Learn About Elephant Ears
Dasheen Mosaic Virus: The most characteristic sign of uneven light and dark patterns on leaves, or clearly defined ring spots. Growth may be stunted. This virus can be spread by aphids. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Control aphids.
Leaf Spots: This causes tan spotting on the foliage and causes plants to lose vigor. Burpee Recommends: Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots. Burpee Recommends: Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems causing weak plant growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash infected plant parts under the faucet and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Root Maggots: Leaves wilt and growth is stunted. These maggots are white and feed on the roots. They leave brown tunnels in the root. Burpee Recommends: Introduce natural enemies to the area. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations which must be applied prior to planting.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Do elephant ears produce flowers? Yes, but elephant ear flowers are usually hidden by the colorful foliage. Many gardeners remove them to keep the strength in the plant.
Can I start elephant ears inside? Yes, elephant ears tend to emerge fairly late in spring, even early summer, when planted directly in the garden so many gardeners prefer to start them early indoors. Start them about 6 weeks before last frost. Plant one inch deep in pots large enough to accommodate the bulbs, use a good quality potting soil. Keep the soil barely moist but not wet. A heat mat can make them emerge more quickly.
My elephant ear plant lost a leaf should I be worried? No, it is normal for elephant ears to drop old leaves as they produce new ones.
Why haven’t my elephant ears emerged? I planted them four weeks ago. Elephant ear plants tend to emerge late because the soil must be thoroughly warm.
What kind of elephant ears are carried at Burpee seeds? We carry two types of elephant ears for sale:
How to Grow Elephant Ears
A customer poses with her ‘Thailand Giant’ Elephant Ear plant!
Elephant ears are giant leafy (mostly) tropical plants. Colocasias are what we primarily call “elephant ears,” but alocasias (upright elephant ears) slip in there, too.
When you buy dormant elephant ear plants, you’re buying the corms, or bulb-like structure. A corm is a swollen underground stem. Corms look like bulbs, but while bulbs are formed from compressed leaves, a corm is all stem. When you cut into a corm you won’t see any layers.
Elephant ear corms grow over time, with the original corm doubling or tripling in size. Plants also produce offsets that can be broken off and planted elsewhere.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when tropical plants in temperate places became the hot (pun intended) design trend, plant breeders selected, developed, and released elephant ears with varying leaf colors and sizes. They’re fantastic for quick summer greenery and a lush look in the landscape.
When & Where to Plant Elephant Ears
Elephant ears are warm-weather plants. Some will survive in-ground over the winter in zones as cold as 6, while others need to be dug up and stored for the winter unless planted in a zone 9 garden. It always pays to check the cold hardiness information about the variety you’ve purchased. Bulbs can grow to be large, so if you can leave them in the ground, do.
Light: Most plants grow best in full sun to partial shade. ‘Black Magic’ is an exception that performs well in partial to full shade.
Soil: Grow elephant ears in moist, loamy soil with a high organic matter content.
Spacing: Spacing depends on the variety you’re growing. You could need anywhere from 2 feet to 6 feet between plants to allow them enough room to spread out.
Planting: When planting new elephant ears or re-planting for the spring, set corms in the garden when nighttime temperatures are consistently 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant 4-6 inches deep. (The bigger the bulb the deeper it goes.) Most elephant ears will grow to be at least 4 feet wide, so give them space!
Plant corms 2-4 feet apart, 4-6 inches deep in moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter. You can grow the smaller varieties in large containers. (Large, as in whiskey-barrel-sized containers.) If growing in containers you’ll have to keep the soil evenly, constantly moist.
Elephant Ears come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
How to Grow Elephant Ears Throughout the Season
Growth Habit: The growth habit depends on the type of elephant ear. Stems of colocasias grow up and then the leaves open, causing stems to slightly droop. This creates an umbrella shape. Alocasias (upright elephant ears) have leaves that point sharply upwards. The overall plant is somewhat rounded, but it’s definitely a different look than the colocasias.
Elephant ears can be clumpers or runners. Clump-forming elephant ears form slowly-expanding clumps (as the name suggests). Runners can spread out via aboveground or underground stems. In warm areas where the plants are perennials, they can become almost weedy.
Staking: Elephant ears do not require staking.
Watering: These are high water plants. The more water they get the bigger they’ll grow. Some varieties will even thrive when planted in a pot and grown as a marginal pond plant. (Pot fully submerged.) Containers will need to be watered daily during the summer. Plan on giving plants at least 2-3 inches of water per week.
Fertilizing: Elephant ears are heavy eaters, as well as drinkers. Fertilize monthly with a general fertilizer of choice. Organic slow release fertilizers will last longer, so choose something like bonemeal or bloodmeal when possible.
Trimming & Pruning: Plants will produce new leaves throughout the growing season. Remove wilted, browning, or ratty leaves by cutting them off at the base of the plant.
Mulching: Mulch with shredded hardwood or shredded leaf compost at the time of planting. That will help keep the soil moist and the soil fertility high.
Borneo Giant Elephant Ear is a monumental cultivar that can reach up to 8 feet tall in its first year and matures to up to 12 feet tall. Stunning 3-to-4-foot large heart-shaped leave.
Seed Pods On Elephant Ear Plants: Do Alocasia Elephant Ears Have Seeds
Do Alocasia elephant ears have seeds? They do reproduce through seed but it takes years before you will get the big beautiful leaves. Older plants in good conditions will produce a spathe and spadix that will eventually produce seed pods. Elephant ear flower seeds are only viable a short time, so if you want to plant them, harvest the pods and use them as soon as possible.
Do Alocasia Elephant Ears Have Seeds?
Alocasia odora is also known as elephant ear plant because of its colossally huge leaves and the general shape of the foliage. They are members of the Aroid family, which encompasses plants with some of the most attractive foliage available to gardeners. The glossy, heavily veined leaves are a standout and the main attraction, but occasionally you get lucky and the plant will bloom, producing unique dangling seed pods on elephant ear plant.
Elephant ear flower seeds are contained in a hard shelled pod. It takes months for the orange seeds to mature, during which time the pods hang from the plant. They are a rare sight in most gardens, but in warm climates, established plants may develop a spathe and spadix, which house the male and female flowers.
Once pollinated, they develop into fruits filled with many little seeds. The seed pods on an elephant ear plant must be cracked open to reveal the numerous seeds.
Planting Elephant Ear Flower Seeds
Once the Alocasia elephant ear has seed pods, remove them when the pod has dried and the seeds are mature. Germination is capricious and variable on these plants. Seeds should be removed from the pods and rinsed.
Use a humic rich medium with a generous amount of peat. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil and then lightly dust them with a pinch of medium. Spray the top of the soil with a misting bottle and keep the medium lightly damp but not soggy.
Once seedlings appear, which may be as long as 90 days after planting, move the tray to a location with indirect but bright light.
Propagation of Elephant Ear
Alocasia rarely produces a flower and subsequent seed pod. Their erratic germination means that even if your elephant ear has seed pods, you are better off starting plants from offsets. The plants send out side shoots at the base of the plant which work well for vegetative production.
Simply cut off the side growth and pot them up to establish and grow larger. Once the plant is a year old, transplant to an appropriate area of the garden and enjoy. They can also be grown in containers or indoors.
Don’t forget to bring the bulbs or plants indoors in any region where freezing temperatures are expected, as Alocasia plants are not at all winter hardy. Lift in-ground plants and clean off dirt, then store them in a box or paper bag until spring.