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How to Grow Malanga

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Malanga is a starchy edible root that comes from a tropical plant. The plant is a member of the aroid family and looks similar to a smaller leaved Elephant Ear plant. A native of South America, the plant is also known as cocoyam. The leaves are arrow shaped and smooth on the upper surface and rippled underneath. The plant forms one main corm underground and numerous smaller cormlets just under the surface of the soil. The cormlets are the edible tubers that are frequent ingredients for Cuban and other Latin food. The plant needs a growing season of nine to ten months but is easy to start from corms or pieces of corm.

Cut a piece of malanga with a clean sharp knife, into 2-inch sections. Paint the edges of each piece with liquid fungicide and place them on a piece of newspaper to dry for two hours.

Prepare a garden bed in full sun by tilling 8 inches deep and incorporating 5 inches of compost and 4 inches of sand. Malanga needs nutrient rich soil that is well drained. The compost adds nutrients while the sand's gritty texture increases drainage.

Bury each piece of malanga root 3 to 4 inches deep. Make the rows 6 feet apart to give the large leaved plants room to grow. Spread organic mulch as a side dressing between the rows to minimize weed growth and enhance moisture retention.

Water the plants every week or as often as it takes to keep the soil moist down to 3 or 4 inches. The plant is often found in boggy areas in its native habitat but is prone to root rot. Hand test the soil before you add more water. Fertilize at intervals of 2, 5 and 7 months after planting. Follow the package instructions for the amount to apply for your square footage.

Harvest the tubers 8 to 12 months after planting. When the foliage begins to die back on the plants, it is time to harvest. Dig up the whole plant and root system. Pull off the tubers and wash them well. Cook them to remove a persistent acidity often associated with the malanga root.

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