How to Care for Your Elephant Ear Plant - Backyard Boss
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How to Care for Your Elephant Ear Plant

The elephant ear is one of the oldest cultivated plants, with a rich and tasty history. They can be cultivated indoors or outdoors, and as an ornamental plant or an edible treat, making them a very versatile plant to have at home.

Native to tropical regions all over the world, this beautiful plant is considered an invasive species in North America. Even so, their massive foliage makes them a plant owners dream. To keep your elephant ear healthy, learn everything you need to help it flourish!

1. Lighting

Elephant Ear Plant Close Up
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While the elephant ear is hardy, some types, such as those belonging to the genus Colocasiado not do well in heavy winds or direct sunlight. Both damage the foliage.

A good location indoors is an area with filtered sun, such as behind a curtain. Outdoors, try to place it in a sheltered spot with partial shade. Because the plant likes a lot of moisture, less sun means the soil stays moist for much longer.

Pro Tip: Elephant ears in the Alocasia genus do well in direct sunlight or partial shade. Darker varieties also do well in bright light

2. Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

Person out of frame shovels dirt into yellow bucket
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Since it is a tropical plant, the elephant ear has a prodigious growth cycle, especially in the summer months. Remember to fertilize and water the soil regularly, as poor-quality soil will impair plant growth.

The elephant ear grows best in fertile, moist (medium to wet), loamy soil. Rich soil is best so the tuber or corm can accumulate nutrients. Whether you grow this plant indoors or outdoors, ensure you use the correct amount on the package. Use a granular feed at first but once established give your plants a weekly dose of water soluble fertilizer; A good example is fish emulsion. Be sure to keep the soil slightly acidic.

The elephant ear is prone to getting wet feet, so its soil should be porous. The soil shouldn’t dry out too quickly or retain moisture for too long, but elephants ears love being moist. Often, yellowing leaves is a sign of nutrient-poor soil, and over or underwatering.

3. Planting

Close up of large elephant ear in forest
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If growing indoors, plant your elephant ear in a large pot, as the plant tends to grow rapidly. The containers used should be non-porous, so opt for glazed clay. Ideally, the pots for Colocasia should be a minimum of 18 inches in width and 16 inches in depth; Alocasia may require containers as big as 36 inches.

If growing outdoors, place it in a hole at least two to three times the size of the tuber or corm you are planting. Plant it 1 to 2 inches below the soil’s surface in an area away from other plants. Doing so will give your elephant ear room to expand. Also, this will keep the elephant ear’s small roots from competing with other, stronger plants. 

4. Watering Schedule

Indoor potted fresh plants on the windowsill in the sunlight. Woman spraying with water green leaves of Alocasia amazonica Polly Elephant Ear
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The elephant ear isn’t drought tolerant so its soil should be uniformly saturated; Water it evenly for the best possible outcome. If the plant is overwatered it’ll tell you by dripping water from its leaves — that’s a sign to cut back. Also, the plant needs less water in the winter as water absorption will slow. 

It is also beneficial to mist the leaves, if needed, to keep them healthy. However, water from the base of the plant to ensure no water accumulates on the leaves. Pooling of water on the foliage can have negative effects. To be safe, a moisture tester is a good investment for this plant because it will help you curb underwatering or overwatering.

IndoorWater your plant in small amounts twice a day, provided the soil isn’t too wet. 

Outdoor: Watering outdoors should also be a twice-daily affair. However, keep an eye out for the weather. In the event of rain, cut back on watering. 

5. Temperature

elephant ear plants growing in pots at home
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The elephant ear plant is tropical and loves warm weather and high humidity. Elephant ear is a perennial, but it is especially frost-averse and doesn’t fare well in temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Elephant ears fare best in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many even leave the plant outside all year long unless there’s a chance of snow.

In or around the fall, remember to cover the top layer of soil with peat, mulch, or dried wood shavings to protect it from the frost. In colder regions prone to snow, it is best to dig up in-ground tubers or corms after the first signs of frost. You can overwinter elephant ears inside and return them outdoors in spring. 

Elephant ear corm and tuber yields are better in warmer weather. The corm can be stored through winter and replanted again in the spring. Do this by cutting off the foliage and allowing the tuber or corm to dry for a few days. You can then put them into a container with dry potting soil and store them in a cool place.

6. Other Requirements

Person cleaning plant leaf
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Elephant ears tend to collect dust. To clean them, gently wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth. Regularly trim the plant and remove any browning and dying leaves. When you prune the plant, cut near the base and leave about 2 inches above the tuber or corm. 

Though the elephant ear is generally devoid of issues, plant parents should watch out for aphids, white flies, and spider mites. They are also susceptible to mosaic virus, as well as corm, and root rot. The plant also might become root bound, especially if kept indoors in a pot.

Lastly but more importantly, ensure your pets and kids are careful, as the Alocasia elephant ear is highly toxic. The Colocasia esculenta, however, is only toxic when eaten raw. Once cooked, all parts of the elephant ear become a tasty and nutritious addition to the whole family’s diet!

Enjoy the Beauty!

With its vibrant and lovely green foliage, the elephant ear is a beautiful addition to any home or garden. A little love and care are all you need to grow this gorgeous plant into a gentle giant.

Ensure your pets and kids are careful, as the Alocasia elephant ear is highly toxic. The Colocasia esculenta, however, is only toxic when eaten raw. Once cooked, all parts of the elephant ear become a tasty and nutritious addition to the whole family’s diet!

Hopefully, this guide is handy and helps you with your elephant ear. Please share any thoughts, questions, or comments below!