Purple, white and green leaves of elephant ear plants.
image by PALMER W. COOK/sxc.hu
Elephant ear plants have large leaves adorning the tops of large stalks, thus earning them their name. Members of the caladium family, these tropical plants are prized for their colorful foliage. The leaves often are green fading toward white in the center, with prominent red veining patterns. Leave elephant ear in the ground year round in warm climates where winter freeze is rare, or store the bulbs in the winter and replant come spring in colder areas.
Choose a bed in partial sun with rich soil. Till in organic compost to raise the beds 3 inches and improve soil quality.
Plant after all danger of frost has passed. Plant bulbs so the roots are below the soil line, and the base of top growth is right at the soil line; the bulb will appear half buried when planted correctly.
Water thoroughly until the soil is soaked. Keep the soil moist at all times because elephant ears thrive on moisture and humidity.
Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once monthly throughout spring and summer, as well as into fall, until leaves die off. Follow package instructions for precise amounts to apply.
Allow leaves to die off naturally in fall. Remove leaves once they have withered and yellowed completely. Depending on the variety, the plant may either go dormant in winter or stay green year round.
Apply a mulch over the bulbs in late fall to protect them against any winter freezes if you live in a warm climate. In cold climates, dig up the bulbs before the first first freeze and store them in a cool, dry place until spring.