Caring for Elephant Ear Plants

Overview

Elephant ear plants, or caladium, are a genus of tropical perennials native to South America. They can grow up to 35 inches in height and produce large, ornamental leaves that can reach about 18 inches in length. Despite their tropical origins, elephant ear plants can be easily grown in most temperate regions of the United States with proper care.

Step 1

Plant elephant ear tubers in spring after the threat of frost has passed. Plant in a location that receives full morning sun and partial afternoon shade when temperatures peak. Allow 18 to 24 inches of space between each planting for the best results.

Step 2

Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding elephant ear plants. Begin the mulch at least 3 inches from the stem to allow room for growth and air circulation. Replenish the mulch as necessary to maintain a thickness of 3 inches.

Step 3

Water elephant ear plants three times per week during summer to prevent the foliage from scorching. Reduce the watering frequency to once per week during spring and fall. Ensure no water is splashed on the leaves when watering, as moist foliage is more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Step 4

Feed elephant ear plants once per month during spring, summer and fall using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Water both before and after applying to reduce the chance of root burn. Read the manufacturer's instructions for dosage information.

Step 5

Dig up elephant ear plant tubers after the first frost of the year. Dry them out in a well-ventilated room, and pack in peat moss. Store in a cool room at 50 degrees F until spring, when they should be replanted outdoors.

Tips and Warnings

  • All portions of the elephant ear plant are poisonous and should never be ingested or planted in a location accessible to children or pets.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Hand shovel

References

  • Caladiums for the Home Landscape
  • Kentucky Garden Flowers
  • Minnesota Gardener's Guide; Melinda Myers; 2005
Keywords: elephant ear plants, elephant ear, caladiums

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including Gardenguides.com.