Elephant Ear, Taro, etc.
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT
Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott is the correct and accepted scientific name of this species of Colocasia. It was first described as such by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott in Meletemata Botanica in 1832. It was first described as Arum esculentum L. by Carl von Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753.
The species Colocasia esculenta is highly variable. There at AT LEAST 65 synonyms. Colocasia esculenta can produce plants of varying size, leaf shapes and sizes and varying colors. In fact, the entire Araceae family is highly variable. There are ten accepted genera in the family that contain over 3,000 species. For an excellent read about Colocasia esculenta, visit the Exotic Rainforest website. This is an AWESOME website for sure and once you go there, you will spend hours reading and then come back for more.
Although we all know what an Elephant Ear and think it is grown for its foliage, it is actually grown for its edible tubers in other parts of the world. Here in the US, we mainly grow them as ornamentals. I could write a long page about the Colocasia esculenta but I would just be re-writing what others have said. If you want to know more about them, check out the information on the Wikipedia. There are MANY other very good websites about the Colocasia and the other members of the Araceae Family.
I started with two Colocasia esculenta bulbs in the spring of 2009. I know one came from Fred’s in Greenville, Mississippi but I don’t remember where the other one came from. Maybe Suzanne bought it from Ebay. Anyway, I planted one by the front porch and one in the backyard next to the old goldfish pool.
The Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ next to it was bought as a starter plant. When I planted the C. ‘Black Magic’ the Colocasia esculenta had just started to sprout.
Growing Colocasia esculenta for the first time was a real treat that has led me on an incredible journey.
The above photo shows the first of several offsets produced by this AWESOME plant.
2010 was a busy year, so I didn’t take many photos.
This area next to the west sunroom of the mansion was nothing but ivy and Vinca major (I think that is the correct name). I removed that whole mess, dug up the area the best I could and planted a whole row Colocasia esculenta. This wasn’t all of them, though. There are more in the backyard. Amazing how it all started with just two top-sized bulbs.
In ideal conditions, the Colocasia esculenta can grow to well over 6 feet tall.
I had a lot of fun at the mansion in Mississippi growing a lot of new and interesting plants. I expended the west bed and bought several other Colocasia. SO, for 2012, the west bed contained: Nandina domestica along the wall, then a row of Colocasia esculenta. I planted an Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ (Red Absybbian Banana) in the center thinking it would grow pretty fast. Well, I bought it as a started plant, so that didn’t happen. There are Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart), Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny), ‘Petite’ Marigolds, Celosia spicata ‘Punky Red’, Celosia argentea ‘Heirloom Giant Burgundy’, Colocasia antiquorum or fontanesii-Black Stem Taro, Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum ‘Black Beauty’, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Ruffles’, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’, Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ (aka. ‘Tea Cups’) and Colocasia ‘Bikini Tini. I think that is all… OH, yeah, I almost forgot the Alpina zerumbet (Shell Ginger) and the Cuphea lanceolata ‘Purple Passion’.
The Colocasia esculenta in the backyard were equally as nice as the plants in the west bed. The above photo is of one of the original bulbs I planted in 2009. It was so HUGE!!! Actually, if you know anything about Colocasia, they keep growing new bulbs on top of the old one. Under the right conditions, they get larger, if not, they get smaller. I know from experience because that happened to mine here in Missouri.
The above photo is the same “group” as in the photo before. The plant to the right is Hedychium coronarium (Butterfly Ginger).
I moved from the mansion in Mississippi back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013. I took a lot of plants with me but I gave up several hundred pots. I brought most of the Colocasia esculenta with me, with no idea what I was going to do with them. SO, I dug two new beds in front of the chicken house and planted several of them there.
Well, truthfully, I was expecting them to grow here as well as they did in Mississippi. I had been away from the farm for 26 years. A lot had changed and I had to get used to gardening here all over again. Even though I amended the soil with composted cow manure, which we have plenty of, they fell short of my expectations.
The worse thing for a gardener is when the first frost hits. Even though I was only in Mississippi for a few years, I liked the fact that we didn’t have a frost until December. The first year I was back here it greeted me on the morning of October 25, 2013. I had already moved the Alocasia, cactus and succulents, and the other potted plants in the house. Here, we are supposed to let the Colocasia get zapped, cut off the petioles and then dig up the bulbs and store them in a cool dark place for the winter.
When spring came once again, I planted the Colocasia esculenta in front of the chicken house AGAIN. They did better in 2014, but still not as good as I thought they could. SO, I was wondering and thinking of other areas that they may do better.
Once again in the spring of 2015, I put them back in the same bed in front of the chicken house. STILL, they didn’t do well. I knew I was going to have to do something because the bulbs seemed to be getting smaller instead of bigger. GEEZ!!! They didn’t lack for water because I dumped the chicken’s water on them every morning and even gave them water besides that. The soil is fertile and amended with cow manure. SO, I thought perhaps maybe it was the light. They get afternoon sun for a while, but I started paying more attention to how much they were actually getting.
SO, in 2016 I planted a couple of the largest bulbs in the bed on the north side of the house. WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT MADE!!!
Now, that is more like it!!! Luckily, we didn’t get an early frost in 2016.
They did even better in 2017. They were 54″ tall when the above photo was taken on August 20. The largest leaf measured 34″ long x 24″ wide. Ummm, I bought a Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ and planted it between the Colocasia esculenta and the porch.
It has been fun watching the Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ and Colocasia esculenta grow this year. It seems almost like they were in a race, never more than a few inches different in height.
For the past few years, I have been planting the smaller Colocasia esculenta on both sides of what used to be the front porch of my grandparent’s old house. NO, they don’t get enough sun so they don’t get that large and neither do their bulbs. They are also often neglected when I water the other beds because of their location. I have an idea for 2018, though. You will just have to wait and see.
I finally decided it was time to get the Colocasia esculenta rhizomes out and figure out where to plant them. I didn’t get them all planted in 2017…
I put the two largest rhizomes in the bed along the north side of the house as usual. I managed to plant most of the smaller ones along the north side of the chicken house. I put a few in front of the Cannas on the south side of the garage and a few around a few trees.
In 2017, I had found a Leucocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ (syn. Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’) at one of the local greenhouses that I put on the left side of the bed. I stored it like the Colocasia and it did fine until about time to plant, then it rotted. I found a listing on Ebay for “bulbs”. It is very rare that you find Leucocasia gigantea rhizomes online, so out of curiosity, I bought one. When it arrived it looked like a white sweet potato so I knew something was whacky… As it turned out, it was a Xanthosoma, not a Colocasia, or Leucocasia.
I have grown Colocasia esculenta here on the farm in mid-Missouri since the spring of 2013 and none had ever flowered. They flowered profusely when I lived in Mississippi starting in September (usually). I was SHOCKED when the Colocasia esculenta had a flower on July 8 in 2018! I was weeding and noticed it otherwise I would have completely missed it. I was certainly not expecting a flower, especially in July. That is much earlier than in Mississippi!
The Colocasia esculenta in the center of the bed sent up several plants right away even though I only planted one rhizome. It had several eyes so I was expecting this.
It seemed like the Colocasia esculenta grew larger much faster than the one in the center of the bed. Possibly because it was a single plant… This is the plant that had the flower…
Last year the Colocasia esculenta were on a race to stay the same height as the Leucocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’. They seemed somewhat confused this year because their cousin wasn’t worried about competing in height. It was spreading out…
Well, it did it again! It’s second flower on 10-5-18!
The Colocasia esculenta in the center of the bed did very well…
However, the largest leaf…
Was on the plant in the left side of the bed.
I need to do some work on this bed…
While I was taking plant photos on October 10, I saw the third flower for the Colocasia esculenta on the right side of the bed. I think surely it made history producing its first flower in USDA Zone 6a (or b) in July. For them to flower here at all is amazing. Most everyone around here had never seen a Colocasia esculenta flower.
The Colocasia esculenta did very well in 2018 and soon we will get an “F” and that will be that.
When I checked on the Colocasia esculenta rhizomes when I was getting close to plant them, I discovered disaster had struck. I have not had the crown of my Colocasia esculenta rhizomes rot before. I cleaned them off and allowed them to dry. I didn’t have any kind of fungicide at the time and a friend suggested I use cinnamon as a substitute. Well, I didn’t do that either. We had lingering cool and wet temperatures this spring which didn’t help and I had to wait a while longer than usual to get them planted.
Last spring I planted several of the smaller Colocasia esculenta rhizomes in the Canna bed along the south side of the garage. I didn’t dig them up last fall but I always mulch the Cannas pretty heavily (since they aren’t supposed to be hardy here). Interestingly, ALL the Colocasia esculenta came up in the Canna bed…
I went ahead and planted the two larger Colocasia esculenta rhizomes in the north bed as usual. The top had rotted, as I mentioned, but there were several eyes around the rhizome. So, naturally, when they came up, I have multiples…
Even though the Colocasia esculenta are probably the most widely grown Elephant Ear, they are a very dramatic plant. They are very easy to grow as long as they have the right amount of light and plenty of water. The soil stays moist longer on the north side of the house which is one reason they do so well here.
Well, we had our first frost and I will soon dig the Colocasia rhizomes and store them in the basement for the winter.
This page will continually be under construction for as long as I grow Colocasia esculenta and I am able. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I would like to hear from you.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.