ALOCASIA VS COLOCASIA
Pete says it’s important to know what kind of elephant ears you’re growing. The common name “elephant ears” covers two different plant species.
Alocasias have glossy, heart-shaped leaves that may be solid green or decorated with light or dark patterns. You can recognize them by the way the leaves are displayed: the bottom tip of the heart either points out, perpendicular to the stem or is held straight up to the sky. Alocasias such as Odora, prefer partial shade and though they need to be watered regularly, they should always be grown in well-drained soil.
Colocasias display their leaves with the tip of the heart pointing downward. These are moisture-loving plants and it’s almost impossible to overwater them. Though colocasias such as Black Stem will grow in part shade, they need full sun to reach their maximum size.There’s another other significant difference between these two types of elephant ears. Alocasias don’t shed their leaves in the winter. So if you live in zones 4-8, where the plants are not hardy, you can simply grow them indoors as houseplants during the winter months. Pete has a big Alocasia ‘Odora’ in his office and said this is the fourth time he’s brought it in for the winter.
HEAT AND HUMIDITY
Most elephant ears are native to tropical regions: the Amazon Basin, Central Africa or Southeast Asia. The air in these climates is hot and steamy, and soil temperatures rarely fall below 80°F. Though you may not be able to replicate these ideal growing conditions, you can give your elephant ears a warm, sheltered spot where they are protected from drying winds.
South-central New Jersey is in hardiness zone 7 and Pete has great success growing elephant ears in the garden as well as in planters — though he says the ones in planters usually grow twice as large.
The key is to WAIT and not plant the tubers too early. In the central U.S., elephant ears should not be planted outdoors until after Memorial Day. In northern areas, it’s best to wait until mid-June. If you grow caladiums, plant your elephant ears on the same schedule.
ELEPHANT EARS LOVE MOISTURE
Last year, one of Pete’s elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) grew almost 8 feet tall. The secret? He planted it beside his outdoor faucet! Colocasias have an insatiable thirst and the more water they get, the bigger they grow.LOTS OF CHOICES