The elephant ear plant, also called taro or "potato of the tropics," is a herbaceous perennial that prefers a wetland environment. Elephant ear plants produce large heart-shaped leaves that are 2 to 3 feet long and 1 to 2 feet wide and resemble the ear of an elephant. This plant is hardy in USDA growing zones 8 and higher, but can be planted in colder growing zones as long as the tubers are dug and stored indoors during the winter.
Choose a planting location for the elephant ear that has moist soil and partial-shade light conditions. The elephant ear is considered a wetland plant and thrives in areas that have a partial bog-like setting, such as the edge of a pond. Elephant ear plants will also grow in a container with moisture-retaining potting soil.
How to Plant
Plant an elephant ear starter plant by digging a hole the same depth as the container the plant came in and slightly wider. Amend the planting soil by mixing in equal parts organic compost to increase the nutrient value and moisture retention properties. Remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Gently pack the amended soil around the root ball. Water the plant generously to stimulate root growth after planting. If planting tubers, set them at a depth of 8 to 10 inches making sure the tuber roots are pointing down. Cover the tubers with soil and water generously to moisten the soil.
Care and Maintenance
The elephant ear plant requires supplement watering during the growing season to prevent the plant and surrounding soil from drying. Generously water the plant to keep the soil consistently moist throughout the summer months. Fertilize the plant every other week with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Plants that do not have lush growth are either lacking water, fertilizer or light.
Winterize the elephant ear plant in USDA growing zones 8 and higher by allowing the leaves to stay on the plant until they turn yellow and wilted. The leaves collect energy from sunlight and transfer it to the tubers for the next season's growth. Elephant ear plants growing in USDA growing zones 7 and lower need to have their tubers removed and stored indoors for winter survival. Dig the tubers after the first fall frost and remove any dirt. Place the tubers in a shaded location to dry for 24 hours. Store the tubers in a container filled with peat moss and set the container in a cool, dry location. Replant the tubers in the spring.
Propagate elephant ear plants by dividing the tuber root system in the spring season. Dig up the entire tuber root system and gently pull or cut side tubers growing off the side of the main corm that have at least five eyes. Plant the small divided tubers at a depth of 2 to 3 inches and 2 feet apart.