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Elephant Ears

dsc01454Elephant Ears (or Colocasia) are one of my favorite tropical plants and make an excellent addition to any home.  Elephant ears are very easy to grow, they come in several sizes and varieties, and you can take them in and out of the house depending on the season! Don’t be afraid to garden outside your zone either. If you are willing to get your elbows dirty, elephant ears can be a lot of fun, and you can enjoy them year around both in your yard and indoors as house plants.

1. Terrific Flexibility

Elephant ears are terrific in pots as well as the garden.   Their biggest strength is that they will do well in full sun, partial sun and even shade.

However, they will  not survive in cold temperatures.  If you do decide to plant them in your garden (and you don’t live in zone seven), you’ll need to dig them up at the end of the season. This year was the first winter I decided to pot them and it was a great treat enjoying them indoors.  If you don’t have room to keep them as a houseplant, the bulb can be dug up and stored in a cool, dry space such as a basement.

2. Price to size ratio

You’ll love the price to size ratio! That is, without spending a lot of money, you can get a beautiful plant that covers a lot of room in your garden. They can get extremely tall and full, which makes them a great tool for the garden in that they can fill an empty spot while you wait for your perennials and shrubs to mature.

3. Great varieties

I have grown several different varieties, but my favorite variety is Illustris, it is black with hints of green down the middle.  I also love the black magic. It is smaller in size then the Illustris but completely black which adds a real boldness to your garden.

4. Getting started

A nice way to plant a group of them in the ground is to buy one growing plant, more expensive, and then several bulbs, much cheaper. Then plant the bulbs around the plant – this way you have some instant gratification and color. This also helps you to remember where you planted the bulbs while you wait for them to come up, an you’ll be less likely to disturb that area.

I have purchased Elephant ears from a variety of stores (including, Walmart, Home Depot, Bruce Company, Johansons, Logees and  Costco) and had a lot of success. It speaks to the overall ease with which they can be cared for.

Right now Costco is offering 6 bulbs for $12. I also recommend Logees as a nice place to buy them as it will arrive as a potted plant – a black magic is $9.95 and the illustris is $10.95.


15 thoughts on “Elephant Ears

  1. I really like Elephant Ears and we had great success with them one year and then nothing.

    I’ll try again.

    Shade or full sun?

    1. Robert, thanks for the comment! I am trying to figure out why it worked one year and not the next. Did you use the same bulbs, same spot? What zone do you live in? You do have to bring the plant/bulb in for the winter if you live in a cold climate. I think you have to be careful not to over water them initially, or else the bulb can turn to mush and rot. I have had this happen. I recommend watering well when first planting them and then try to wait until you see some green growth, but if it is totally dry, give it a small drink once in a while. I have grown them in full shade and full sun, and partial sun, I think they do best in partial sun, but can tolerate any condition. I would love a little more information from you to try to figure out the problem and help you out.

  2. I Live in zone 7 A I planted my elephant ear bulbs about a month and a 1/2 ago and no signs of it coming out. Not sure why? How long do they take to come up? This is my first year, I just bought them they are in partial sun. Should I dig them up to see if it is rooting?

  3. Elephant ears can take a very long time to come up. Just when you think they are never coming up they will peak out of the soil and then grow rapidly. It wouldn’t hurt anything to dig them up. You could re-plant them in a pot and then when they start to grow just transfer them back to the spot you want. Also, be careful not to over water the bulbs as they can rot, they will also rot of if it is too cold. Elehant ears like it around 60 degrees or warmer as they are a tropical plant, so if your soil or night temps are chilly that could be why. I am dying to put my elephant ears out here in Madison, Wisconsin, but it is still around 40 degrees at night so I will have to wait a few more weeks.

  4. I learned something today. I’ve never tried growing an elephant ear inside. I’ll give that a shot with one of my smaller baby bulbs.

  5. I recently purchased, from springhill nursery, 6 “Persian Palm Elephant Ear” plants to be delivered in March 2010, as they will be delivered as started plants in 4″ pots, my question is, after I take them from pots and set them out in my yard, hopefully they will do well, when next fall gets here, will these plants have produced bulbs underground that I can dig an save for the following year, or have I simply wasted money so as to have the plants this one year only?
    Please email me any advice you may have

  6. Great question Samuel! Yes, after you enjoy your Elephant Ears outside you may dig them up and either winter them inside as a houseplant or store them in a cool basement. I have had success doing both. I prefer to overwinter mine as houseplants, I put several together in a large pot. Good Luck. Remember too that these are tropical plants and hold off putting them into the ground until nightime temps have consistently been in the 50’s. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!!!

    1. My elephant ears are turning brown. They are planted in the exact same spot as last year but are not doing well at all. Any tips would be appreciated. thank you

      1. Kit,

        Elephant Ears are thirsty, have you had a dry summer, could they need more water? Could you give me a little more info. Like, what is your zone, when did you plant them, etc., What kind of Elephant Ear is it? Is it in Full Sun, maybe getting a sunburn or too much sun? Is any part of the plant healthy? I have 6 different varieties of Elephant Ears planted in my Wisconsin Garden, right now as blooms are fading and annuals are getting tired looking and my sunflowers feel over in the latest storm, my Elephant Ears are the highlight of my garden and I wish the same for your garden!!!

        1. I don’t know what kind of elephant ears blubs I have, but maybe they are getting too much sun. Last year the were 6 foot tall, this year they are only about 4 foot tall. Any new leaves are turning yellow then brown. This is the first year I have had bad luck with them in about 10 years of planting them. We have had a hot summer, but we have in the past also….I am in South New Jersey. Thanks for responding.

  7. I don’t know what kind of elephant ear bulb it is. In the past the plants got 6 to 7 feet tall. this year they started out great and then the leaves are yellow and then brown. We have had a hot summer in New Jersey this year, but we water the plants twice a day. Thanks for responding.

    1. yellow often means too much water. They need good drainage. Perhaps this year you planted them deeper than in the past?

  8. I just moved into my new home which has a huge elephant ear’s plant blocking one window. I would like to transfer it to a more open area where I can see it better and it could act as a screen/border between me and the new neighbors. Is there anything I need to tell the lawn care folks about moving it – also how do I then take care of it once it’s moved so that it lasts. I’m in Central Florida. The plant is beautiful. Ann

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