Guide To Growing An Elephant Ear Plant Indoors

An elephant ear plant indoors? Create a dramatic indoor focal point in a large room with this mega-leaf tropical plant. You can grow it as a houseplant if you give it warmth and light.

Potted Colocasia Plant
elephant ear houseplant
(Image credit: Kathryn8)

Tips For Growing An Elephant Ear Plant Indoors

Growing an elephant ear plant indoors may seem impossible. You may have seen elephant ear plants growing outside, and they probably impressed you with their mammoth tropical leaves, but can you grow elephant ear as a houseplant?

It is possible to grow an elephant ear plant indoors with a few caveats. Clearly, an indoor elephant ear plant will need some space even though it will likely not attain the size it would outdoors. Interested in an elephant ear plant for indoors? Read on to learn about elephant ear plant care indoors. 

About Elephant Ear Plant

Elephant ear plant is the common name for several tropical plants in the arum or aroid (Araceae) family. Elephant ear plants from the genera Colocasi, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma are cultivated as ornamentals, or for their edible starchy corms known as the “potatoes” of the tropics. 

A tender, herbaceous perennial with a clumping habit that grows from a corm or tuber, in its native habitat, elephant ears have smooth, waxy leaves. The leaves can grow from 3-9 feet (just under a meter to 2.7 m) in length and 2 feet (61 cm) across or more. 

Xanthosoma is native to tropical America while the other genera are indigenous to tropical southern Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, and areas of Australia and the Pacific Islands. All have similar growth habits and appearance, the most notable being their giant fan-like leaves. 

Can Elephant Ears Grow Inside?

The quick answer is yes, elephant ears can be grown indoors. You will however, need some space for the plant and be able to mimic the tropical environmental conditions this aroid thrives in. Plan ahead for the perfect warm, light space that you can provide with plenty of humidity.

Indoor Elephant Ear Plant Care

To grow an elephant ear inside, you will need to simulate the light, water, temperature, humidity, soil and nutrient needs the plant finds in the wild tropics. 


When grown outside, most varieties of elephant ear plants can be grown in partial shade however, the darker-leaved cultivars do better in full sun. Indoor plants should be grown in an area of bright light although watch out for direct sun which can bleach out or brown the leaf edges. 


Elephant ears like moist soil conditions, especially when they’re kept in containers but they do not like to be drowned. However, it’s important you do not allow indoor elephant ears to dry out either. Test the top couple of inches (5 cm) with your fingertip. If the surface is dry, water the plant. Water in small amounts, frequently. 

Temperature & Humidity

Since they are from the tropics, elephant plants enjoy warm temperatures and high humidity that needs to be mimicked indoors. These plants cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 F (10 C).  Those growing indoors should be kept at 70 F (21 C) or higher with a relative humidity of 50% or greater. 

To increase the humidity around your elephant ear plant, set the container on a tray of pebbles, mist the plant with water, or place it near a humidifier. 


Elephant ear plants are heavy feeders and need a moist, rich soil. For indoor plants, a standard, well-draining potting mix amended with nutrient rich compost is a good option. 


Aroids are heavy feeders but especially so when they are container grown. At the blush of the first new growth in the spring, begin feeding the plant with half strength liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season. 

Apply the last fertilizer treatment a couple of weeks before fall and then stop feeding the plant until the spring. You may also incorporate a slow release fertilizer at the start of the growing season. 


There is no need to prune elephant ear plants except to remove dying leaves. In the fall, most plants will experience dieback wherein the leaves will die. Snip them from the plant at this time, then allow the plant to go dormant until spring. During dormancy, reduce watering and stop fertilizing. 

Indoor Elephant Ear Problems

Some of the problems with growing indoor elephant ear plants involve too much or too little water. Too much water fosters fungal disease and root rot. Allowing the plant to dry out stresses it and in some cases enough so that the plant can’t rebound and will die. 

Dieback happens more often with outdoor plants (but can happen to those grown inside as well). If you place your plants in a warmer, better-lit area, you may avoid dieback which isn’t really a problem, it’s a natural event. Also, cold drafts can kill the plants so move them away from windows in the winter. 

The large, impressive leaves of elephant ear plants are prone to dustiness. Dust covers the pores or “stomata” of the leaves which can weaken the plants and result in disease. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth once a week to keep the plant healthy. 

This plant is also prone to red spider mites. These pests are super tiny and often just look like dust on the foliage. You may notice their delicate webs on the underside of the leaves. Spider mite infestations often occur when a plant has spent the summer outside. Wash the leaves with an insecticidal soap or use neem oil prior to bringing the plant back inside.

Planting & Repotting

Spring is the best time for repotting elephant ears. Repot using a standard potting medium, amended with compost. 

Choose a larger pot, no bigger than 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) than the current container. Remove the plant from its current pot and gently loosen the root ball. Set the plant into the new pot, spread the roots out, and fill it in with new potting medium. Make sure the soil level is the same as it was in the old pot. Water the newly potted elephant ear. 

Elephant Ear Plant Toxicity

Elephant ear plants contain calcium oxalate crystals in their sap. If people or animals ingest the sap, they can become very ill. The sap is rarely fatal but will cause unpleasant side effects. 

Types of Elephant Ear Plants for Indoor Growing

Both Colocasia and Alocasia can be grown in the garden or in containers, although Alocasia is most commonly used as a houseplant. 

Some Alocasias are great for growing inside include Black Velvet, Frydeck, New Guinea Shield, and Dawn, a rare specimen with gorgeous variegated leaves of green and cream. 

See our Complete Guide to Houseplants

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.