The large decorative leaves of elephant ear plants (Colocasia esculenta) are unmatched for creating a tropical effect in temperate gardens during the summer. Hardy to zones 9 or 10 (depending on variety), it is often overwintered as a house plant in more northern areas. Also known as "taro," it is not edible unless specially treated.
Getting Off To A Good Start
Six to eight weeks before the date of last frost in your area, fill your pot with potting mix to within three inches of the top. Press down lightly to firm and add more soil if needed.
Place the corm on the surface of the soil and fill the pot to within an inch of the top. Water well.
Place in a warm, sunny spot in your home. Elephant ear plants like lots of water and high humidity and one way to give them these conditions is to set the pot in a saucer filled with water. Whenever you notice that the saucer is dry, fill again. Don't worry about overwatering it. These plants love boggy conditions and even thrive in standing water!
Every two weeks after the new leaves appear, fertilize with the amount of 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer recommended on the package. The large leaves need plenty of nutrients to expand to their full width and frequent fertilizing is a must.
Two weeks after the date of last frost, chose a spot in a partially shaded area, dig a hole a foot deeper and wider than your pot and mix two cups of bagged steer manure to the soil at the bottom of the hole. Remove your elephant ear from its pot and place in the hole so that the top of the soil is even with the top of the soil in your garden. Fill around the roots with soil. Water well.
During the summer, continue to water frequently and fertilize once a month.
Before first frost, decide whether to dry and store the corm or to keep your plant in the house as an indoor ornamental. If you decide to store it, dig up your plant, shake the dirt off the roots, trim the leaves back to two inches and set the corm on newspapers to dry.
After drying, place the corm in a paper sack and place in a cool dark area.
Repeat the process from the beginning in spring to bring your elephant ear plant back to life for another summer show.
If you decide to keep it as a house plant, replant it in a pot large enough to hold the entire root ball, adding potting mix if necessary. Remove half the leaves to compensate for lost roots, water well, and, again, place it on a saucer filled with water to increase the humidity around the plant. Put it in a warm sunny area and fertilize once a month with liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer.
About this Author
Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.