How to Water & Care for Elephant Ears

Large-leafed elephant ears make a bold garden accent.
Large-leafed elephant ears make a bold garden accent. (Image: elephant ears image by robert mobley from

Elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) are a herbaceous perennial with large, heart-shaped leaves. Over 200 cultivars of elephant ears exist, from the chartreuse green ‘Lime Zinger’ to the deep burgundy ‘Black Magic.’ Elephant ears are hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11, growing as a returning perennial in the cooler zones and surviving year-round in warmer climates. Elephant ears prefer partial shade and moist to soggy soil conditions. When properly cared for, colorful elephant ears can add a dramatic accent to your landscape.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic mulch such as straw or wood chips
  • Fertilizer, water-soluble 20-20-20
  • Pruning shears
  • Garden spade
  • Peat moss
  • Vermiculite

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Water your elephant ears frequently during the growing season to keep the soil very moist. Elephant ears need plenty of water to thrive. In the warmer zones, the growing season is year-round; in zones 9 and below, stop watering when the weather becomes cool and the leaves turn yellow.

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the bases of your elephant ears to help the soil retain moisture. An organic mulch such as straw or wood chips will also help prevent competing weed growth.

Fertilize your elephant ears monthly during the growing season. Use a balanced 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer, following package directions for application.

Move container-grown elephant ears indoors during the winter in areas subject to freezing conditions. Keep the plants indoors until all danger of frost is past.

Protect your elephant ears during the winter in zones 8B and 9. Cut the stalks down to 4 inches or less and cover them with a layer of mulch. Do not water the area until the weather warms and the elephant ears show new growth.

Dig up the elephant ear bulbs in zones 8 and below prior to the first freeze. Cut off all of the stems, dig up the bulbs and allow them to dry for a day or two. Store the dry bulbs in peat moss or vermiculite in a cool area such as a basement. Re-plant them outdoors when all danger of frost is past.


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