by Bethany Hayes
Elephant ears are a tropical plant that goes best in warmer weather, and they’re known for producing large leaves that can be several feet wide. The leaves can be dark green, lime green, variegated, purple, or anything in between. If you don’t have a large garden, you can still learn how to grow elephant ears in containers.
Since these are large plants, you want to make sure you plant and grow them properly in the containers. Their large leaves mean that these plants need plenty of nutrients, and failure to provide adequate sunlight can cause the plants to die.
Let’s look at how to grow elephant ears in containers; it might be easier than you imagined.
How to Grow Elephant Ears in Containers
If you decide you don’t want to plant your elephant ear plants in the ground, container growing is perfectly acceptable for these plants. Elephant ears do well in containers so long as you provide them with the right sized container, proper soil, and adequate sunlight.
Let’s find out what they need to grow correctly.
- Pick the Right Container
Gardeners and landscapers love elephant ears because of their massive sizes, but that also means you need to match the size with large sized containers. The size container you need to buy for your plant will depend on the variety you grow.
- Colocasia species typically need pots that are at least 18 inches wide and 16 inches deep.
- Alocasia cultivars need pots that are at least 36 inches wide.
- If you want to use a smaller pot so that you can gradually size up, pick a container that is at least two inches larger than the pot at the garden nursery.
Giving your plants large pots give their roots plenty of space to grow and thrive. You also won’t need to re-pot them too quickly. Also, larger pots dry out slower, so you won’t need to water as often. Remember, elephant ear plants prefer consistently moist soil to grow to their optimal size.
- If possible, pick a container that is made of a non-porous material. Plastic, fiberglass, or glazed clay are ideal choices because they encourage moisture retention.
- The container must have drainage holes at the bottom to let the water run out. Elephant ears do like moist soil, but they don’t like standing water.
- Find the Perfect Spot for Your Variety
Finding the perfect spot for your elephant ears will depend on the variety that you grow. Most elephant ear plants prefer to grow in full sunlight, which means they need six to eight hours of sun each day.
Before you pick the location for your elephant ears, make sure you read the requirements for the plant. Some varieties grow better in partial shade, and others survive in the shade and only need around two hours of sunlight each day.
- Fill the Container with Soil
Never, EVER, take soil out of your garden bed and use it to fill up your containers. Not only is this soil too compact, but you might be introducing bacteria and pests to your sterile plants.
Start with a commercial potting soil designed for containers. These soils typically contain vermiculite or perlite to help encourage proper drainage.
- Once you have the container filled with soil, you can add compost, which adds more nutrients needed for healthy, vigorous growth while also encouraging more drainage.
- Add a slow-release fertilizer at the start of the season because elephant ears are heavy feeders. By the time they make it through the compost’s nutrients, the fertilizer should start to release the vitamins needed.
- Plant Your Elephant Ear Plants
You can either start your plants by planting seedlings or bulbs. There is no right or wrong way to plant your elephant ear plants; it’s a matter of preference.
- If you start with an established plant, fill your container halfway with soil, place your plant into the container, and fill the pot along the side of the plant. You want to make sure you bury the plant at the same soil line as in the nursery pot.
- If you start with a plant, plant so the root end is pointed down. The top of the bulb should be about four inches deep into the soil.
Caring for Elephant Ears in Containers
Despite being heavy feeders, elephant ears are considered a relatively easy plant to grow and care for in containers. Here is what you need to know.
- Water Often
One look at these plants should tell you that they need a lot of water. Growing huge leaves requires a lot of moisture, so you need to water regularly. This is especially true if you grow elephant ears in pots; the water will drain out faster, so you need to check the soil frequently.
- In the summer, you typically need to water your plants daily; the hot weather will quicken the evaporation process.
- Plan to give your plants at least two to three inches of water each week.
- Fertilize Often
Elephant ears grow rapidly, so you might have guessed that they require plenty of fertilization. It would be best to feed your plants every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer to provide necessary nutrients. Failure to do so could result in stunted growth.
- Overwinter Your Elephant Ears
Everyone can grow elephant ears, but not everyone can grow them as an outside perennial plant. Only those in USDA zones eight to 11, depending on the cultivar selected, might be able to leave them outside year-round.
For those who live in zones seven and above (places that have cold winters), you have to know the right way to overwinter your elephant ears. There are two ways to do so.
- The first option is to cut off most of the older leaves and bring it inside as a houseplant before the temperatures dip below 60℉ consistently.
- Let the foliage die back naturally as the temperatures dip lower and dig the bulb up after the first frost. You can then store the bulb in a dry, cool place until it is time to replant in the spring.
Many prefer the houseplant option, but if you go this route, you have to stop fertilizing and reduce water because your plant will transition into a semi-dormant phase while inside.
How to Grow Elephant Ears Indoors
You can opt to grow elephant ears indoors all year-round if you prefer. You do need to make sure your plants have a large container.
Here are some essential tips for growing elephant ears in containers.
- Pick the Right Spot
Pick an area in your home that has bright, indirect sunlight. Elephant ears can handle direct sunlight, but the light shining through the window can cause the plants to burn over time. They do much better in indirect sunlight.
- Fill Your Container
Pick a pot that contains well-draining, peat-rich soil. Make sure you use a soil mix meant for containers; you can often find blends designed for houseplants.
- Create Humidity
Elephant ears need high humidity levels for proper growth. There are a few ways to increase the humidity around your houseplants.
- Place a humidifier in the room where you grow your houseplants.
- Put a bowl of water and pebbles near your plants, typically in between several house plants that all need humidity.
- Put rocks or pebbles on the saucer or tray that sits underneath your pot, then set your container on top of the stones.
- Keep The Temperature Right
Elephant ears prefer warm temperatures, so you need to keep them consistently in a place between 65-75℉. Ensure you don’t set the plants near a drafty window or door that could lower the temperature.
- Fertilize Often
Houseplants need a consistent fertilizing schedule; it’s recommended that you fertilize every two weeks with a 50% diluted 20-10-10 fertilizer. This is a huge part of caring for your elephant ear houseplant.
You need to stop fertilizing your plants throughout the winter months; this gives your plant time to rest and slip into a semi-dormant stage. This is also when you should decrease watering and start to allow your soil to dry out.
Try Growing Elephant Ears in Pots
Whether you want to grow elephant ears in containers inside or outside, these plants thrive well in these environments. Make sure you pick a large container that gives the roots plenty of space to grow, and pick a spot that provides the plant with enough sunlight for optimal growth. If you decide to grow elephant ears in containers, be sure to give enough water and fertilizer so that your plants can thrive.