How to Grow and Care for Elephant Ear Plants

Written by Natalie Anstey

The Elephant Ear Plant, also know as Taro, is a true showstopper that will bring the exotic feel of the jungle into your home or garden. Prized for their lush, large and tropical foliage which grow rapidly, at its maturity the Elephant Ear Plant can reach the heady heights of 9ft tall and will bring instant impact to its surroundings. 

Hailing from the southern hemisphere, its large “elephant ear” shaped leaves are beloved and a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor gardening.

Did you know the root is considered a delicacy throughout the Pacific islands, South East Asia and Africa? The root is similar to yams and is particularly important in Hawaiian cuisine and is often served at important celebrations.

Thriving in jungle and tropical conditions, this plant is happiest in moist environments such as a humid bathroom or a pond if grown outdoors. 

Botanical Name:Colocasia esculenta
Common Name(s):Elephant Ear Plant, Taro
Plant TypeTropical perennial 
Place of Origin:Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia
Sun Exposure: Direct, full sun or partial shade
Watering Schedule:Every 3-5 days 
Seasonality: Spring through autumn
Bloom Time: Spring through autumn
Toxicity:Unsafe for cats and dogs 

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

The Elephant Ear Plant can be grown in most lighting conditions, apart from full shade. But it does prefer conditions that mimic the tropical wetlands of its native habitat.

The Elephant Ear Plant thrives in dappled and indirect sunlight. If growing indoors, then it is recommended to place your plant where it will receive the most indirect sunlight or is about 5-7ft from a south or west facing window.

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT WATER REQUIREMENTS:

The Elephant Ear Plant is a thirsty fella and likes to be kept moist at all times. The worst thing that could happen to this plant is that it dries out - so make sure the top inch of soil is moist at all times!

The average time between waterings is normally about three days, but use your common sense - if it looks dry, water it more often!

These plants tend to like rain water or filtered water, as the chemicals in tap water can be a little too harsh.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: No rain water or filtered water? Simply fill a bucket or tupperware with tap water and let stand for 24 hours. By doing this it means all the nasty chlorine and excess salt will evaporate. 

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:

Elephant Ear Plants like to be kept warm, and so prefer conditions that mimic their native tropical habitat! The optimum temperature for Elephant Ear Plants is around 60℉ - 80℉. - If grown outdoors they definitely need bringing in or overwintering for the winter

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

A humid and tropical environment is best suited for Elephant Ear Plants with recommended humidity levels of 60% or more.

You will soon see if the atmosphere is not humid enough as the leaves will begin to droop. If this is the case, maybe invest in a humidifier or move your plant to a more humid spot!

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Placing your pot on a tray of wet pebbles is also an easy way to increase the humidity levels as is sitting the plant near other plants.

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT SOIL:

Elephant Ear Plants are found in boggy and swamp like conditions so prefer a rich and fertile soil full of nutrients that will hold the water well such as loam or peat.

To add even extra goodness to the soil, you can add organic matter. Don’t forget to add drainage in the bottom!

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT FERTILIZER:

Elephant Ear Plants are not only thirsty, they are hungry too! Use a liquid feed that is high in nitrogen (20-10-10 ratio is best) every two weeks during the growing season and stop over the winter.

Rule of (Green) Thumb: Take the stress out of remembering to water and fertilize your plants - Get the Flora app and you will get reminders. Your plants will thank you for it!

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT REPOTTING:

Many house plants prefer to be slightly pot bound and the Elephant Ear Plant is no different. If you see roots poking out the bottom or if cracks appear in your pot, then you know it is time to repot.

The best time to repot an Elephant Ear Plant is in the spring, just as it is coming out of dormancy.

It is recommended to repot just one pot size up and fill with a nutrient rich soil with drainage of course!

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT PROPAGATION:

Elephant Ear Plants are grown from tubers and the best time to propagate or separate them is in the winter when the plant goes into dormancy.

How To Propagate Your Elephant Ear Plant: 
01.
Remove the tubers from the pot/ground and shake off any soil and take off the foliage.
02. Divide them, throwing away any that look weak and shriveled. Only keep ones that have an “eye”, as this is where the new plant will grow from.

For bulbs, you can replant them straight away, but for tubers and rhizomes it is best to keep them somewhere dark and dry until the division wound has healed over. - Once the division wound has healed over, pot up and give a good water.

Always make sure to replant with eye/bud poking upwards as this will be where your new plant will grow from! It’s very easy to replant upside down!

They can also be grown from seed very effectively and are strong and sturdy growers! Plant in seeds trays or small pots with fertile soil rich in humus and within a month they should have sprouted.

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT DISEASES & PESTS:

01. Yellow Leaves - This is normally caused by too much direct light and/or harsh chemicals in tap water. Place your Elephant Ear Plant somewhere more sheltered and think about using filtered water.

02. Brown Leaves - This is normally caused by too much sun. Think about placing your Elephant Ear Plant somewhere more sheltered or further away from a window. It could also be that your Elephant Ear Plant is drying out or the conditions are not humid enough so check the soil to see if it could be this.

03. Fungal Leaf Blight - This is caused by a fungus that can be found in moist conditions! It normally starts out as brown spots which then develop white tufts. If you spot this remove any affected foliage and then treat with neem oil. If it continues it may be worth repotting with fresh soil as those sneaky spores can live quite happily in the moist soil and rear their ugly head when you least expect them!

04. Spider Mites - The easiest way of telling if your Elephant Ear Plant has spider mites is little white spots on the leaves or webbing on the stems. Wipe the leaves to remove the spider mites and then use an insecticide or neem oil.

05. Thrips - Thrips, also known as thunderbugs, are very common and carry disease from plant to plant. Although tiny, they leave black dust on the leaves so it is best to clean the leaves to remove them and then treat with insecticide or neem oil.

ELEPHANT EAR PLANT TOXICITY:

Whilst the root is considered a delicacy the rest of the plant most certainly is not! The foliage, stems and sap are toxic so keep it away from children and pets!

Rule of (Green) Thumb: If you are looking for a non toxic tropical looking plant, then the Banana Plant is a great alternative!

Download the Flora App for more tips and tricks on how to take care of your Elephant Ear Plant!

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