gardens.

The corms are edible.

They are native to tropical America. The leaves grow to a length of 40 to 200cm on long stalks arising directly from the large corm on or just below the ground surface.

From its appearance, the leaf looks like an elephant ear and varies in size and colours.

 

Common varieties of Xanthosoma

  • Xanthosoma lindenii ‘Magnifica’
  • Xanthosoma ‘Mousecups’
  • Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’
  • Xanthosoma violaceum
  • Xanthosoma brasiliense

Xanthosoma lindenii ‘Magnifica’

Also known as Caladium lindenii are widely grown in pots and containers for their beautiful yellowish to deep-green leaves, with cream to white along the veins and margins.

Xanthosoma lindenii ‘Magnifica’ is sun tolerant, and can grow 2 to 3 feet long and wide.

Xanthosoma ‘Mousecups’

Xanthosoma ‘Mousecups’

Also known as Mickey mouse taro, Pocket plant, and Variegatum monstrosum are known for their unusual white variegation effects.

One of the distinctive features is the formation of small cup-like pockets at the leaf tip. The leaves first appear pale yellow, later white along the edges.

Great in any landscape setting, and containers. They can be grown indoors as houseplants.

Mickey mouse taro can grow 3 to 4 feet long and wide.

Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’

It can tolerate early morning and late afternoon direct sunlight but thrives better in partial shade.

The chartreuse leaves pointing downwards appear to glow.

Avoid exposing them to too much shade, which may cause the leaves to lose their glowing ability. It is an excellent indoor plant, border plant, and container plant. Caladium ‘Lime Zinger’ can grow 2 to 4 feet long and wide.

Xanthosoma violaceum

Xanthosoma violaceum is also known as black malanga, blue ape, blue tannia, blue taro, Chinese taro, and purple elephant ear.

The green leaves are adorned with purple colouration along the veins and edges. The leaf stalk carrying the arrow-shaped leaves appears black or violet.

Great in any landscape setting, and containers. They can be grown indoors as houseplants. Black malanga can grow 2 to 4 feet long and wide.

Xanthosoma brasiliense

Xanthosoma brasiliense is also known as tahitian spinach, tannia spinach, belembe, and Tahitian taro.

The olive-green leaves pointing downwards are adorned with just the faintest tinge of greenish-yellow along the veins and margins.

They can be grown indoors as houseplants. Tahitian spinach can grow 2 to 3 feet long and wide.

Elephant ear plant uses

  • Food
  • Ornamentals
  • Medicine

Further studies on Elephant ears uses -Nutrition, benefits and uses.

Cooking Green Taro Leaves in my Village by my Mom / Village Life. Quite an interesting video to watch. Have fun watching!

How to overwinter Elephant ears?

It is usually not encouraged to force a tropical plant to grow actively during the winter rest period.

The amount of daylight is basically the limiting factor. For instance, Elephant ears have an annual period of dormancy during which leaves begin to dry out and die back even if other growth factors like warmth, feeding and watering are right.

So it is recommended to store-dry your elephant ears throughout the dormant period by doing the following:

  • Cut back foliage
  • Dig up the tubers or corms
  • Remove dirt and allow to dry for a few days
  • Store in a cool, dry, and dark environment

Pests and diseases of Elephant ears

Plant diseases are caused by pathogens, which can either be a virus, bacteria, or fungi.

Fungal attacks on plants often come from the soil and most times are difficult to treat.

Every plant is prone to pests and diseases. This is particularly so for Elephant ear bulbs if not well rooted and in the best planting medium. It is easier to completely eradicate plant diseases if detected early.

Let’s look at the major pest and disease problems associated with Elephant ear plants.

Spider mites

Spider mites are tiny sucking insects that feed on plant sap. They make silky webbing on the leaves, thereby leaving patches on the leaves.

The patches gradually turn pale yellow to black irregular spots. Their activities result in Elephant ear plant leaves turning yellowing and total leaf loss.

Control

Trim off affected leaves. Mix water, liquid dish soap, and Neem oil in a spray bottle. 5mls of Neem oil and 3 drops of dish soap.

Thrips

Thrips are small to tiny sucking insects that feed by piercing the leaf tissue and sucking out the cell content.

They are translucent white, yellowish, dark-brown, black or brightly coloured in some species.

Control

Trim affected areas. Spray mildly using pesticides or neem oil. Repeat the treatment every 2 weeks until the 3rd application.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are sucking insects that feed on plant sap. Their activities result in Elephant ear plant leaves turning yellowing and total leaf loss.

Control

Trim off some foliage to loosen up. Dip a thin boarded brush in denatured alcohol and apply it directly to the insects.

For serious infestation use insecticidal soap -mix water, liquid dish soap, and neem oil in a spray bottle. 5mls of Neem oil and 3 drops of dish soap.

Snails and Slugs

Snails are chewing organisms that leave irregular holes in leaves and flowers. Their activities if not detected early will result in great damage.

Control

Pick off and destroy individual snails. Apply snail pellets to the base of the plant.

Caterpilars

Caterpillars chew leaves and stems, making holes or notched edges. Their activities result in great damage in case of severe infestation.

Control

Pick off and destroy individual caterpillars. Spray mildly using pesticides or neem oil.

Leaf spot

Infected leaves turn brown or black, sometimes with a yellow halo or lesions. The spots enlarge gradually and spread to the entire leaves.

Control

Trim affected areas to improve air circulation and sunlight. At the first sign of the disease apply neem oil, sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides weekly to prevent its spread.

Note: These organic fungicides will not kill leaf spot but will prevent the spores from germinating.

Leaf blight

Late blight is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora infestans.

Late blight is a serious disease that can damage the entire plant if left unattended. The Phytophthora infestans form lesions on the leaves, which are light brown or tan in colour, irregular in shape, and can be found anywhere on the plant especially at the top part of young leaves.

The fungus spreads slowly to the entire plant. The leaves turn brown, shrivel, and die.

Control

Trim affected areas to improve air circulation and sunlight. Apply sulfur sprays or copper-based fungicides weekly at the first sign of disease to prevent its spread.

If you see no improvement after the treatments harvest the plant from the ground into an air-tight plastic bag and trash.

That's It!

I hope you have enjoyed learning How To Grow and Care For Elephant ears. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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