AUBURN, Alabama—Elephant ears are indigenous to Southeast Asia and feature large, thick leaves reminiscent of their namesake. The plant is used in many home gardens as an eye-catching focal point or in contrast to smaller plants. Although elephant ears are typically green, there are varieties created by breeders that add pinks, blues, yellows and black to your garden.
They do not require an abundance of time and energy to grow, but there are some things you should know for your plant to thrive.
How to Grow
According to Alabama Extension agent in commercial horticulture Monte Baugh, elephant ears differ from other southern landscape plants because a single leaf can grow to be more than 4 feet in just a few months. Because elephant ears grow so large, plant in areas where there is enough room to develop.
“Many leaves can get more than 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide in one growing season, so just one plant goes a long way,” said Baugh. He recommends researching the different varieties of elephant ear before you choose one because some varieties can end up dominating your garden in a few years.
When planting elephant ears as bulbs, they will grow best about three inches deep in well-drained soil. You should plant elephant ears at soil level when planting from a container. The soil should be fertile with organic matter for your plant to thrive.
After choosing a spacious area with healthy soil, make sure your elephant receives adequate sunlight. Baugh said the plant will flourish in full to partial sun, or about four to eight hours a day.
How to Maintain
To ensure your elephant ears stay alive and grow to their peak, you need to fertilize them well. “A six (or more) month slow-release fertilizer applied in the early spring or at the time of planting is a good way to ensure they have plenty of food for the growing season,” he said.
Baugh explains that elephant ears are a perennial plant, meaning they are dormant during the winter and regenerate in the spring. But this does not mean you can ignore the plant when winter begins. There are things you should do to maintain elephant ears even when they are dormant. Throughout the winter, trim any dead leaves from the plant so that fungal diseases do not transfer to the bulbs.
Although most elephant ears go dormant during winter, some varieties may die in colder climates. To prevent this from happening, dig up the plant and cut the leaves from the bulb. Baugh said you should store the bulbs in a dry, cool place. When the next spring arrives, your elephant ear bulbs should be ready to plant again in your garden.
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