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How to Grow Elephant Ear Plants

The Elephant Ear (Colocasia) plant is perennial herb that grows up to 9 feet (3 meters) in height and sprouts large, arrow-shape leaves. It gets its name because the large leaves resemble the ears on an elephant. To grow Elephant Ear plants, you should give each plant at least 3 feet (1 meter) of space, average or better quality soil, monthly fertilization, frequent watering, and partial shade; these tropical plants also need to be kept warm, so if temperatures average below 40 to 45ºF (4 to 7ºC) for any extended period of time, dig up the tuber in the fall and store it in a cool, dry place until you can replant it the following spring.

StepsEdit

  1. 1
    Plant when the soil warms up in the spring. Before planting the Elephant Ear tuber, wait until the danger of frost is over and the temperature averages 45ºF (7ºC) or more.
  2. 2
    Give the plant plenty of room. The adult Elephant Ear plant will need at least 3 feet (1 meter) of space, at a bare minimum, for proper growth and show in a relatively shady area. A really healthy plant may need as much as 5 feet (1-2 meters) of space.
  3. 3
    Select a planting spot. Dig a hole, (if possible, in rich organic soil) about 3-4 times the size of the tuber.
  4. 4
    Prepare the planting hole. Refill the hole as necessary with loose soil enough so that the tuber will be about 1-2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) below ground level when planted.
  5. 5
    Set the plant in the planting hole. Lay (plant) the tuber with its top up - if in doubt, plant the tuber sideways and let nature figure it out!
  6. 6
    Cover the tuber with soil. After the tubers have been planted and covered with soil, water the area deeply. After watering, about 1" to 2" (2.5 cm - 5 cm) of soil should cover the tuber.
  7. 7
    Mark the spot where the tuber is planted. It will take a few weeks for the plant to emerge from the soil. Use a stake or other marker so you won't forget where you planted the Elephant Ear.
  8. 8
    Wait 1 to 3 weeks. The amount of time it takes for the first growth to show depends on the air and ground temperature.
  9. 9
    Care for your plant. Elephant Ear plants perform reasonably well in average soil. Periodic fertilization (every 2 to 4 weeks) with a common plant fertilizer will help them do their best.
  10. 10
    Water frequently. Good drainage is a big plus, but the plant should not be left to go dry for any length of time. When this happens, the droopy leaves will give early enough warning for the plant to recover nicely if watered within a day.
  11. 11
    Trim away faded leaves. At the peak of the warm season, large, beautifully lush foliage can grow to heights of 3 to 5 feet (1-1.6 meters). If any leaves turn brown at the edges, just cut away and new ones will certainly grow.
  12. 12
    Dig up the plant when the weather turns cold. The plant will start having difficulties when the temperature falls below 50ºF (9-10ºC) or so for more than a few days. Before freezing temperatures take over, the tuber (root system) will have to be dug up.
  13. 13
    Leave the tubers intact. A healthy plant will have developed multiple new tubers during the growing season. It's best to leave these intact during storage. Separation will not do significant damage though.
  14. 14
    Prepare the tubers for storage. Trim most of the green vegetation (top growth) off the top of the tubers: leave no more than half to 1 inch of leafy growth on the tuber. Let the freshly trimmed tubers sit in open air so they can visibly dry out before final storage - maybe a couple of days at most will do. Drying out minimizes the potential for mold and bacteria to develop.
  15. 15
    Store the tuber. During the colder, winter months, store the tubers in a cool, dry place (45-55ºF is desirable). Don't store in a plastic bag. Instead, a plain paper bag with plenty of holes for ventilation will do nicely, as will storage in sphagnum peat moss or garden vermiculite.
  16. 16
    Re-plant the tubers in the spring. When the warm season comes around again, separate the tubers as necessary, plant anew and enjoy!
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Community Q&A

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  • Can I grow an elephant ear plant inside?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Yes! Especially in winter. Anything below 50 degrees is too cold for them. Pots are perfect as they can be brought indoors for the winter and then brought back outside for the summer.
    Thanks! 73 7
  • Where I live our last frost is in May, when should I plant the tubers indoors to be able to have a small sprouting plant to transfer outside?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Start your tuber in a large pot indoors in mid-late April. Transfer the started plant outside when night temperatures are over 50 degrees.
    Thanks! 37 3
  • What can cause the elephant ear plant to droop or lay down? Can it grow in a big pot/planter indoors?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Droopy leaves mean you need to water the plant. And yes, you can grown elephant ear plants as indoor houseplants. When potted, it can go outside in the summer and inside for the winter.
    Thanks! 91 14
  • How long can they live in a pot in the house?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • One reader kept this plant in a 5 gallon container for close to 20 years. It can be a house plant in the winter and summer with some time spent outside in warm weather, helping to prolong its life.
    Thanks! 92 17
  • Can elephant ear plants be grown in a pot/planter?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Yes they can.
    Thanks! 74 13
  • Should I trim off dead or broken leaves?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Yes.
    Thanks! 23 3
  • Is the plant toxic to cats?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Elephant ear is highly toxic to cats and dogs, but depending on your pet's tendencies to chew on houseplants, you may be able to pull it off. Please be careful!
    Thanks! 44 10
  • Where should I plant my elephant ear plants?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Find a place with nutrient-rich, moist soil, preferably outside. If it is winter, however, you must plant them indoors. The plants will do fine in full sun, but they will do even better in partial shade.
    Thanks! 62 16
  • Why do you recommend digging them up over the winter? I leave mine in the ground and they come back every year.
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If you live in a climate zone where there's no danger of the tuber freezing, or you can insure that it has enough mulch covering it to make freezing a non-issue, then you can leave it in the ground. On the other hand, if you live in an area where it's sub-freezing for an extended period of time and the tuber, even 2" deep, could freeze, you'll lose it if you leave it in the ground. Your choice.
    Thanks! 6 0
  • What should I do if my plant has lots of yellowing leaves?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Trim off all the yellowing leaves as well as part of the stem that the yellowing leaves are attached to. New growth should shoot up from the center of the plant. Also, consider letting the soil to dry out between watering; yellowing leaves are often a sign of over-watering. Lastly, consider fertilizing your plant with a suitable fertilizer once a month.
    Thanks! 39 10
Show more answers
  • Can you root an elephant ear plant from a stem and leaf?
  • How often do the elephant ears bloom? I have several blooms over the past few years
  • How much time does it take for the taro plant to grow completely?
  • There is a chalky residue on the stem of one of my elephant ears, not both. Is this normal?
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WarningsEdit

  • The leaves contain oxalic acid which is toxic. Keep children and animals away from the plants. The oxalic acid in the leaves can irritate exposed skin. If ingested, can cause intense pain and swelling to the mouth, tongue and throat, even blocking airways causing death. if poisoning occurs, call ambulance.
    1 Helpful?  1

Community Tested By:

Coletta Teske
wikiHow Quality Team

This version of How to Grow Elephant Ear Plants was reviewed by Coletta Teske on July 30, 2015.

1,753 votes - 94%
Co-authors: 35
Updated:
Views: 1,177,253

Reader Success Stories

  • AG

    Amy Greminger

    May 13

    "Great information in this article."
  • D

    D.

    Apr 5, 2017

    "It's good to know the right temperatures to plant elephant ears. We get extremes in Texas. We also have clay soil in the Dallas area, and my elephant ears thrive here every year, so in answer to the incorrectly answered question, Can you grow elephant ears in clay soil--Yes, you can."..." more
    Rated this article:
  • RV

    Ree Vieira

    Jul 24, 2017

    "I picked up an elephant ear plant at local supermarket. It was on sale, but I wasn't sure what type of plant it was or how to take care of it. I have it indoors and it's doing ok. Your site helped me identify it and how to properly take care of it. Great info."..." more
  • SI

    Sally Inman

    May 11, 2017

    "The spacing needed, the toxicity of the plant (we have two dogs and three cats, one that chews on anything), that clay soil is bad, and that shade can benefit the plant. I thought the photos were excellent and it was extremely easy to follow the steps."..." more
  • LF

    Louie Fiorentini

    Jul 8, 2016

    "Loved the article about Elephant Ear plants. I was given a tuber and I planted it a few weeks ago. It takes a while to see a shoot appear. I water it twice daily, giving about a gallon each time. Thanks for the details on growth. ."..." more
  • KM

    Kathy Mick

    Jun 6, 2016

    "It's been many years since I planted elephant ear tubers, so I needed a refresher on the amount of sunlight and depth of planting. This simple but thorough tutorial was very helpful! Thank you!"..." more
  • TS

    Tamy Simmons

    May 24, 2017

    "I was concerned about growth in a pot in full sun. I will probably have to change locations when it gets brutally hot (Kansas). I hope to get really large ears to use for concrete bird baths!"..." more
  • VC

    Vonda Cogburn

    Sep 1, 2017

    "I never grew elephant ears before. I read everything you had about them. I am growing them in pots and they are growing good and are getting very big and pretty, all thanks to you."..." more
  • RW

    Rebecca Wilson

    Jul 1, 2016

    "I wasn't sure if I needed to plant the complete tuber underground. By finding this information I was able to determine that it all needed to be submerged underground. Thanks! "..." more
  • JH

    James Hill

    May 4, 2016

    "Great, thorough step-by-step instructions. I've been growing these for years and gave a few bulbs to my neighbor. Wanted to make sure I gave her good instructions. "..." more
  • JB

    James Barber

    Jul 27, 2016

    "I got my first bulb this spring. I put in a large planter and was wondering about care. All my questions were answered in this article. Thank you!"..." more
  • EP

    Ed Pooler

    Jan 28, 2017

    "I wanted to grow elephant ear plants, but had no idea how. This article gave me the information needed. Thank you so much."..." more
  • JR

    Janie Rutter

    Jun 17, 2016

    "Success in growing in a pot is letting it hang or be a climber. Especially comfortable, since I chose a 36" wood piece."..." more
  • JT

    Jan Trumbo

    Nov 13, 2016

    "This article helped me with winter storage and growing in the winter. Did not know you can grow indoors, thank you."..." more
  • SH

    Shelly Harbor

    Apr 25, 2016

    "Gave me a good basic understanding of how to grow elephant ears. Thank you very much!"
  • MS

    Mary Scovill

    May 28, 2017

    "It was very through and I particularly liked the question and answer section."
  • PK

    Paulette Kaplan

    May 1, 2017

    "Gave me info that made me more confident in growing elephant ear plants. "
    Rated this article:
  • WB

    William Barber

    Apr 25, 2016

    "The step-by-step instructions were a tremendous help to me. Thanks!"
  • KE

    Katherine Erle

    May 18, 2017

    "This contained everything I needed to know about elephant ears."
  • MM

    Marilyn Morgan

    Apr 14, 2016

    "Article was great, had everything I wanted to know. Thanks."
  • LH

    Larry Harvey

    Feb 13, 2017

    "I am well satisfied with the information I got from this."
  • KL

    K. Led

    Jun 29, 2017

    "Very well-written. Enjoyed question and answer section."
  • AS

    Ax Shinsei

    Aug 4, 2016

    "Easily understood, but also packed with useful info!"
  • FS

    Felicia Solomon

    Aug 6, 2016

    "That elephant ears can grow indoors also helped."
  • CB

    Cora Buchannan

    Jun 15, 2016

    "It was very helpful, thank you."
  • GN

    Gary Nieves

    Jul 9, 2016

    "Information was very helpful."
  • LJ

    Lisa Jansen

    May 23, 2017

    "I love all the answers. "
  • AC

    Ananda C.

    Jul 16, 2016

    "Good planting tips."
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