How to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs

Created by Kinsey Harris, Modified on Tue, 06 Dec 2022 at 08:33 AM by Kinsey Harris


Alocasia and colocasia, better known as elephant ears, are impressive plants that are prized for their dramatic foliage. Their huge leaves can measure up to 2 feet across and the foliage color ranges from lime green to almost black. Upright elephant ears (Alocasia) have shiny leaves that often display colorful variegations. They can be grown indoors as well as out. Colocasia have a more spreading habit and their leaves typically have a velvety surface texture. Elephant ears can easily hold their own as a solo plant in the garden or in a large container. They also combine beautifully with other summer bulbs and annuals.


SUN OR SHADE: Elephant ears can be planted in sun or shade. If you put them in a hot, sunny location, make sure they get a little shade during the middle of the day.

ZONE: Elephant ears are tropical plants. In zones 9-11 they can be grown outdoors year-round. In cooler areas (zones 3-8) the bulbs are planted in the spring and usually grown as annuals. 

WHEN TO PLANT: Elephant ears are planted in spring after any danger of frost has passed. The bulbs will not produce until the soil is warm, so don't plant until the soil temperature is 65ºF. To get a jump on the season, elephant ears can be planted indoors, 4 to 6 weeks before you plant them outside. Plant the bulbs in pots and place them by a warm, sunny window.


CONTAINERS, PATIOS AND DECKS: Elephant ears are a perfect solution for shady porches, decks and other places around your home that are not in full sun. Their huge, heart-shaped leaves add a tropical feel to pools, spas and water gardens.

WALLS AND FENCES: Planting elephant ears next to a wall or fence protects the plants from wind and too much sun. It also puts their big leaves to work, softening straight lines and adding visual interest to blank walls.

ENTRYWAYS: Add a "wow" to your front door by planting elephant ears in large containers. They make a big statement and always impress guests. Plant them on their own or pair them with other plants such as caladiums.

SCREENING: The broad leaves and tall stems of elephant ears can be used to screen an unwanted view or define a space in your garden. Planting them along a property line or around an outdoor living area will make your yard feel more private.

INDOOR HOUSEPLANT: Upright elephant ears can also be grown indoors as long as the plants get enough light and water. Their attractive foliage can be an exciting feature all year round.

 Elephant Ear Bulbs and Planting


1. Wait until the soil is warm and there's no danger of frost. Loosen the soil. Dig a hole about 3 times the size of the bulb deep.

2. Set the bulb in the hole, pointy side up. The top of the bulb should be 1” below the soil surface.

3. Cover with soil and water thoroughly.


In warm, frost-free climates (zones 9-11), elephant ears can be grown outdoors year-round. In cooler areas (zones 3-8) they are usually grown as annuals. When planted in spring, they become big, impressive plants within just a few months, so be sure to give them plenty of room.

Plant elephant ears in rich, well-drained soil. Improving the soil with compost or topsoil will add nutrients and improve the soil's water-holding capacity.

For elephant ears to reach their full size, they need consistent moisture throughout the summer. They also benefit from an application of liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.


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