Elephant ears (Colocasia spp.) are frost-tender, moisture loving plants that can be planted as tubers or as plants growing in containers. Colocasia esculenta, hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, is a commonly grown variety of elephant ears. Featuring boldly veined leaves up to 2 feet long, this variety usually grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide.
These perennial plants become dormant in winter. The leaves and stems die down and the plants overwinter as tubers in the soil. In spring, the tubers sprout new shoots and roots, and the plants reappear. In USDA zone 7 and colder zones, elephant ears rarely survive winter outdoors.
Elephant ears are poisonous when eaten raw, and in some areas of the United States the plants are invasive.
The best time for planting elephant ear tubers depends on the USDA zone and the winter weather conditions. Elephant ear tubers survive winter best in slightly dry conditions. In USDA zones 8 and higher, if winter conditions are dry it's usually safe to plant the tubers at any time during winter. If the soil is usually wet at this time of year, wait until spring.
In USDA zone 7 and colder zones, plant elephant ear tubers after the final local average frost date in spring.
Planting in Containers
Most frost-free times of year are suitable for planting elephant ears in containers but spring planting gives the best results in cool and cold areas. These plants grow spring through fall, and in USDA zones 8 and warmer zones they can be planted outside at any time of year. In USDA zone 7 and colder areas, planting elephant ears in spring after the final local average frost date provides the longest growing season. Another benefit of spring planting is that in many cool and cold zones spring is often a rainy time of year, and elephant ears benefit from the moist air and soil.
Dig up elephant ear tubers in fall after the first frost and store them in a frost-free place indoors, ready for replanting the following spring.
Plant elephant ear tubers and plants in containers with moist to wet soil in partially shaded spots that receive about four to six hours of direct sunlight per day. The plants grow best when they receive protection from strong winds, so put them in a sheltered area.
Elephant ears grows well in up to12 inches of water.