The tropical parts of Asia are the natural habitat of the elephant ear plant. They belong to the Araceae family of plants and get their popular name, elephant ear, from their enormous, arrow-shaped leaves. Easy to grow, they bloom from bulbs planted underground.
Elephant ear plants, also known as Colocasia, can be propagated either from tubers or by re-rooting established plants. Massive, heart-shaped leaves of the elephant ear plant are carried on petioles as tall as three feet.
The Elephant ear bulb leaves are found in purple-black, green, and green-and-white colors. They thrive in wet environments due to their sturdy root structure. Therefore, they make great landscaping plants in, around, or near water elements in the garden.
Plants of the elephant ear family are considered annuals in the northern climes. Thus their bulbs or tubers are dug up and preserved for the winter. While elephant ears are typically grown as an outdoor specimen due to their height, it is feasible to cultivate them indoors.
How to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs Indoors
A tuber is the source of growth for elephant ears. Planting them outside requires annual digging because they die in the winter in much of the United States.
Plant the tuber indoors in a huge pot (14–20 inches in diameter), and go bigger still if you want a genuinely huge plant.
Place the tuber root side down in the center of the pot and fill the rest of the pot with potting soil. Completely cover the tuber with dirt; this should take up about eight inches of space in the container.
While elephant ear plants stand out in a yard, they also flourish in outdoor containers and flowerbeds. Easy to care for and maintain, growing elephant ears in containers brings a touch of the tropics to outdoor spaces.
Indoor-grown elephant ears require bright, but not intense, sunlight. Move it to a darker area or hang a sheer curtain if you see that the leaves are being bleached or singed. They thrive in the outdoors when given some shade.
Elephant ears prefer a damp, rather than a soggy, environment. Be careful when watering your plant if you use a container without drainage holes.
Inspect the earth with your finger before digging. Setting the pot in a saucer of water on a bed of stones can help maintain a steady humidity level, which is essential for the health of the elephant ears. The roots won’t decay from sitting in the water as much if you use pebbles to separate them.
Humidity is crucial for indoor cultivation. If you want to grow Colocasia indoors, you’ll need to use a humidifier in the space.
Elephant ear houseplants benefit from having a small space between the container’s soil and the bottom of the saucer. Doing so can boost the humidity around your indoor elephant ear plant without risking root rot from water getting directly to the plant’s roots.
Water elephant ears with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer once every two weeks. It would help if you stopped fertilizing your plant over the winter so that it can rest.
Oxalic acid, present in the leaves and stems of elephant ears, is a crystalline poison that can harm people and animals. It can irritate the skin on contact and cause significant swelling of the throat, tongue, and lips.
Determining Which Elephant Ears to Cultivate
When selecting a certain elephant ear cultivar for container gardening, there are certain things to consider.
Full-Grown Plant Size
There is a wide range in size among species and cultivars. One of the larger species can be grown in a pot that can accommodate about 10 gallons of potting mix.
Choose a plant that matures to a more manageable size if you can only grow it in a tiny container. Planting elephant ears in containers requires careful timing, regardless of the species used.
The plants are not resilient in colder climates and suffer from the change. Elephant ears shouldn’t be planted until after the last frost date, plus a few more weeks.
Planting them too early means they may be frozen or, at the very least, will have to catch up by exerting more energy than necessary when the weather warms up.
Color and Variation of the Leaves
Similarly, while growing elephant ears in containers, picking a kind that you find aesthetically pleasing is important. The market is saturated with options, making it hard to choose.
The leaves of an elephant ear plant can grow to be quite large. There are giant leaves and tiny leaves. Make a good choice.
Elephant Ear Plant Care When Kept Indoors
Once you have your bulbs, you must decide what soil will best for growing your elephant ears in containers. You can use either store-bought organic potting mix or your homemade version, which should mix 50/50 with compost.
Peat moss, perlite, leaf compost, and vermiculite are important for elephant ear bulbs. Since elephant ears thrive in loamy, organically-rich soil, add a shovelful of well-rotted horse manure.
Instead of peat moss, you can use coir fiber or potting soil made from decomposed wood chips.
The optimal mixture allows water to drain while retaining some of its volumes. Remember that elephant ears are originally from wet and humid tropical climates.
You can find several different kinds growing around the perimeter of a pond, but none of them prefer to be in the water. Ensure that your soil mixture can hold water without becoming overly soggy.
Types of Pots
Elephant ears do best in large containers, so they may develop to their ultimate size. Using a smaller pot is appropriate when growing a more compact type or when space is at a premium on a balcony or patio.
Use pots that can hold anywhere from 15 to 30 liters of potting soil. The plants can get to be over 5 or 6 feet tall.
Always check to see that your containers have adequate drainage holes to allow any excess water from irrigation to escape.
Plant the bulb, pointed end up, in the container, and cover it with enough other soil mixture so that the little nub is only one to two inches below the surface.
Elephant ear bulbs might take a long time to emerge if buried too deeply. They don’t have to be buried in the ground like spring-flowering bulbs to make it through the cold season. Keep them shallow in the pot.
Be sure to give the newly planted bulbs plenty of water. Use a marker to keep track of their locations. Depending on the weather and how much sun they get, their emergence could be delayed by weeks.
Instructions for Optimum Placement
Locate the plant in a spot where severe gusts won’t blow over it if it develops too tall for the container. Only gardeners in the northernmost growing zones should plant in full sun.
You should pick a spot with full sunlight in the morning and evening but moderate shade during the middle of the day.
Allow the elephant ears to expand.
Old and young leaves take up a significant volume. Elephant ear plants in pots should be given plenty of room to spread their roots and grow.
Plants in containers should not be placed against a fence or wall, as this can cause them to develop unevenly. They’ll be healthier if they have more space to move around in.
Heavy feeding is required. At the beginning of the growing season, incorporate an organic slow-release fertilizer into your potting mix to ensure a steady supply of nutrients.
Alternatively, before planting the bulb, put a half cup of bulb-specific fertilizer into the potting soil for every 12 to 15 liters of potting soil in the container.
Add one cup of bulb fertilizer to each pot at the beginning of the growing season.
Preserving Elephant Ear Bulbs for Future Plantings
Since the bulbs are an investment, it makes sense to keep them for future use. Preserving them is a breeze at the close of the growing season. There are two options for protecting elephant ears through the winter.
The elephant ear plants in containers can be brought inside to overwinter as houseplants. This is simpler with smaller kinds than with larger ones.
When the average overnight temperature is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, a long time before the first frost, it’s time to bring the plants inside. In the winter, you should only water your plants every 14–21 days. Place the plants in an east- or west-facing window.
A second option for elephant ear overwintering is to store the naked bulbs in a cool, dry place. When late autumn rolls around, it’s time to give the leaves the axe.
The bulbs should be dug up, brushed off, and placed in a cardboard box containing moist peat moss or vermiculite. Put the lid back on the box and store it in a root cellar or unheated garage for the winter. Wintertime highs should average around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After the season’s last frost has passed in the spring, you can safely replant the bulbs outside in their patio containers.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.