Mr. D's Plant of the Week Series: Elephant’s Ear

Elephant's Ear in Tallahassee.jpg

Do you remember the first time seeing those large tropical green leaves, that looked incredibly massive?

They were shield-like in size and shape, and unbelievably enormous, with fleshy green leaves, and ironically named Elephant’s Ear.

The Alocasia spp., (the Elephant’s Ear’s scientific name; pronounced: al-lo-KAY-zee-uh species), from the family of Araceae, is not native to North America.

Though it is not from our country, this aggressive and invasive fast-spreading perennial; herbaceous has made its home in Florida.

From North Florida to the tip of Key West, the Elephant’s Ear is a year-round planted herbaceous. You can expect this upright plant to grow almost 10-feet tall and about 10-feet across.

How to care and manage your Elephant’s Ear perennial

Weeds will compete with your Elephant’s Ear plant. Both want water, nutrients, and plenty of space. You will see this mostly during the growing season, so weed control is essential.

We would recommend mulches to keep your soil moist and balance soil temperatures.

Another area to be aware of is keeping the Alocasia species well-watered, especially during Tallahassee and Leon County’s dry times. Just remember this plant needs about an inch of rain per week. During those times of drought, supplemental watering is necessary.

The last thing is monitor for any diseases or pests. If you check with the local Cooperative Extension Office over on Paul Russell Rd or contact us for safe pest controls, you can get.

Mr. D’s answers to common Elephant’s Ear questions

  • Are elephant ears considered perennials or annuals?

Most elephant’s ear plants Colocasia, Alocasia, Caladium, and Xanthosoma are perennials. However, when gardening in a more cooling hardiness zone then treat them as annuals. The other option is to dig up their tubers in late fall or before your early winter frost in colder zones. What you want to do over the winter season is keep them in a dry and cool location.

  • I’ve heard elephant ears will bloom, is that true?

It is rare, but Elephant’s ears have been known to bloom, it’s just unpredictable. Keep in mind this plant is solely grown for tropical foliage use, so flowering is not that common. But if you do see a bloom also known as a spathe, you might see it budding at the beginning of spring, when the plant is first taken outdoors and fertilized.

  • How long does it take for elephant ears sprout?

If the Elephant ears are newly planted, you can expect it to sprout in three to eight weeks. If the plant, is already established (second season and beyond), then when the weather begins warming up in the spring, sprouting begins. In warmer climates, like south Florida elephant ears will sprout faster than in colder climates such as Tallahassee.

  • Do elephant ears spread?

It all depends on the variety of Elephant’s ear you’ve planted. Some elephant ears grow in clumps, while others spread across the ground. Now depending on the runners, you may quickly get a large number of plantings, which might not be good. If you want to keep the elephant ears under control, then look at the varieties that are clumping.

  • Can I plant elephant ears in my home?

Yes, many gardeners favor doing this first. They will plant elephant ears in a pot or container, usually during the wintertime. Then by late spring or early summer, they will transfer the plant into their garden. A good rule of thumb with indoor elephant ear planting is to start about 5-6 weeks after the cold season ends.

  • Are elephant ears poisonous for cats and dogs?

Unfortunately, Elephant’s ear plants are poisonous to cats, dogs, humans, and will cause serious illness if picked off the plant and eaten without getting cooked first. Should this happen, the mouth and throat will have a burning sensation. Also, you’ll notice drooling and vomiting, and we recommend seeking immediate medical attention.

If you’re thinking about planting Elephant’s Ear perennials, and need more information, give us a call and speak to one of our landscaping specialists. Or stop by the Dickerson Landscaping nursery at 12 Hayfield Spur, over in Lloyd. We have a vast selection of perennials you can browse through too.

If you found the Elephant’s Ear material interesting, then check out our Snapdragon plant column and let us know your thoughts!