Elephant Ear Plants: Complete Care And Growing Guide

The large floppy leaves of elephant ear plants are a great tropical touch in a garden where the soil is rich and water is plentiful.

Large Elephant Ear Plants
(Image credit: Julie Deshaies)


Botanical name - Colocassia spp., Alocasia spp., Xanthosoma spp. 

Height - 3 to 10 feet (0.9 to 3.0 m)

Spread - 3 to 10 feet (0.9 to 3.0 m)

Sun exposure - Full sun to partial shade

Soil requirements - Rich and moist

Hardiness zones - 8 to 12

When to plant - Spring

Elephant Ear Plant Care

Elephant ears are easy to grow year-round outside in warmer climates. In cooler climates, dig up the corms for winter storage and enjoy them again the next year.


Most elephant ears can grow in full sun but prefer some shade. Where the climate is very hot, plant them in an area with afternoon shade.


Elephant ears need a lot of moisture to thrive. Plant them in an area where the soil stays moist or even has standing water throughout the growing season. If you are growing in containers or in drier soils, you will need to water these plants frequently.

Temperature & Humidity

As tropical plants, elephant ears prefer warmth and high humidity. They are only hardy outside through zone 8 in North America. Ideally, temperatures should not dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).


Elephant ears thrive in moist soils or even a few inches of water. They prefer fertile, loamy soil with plenty of organic material.


This is a heavy feeder, so provide fertilizer at least once a month during the growing season. Use an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer.


Elephant ear plants only need light pruning. They develop new foliage as the growing season progresses. The older leaves will droop and turn brown. Trim these off as needed to keep the plant looking tidy.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

There aren’t a lot of major pests or diseases that bother elephant ear plants, but they can become subject to fungal leaf blight and phyllosticta leaf spot. In certain warm regions this plant can become invasive.

Planting Elephant Ear Bulbs

Technically corms, but often referred to as bulbs, these are fleshy underground portions of the elephant ear stem that store nutrients and water. Elephant ear bulb planting should take place in spring after the last frost. To get an earlier start, plant the corms indoors in containers and move outside as the weather warms.  

To plant them, dig a hole two to four times larger than the bulb. Plant the bulb or corm with the top close to the surface of the soil, no more than one or two inches (2.5 to 5.0 cm) deep.

Growing Elephant Ears in Pots

Most elephant ear species are easy to grow in containers. Because soil in pots dry out faster than in beds, container-grown plants need even more frequent watering. Regular fertilizer is also a must for potted elephant ears. 

How to Propagate Elephant Ear Plants

Most elephant ears propagate by producing new tubers or corms underground. Pull up the plant in the fall and look for small cormlets to remove and replant. Or, cut off small tubers from the large tuber of the mother plant for repotting.

Some species of elephant ear send off runners to form new plants, called pups. You can remove these pups from the parent plant and repot them.

Types of Elephant Ear Plants

There are three genera of plants with the common name elephant ear:

Colocasia provides most of the species and cultivars grown in North American gardens. The leaves of Colocasia species point downwards as they grow.

Alocasia species have more upright leaves that point up as they grow.

Xanthosoma species are native to the tropical Americas, while the other two are native to Asia.

Once less common in North American gardens, you can now find many species and varieties of elephant ear. They come in a range of sizes and with foliage in various colors, textures, and sizes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Elephant Ear Plants Easy to Care For?

Elephant ear care is moderately easy. If the soil where planted isn’t consistently moist, you will need to water it regularly. It will also benefit from regular fertilizer application and light pruning.

Are Elephant Ear Plants Poisonous?

Elephant ears contain oxalate crystals, which are irritating to the skin. Once cooked, the plant is edible. The tuber of the elephant ear is used in many cuisines where they are native. Taro root in Hawaii comes from an elephant ear.

The most likely reason for drooping elephant ear foliage is lack of moisture. The soil should never fully dry out. Check the soil and keep it well watered. 

Are Elephant Ear Plants Poisonous?Why Is My Elephant Ear Plant Drooping?

The most likely reason for drooping elephant ear foliage is lack of moisture. The soil should never fully dry out. Check the soil and keep it well watered. 

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.