Tropical Gardens

Plant and Grow Elephant Ear Bulbs 101

Giant elephant ear bulbs drying out after being lifted from the soil

The Elephant Ear plant, also known as Colocasia or Alocasia, is known for its huge leaves. This plant is great for layered landscape settings due to these heavy, dark, and sometimes patterned leaves.

Elephant ear plants come in various colors, which range from green to black and purple. If you’re thinking of planting elephant ear bulbs in your garden, you’ve come to the right place.

What Are Elephant Ear Bulbs?

Giant elephant ear bulbs drying out after being lifted from the soil
Giant elephant ear bulbs drying out after being lifted from the soil. Source: Fred Ortlip

Upright elephant ears are called alocasias, whereas elephant ears that go dormant are called colocasias. Both have bulbs, though the more accurate term is a corm.

Once planted, these plants grow fairly quickly and can double or even triple in size if they are taken care of properly. They are mostly grown in containers. These plants are easy to replant because you can simply break them and plant them somewhere else without starting all over again.

The elephant ear plant grew popular in the late 1990s, when tropical plants were the new trend since they came in many sizes and different colors. These plants are still very popular in tropical regions since they are huge and help in adding personality to your garden.

So, let’s figure out how to plant elephant ear bulbs properly so you can enjoy the beauty of this wonderful plant.

Before You Plant…

Before planting elephant bulbs, it is vital to keep the following things in mind.

Weather and Temperature

Elephant ear plants thrive in the sun and grow fast in the summer. They prefer warm weather around 50°F (10°C). However, if taken care of properly, these plants can survive in the winter, too. They can also be covered with layers of mulch that can protect them during winters.

These plants need the sun to grow. It is best to give them partial shade for a little while during an extremely hot day, but during winter days, it is best to give them direct sunlight.


The elephant ear plant should be grown in loamy soil that contains a lot of organic matter, which can be added through compost. The soil should be moist all year round since this plant needs a lot of moisture to grow.


The right spacing for this plant highly depends on the type of plant you are growing. Some plants need to be spaced 10′ feet apart, whereas some need to be spaced 6′ feet apart, since their roots need space to spread out under the soil.


Before planting elephant ear bulbs, make sure to pick the right tubers. If you pick tubers that are large, plump and firm enough to hold big leaves, the leaves of your elephant ears will grow big and lush. When planting, it’s a good idea to go at least 5-6″ inches deep since your plant will need a lot of space to grow.

It’s best to start growing them in large containers because it is easy to keep the soil moist, but you can certainly plant in-ground. Just make sure to cover the corms with at least 1″ inch of soil.


Make sure to keep watering this plant. Almost all elephant ear plants grow up to 72″ inches (183 cm) tall, or even taller, so they need a lot of water at all times. It is better to avoid the tips and the stems and water the roots since they provide moisture to the whole plant.


This plant grows fast, but it needs a lot of food to grow. Make sure to apply fertilizer regularly to make sure your plant doesn’t die.

How to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs

Corms of Colocasia esculenta ready for planting
Corms of Colocasia esculenta ready for planting. Source: Ahmad Fuad Morad

If you have a big, spacious garden, it is best to first pick a spot for this plant. For the elephant ears, choose a spot that will get a lot of sun and will have a temperature above 55°F (13°C). Before putting the corm in the soil, add 2 inches of compost since this plant needs a lot of organic matter to grow.

This plant thrives between pH 6-7. If your soil is too acidic, simply add lime or sulfur to balance the pH. The next step is to dig a hole that is at least 4″ inches deep and then place the bulb inside. The flat end of your bulb should be pointing down. After you’re done, cover the bulb with moist soil until it is completely covered.

Use a balanced fertilizer on your elephant ear plant every 2 weeks and your plant will grow fast. If you see any brown leaves, cut them before they increase in number and make sure to water your plant regularly to prevent that from happening.

During winters, lower the water intake and trim your leaves every once in a while. You can even move this plant indoors during winters.

Since it is easy to replant the elephant ear bulbs, you can always dig up the corms, but make sure to handle the bulbs with extreme care to prevent damage.

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