Growing Elephant Ears
by Jesse Khong
The exotic appearance of the Elephant Ear leaves always attract attention and turn any dull corner of your garden into an exciting display. Since I have a few species of this magnificent plant in my garden in Menlo Park, California, I want to share with you my experience of growing them. Hopefully I will inspire you to give Elephant Ear a try.
There are hundreds of species of Elephant Ear, which are native to the tropical regions of the world such as South East Asia, Eastern Australia, South America and Polynesia. The corms of some of these Elephant Ear species are also edible and wildly known as Taro (all parts of the plant are poisonous unless cooked).
Elephant Ears prefer rich, organic and well-drained soils. The leaves are frost tender, but my plants have survived the Bay Area winter without any leaf damage as I usually placed them under a tree canopy to protect them from frost during the cold months. They also make beautiful house plants, so you can bring potted plants inside when the weather turns cold.
Thai Strain (Colocasia Gigantea)
Thai Strain (Colocasia Gigantea) is an Elephant Ear plant that has the potential to grow into super-size under the right growing condition. As you can see in the photos above, I planted my 4” potted plant, which I purchased online, in a 10 gallon plastic tub in April 2010. By June 2012, the plant has grown to over 7 feet tall with gigantic leaves. I have 2 of these plants; one placed in a partly sunny location and the other in a semi shady location. The one, that has received more light, is growing in a much more rapid speed compared to the latter one even though they both have received the same amount of water and nutrition.
Persian Palm (Alocasia Calidora)
Persian Palm (Alocasia Calidora) is a hybrid plant produced by crossing Alocasia Odora with Alocasia Gageana and developed by Aroidia researcher, LariAnn Graner in the 1980s. This is the most prolific growing Elephant Ear specie in my garden. It also produces the largest leaves. The photo above shows me standing next to the 6 month old plant in July 2011. Since then it has grown to over 7 feet tall with much larger leaves.
This specie produces new plants and forms new corms from the mother corm. My 10 gallon pot now has 2 extra smaller plants that are growing rapidly (see photo above taken in June 2012).
Alocasia Portora (formerly known as Portadora)
Alocasia Portora (formerly known as Portadora) is also a hybrid cross of Alocasia Odora and Alocasia Portei, and was also developed by Aroidia researcher, LariAnn Graner. This is a beautiful plant with upright clump and stunning scalloped leaves. There are 2 varieties: Portora Green and Portora Red (shown in photos above). This is a slower growing plant compared to the other Elephant Ear species in my garden. I did some research and discovered that it preferred around 60% shade, so I have moved my pot to a different location. Hopefully this will stimulate faster growth. My Portora Red has beautiful burgundy/purple stripes in its stems (see photos above). This plant also has the potential to grow into a massive size.
Black Magic (Colocasia Esculenta)
Black Magic (Colocasia Esculenta) is a smaller Elephant Ear plant compared to the others in my garden. The stems are in deep purple, almost black with chalky looking leaves. This plant also does well in bog or water garden. It does require sunlight to thrive. My plant did not seem to grow very much until I moved it to a sunnier location. This plant multiplies its self with underground running rhizomes.