Alocasia and colocasia, better known as elephant ears, are impressive plants that are prized for their dramatic foliage. Their immense leaves can measure up to 2 feet across, with foliage colors ranging from lime green to almost black. Upright elephant ears (Alocasia) have shiny leaves that often display colorful variegations. They can be grown indoors as well as out. Colocasia have a more spreading habit and their leaves typically have a velvety surface texture. Elephant ears can easily hold their own as a solo plant in the garden or in a large container. They also combine beautifully with other summer bulbs and annuals.
It’s easy to see the difference in quality when you compare two elephant ear tubers side by side. We sell large, 9/11 cm tubers (shown at far left) that grow into big plants with strong stems and abundant foliage. Smaller, 7/9 cm tubers (on the right) produce smaller plants. A healthy elephant ear tuber will be firm and heavy with a dry exterior.
SUN OR SHADE: Elephant ears can be planted in sun or shade. If you put them in a hot, sunny location, make sure they get a little shade during the middle of the day.
ZONE: Elephant ears are tropical plants. In zones 9-11 they can be grown outdoors year-round. In cooler areas (zones 3-8) the bulbs are planted in the spring and usually grown as annuals. To find your USDA Hardiness Zone, check the map here.
WHEN TO PLANT: Elephant ears are planted in spring after any danger of frost has passed. The tubers will not grow until the soil is warm, so don't plant them until the soil temperature is 65ºF. In northern climates this will be early June. To get a jump on the season, elephant ears can be planted indoors, 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to put them outside. Plant the tubers in pots and grow them a warm, sunny window.
1. Wait until the soil is warm and there's no danger of frost. Loosen the soil 8" deep. Dig a hole about 5" deep.
2. Set the tuber in the hole, pointy side up. The the top of the tuber should be 1” below the soil surface.
3. Cover the tuber with soil and water thoroughly.
Elephant ear tubers can be very slow to sprout. Depending on when and where they are planted, it may take more than a month before you see any sign of growth.
Plant elephant ears in rich, well drained soil. Before planting, improve the soil with compost or topsoil to add nutrients and improve the soil's water-holding capacity.
For elephant ears to reach their full size, they need consistent moisture throughout the summer. They also benefit from an application of liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.
In warm, frost-free climates (zones 9-11), elephant ears can be grown outdoors year-round. In cooler areas (zones 3-8) they are usually grown as annuals. When planted in spring, they become big, impressive plants within just a few months, so be sure to give them plenty of room.
CONTAINERS, PATIOS AND DECKS Elephant ears are a perfect solution for shady porches, decks and other places around your home that are not in full sun. Their huge, heart-shaped leaves add a tropical feel to pools, spas and water gardens.
WALLS AND FENCES Planting elephant ears next to a wall or fence protects the plants from wind and too much sun. It also puts their big leaves to work, softening straight lines and adding visual interest to blank walls.
ENTRYWAYS Add a "wow" to your front door by planting elephant ears in large containers. They make a big statement and always impress guests. Plant them on their own or pair them with other plants such as caladiums or coleus.
SCREENING The broad leaves and tall stems of elephant ears can be used to screen an unwanted view or define a space in your garden. Planting them along a property line or around an outdoor living area, will make your yard feel more private.
INDOOR HOUSEPLANT Upright elephant ears can also be grown indoors as long the plants get enough light and water. Their attractive foliage can be an exciting feature all year round.
Elephant ears will not survive freezing temperatures and are winter hardy only in zones 9-11. In colder areas, you can either treat elephant ears as annuals and discard them at the end of the growing season, or you can store the tubers indoors and replant them next year.
If you want to store alocasia or colocasia tubers from one year to the next, they should be dug up in the fall before temperatures drop below 40°F. Dig carefully, starting about a foot from the center of the plant. Lift the plant out of the ground (or out of the pot) and move it to a warm, dry place where it will be protected from frost. Once the root ball is dry, cut back the stems and use your hands to pull away the soil. Allow the tuber to continue to dry. When dry, wrap each tuber separately in paper and store in a warm, dark, dry place at 50-60ºF.
Upright elephant ears (Alocasia) can be brought indoors and grown as houseplants. Keep the plants in bright, indirect light and keep the soil consistently moist, not wet.
To see our selection of elephant ears click HERE.
To see a video about digging, splitting and storing elephant ear bulbs click HERE.