Elephant Ear Plant : Grow and Care Guide
If you are planning to add some ornamental plants to your garden, then the Elephant Ear plant can be the best option for you. Plants of the genus Colocasia, Xanthosoma, and Alocasia are commonly known as the Elephant ear plant. Among these three species, Colocasia esculenta (Taro) is most common in gardeners. They are very simple to grow and takes minimal effort.
Here is everything that you should know about the Elephant ear plant. So, let’s dive into it.
The elephant ear plant or taro is a tropical perennial plant belonging to the family Araceae. It is the native of tropical eastern Asia and America.
Elephant ears are not grown for the flowers but for the attractive large leaves. All the species of these plants have conspicuously large heart-shaped leaves. The leaf resembles the elephant’s ear, so the name Elephant ear plant.
The leaves’ size can vary according to climatic conditions. They reach up to 3 feet and 2 feet in length and width, respectively, in the tropical region. Whereas in the cooler region, the leaves are comparatively smaller.
Are the elephant ear plants toxic?
The Colocasia species are edible. But the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the whole body may irritate the mouth and throat if consumed raw. So, they are cooked before consumption.
Plant sap and leaves may show irritant effects in pet animals too. The pets may show excessive saliva secretion if consumed.
When to plant Elephant Ear?
The Elephant ear plants are prone to frost, so planting should be done in the spring or early summer. They perfectly suit any landscape and grows well in a container.
Colocasia behaves as both annual and perennial in different climatic zones.
In tropical warm, 8 or more than 8 zones, they act as perennials as plants regenerate from left roots on the ground in the next season.
Whereas, in cold zones, the roots are dug up and stored in a warmer place and planted in the next season. Therefore, the plant act as an annual in a cooler region.
Care for Elephant ear plant
The elephant ear plant is a wetland plant, so it requires lots of water. They grow better in partial shade conditions. They can also tolerate acidic conditions in a certain range. It is the best option for gardeners living in wet regions. Plants require well-warmed soil for proper growth and germination. After the germination of plants, a high dose of fertilizer should be given.
The plants grow well in partly shady areas but also perform well in full sunlight.
It grows in a variety of soil. But, organic matter-rich loamy damp to wet soil is the ideal condition for better performance.
They require slightly acidic to neutral conditions, 5.5 – 7 PH. Grow in the areas where plenty of water is available or in boggy areas.
The water requirement of these plants is very high. They can survive in prolong water stagnant conditions of about 6 inches depth.
But, a dry period will cause a drastic loss in vegetation, even for a short period.
Special care should be given to the plants grown in a container, and watering should be done daily.
Temperature and Humidity
They are tropical plants, so they grow well in tropical climatic conditions.
Climatic conditions also influence their growth habit. They remain evergreen in the 10 – 11 USDA zones.
Whereas, below zone 9, i.e., in the colder climatic region, the plant dies in the winter season and regenerate in spring. So, digging up tubers is essential during the colder season.
The plants are heavy feeder so require a higher dose of fertilizers.
Due to the large leaf area rate of photosynthesis is high, so additional nutrients should be supplied.
Application of nitrogenous fertilizer every 2 or 3 weeks of interval gives the best result.
How to plant Elephant Ear?
– Make a fine soil bed for planting the Elephant ears.
– In Colocasia species, cut-clumps should be placed so that their growth end faces upward.
While in corm type species (Alocasia and Xanthosoma ) pointed side should face upward.
– Maintain a depth of about 5 inches. Spacing should be done according to the cultivars.
– For larger varieties, spacing should be maintained about 4 feet. Smaller foliage cultivar needs less spacing,i.e., only 2 feet.
– They grow vigorously and attain full size within two months of planting. Frequent feeding and watering should be done after sprouting.
Propagation of elephant ear plant
Propagating materials are different among different cultivars. Tuberous roots are used for planting in the case of the common variety Colocasia esculenta. These roots easily propagate by divided pieces,i.e.clumps.
The remaining two genera of the Elephant ear plant- Alocasia and Xanthosoma species propagate through corm. The corm is a hard swollen structure not having the divisible property.
They can also be propagated by seeds. But, it is a lengthy and difficult process as flowering is very rare.
How to divide Colocasia plants?
– At first, dig up the previous season tuber from the soil. Care should be taken while digging.
– Wear gloves to avoid contact with your skin as they contain sap that is sticky in nature.
– Thus, removed tubers are cut into clumps. Each clump should contain at least one growing node.
– To break the dormancy, they should be stored throughout the winter season.
– Plant these clumps in the warmer season, i.e., in spring. If digging has been done in a warmer climate, then immediately replanting should be done.
How to divide Alocasia and Xanthosoma?
The remaining two genera of the Elephant ear plant- Alocasia and Xanthosoma species propagate through corm.
The corm is a hard swollen structure not having the divisible property.
Dig up the corms and transplant them directly in the spring season.
Potting and Repotting of Elephant Ear plant
The elephant ear plants can also be grown in the container. But, the size of the container should be large.
A large container helps to accommodate the large leaves properly. Also, moisture can easily be maintained.
Potting soil should be rich in organic manure and other nutrients as they are heavy-feeder. More the organic matter more will be the water holding capacity of the soil.
Frequent watering should be done in potted plants as they require higher moisture than the plants grown in-ground. In the warmer season, apply water at least two times per day.
Colocasia esculenta, commonly known as Taro, is classified in many varieties. These genera are widely grown, but the other two genera have peculiar properties.
Here are few varieties commonly grown.
As the name implies, it is the black variety. Also known as black elephant ear plants.
This cultivar has variegated leaves. It has yellow and green striations, just like pothos plants. They are lovely and commonly used in gardens.
The leaves are small folded upward, forming like a cup shape. They are a robust hybrid variety of the Elephant ear plant.
It has medium green leaves with purplish-black veins. The undersides of the leaves are maroon in color. They belong to Royal Hawaiian Series.
It is a variety of commonly grown genera C. esculenta. The leaves are dark green. They spread themselves by runner, the underground part.
It belongs to the genera Xanthosoma, a green cultivar.
Common diseases and pests
1. Dasheen Mosaic Virus:
Viral disease transmitted by Apid. Symptoms are stunted growth, uneven light and dark striations on leaves or ring spots.
Control: destroy infected plants; spray Malathion, Nuvan to control Aphid.
2. Root Rots:
It is one of the major problems of the plant caused by many factors. Bacterial infestation, or over moist conditions, poor soil aeration are some reasons.
Control: maintain proper drainage condition, field inspection regularly,
They are sucking insects feed on leaves sap mainly underside part. Symptoms are yellowing of leaves, stunting, etc.
Control: increase the population of the natural enemy -ladybird beetle and wasp, spray insecticidal soap, yellow sticky trap, etc.
They are wingless insects and also suck sap from the leaves and stems. The symptoms are cottony white mass on the stem, weak plants, and ants population also increase due to secreted honeydew.
Control: remove infested plants, grow natural predators such as Lacewings, ladybirds, and wasps, and spray insecticidal solutions.
5. Root Maggots
They are root-feeding whitish insects. Infected roots have brown tunnels—result in poor growth, stunting, wilting, and death in extreme cases.
Control: release predator Rove beetle and nematodes in the garden, dust the plant with diatomaceous soil, solarize beds before plating, etc.
Uses of Elephant ear plant
The plant adds aesthetic beauty to a garden by large dramatic leaves. Besides aesthetic values, it has several benefits and uses. The plants are available in a variety of colors and sizes. They fit in any condition. Here are some uses of elephant ear plants.
– They can be planted on the edges of the garden or as background plants.
– Smaller cultivars can be planted as ground covers.
– In many gardens, they are planted as focal plants or accent plants.
– Well adapted as indoor planting.
– In many tropical regions, the Colocasia species are planted for food value. Both leaves and tubers are edible and highly nutritious.
– The leaves are rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, and C yet having low caloric value.
Summing all up,
Elephant ear plants are very easy options that can be grown without much effort. Also, they can be planted as indoor as well as outdoor plants. You can easily make your garden vibrant by planting these.
I hope you like this article. Please don’t forget to add feedback and suggestions in the comment section below.
Also, read about the Agave plant.