Common Names: Green Taro, Elephant Ears
Description & Habit: From a genus or seven tropical plants, Colocasia esculenta is the species most often available to the trade. An erect tuberous rootstock is marked with ringlike scars where former leaves have dropped off. Hean-shaped to arrow-shaped leaves resemble elephant ears, hence its common name. Leaves grow to 1m (3ft.) in length, with the plant growing 0.6-1.8m (2-6 ft.).
Flowers: Calla lily-like flowers with yellowish-white spathes and spadix are infrequently produced and usually hidden by the foliage when they do occur.
Watering: Medium to wet. When growing plants in garden soils, provide regular moisture, especially during dry summer periods, and do not allow soils to dry out. Plants may also be grown as pond marginals standing in water.
Potting & growing: Pot in 20l (5-gallons) pots or larger in rich topsoil. Grow in full sun to pan shade. The plant may be hardy outdoors to Zone 8, but is easily wintered indoors as a houseplant in a saucer of water in a sunny window.
Plants produce prodigious amounts of growth and appreciate regular fertilization during the growing season. Site plants in locations protected form strong winds. Tubers may be left in the ground year-round. However, when growing in Zone 8, the tubers should be planted in the ground in mid-spring, dug up in fall after first frost and then overwintered in a cool dry location (set in dry peat or wood shavings) where temperatures do not dip below 7oC (45oF).
Propagation: Cut off and pot up “pups” produced on terminal ends of stolons.
Uses: Rain Garden, Suitable as Annual, Water Plant. Lends a large tropical look to gardens, water margins and large containers. Excellent as a specimen or in groups.
Colocasia antiquorum Imperial Taro. Dark green foliage is overlaid with velvety black be1wcen the wins. Grow in sun to part shade in 2.5-15cm (1-6 in.) of 21oC (70oF) or higher.
Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ Black Taro. Growing to 1.2 m (4 ft.), masses of dusty charcoal-black leaves on dark burgundy/black stems are spectacular.
Colocasia esculenta ‘Fontanesia’ Violet-Stemmed Taro. Very dark purple stems contrast with large green leaves on a plant that grows 0.6-1.2 m (2-4 ft.)
Colocasia esculenta ‘Rubra’ Cranbeny or Red-Stemmed Taro. Dusty green leaves top brilliant red stems. Grows to 1.2 m (4 ft.).
Comments: If allowed to grow year-round, either outside in tropical zones or wintered indoors, plants will attain maximum height. Otherwise, a single season’s growth is usually around 0.6m (2 ft.). No serious insect or disease problems.
This species is also commercially grown as a food crop in Hawaii (poi is made from the tubers) where it is commonly called taro.
Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Light: Full sun to part shade