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Elephant Ears Colocasia esculenta

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Zantedeschia virosa
Phonetic Spelling
kol-oh-KAY-see-uh es-kew-LEN-tuh
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Native to eastern Asia, Colocasia esculenta, or Taro, is a tender herbaceous perennial that grows best in organically rich, wet soil and tropical climates. It prefers full sun to part shade or filtered sun and can be a great plant for planting at the edge of the understory of a tree or as a border. It should be consistently watered and not allowed to dry out. It can also be found commonly as a houseplant, though it does require more sun than many houseplants. This plant uses a corm for storage during the winter months and can spread and be divided much like other perennials with storage organs. This organ is used for food (Taro) in many regions of Southeast Asia where it is native. The roots can be identified by their swollen stem tissue and ring-like scars. Taro is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants.

This plant is not known for its flowers though it does produce some. It is more widely known for its large and sometimes ornately colored foliage which adds a smooth texture to the landscape.

This plant is only hardy in zones 8-10. Any zones which are colder than these should either use C. esculenta as an annual plant or overwinter the corm indoors from first frost in the Fall, to late April in a cool, dry area that is kept above 45°F. Alternatively you could use C. esculenta as a potted plant and bring the pot inside for the same duration of time.

For best results with young plants or propagation, plant in a 5 gallon pot with rich soil and high moisture in sun to partial shade.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Tropical Look Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Black Coral'
    Deep Black/Purple foliage with large fleshy leaves
  • 'Black Magic'
    unusual purplish-black leaves
  • 'Fontanesia'
  • 'Hilo Bay'
    Both deep green and lighter green leaves. Dark purple stalk color.
  • 'Illustris'
  • 'Rhubarb'
    Pleasant green foliage with red-pink stems
'Black Coral', 'Black Magic', 'Fontanesia', 'Hilo Bay', 'Illustris', 'Rhubarb'
Tags:
#sun#bulb#poisonous#full sun#partial shade#water garden#rain garden#houseplant#perennial#corm#showy leaves#interiorscape#large leaves#water plant#wet sites#division#wet soils tolerant#problem for cats#ebh#problem for dogs#problem for horses#ebh-g
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Black Coral'
    Deep Black/Purple foliage with large fleshy leaves
  • 'Black Magic'
    unusual purplish-black leaves
  • 'Fontanesia'
  • 'Hilo Bay'
    Both deep green and lighter green leaves. Dark purple stalk color.
  • 'Illustris'
  • 'Rhubarb'
    Pleasant green foliage with red-pink stems
'Black Coral', 'Black Magic', 'Fontanesia', 'Hilo Bay', 'Illustris', 'Rhubarb'
Tags:
#sun#bulb#poisonous#full sun#partial shade#water garden#rain garden#houseplant#perennial#corm#showy leaves#interiorscape#large leaves#water plant#wet sites#division#wet soils tolerant#problem for cats#ebh#problem for dogs#problem for horses#ebh-g
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Colocasia
    Species:
    esculenta
    Family:
    Araceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Traditionally used medicinally for the treatment of digestive disorders.
    Life Cycle:
    Bulb
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    India to Southern China and Sumatera
    Bulb Storage:
    Corm
    Edibility:
    Poisonous until cooked. Poisons neutralized by thoroughly drying or cooking the plant or by steeping it in water. Taro root used in Southeastern Asian cuisine. Use salted water and boil for at least one hour. They are rich in vitamins A and C and they have more protein, phosphorus and calcium than a regular potato. Their starch is easily digested so it is often used in infant formulas as a first baby food.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Water Plant
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Horizontal
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Spadix
    Flower Description:
    Rarely flowers. White or yellow spadix with a greenish or yellow spathe.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Peltate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are very large (up to 3 ft.). They are heart-shaped to arrow-shaped with prominent veins. The apex is obtuse while the base is somewhere between cordate and auriculate. The petiole comes out from the center of the leaf. There is a wide variety of colors and patterns.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Pond
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    Oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing can result from eating parts of this plant. Causes an extremely unpleasant sensation similar to needles being stuck into the mouth and tongue. All parts of the plant are poisonous unless cooked first.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Calcium oxalate crystals
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems