How to Plant and Grow Elephant's Ear Plant

The size and shape of this plant's leaves make the reason for its name clear.

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Giant upright elephant's ear

Ed Gohlich

Huge leaves and bold vein patterns make elephant's ear easy to spot. Popular indoors and outdoors, this tropical plant makes an eye-catching statement, no matter where it is planted. Call on it to serve as a focal point where its easy-care foliage will add interest throughout the growing season and year-round indoors.

Elephant's Ear Overview

Genus Name Alocasia
Common Name Elephant's Ear
Plant Type Bulb, Houseplant
Light Part Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 6 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Division

Where to Plant Elephant's Ear

Elephant's ear will thrive wherever there's moist soil and warm temperatures. It's striking alongside ponds where its massive leaves create beautiful reflections in the water. It also grows well in a large pot, easily anchoring a container garden. Pair this tropical plant with other easy-to-grow tropicals for a lush, vibrant garden. Colorful planting partners include canna, coleus, ginger, caladium, sweet potato vine, and philodendron.

How and When to Plant Elephant's Ear

Plant an elephant's ear bulb in temps from 60°F to 85°F. The end with the concentric circles is the top of the bulb. If you're ever in doubt about which end is up, plant a bulb on its side and it'll send the green up and the roots down. How long will it take for the shoots to start coming up? Elephant's ear bulbs will spend about three weeks growing roots before you'll notice any activity aboveground.

Elephant's Ear Care Tips

Elephant's ear grows best in part shade or filtered sun. Prolonged direct sunlight can scorch its leaves, marring them for the duration of the season. Plant elephant's ear in a location where it receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade. An excellent plant for a shaded porch or patio, it thrives when planted in large containers. Well-drained, moist soil high in organic matter is ideal for elephant's ear.

Elephant's ear is often started from rhizomes or tuberous roots. It can be planted indoors in large nursery pots 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring and moved outdoors as soon as the nighttime temperatures are above 50°F. In cool climates, start plants indoors or purchase transplants at the nursery to maximize the enjoyment of this warm-temperature-loving plant.

Many elephant's ear plants grow best when their roots aren't disturbed after they begin to grow. Sink the potted plant into the ground so the pot's rim is level with the surrounding grade. Water and fertilize outdoor elephant's ear regularly. Indoor plants grow best when soil is allowed to dry out slightly before watering. Also, fertilize indoor plants with a houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer and cease fertilizing in fall and winter.

Overwinter elephant's ear in cool regions by bringing in potted plants before the first frost. Place plants in a cool, humid location and reduce watering in winter. Cold climate gardeners can grow elephant's ear as annual plants, purchasing new plants each year.

Types of Elephant's Ear

Elephant's ear is becoming a popular houseplant. It's held court in the garden for years but is making bold statements indoors thanks to some showy leaf varieties sized for growing indoors. Add houseplant types of elephant's ear to end tables, desktops, and mantels for a touch of tropical plant life indoors.

African mask plant

African mask plant
Marty Baldwin

Alocasia amazonica is a tropical plant featuring large, leathery arrowhead leaves in olive green, bronze, or maroon. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 9-11

'Black Magic' elephant's ear

'Black Magic' elephant's ear
Denny Schrock

The purple-black leaves of Alocasia infernalis 'Black Magic' have a brilliant sheen that makes them look like they have been lacquered. Slow growing and 10 to 12 inches tall. Tropical.

Giant upright elephant's ear

Giant upright elephant's ear
Ed Gohlich

Alocasia macrorrhiza bears huge, glossy leaves shaped like alligator heads on rigid stems. This clumping plant grows to 8 feet tall. Zones 7-10

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