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The Varieties of Elephant Ears

By Callie Barber ; Updated September 21, 2017
Elephant's ear creates a commanding landscape presence.
elephant ears image by robert mobley from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Elephant’s ear is a tuberous perennial plant that hails from the tropics. Native to swamps and other moist growing sites, elephant’s ear are ideal planted in large aquatic containers or grown along ponds and streams. The arrow-shaped leaves resemble an elephant ear, hence the name. Varying from deep greens to rich purples, some elephant’s ear is variegated with more than one color swirled together to create a tropical display to the garden. They thrive in wet soil and shaded areas of the landscape.

Coffee Cups Elephant's Ear

Elephant’s ear Coffee Cups (Colocasia esculenta Coffee Cups) is a tropical perennial bulb that has a clumping, upright growth habit and vigorous growth rate. It reaches a maximum height of 6 feet tall and wide, ideal added to the back of a border for its commanding presence. The cup-shaped, almost all black stems of Coffee Cups bring in a rich and dramatic display to the garden. Elephant’s ear Coffee Cups grows best in full and nutrient-rich, moist soil. Divide in winter or early spring to grow in other areas of the garden. Plant Coffee Cups in USDA zones 8 to 11.

Illustris Elephant's Ear

Illustris (Colocasia esculenta 'Illustris'), a variety of elephant’s ear, is a clumping tropical bulb that grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. The large, green, elephant ear-shaped leaves on Illustris are accented with deep purple to provide a striking contrast. Elephant’s ear Illustris thrives in moist shade but tolerates a smattering of sunlight. It also does well in boggy growing conditions, making it suitable to grow along a water feature. Illustris grows in USDA zones 8 to 11.

Frydek Elephant's Ear

Frydek elephant’s ear (Alocasia micholitziana Frydek) is a perennial plant that has a moderate growth rate and clumping habit. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and is tolerant of a range of soil conditions, heat and humidity, making for a versatile elephant ear variety. The 18-inch-long, deep green, satin-like, arrow-shaped foliage of Frydek have glowing white veining that looks like a rib cage. Frydek is an ideal variety of elephant’ ear to grow in containers along a shaded border or edging a pond. It also does well as a houseplant because it does not require a lot of sunlight. Frydek elephant’s ear grows best in part shade and humus-rich, well-drained, moist soil. It’s suitable grow in USDA zones 9 to 11.

Dwarf Elephant’s Ear

Dwarf elephant’s ear (Colocasia affinis var. jenningsii) is a low-growing tropical perennial bulb with a clumping growth habit. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and wide and has velvet-like, dark purple foliage with contrasting green veins. Along the center of the dwarf elephant’s ear is a silver central blotch. Dwarf elephant’s ear grows best in part shade and moist to wet well-drained soil. Plant dwarf elephant’s ear in USDA zones 9 to 11.


About the Author


Callie Barber has been writing professionally since 2002. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate indoor and outdoor living environments. Her articles have appeared on Travels.com and GardenGuides.com. Barber holds a Bachelors of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina.