Print This Page

Elephant Ears, Colocasia

Common Names:  elephant ears, taro

Colocasia esculenta  (col-oh-KAY-see-a  ess- cue-LEN-teh)  Family: Araceae
Height 3’-5’  Spread 3’-4’  Spacing 4’ -5’

Habit:  Tuberous, stemless, frost-tender perennial of the arum family that typically grows 3-5' tall and as wide. It is primarily grown as a foliage plant with huge, heart-shaped to arrowhead-shaped, conspicuously-veined, downward-pointing, peltate leaves (to 2' long) on long, stout, succulent stems. As the common name suggests, each leaf purportedly resembles an elephant's ear. Yellowish-white calla lily-like flowers are infrequently produced and usually hidden by the foliage. This species is also commercially grown as a food crop in Hawaii (poi is made from the tubers) where it is commonly called taro.

Culture: Zones:  8 to 10. Best grown in fertile, organically rich, medium to wet soils in part shade or filtered sun. Needs regular moisture, especially during dry summer periods. May also be grown as pond marginals in up to 6" of standing water. Plants produce large amounts of growth and appreciate regular fertilization during the growing season. Locations protected form strong winds are best. Tubers may be left in the ground year-round in USDA Zones 8-10. In colder zones tubers should be planted in the ground in mid-spring , dug up in fall after first frost and then overwintered in a cool dry location (set in dry peat or wood shavings) where temperatures do not go below 40 degrees F, in somewhat the same manner as done for cannas. Colocasia is native to tropical eastern Asia.

Uses: Gives a large tropical look to gardens, water margins and large containers. Excellent as a specimen or in groups. They also combine beautifully with other summer bulbs and annuals. Excellent for rain gardens. Perennial in zones 8 and warmer.
Notes:  Caladium is also a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae. They are often known by the common name elephant ear, Heart of Jesus and Angel Wings. There are over 1000 named cultivars of Caladium bicolor from the original South American plant.



  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns