Elephant ears can produce dramatic, exotic foliage for your yard and garden. Elephant ears flourish in zones 8-10 and grow in an upright clump type of formation. If grown in other zones, they will need to be dug up and stored for the winter and then replanted the following spring. Elephant ears do well against structures or as garden edging plants. If you use them on the ends of your garden be sure to place them towards the back of the bed so that shorter plants can be seen. You will find some varieties that can be used only for house plants.
Elephant ears get their name from the shape of the leaves which resemble the ear of an elephant. Elephant ears are grown from a bulb which produces multiple leaves with no flowers. This is strictly planted for its lush green, tropical appearance. They have always reminded me of giant caladiums.
Conditions for Growing Elephant Ears
Elephant ear tolerates light shade or full sun in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-7.0. The exotic leaves deserve ample space and massing for best effect. The glossy leaves arae arrow shaped at their base, with contrasting pale green veins, on stalks up to 6 feet long. Each leaf blade is 3-4‘ long. Place these dramatic plants at the base of trees in a well lit woodland setting, in containers, or as specimens in the tropical garden.
Care of Elephant Ears
Plant your elephant ears in early spring. Feed them with slow release granular plant food at the time of planting, or begin using water soluble plant food in spring or when the foliage appears. Supply water during dry times to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Apply 3” of vegetative mulch in summer and winter to help retain soil moisture. Cut back faded foliage in the fall.
Propagation of elephant ears consists of dividing the rhizomes in spring or in summer. Dig and lift the roots, cut away healthy sections of the root that contains top shoots, and reset them at the same depth 3-6” from other plants. Water them deeply and apply 3” of vegetative mulch.
Elephant ears are relatively pest free. Mealy bugs and scale may be occasional problems but can be managed with insecticidal soap sprays or horticultural oil. Follow the label directions for recommended frequency.
Varieties of Elephant Ears
Some of the related species to the elephant ear includes, ‘Blackie’ which has almost black foliage, ‘Violacea’ has violet-tinged foliage. Giant caladium (A. Cuprea) grows to 3’ high and wide with glossy deep green and copper-hued leaves with reddish undersides.
Kris plant (A. sanderianna) grows to 6’ tall and wide and has deep green leaves with silver margins and silver veins. Wavy leaf edges add special appeal. The following are three varieties that are either common, or unusual.
Colocasia Esculenta- common elephant ear
Alocasia Macrorrhiza-Upright elephant ear (very dark green)
Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'-Purple to black leaves