Elephant ear plants (Colocasia esculenta) are mostly grown for their showy foliage as they have massive, ornamental leaves. Common names for elephant ear include taro, dasheen and coco yam. Elephant ears are generally planted in spring, once all danger of frost has passed, and only grow outdoors year-round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b through 11. They can flower from late spring to early fall. Elephant ears can be invasive and are on invasive plants databases for Texas and Florida.
Elephant ears may bloom from spring through to summer with inconspicuous green flowers on long stalks. The flower has a modified leaf or spathe that covers the stalk, while the stalk consists of a cluster of tiny flowers. Flowering depends upon growing conditions and elephant ear plants may not bloom every year. Their showy foliage make up for their lack of attractive flowers.
Elephant ears will grow up to 5 feet tall. The various cultivars bring a range of colors. "Black Magic" has burgundy or black foliage, "Chicago Harlequin" produces dark green foliage contrasted with random blotches of lighter green and the green foliage of "Illustris" has lime green veins and edging and is overlaid with black.
Also sometimes called elephant ears, pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia) grows in damp, shady areas. It produces tall panicles of pink flowers in spring. These plants grow up to 2 feet tall and are renowned for the vibrant fall colors. Pigsqueak grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 8.
Pigsqueak cultivars offer a range of spring bloom colors. "Silver Light" has white blooms, "Ballawlay" produces red flowers, while "Evening Glow's" flowers are magenta. The common variety blooms in pink.
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Plant Hardiness Zone Map
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Elephant Ear 'Illustris' or 'Black Magic'
- Texas Invasives: Invasives Database
- University of South Florida, Plant Atlas: Florida Invasive Plants
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension: Bulbs, Elephant Ear
- Iowa State University Extension & Outreach: Growing Elephant Ear
- Cornell University: Growing Guide, Bergenia
- Washington State University Whatcom County Extension: Plant of the Month, Elephant Ears
- University of Illinois Extension: Plant Palette, Bergenia
- Photo Credit Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images