Members of the Araceae family, four genus of elephant ear exist: Alocasia, Caladium, Colocasia and Xanthosoma. All are tuberous perennials with lance-shaped leaves, that thrive in warmer climates with filtered sun and plenty of water. Elephant ears are available in a variety of sizes, ranging from short, shrubby plants to varieties that grow to 6 feet.
Native to Asia, the Alocasia genus of elephant ears is available in several varieties, including the striking African Mask (Alocasia amozonica), which has bronze-green leaves with white veins. This variety is often used as a houseplant. Leaves are leathery and grow to 16 inches long. The Alocasia macrorrhiza variety has a deep green leaf that grows to 2 feet long. This plant can reach 5 feet and can withstand temperatures to 29 degrees F.
Native to tropical America, including Florida and Louisiana, the Caladium genus of elephant ear is all about leaf color. These plants produce leaves up to 1 1/2 feet long in vibrant color patterns. The leaves are a translucent green with blotches of bronze, green, pink, red, silver or white. These plants are true tropicals and are hardy to 60 degrees F. Perennials in the warmest parts of the south, the tubers should be dug up and stored through the winter in other parts of the country.
Native to Asia and Polynesia, the Colocasia genus of elephant ears grow to 6 feet and have leaves up to 2 feet long. The leaves are deep green to gray-green and in the warmest parts of Florida, the plant will produce a calla-like flower in the summer. The roots of this plant are taro, a key starch staple in Hawaii and Polynesia. The Colocasia is hardy to 30 degrees F.
Most similar to the Alocasia genus, the Xanthosoma genus is referred to as the Arrowhead elephant ear because of its elongated leaf. The Xanthosoma sagittifolium species has a trunk-like stem with dark green leaves that can reach 3 feet long. The tuberous roots of these plants are referred to as macal or yautia and are used in cooking in Caribbean nations such as Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.