The elephant ear plant, or Colocasia esculenta, is readily available from gardening centers in early spring. Once established, these fast-growing plants reproduce and spread with favorable conditions. One or two bulbs will create a lush population in a short time. Elephant ears propagate by setting bulbs, or tubers, year after year. Typically, the larger and more mature the plant, the more sizable and robust the bulbs can be expected to be. Also known as upland taro, these plants will make bulbs when they’re ready to do so. Accommodate and enhance this natural process by keeping the plant in excellent health. Elephant ears are very undemanding, and just a little tender loving care goes a long way toward prolific production of healthy new bulbs.
Plant the elephant ear in rich, slightly acidic soil and in partial shade. Plant in full sun in cooler climates. Set it out in the spring after the soil has warmed and the last predicted frost date has passed. Plant as early as possible to allow for the maximum amount of growing time for the season.
Water this tropical wetland native thoroughly and deeply. Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season, even to the point of being soggy. Don't allow it to dry out.
Feed the taro twice weekly with a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Follow the packaging instructions carefully.
Cut off any leaves that die back as a result of transplant shock, using a sharp knife.
Cut off yellowing leaves at ground level as they may occur throughout the season, particularly in late summer and fall.
Dig the elephant ear up, pot it and bring it inside before the first predicted frost in the fall.
Set the taro plant in a warm room near a bright window out of direct sun for the winter. Continue to feed it as before as long as it continues producing new leaves, but dilute the fertilizer to half-strength. Keep the soil quite moist, even a little soggy. Spritz the foliage and stems with warm water every day to provide humidity.
Harden the elephant ear off to acclimate it to being back outdoors after the last frost for the season. Set the plant outside in the shade for about two to three hours early in the morning for two days. Bring it back inside before noon.
Put the elephant ear back outside in the shade for four to five hours for the next two or three days. Allow the taro to spend the following two or three days outdoors in partial shade without bringing it back inside.
Plant the elephant ear back in its previous location. Resume the normal growing season maintenance routine. Cut the new baby tubers from the main bulb to produce more little taros at planting time, if you wish.