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Tips for Growing Elephant Ears in Containers

Elephant ears (Colocasia and Alocasia) are tropical plants grown for their stunning, often enormous leaves, which can be lime green, variegated or nearly black. These summer-loving plants grow from a bulb that should be planted in the spring. They take well to growing in pots, provided you follow a few guidelines.

Alocasia produce very large leaves that are held upright, nearly vertical.

Alocasia produce very large leaves that are held upright, nearly vertical.

Alocasia grow more upright than Colocasia, with very large leaves that can stand nearly vertical. It can transition to a houseplant and remain in green growth all year. Meanwhile the relatively smaller leaves of Colocasia varieties require a dormant period; these plants will die back in the fall and rest over the winter.

To grow either Alocasia or Colocasia in a container, follow these key tips:

Choose a container that's at least 18 inches wide and 16 inches deep for Colocasia varieties, or 36 inches wide for the larger Alocasia varieties. Using large pots will allow these plants to develop to their greatest potential and it also means you won't need to repot them for several years. Larger pots also dry out more slowly than smaller pots, and elephant ears need consistently moist soil.

The container should be made of a nonporous material, such as plastic, fiberglass or glazed clay, rather than plain terra cotta. This will help retain moisture in the soil. 

Adding compost to a commercial potting mix will further enhance its moisture-retaining abilities while also boosting nutrition. Elephant ears are heavy feeders. You can also fertilize them about once a month, following package directions, to boost growth, or treat them to a slow-release fertilizer at the start of the season. 

Check the containers daily to see if they need water. 

Image credit: Nadya J./