Learn About Elephant Ears

Posted in: Other Flowers
Learn About Elephant Ears

How to Plant

How to Plant Elephant Ear Tubers:

  • Plant elephant ear bulbs outside after all danger of frost has passed and daytime temperatures remain above 70 degrees. Elephant Ears are tropical plants and cannot tolerate any frost. They only emerge when the soil is warm.
  • Select a location in full sun or part sun with a good, rich, moist, organic soil.
  • Prepare the bed for elephant ears by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Then, level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Most elephant ear plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a wonderful form of organic matter with a good balance of nutrients and an ideal pH level, and it can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available, top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will begin to breakdown into compost. After the growing season, a soil test will indicate what soil amendments are needed for the following season.
  • Plant elephant ear bulbs 2-4 feet apart. Plant so the growing tip is up.
  • Dig a hole so that the top of the bulb is 4 inches deeper than the soil line. Cover with 4 inches of soil.
  • Tubers may be started inside 6-8 weeks before all danger of frost has passed. Plant the tubers individually in 6 inch pots using a good quality potting soil or seed starting soil. They require a warm soil in order to emerge so consider using a heat mat.

Planting Potted Elephant Ear Plants in the Garden:

  • Select a location in full or part sun with quality soil that is moist, rich, and organic.
  • To properly prepare the bed for growing elephant ears, start by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. After, level the soil with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Again, most elehpant ear plants respond well to soils amended with organic matter. Compost is a nurtient rich form of organic matter that has an ideal pH level, and can be added to your planting area at any time. If compost is not available in your area, then top dress the soil after planting with 1-2 inches of organic mulch, which will breakdown into compost over time. After the growing season, you can test the soil to find out what amendments are needed for the following season.
  • Plants should stand 2-4 feet apart in the garden.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Set level with or a little deeper than the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
  • Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker.

How to Grow

Growing Elephant Ears In Your Garden

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals an organic mulch of shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Keep elephant ear plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots. Elephant Ears benefit from a granular fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Many gardeners remove any flower stalks that develop to keep the strength in the plant.
  • Elephant Ears are only hardy in zone 10. In other locations in the fall, after the first frost or when the foliage begins to die back, dig up the bulbs with the soil and tops clinging to them. Let bulbs dry inside, out of direct sun with plenty of air circulation. Remove the leaves when they are easily tugged away from the bulb, shake off the soil, do not wash. Store bulbs in dry peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. Do not store the bulbs below 50 degrees.

Growing Annual Flower Plants


Growing Tips

  • Elephant ears are great for adding a tropical feel to your garden.
  • They may be planted in large containers.
  • Elephant ear foliage adds drama to large flower arrangements.
  • Plants cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.

Common Disease Problems

Dasheen Mosaic Virus: The most characteristic sign of uneven light and dark patterns on leaves, or clearly defined ring spots. Growth may be stunted. This virus can be spread by aphids. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Control aphids. 

Leaf Spots: This causes tan spotting on the foliage and causes plants to lose vigor. Burpee Recommends: Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots. Burpee Recommends: Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems causing weak plant growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash infected plant parts under the faucet and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

Root Maggots: Leaves wilt and growth is stunted. These maggots are white and feed on the roots. They leave brown tunnels in the root.  Burpee Recommends: Introduce natural enemies to the area. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations which must be applied prior to planting.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.


How To Grow Elephant Ears

Do elephant ears produce flowers? Yes, but elephant ear flowers are usually hidden by the colorful foliage. Many gardeners remove them to keep the strength in the plant.

Can I start elephant ears inside? Yes, elephant ears tend to emerge fairly late in spring, even early summer, when planted directly in the garden so many gardeners prefer to start them early indoors. Start them about 6 weeks before last frost. Plant one inch deep in pots large enough to accommodate the bulbs, use a good quality potting soil. Keep the soil barely moist but not wet. A heat mat can make them emerge more quickly.

My elephant ear plant lost a leaf should I be worried? No, it is normal for elephant ears to drop old leaves as they produce new ones.

Why haven’t my elephant ears emerged? I planted them four weeks ago. Elephant ear plants tend to emerge late because the soil must be thoroughly warm.

What kind of elephant ears are carried at Burpee seeds? We carry two types of elephant ears for sale:

October 29, 2021
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