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Publication #FPS 33

Alocasia spp. Elephant's Ear1

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen2

Introduction

The Alocasia genus contains a variety of showy, large-leaved, tropical plants, some with colorful leaves. There is a wide variety of leaf sizes, color, and variegation among species. Elephant's ear gives a bold tropical effect to the landscape with its unusually large, shield-like, fleshy green leaves. They perform well as accent plants, but some selections grow very large. For this reason, only one or two of these large-leaved types are needed in most residential landscapes. Of course, more can be used if the smaller selections are planted. The smaller-leaf types can be planted in mass as a ground cover for a rich, tropical effect, or they can be used to edge or border a walk or patio. Most are well adapted for container gardening.

Figure 1. 

Full form—Alocasia spp.: elephant's ear


Credit:

Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Alocasia spp.

Pronunciation: al-lo-KAY-zee-uh species

Common name(s): elephant's ear

Family: Araceae

Plant type: perennial; herbaceous

USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 (Figure 2)

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Planting month for zone 8: year-round

Planting month for zone 9: year-round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year-round

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: aggressive, spreading plant

Uses: border; container or above-ground planter; ground cover; naturalizing; accent

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Description

Growth rate: fast

Height: 2 to 10 feet

Spread: 1 to 10 feet

Plant habit: upright

Plant density: open

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: lobed; undulate

Leaf shape: sagittate, arrow-like (Figure 3)

Figure 3. 

Foliage of elephant's ear.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Leaf venation: brachidodrome; pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches; 12 to 18 inches; 18 to 36 inches

Leaf color: variegated

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: green

Flower characteristic: summer -flowering; spring-flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: unknown

Fruit length: unknown

Fruit cover: fleshy

Fruit color: unknown

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: usually with one stem/trunk

Current year stem/twig color: not applicable

Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: extended flooding; acidic; clay; sand; loam

Soil salt tolerance: poor

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: sprouts from roots or lower trunk

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more

Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Performing best in rich, moisture-retentive soil in full sun or shade, elephant's ear will require little attention once established. Many selections grow well in soggy soil and some will invade these areas forming dense thickets. The tender leaves are subject to wind damage but do not have any major pest problems. Freezing temperatures kill the foliage, but in USDA hardiness zone 8b and south the plant grows from the base when warm weather resumes.

Design Considerations

The large, medium-green leaves and lush, leafy, irregular form of the elephant's ear will give the landscape a cool, tropical feel. The mass of leaves with pointed tips and rippled edges creates a coarse texture, and the light and dark shadows within the cluster of leaves emphasize the coarse texture. Pair with plants that are softer with small foliage and mounding or spreading forms, or grasses with thin, strappy blades and wispy flowers. Yellow-green, variegated green, and/or burgundy foliage in the companion plants will highlight the deep green of the leaves. When pairing with other flowering plants use white and/or warm colors such as pinks, light corals, soft yellows, and light orange to contrast the deep green.

Pests and Diseases

There are no major pest problems.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS 33, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 1999. Revised August 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Gail Hansen, associate professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.