Elephant ear, also known as alocasia or colocasia, are a hardy perennial that adds a compelling look to any area of the yard or garden, while garnering a lot of attention from passersby or visitors enjoying looking at the massive plants.
As landscaping and flower gardens largely focus on blooming plants, the elephant ear adds another dimension to the look with their gigantic flowers and size.
Elephant ear leaves come with leaves that are green, purple, or a combination of purple and black, and with some varieties will be heart-shaped.
The foliage of the plant can also include green and purple, making them more than just a novelty, but also adding color to the area you plant or place them.
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Elephant Ear and Light
Even when you buy a certain type of elephant ear, expecting leaves to be true to the color produced by a particular variety, that can in fact change, depending on the light conditions you place them in.
For example, in full sun conditions the pigment of the leaves will be lighter than if placed in a area with some shade. Full sun will also cause the plants to be a little shorter than normal.
Of course that may not matter as they can get huge if you want them to. But it's something to keep in mind concerning your plan and expectations for the plant.
For the varieties which have the purple leaves, if there is a lot of shade, the response of the leaf will be to produce a lighter shade of purple. In this case the leaves will also grow a little smaller, and the stems will take on a more elongated appearance.
Where to Plant
One thing to keep in mind about elephant ear plants is they don't all respond to the same soil conditions, so what works well for one may not work well for others.
But unless otherwise indicated, the majority of elephant ear plants can do well in most soil types. They can do well in very moist areas, contrary to most other plants.
In fact, the dark-leaved Black Magic, as well as the Colocasia esculenta varieties can be planted next to water areas like a pond and to very well.
The key for these plants, as mentioned above, is planting them in full sunlight or slight shade.
Also keep in mind the size of the particular plant your putting in the ground. They will grow large leaves and shade out anything that is surrounding them.
Overwintering Elephant Ears
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How to Plant Elephant Ears
There are two ways to plant elephant ear plants. For those that can be potted (even if you're placing them in the ground), you want to place them where the place between the roost and the base of the top growth is level with the ground. Colocasia Black Magic is an example of that type.
Those that come as large oval-shaped bulbs should be planted from about 8" to 10" deep, with the root of the plant facing down. One such variety is alocasia macrorrhzia.
After Planting Care
Once you have the plant in the ground, water thoroughly, as that will help the soil to settle around the plant. It'll take anywhere from three to eight weeks for the first top growth to appear.
That is such a wide discrepancy because of the amount of moisture and how warm it is are key factors. Zones are important there.
As for fertilizer, once the plants are growing, use about a half strength of 20-20-20 once every three weeks, as they are very heavy feeders during that time.
Elephant Ear - Thailand Giant
After Season Care
Once the growing season is over, it's best not to cut the foliage off the plant. As with other plants, keeping the leave on draws in the sunlight, storing up food for the next growing season. Water is when needed during this time as well.
If some of the leaves yellow, those could be removed. This will depend on the variety you have and where you live.
For those planting elephant ear in an area colder than zone 8, after the first frost you need to dig up the bulbs or roots, clean off the dirt and let them dry for a day outside in a shady area.
Also look for small roots or bulbs attached to the larger one, as they can be removed and stored for new plants in the spring, although these tend to be a little smaller than the mother plant.
Place them in a bed of slightly moist peat moss and store them in a cool area that is above freezing.
You then have new roots or bulbs ready for spring planting.
Elephant ear is a wonderful choice to include in any yard or garden, as they shout out that they're there and attract attention to the overall scheme of your garden and the pleasure associated with gardening.
I don't know if there has ever been a time when looking at these giant plants when it hasn't put a smile on someone's face or a look of exclamation as they are shocked by the amazing plants. Now that's what gardening is all about!