Elephant Ear Plant Care & Tips
Growing elephant ears is actually pretty easy, even in winter. While it’s a bit more picky than something like a cast iron plant or a zz plant, with a little attention you can have your elephant ear thriving.
Depending on the type, these tropical plants prefer sun or partial shade, though some might like full shade even better. It’s not so much the sun that is the issue with them, though too much can cause browning problems, but the warmth.
If you find the temperature dropping below 50 degrees, that might be a good time to move them indoors or into a greenhouse.
Repeat after me: moisture, moisture, moisture. These are plants that need a lot of water! Keep them away from strong winds, perhaps potting them partially submerged in water, or make good use of mulch.
Because they are a water-loving plant, you might think that any browning at the tips is a sign of over-watering. This could be the case, but in most cases the browning is caused by too much sun and too LITTLE water.
Check the top five inches or so of soil around the plant for dryness and adjust watering as needed.
Elephant ears do like their soil rich with organic compost and organic fertilizers. If you can get your hands on some manure (please wear gloves), the plants will love you for the tasty meal. Fertilize about once a month.
Pay attention to the size your choice of plant may grow to and plant accordingly, giving them room to stretch out so they don’t hog the sun from one another.
Different elephant ear plants can have different leaf colors and shapes, so it can be fun to try several kinds together planted in interesting patterns.
Other recommendations include ferns of contrasting colors, flowers like begonias, and foliage with smaller leaves like Coleus.
Planting Elephant Ears
When your area has seen the last of the frost and cold temperatures, you should be safe for planting outdoors. Check what zones of the type you pick are hardy to — Colocasia “Pink China” is possibly hardy to Zone 6 but some others, like Colocasia gigantea “Thailand Giant Strain,” are quite settled in the Zone 8b area.
Elephant ears are fantastic zone 9 plants and above — you usually won’t have to worry about frost in these zones.
Caladiums are generally Zone 10. Keep a close eye on your outdoor temperatures, as damage can occur below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a colder climate, consider keeping your elephant ear plant indoors, at least to overwinter.
Elephant Ear Plant Overview
||Elephant ear plant, tarul, dasheen, chembu, champadhumpa
||Colocasia / Xanthosoma / Caladium / Alocasia
||Oceania, South America, Southeast Asia
||Up to 9 feet
||Full sun to patial shade
||Medium to High
||Rich organic soil 5.5-7.0 pH
||By seed, division, or runners
||Spider mites, thrips
If you’re a bit boggled by all the different names you see associated with the elephant ear plant, don’t be discouraged. There are more than 3,000 species out there!