Large & leafy...
Create your own tropical paradise with large and leafy Elephant Ears (Alocasia, Colocasia). Just plant the large bulbs and watch them grow into tropical beauties to enjoy in the garden or on your patio, deck or poolside.
Elephant Ears are versatile plants that grow in sun or shade. You can grow them in containers or right in the garden. Just provide ample moisture and a bit of shade during the hottest part of the day.
Start your bulbs (actually tubers) this month or next for an earlier display outdoors. Plant them in a pot several inches larger than the bulb. Use a container with drainage holes and a quality well-drained potting mix. Plant it so the top of the bulb is about an inch below the soil surface.
Move the potted bulbs to a warm location and keep the soil just slightly moist while the bulbs form roots and begin to sprout. Be patient. It can take three to eight weeks for leaves to emerge depending on the temperature and soil moisture. Move the Elephant Ears to a sunny window or under artificial lights as soon as any green appears.
Wait for the soil to warm and the danger of frost to pass before moving the plants outdoors. Prepare the soil by adding compost or other organic matter to the soil prior to planting. Set the plants in the garden at the same depth they were growing in the pot.
Or, move them into a larger container with plenty of space to show off their foliage or combine with other plants. The leafy foliage combines nicely with caladiums, coleus, larger begonias, trailing sweet potato vines and other annuals. The fine foliage of ornamental grasses, such as the shade tolerant Japanese Forest grass and sedges, contrast nicely with the Elephant Ear's bold leaves.
Store the bulbs in a cool, dark and dry location if you need to delay planting. Don't worry if you miss starting them indoors. You can plant these bulbs directly in prepared garden soil or containers once the soil warms to 65 degrees and danger of frost has passed.
In the garden, dig a hole large enough to accommodate this big bulb. Plant it so the top of the bulb is about an inch below the soil surface. Use the same depth when planting directly into a container outdoors. You'll enjoy watching the transformation from bulb to an impressive specimen in just a couple of months.
Keep the soil moist and fertilize regularly throughout the growing season. Check and follow the label directions on the fertilizer you select.
When frost is in the forecast, you can move the potted Elephant Ears indoors and grow them like a houseplant in a cool, bright location. Or dig the bulbs just before or after a light frost. Cut off the leaves and allow the bulb to dry in a warm dry location for one to two weeks. Then place the bulbs in an open container of vermiculite, peat moss or sawdust. Store in a cool location around 60 degrees.
If this sounds like too much work, compost the bulbs at the end of the growing season or give them to a gardening friend. Then, invest in more and different varieties next spring.
Written by Melinda Myers. Melinda is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Beginners Guide with you!