The Elephant Ear (Colocasia) plant is perennial herb that grows up to 9 feet in height and sprouts large, arrow-shape leaves. It gets its name because the large leaves resemble the ears on an elephant. These plants make a great showing as a backdrop or a center of interest in any garden. Growing the showy, tropical Elephant Ear plant is possible even in cold weather zones. If temperatures average below about 40-45ºF (roughly 4-7ºC) for any extended period of time, the root system – tuber(s) – must be dug up and stored in a cool, dry place until replanted the following warm season.
- 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.
- 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.
- Select a planting spot. Dig a hole, (if possible, in rich organic soil) about 3-4 times the size of the tuber.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Wait 1 to 3 weeks. The amount of time it takes for the first growth to show depends on the air and ground temperature.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Re-plant the tubers in the spring. When the warm season comes around again, separate the tubers as necessary, plant anew and enjoy![[Image:Grow Elephant Ear Plants Step 16.jpg}}
- 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.
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