Planting and Caring for Elephant Ears
Planting and Caring for Alocasia/Colocasia
Alocasia and Colocasia are cold hardy in zones 9-11. I am in zone 7b and they do come back every year without any special care, however they are not technically zone hardy in my zone. They die off and return in the spring when the soil temperature gets warm. In cooler zones, the bulbs are planted once the frost clears and they are treated as annuals, so the bulbs are dug up and overwintered.
When to plant:
Alocasia and Colocasia can be planted outdoors after danger of frost has passed. You can also start them indoors and transplanted. Alocasia seem to do well a house plants, although they can get quite large. These plants like hot weather, so you will see faster growth once they are above 70+ degrees. These guys thrive in the sun and grow fast in the heat of the summer.
How to plant:Elephant Ear bulbs should be planted with the narrow end pointed up, with most of the bulb under the soil. There is a distinct separation where the leaves meet the bulb, this is where the soil line should be, or just above.
Colocasia should be a few inches below the soil. I plant my large bulbs deeper, and some of the smaller ones just below the soil, about an inch.
- Water thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the bulb.
- Please allow 4-6 weeks (typically) for the plants to break ground and show signs of life.
Most prefer filtered sun or shade, but the Colocasia can tolerate full sun in the appropriate zones. In general, green types can take higher light levels; darker-leaved ones need more filtered light or shade.
Elephant ears need rich soil that is moist (not saturated), but well-drained. Most do not like wet feet, though a few are tolerant of wet conditions—like the big-leaved colocasia you might see in water gardens. A general rule is big, green elephant ears are practically indestructible and can tolerate variable moisture conditions; dark-leaved types will suffer if over watered and can stay dry for several days.
To prevent disease problems, water in the morning so they go into the night dry. If possible, water from below at the root zone rather than from above, to keep water off the leaves. Once established outside, normal rainfall is typically sufficient, however use judgement and water when needed or when you water your other plants.
In colder zones, the bulbs can be dug up and stored over winter. After a frost, do the following:
- Cut back foliage
- Dig up rhizomes
- Allow to dry for a few days
- Store in an open container with peat moss or dry potting soil barely covering the rhizome
- Keep them cool (45 to 55 degrees), and dry
** For winter protection outdoors, cover the base of the plant with 3” of mulch