Plant Profile: Elephant Ears

posted in: Plant Profiles | 11

Have you ever grown elephant ears or colocasia?  The plant gets its name because of the huge leaves that resemble ears on elephants.

In my Canadian garden zone of 5b this plant is a tender perennial.  I know I said I was getting rid of plants that are high maintenance and need digging each year but I really wanted to try elephant ears.  I had seen varieties of them when visiting British Columbia, where they are perennials and grow to be absolutely huge.

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When I saw a root of one at the local garden centre in mid April 2015 I just had to try it.  The root or bulb was about the size of a small grapefruit and for around $3 it was worth a try.  It was potted up inside about the beginning of May and transferred outside to the plant tables towards the end of May.

I did research online to find out as much as I could about it.  It was decided to grow it in a pot for easy digging up in the Fall.  It took absolutely ages to even start to sprout, in fact at one point I even dug around in the pot to see if it was growing.  Maybe I had planted it upside down!

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Once it started to grow it took off. I love to document the growth of plants over one season so that I can compare it to the next year and learn from my success and errors.  I call them trowel and errors on my weekly garden updates.

growing elephant ears at

After this date I transferred the plant into a bigger pot.  When I grow it this year I will start it in a big pot and get it started earlier than last year.

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By August 10, 2015 it had produced some large leaves.  My trowel and error here was that it needed a bigger pot but all the bigger ones were already full with other plants.  So this year it will be getting the biggest pot I’ve got right from the start.  This plant requires a fair bit of water and I believe the small pot was causing some of the leaves to brown off.  Yet each time I snipped away an old leaf a new one would grow.  It also prefers indirect sunlight so that might of accounted for some of the withering leaves as it had been in a sunny location at the start of this growth.

elephant ears plant growing in Ottawa Ontario, s015

While we were visiting Ottawa last summer we saw several elephant ear plants growing in the shady gardens on one of our walks.  I had never noticed them in previous years but perhaps I just wasn’t aware of the plant then.

Towards the end of September the plant was taken out of the pot.  The root system was amazing.  Unfortunately this isn’t the best of photos as my husband was shaking the plant to remove loose soil at the same time I took the photo.

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The root was trimmed of all excess roots and stored in a cool, dark place over the winter.   I’ll be getting it out about March and potting it up again.

I learned a lot about growing elephant ears for the first time … give it lots of water, don’t have it in direct sun, and make sure to use the biggest pot possible for the best growth.  I’m looking forward to growing it again.

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I had huge leaves so hope for the same or more this time around.

elephant ears st craftygardener.cs

Over the winter months I bring the elephant ears inside. I have put it in the well cupboard and brought it out in the early spring to force the growth. I have also kept the plant going all winter in a sunny, south facing room. The results have been fantastic and the plant has grown over the winter. It will go outside after the last frost date in May to continue growing.

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I grow and document lots of other plants in my garden.

11 Responses

  1. Jordan

    Hi I was looking for bulbs and I live in ottawA. I was wondering if you could share where you got your bulbs from?

    • Crafty Gardener

      I bought my elephant ear bulbs at our local garden centre, Thrashers. I’ve seen lots growing in Ottawa in the city gardens so there must be a supplier in your local area. Thanks for visiting.

    • Ruth

      Hello! I have some if you like. I’m starting to grow them as a house plants. I also have Calocasia Black Magic. Thank you

      • Mike Bay

        Hello Ruth,

        Do you still have the elephant ear bulb? I will like a couple please

        • Crafty Gardener

          I’m not sure if you are in the right place, as you are asking someone else. However I do not have anything – seeds/bulbs/plants that I sell.

  2. Trisha

    I live in Vancouver B.C and can’t seem to find any of the plants or bulbs in towni so want to start one of these plants!

    • Crafty Gardener

      Elephant ears grow as perennials in BC. We have seen lots of huge ones while visiting family in Victoria. Good luck in finding one.

  3. Ken Wilkinson

    is there anything that I can grow that grows big like this that can stay out!
    I can’t be digging and don’t have room for green housing them?
    I’d also be interested in something I saw looked like Bamboo that grew quit tall and made for great camo.

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