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Elephant Ear Plants: Complete Care and Growing Guide

Elephant ear plants, known for their large, floppy leaves, add a dramatic tropical touch to gardens with rich soil and plentiful water. These plants, belonging to the genera Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma, are loved for their impressive size and lush foliage.

Quick Facts

  • Botanical Names: Colocassia spp., Alocasia spp., Xanthosoma spp.
  • Height: 3 to 10 feet (0.9 to 3.0 meters)
  • Spread: 3 to 10 feet (0.9 to 3.0 meters)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Rich and moist
  • Hardiness Zones: 8 to 12
  • When to Plant: Spring

Elephant Ear Plant Care


While most elephant ears can grow in full sun, they prefer some shade, especially in extremely hot climates. Afternoon shade is ideal for protecting the plants from intense sunlight.


Elephant ears require a significant amount of moisture to thrive. They should be planted in areas where the soil remains moist or even has standing water throughout the growing season. If grown in containers or drier soils, frequent watering is necessary to maintain their health.

Temperature and Humidity

As tropical plants, elephant ears thrive in warm, humid conditions. They are hardy outdoors only in zones 8 and above in North America. Ideally, temperatures should not fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).


These plants prefer moist, fertile, loamy soil rich in organic material. They can also thrive in a few inches of standing water, making them versatile for various garden setups.


Elephant ears are heavy feeders and benefit from monthly fertilization during the growing season. Use an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer to support their rapid growth.


Minimal pruning is needed for elephant ear plants. Remove older leaves that droop and turn brown to keep the plant looking tidy and healthy.

Problems, Pests, and Diseases

While elephant ears are generally resilient, they can occasionally suffer from fungal leaf blight and phyllosticta leaf spot. In some warm regions, they can become invasive, so monitor their growth carefully.

Planting Elephant Ear Bulbs

Elephant ear plants grow from corms, often referred to as bulbs. Plant these corms in spring after the last frost. For an earlier start, you can plant the corms indoors and then move them outside as the weather warms. Dig a hole two to four times larger than the bulb and plant it with the top close to the soil surface, no more than one or two inches (2.5 to 5.0 cm) deep.

Growing Elephant Ears in Pots

Elephant ears can also be successfully grown in containers. Because soil in pots dries out faster than in garden beds, these plants will need more frequent watering and regular fertilization. Ensure that the potting mix is rich and well-drained.

Propagating Elephant Ear Plants

Propagation is typically done by dividing new tubers or corms produced underground. In the fall, pull up the plant and look for small cormlets to replant. Alternatively, you can cut off small tubers from the mother plant for repotting. Some species also produce runners, known as pups, which can be separated and replanted.

Types of Elephant Ear Plants

There are three main genera of elephant ear plants:

  • Colocasia: These species and cultivars are the most commonly grown in North American gardens. The leaves typically point downwards.
  • Alocasia: These plants have more upright leaves that point upwards.
  • Xanthosoma: Native to the tropical Americas, these species add variety to gardens with their unique foliage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Elephant Ear Plants Easy to Care For?

Yes, elephant ear plants are relatively easy to care for, provided they receive enough moisture, regular fertilization, and occasional pruning.

Are Elephant Ear Plants Poisonous?

Elephant ears contain oxalate crystals, which can irritate the skin. However, once cooked, the plant is edible and used in various cuisines. In Hawaii, the tuber of the elephant ear plant is known as taro root.

Why Is My Elephant Ear Plant Drooping?

Drooping foliage is usually a sign of insufficient moisture. Ensure the soil remains consistently moist to keep the plants healthy and upright.

By following these care guidelines, you can enjoy the lush, tropical beauty of elephant ear plants in your garden or home.

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