Some plants require little attention, thrive in any environment, and still make any garden look amazing. One of them is the giant elephant ear plant.
There’s a lot about this plant to enjoy. It also works as a ground cover for other plants, adds shade to garden beds, and works as a gorgeous ornamental plant with its sometimes-striking colors and shapes.
If you’re looking to boost up your garden appeal, then you won’t find anything as easy to grow and attractive as the gigantic elephant ear.
Growing it still has its ups and downs. And caring for the plant is a bit complicated if you have no experience with tropical plants. There’s nothing to worry about, though. Below, we explain why.
What is the Giant Elephant Ear?
The Giant Elephant Ears, also known as Colocasia, Alocasia, and Caladium, can grow up to 5 feet in length and width. They all grow from tubers or small root balls. When they grow, their leaves take a heart or ear shape, from where the name comes from.
In its natural habitat, this plant prefers swampy areas with tons of humidity. But it is still decently resistant to dry environments, as long as it has proper sun exposure and consistent humidity from the soil.
The plant originally comes from Southeastern areas of Asia. But it can also be found in Northern areas with tropical environments.
As you may already know, it is one of the famous garden plants in the world. In places where other tropical plants typically don’t grow, the giant elephant ear plant often thrives.
Different Types of Giant Elephant Garlic Plant
Believe it or not, there are hundreds of different types of this plant out there. Thanks to its rapid growth and fast propagation, the gigantic elephant ear plant has evolved in many different ways. Luckily, you will mostly find two types worth mentioning: Caladium and Colocasia.
The caladium species is the fastest-growing of the two. The caladium is the most attractive species of the elephant ear. The leaves are often dotted, veiny, and boast all kinds of colors depending on the specific type. Below, we explain some of the most popular:
The center of Aaron’s leaves tends to be white, with clear veins and green borders. This one can grow up to 18 inches. It grows fast and requires little effort to make it thrive.
Capable of getting to 24 inches in height, the Candidum Elephant Ears boasts green veins with white borders. It is effortless to grow and requires moderate sunlight and shade to thrive.
Probably the most attractive of the caladium genus, the Fannie Munson comes with shades of red and pink, purple veins, and green margins all around. It is also one of the largest at 30 inches of height and grows decently fast. This one requires well-drained soil to grow.
Another gorgeous caladium type is the Gingerland. It’s also incredibly popular for its white veins, green borders, and red spots that make any garden look more exciting. It grows to 14 inches in height and requires moderate warmth and humidity.
One we couldn’t leave out is the Bicolor. In contrast with the Gingerland species, this one has bright green leaves, red veins, and white spots. It prefers humid areas with moderate temperatures. You can find it at up to 14 inches of height.
Also grown from bulbs, the Colocasia species is a slightly simpler version of Elephant Ear plants. But because the leaves are often unicolor without many shades or spots, they tend to grow larger than caladiums. Here are some types of Colocasia to consider:
A smooth leaf with a sheen of dark green, and a thick composition, the diamond head is the most popular type of Giant Elephant Ear you’ll find. It can grow up to 4 feet in height, and each leaf can reach over 20 inches in length and 10 inches in width. This one can handle mildly dry and cold environments.
While the stems tend to be purple to black with dark red tones, the leaves are often green to white, sometimes light pink with red veins. This one can reach a total height of 7 feet in just months of growth. It withstands warm and cold environments alike.
The darkest type of Elephant Ear plant, this Black Magic species has the perfect name for its appearance. Its dark leaves with blue-black tones and often gray veins stand out in any garden. This one can grow to 5 feet in height and requires humid environments.
The most colored of all Colocasia, the Mojito species boasts an unusual dotted and seemingly spotted pattern on its leaves. It can grow up to 3 feet tall and thrives almost in any environment. Though, it prefers tropical areas with warm temperatures and humid soils.
Does the Gigantic Elephant Ear Plant Blossom?
Like any other ornamental plant in your garden, the Elephant Ear plant will also flower once or twice a year.
The flowers tend to be yellow in most species. But some of them may also give purple and pink flowers.
To make a Giant Elephant Ear plant flourish, you’ll need to ensure proper humidity, fertilization, and temperature.
While it is not hard to make it blossom, it often requires the right environment. And often, this is not easy to achieve.
It is more likely to blossom being outdoors than indoors. Yet, the right conditions could still make it blossom either way.
What Does Gigantic Elephant Ears Plant Need to Grow?
With a better idea of what the plant is exactly, its different sub-species, and how gorgeous it looks when flourishing, it’s time to learn about its specific needs. Below, we explain what factors matter the most when growing this plant:
Space & Pot
Depending on what variety of Giant Elephant Ear you’re growing, the plant may need between 2 feet up to 10 feet of total space. Also, you need to consider whether you’re growing in pots or in a garden.
Overall, the plant prefers direct garden planting. As some varieties can grow very high, it grows better when in garden soil. Yet, it also works in pots, especially if you pick one of the smallest varieties.
Either way, it is essential to ensure enough space within the first 6 months. You should ensure no less than 2 feet in diameter for any type of Elephant Ear.
Soil & Fertilizer
You don’t need a specific soil to grow this plant. Pretty much it works anywhere with sufficient nutrients, typically moist and well-drained soils.
Generally, however, we recommend humid areas. The plant thrives when the soil is humid, and the environment is moist, tropical-like.
As for fertilizer, you won’t need much at first. A slow-release fertilizer may do the job when planting. Later, you may only need to fertilize once a year.
Watering & Humidity
While the plant loves humid areas, you shouldn’t overwater it either. The soil should be dry going into the night, especially in relatively cold environments.
It is generally recommended to water it below the root area. Keeping water off the leaves is especially helpful in tropical environments with full sun exposure.
Light & Air
As a tropical plant coming from Asia, you can guess it is not precisely a full-sun species. For that reason, you should keep it in a relatively shady place. It should receive between 3 and 5 hours of daylight for proper growth.
The species with dark leaves will require a lot more shade than this. In that case, we recommend between 2 and 4 hours of sunlight at a maximum.
As you can guess, it has no air needs. As long as it has sufficient space to grow and proper temperature, it shouldn’t have any problem growing.
Temperature & Environment
The Giant Elephant Ears is not too picky about the temperature or overall environment either. You can grow it in temperatures that go up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
While it is a tropical plant that thrives in warm environments, it also withstands relatively cold ones. Having said that, it only resists cold environments for a few weeks. It won’t withstand an entire lifespan in cold areas.
To prevent any unwanted damage from frosts and extreme colds, you can always take the plant indoors if possible.
You can still grow it ultimately indoors if required. We recommend going for the smallest species with darker leaves, as they thrive in shaded areas more effectively.
How to Grow Giant Elephant Ear Plant
With a better idea of what’s necessary to grow this plant, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start growing it. Here are some steps to follow:
1. Pick the Plant Type
First and foremost, decide whether you want to grow from seeds (tubers) or from already grown seedlings or sprouts. You may also transplant grown-up plants if needed (from 3 to 10 inches in height).
More important than that, choose a species that matches your home’s environment. You shouldn’t pay much attention to this if you live in a relatively humid and warm area.
2. Choose the Right Time & Place
Then make sure you’re planting in the right season. Even though the plan can handle relatively cold environments, it demands warm places at first.
We recommend planting it after the last frost has passed. This typically means the start of spring when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees.
You should look for a place with partial sun exposure. If you’re planting from seedlings, it should be full sun exposure.
3. Prepare the Soil
Once you have the place and plant ready, you should fix up the soil. Here, it’s all about adding a bit of slow fertilizer and some mulch. Mix and turn it from up to 8 inches deep.
When you’re finished turning the soil, remove grass, stones, and weeds from the surface. The plant typically demands safe and healthy, revitalized soil for sustained growth.
If you don’t want to add mulch or fertilizer, then compost is a great alternative. You should use only a bit to prevent any unwanted increase in pH that may cause problems later on.
4. Plant the Giant Elephant Ear
With the soil ready, you can start planting them. It is essential to leave at least 2 feet of distance between seeds or sprouts (if you’re planting several ones). Also, try keeping it away from grass and weeds (no less than 4 feet).
For those growing in pots, fill up the container to about half. Place the tuber in and then cover it. If you’re using a seedling, make sure to only cover the root. The plant needs direct sun exposure to thrive at this stage.
For garden planting, place the Elephant Ear at about 6 inches deep. If it has a big root, then place it a bit further. Cover the root entirely, and that’s it.
5. Let it Grow
You now have the Giant Elephant Ear growing at home. Whether in pots or in the garden, it should take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks to start growing consistently.
In this period, you should water daily. Try watering in the morning, so it reaches the night dry (to prevent any unwanted side effects from night’s moisture).
When watering, you should add about 1 inch of water to the pot. In gardens, water until the soil becomes muddy.
In 2 or 3 months of consistent watering and proper sun exposure, the plant may start flowering.
How to Care for Elephant Ear Plants
After learning how to grow elephant garlic, it is time to learn how to sustain this growth over the years. Here are some tips to consider:
Keep It Weed-Free
No other recommendation will be as useful as this one. Believe it or not, the Colocasia and the Caladium species are incredibly delicate, often competing for common nutrients and space. When weeds grow around it, the plant starts to grow slow and pale.
Use your best pruning shears and or weed killer to get them out of the way. This will keep your
Add Mulch Regularly
If you live in a dry area where it rarely rains and humidity is not relatively high, you may need to keep the soil moist. For that, nothing helps more than adding some mulch to the planting area.
You don’t need to add much mulch, though. Keeping the area mulched every few months is enough. Try adding the mulch around the plant and not exactly below. Direct contact with stems and leaves may cause rot.
Similar to adding mulch, watering well is essential as it needs constant humidity. As a tropical plant that loves muddy soils and swamps, you should keep the soil decently moist.
That’s why it’s recommended to add about 1 inch of water per day when grown in pots. If you can achieve a similar type of water delivery in garden soil, that should be enough.
In places where it rains consistently, you may not need to worry about this. Either way, make sure the soil is well-drained. Too much moisture may also cause unwanted problems in gardens and pots.
Keep It Fertilized
You can always use light fertilizer on the plant for better growth over time. Especially if you’re growing the most colorful species, you may find the use of fertilizer super helpful.
We recommend adding light granular fertilizer every 2 months. In areas where the soil is too acidic, pouring liquid fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks should be enough.
Trim & Prune Consistently
You may also find that removing flower stalks helps keep the plant sturdy, especially in dry places. Proceed as necessary.
Protect in Winter
Lastly, keep the Giant Elephant Ear away from freezing temperatures. In winter, the plant should be taken indoors away from any frost. And if you can ensure temperatures between 45 to 55 degrees, that would be even better.
If you left the plant outdoors during a frost, then cut back foliage, dig the plant out, leave it to dry under the sun, and place it in a pot with dry soil. This should prevent it from getting damaged.
Growing a giant elephant ear won’t be as easy as it seems. But it won’t be a problematic endeavor either, especially if you follow all our advice and steps to the letter.
Once you see how the plant grows and makes your garden or indoor areas more attractive, you won’t have any regrets.
This plant is merely fantastic, requires little effort, and makes any place a lot more enticing. So, what are you waiting for to start growing it? With the guide above, this process should be a no-brainer. Try it out!