Stunning elephant ears enliven yards

Elephant ears (or Taro, Colocasia esculenta) are a tropical plant on which the corms can be eaten. In Ohio, they are grown as a display plant in the summer.

I began my adventure at the marked-down section of the local farm store. I gave some corms in the packet to friends, and I started two.

I was so impressed that I have started them indoors for summer flair ever since.

The plant is a Zone 8 (tropical), so starting inside is a must. Waiting to plant these outside after the last frost holds them back, so plan now for the biggest plants possible.

They require moist rich soil and lots of room. The huge elephant ears can be lime green, black, reds, mottled and patterned. They are stunning. I post mine on either side of my door in beautiful pots to greet visitors.

Start NOW with a big pot, full of enriched soil that has to stay warm (65 degrees or more) and moist. Place in a bright, sunny location. Plant with the eye tip up about 1 inch below the soil. They can be slow to sprout, so

the warmth helps bring

them on.

When they peek out, begin a regimen of watering, a light fertilizing, just as if it were a full grown plant.

After all danger of frost has passed, take the pots outside and slowly adapt to sunlight. Start with shade, then over days move into filtered light, and then into the sun.

If your elephant ear is green, full sun is best. If it is colored or patterned, then the most is filtered sunlight, or best shade. Continue to water and feed throughout the summer.

As leaves yellow and fade, cut them off to encourage new ones. Remember to water in the morning, so leaves will be dry in the evening. This is less chance

for bacteria to develop on the leaves.

In the fall, after the plants have died back, take out the corms and shake all soil off of them. I store mine in sphagnum, dry, in the garage (no less than 50 degrees) until the following spring.

Interesting facts about this plant, aside from eating taro, are the leaves should be cleaned often, as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and store the nutrients in the corms. As well, the leaves are hydrophobic, meaning they absorb the water on them into the plant.

For photos of the many types of plants and for planting details, go to http://go.osu.edu/elephantears.

Hughes is an Ohio Sate University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.


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