How to Plant and Grow Elephant's Ear

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

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 has become 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.

Elephant's ear is toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and horses, so keep it away from children and pets.

Elephant's Ear Overview

Genus Name Alocasia
Common Name Elephant's Ear
Plant Type Bulb, Houseplant
Light Part Sun
Height 1 to 8 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 grows wherever there's moist soil and warm temperatures. It's striking alongside ponds where its massive leaves create beautiful reflections in the water. An excellent plant for a shaded porch or patio, it thrives when planted in large containers.

Elephant's ear is cold-hardy in USDA zones 10–11. In colder climates, it can be planted in containers that are moved inside in winter. Cold climate gardeners can also grow elephant's ear as an annual, purchasing new plants each year.

How and When to Plant Elephant's Ear

Plant elephant's ear in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant an elephant's ear bulb when the temperature ranges 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; it'll send the green up and the roots down. Elephant's ear bulbs spend about three weeks growing roots before you'll notice any activity above ground.

Elephant's ear can also be started from tuberous roots. They can be planted indoors in large nursery pots six to eight weeks before the last frost in spring and moved outdoors as soon as the nighttime temperatures are above 60°F. In cool climates, start plants indoors or purchase transplants at the nursery to maximize the enjoyment of this warm-temperature-loving plant.

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 that the pot's rim is level with the surrounding grade.

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. If possible, plant elephant's ear in a location where it receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade.

Soil and Water

Well-drained, moist soil high in organic matter is ideal for elephant's ear. Water outdoor elephant's ear plants regularly. Indoor plants grow best when soil is allowed to dry out slightly before watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Elephant's ear is native to Southeast Asia, where it enjoys heat and high humidity. Daytime temperatures should be between 70°F and 85°F. Nights should be no colder than 60°F.

The plant enjoys a humidity level above 50 percent. When grown indoors, it benefits from a humidifier or sitting on a tray filled with rocks and water to keep the humidity high.


Fertilize elephant's ear plants in the garden in spring, summer, and fall to support the large leaves using a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer, following manufacturer's instructions. Do not fertilize the plant when it is not growing, as in the winter.

Fertilize indoor plants with a houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer and cease fertilizing in fall and winter.


Cut off individual leaves as they become damaged during the season using a disinfected blade to prevent disease spread.

Just before the first frost, cut all the foliage to about 6 inches above the ground and carefully dig up the tubers. Place them in a plastic bag or pot and cover them with a mix of moistened potting soil and peat moss. Store them in a cool, dark place; they need to remain dormant over winter.

Potting and Repotting Elephant's Ear

Overwinter elephant's ear plants in containers in cool regions by bringing in the potted plants before the first frost. Place them in a cool, humid location and reduce watering in winter.

Pests and Problems

Unfortunately, those huge leaves attract familiar garden insects, including aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites, all of which can be treated with a horticultural soap or neem oil.

In wet periods, when water remains on the leaves, the plant might develop fungal leaf blight. Treat it with a copper fungicide applied weekly during rainy weather and every two weeks during dry periods.

How to Propagate Elephant's Ear

Elephant's ear plants send out underground runners that eventually rise to the surface and begin growing a new plant. Divide the plant by using a sharp shovel to cut the pup from the parent plant, making sure it has roots attached. Put the pup in a pot with well-draining potting mix. If the pot is inside, water it deeply once a week. If the pot is outside, water the plant every one to two days until it is established.

Types of Elephant's Ear

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

Elephant's Ear Companion Plants

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do elephant's ear plants last?

    In general, the tubers grow stronger with each passing year. Whether you live in an area where you can leave them in the ground or lift them and overwinter them in a sheltered place, expect healthy plants to live for about eight years. Lifting and storing is a lot of work, though, so many people choose to buy new bulbs every year and plant them in the spring.

  • How do I prepare elephant ear plants to stay in the ground for winter in zone 10-11?

    Wait until the stems of the plant die back naturally from frost. Cutting them can result in rot. Cover the plants with pine needles, chopped-up leaves, or grass. Pile them on top of the plant's location or use chicken wire (or similar) to make a cage to hold them in. This gives the plants protection during the winter months. Wait until after the first spring thaw to uncover them.

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  1. Alocasia. National Capital Poison Center

  2. ASPCA. Elephants Ears

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