Elephant Ear Plant Types: A Comprehensive Guide

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Elephant ear plants are a popular choice for gardeners and plant enthusiasts seeking to add a tropical touch to their surroundings. Known for their massive heart-shaped and arrowhead leaves, these plants are native to swampy regions in Asia but have spread to other tropical and subtropical climates. With over 200 species in the Colocasia genus alone, there are many types of elephant ear plants to fit your preferences and garden needs.

As a perennial tropical plant, elephant ears thrive in warm, humid environments with moist soil. The most common varieties include Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma, all of which are celebrated for their spectacular foliage. Each type comes in a unique shape and size, with leaves that can reach up to three feet in length and two feet across.

These accent plants can serve as focal points in your garden during the growing season, or as stunning indoor houseplants year-round. When selecting an elephant ear variety, remember to consider factors such as size, climate, and sunlight requirements to ensure a long and healthy life for your plant.

Elephant Ear Plant Overview

Origins and Habitat

Elephant Ear plants belong to different varieties that fall under the family Araceae, with the most common ones being Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma. These tropical plants originate from swampy regions in Asia, featuring large, floppy leaves reminiscent of an elephant’s ears. Colocasia, also known as Taro plants, displays downward-pointing leaves in lush green, red, or purplish-black colors, measuring between 8 inches and 5 feet long. The Alocasia variety, on the other hand, exhibits large, dark green leaves with purple veins and stems.

Elephant Ears are fast-growing plants adaptable to both indoor and outdoor cultivation. They thrive in warm weather and can be grown as houseplants, as well as outside in suitable climates.

Cultural Significance

Taro plants (Colocasia) have a significant cultural and culinary value in many Asian countries. The edible taro tubers, a common food in Asia, can be consumed after cooking. In addition, the leaves of Colocasia can reach up to three feet in length and two feet across, making them popular for their dramatic impact and stunning addition to gardens and landscapes.

Types of Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants are known for their large, stunning leaves that resemble the shape of an elephant’s ear. They are popular as decorative plants in gardens and landscapes. Below, we explore three main types of elephant ear plants: Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma.


Alocasia silver dragon
Alocasia silver dragon potted house plant isolated on white background

Alocasia plants are recognized for their striking, heart-shaped foliage with vibrant colors. These plants are often grown for their impressive visual appearance, and they rarely bloom. However, when they do, they can produce calla lily-like flowers.

Alocasias thrive in well-draining soil and prefer bright, indirect light. They can be sensitive to cold temperatures, so it’s essential to protect them in colder climates. Some popular Alocasia varieties include:

  • Alocasia Polly: Compact plant with dark green leaves and contrasting silver-white veins.
  • Alocasia Amazonica: Features large, dark green leaves with striking white veins.
  • Alocasia Macrorrhizos: Commonly known as Giant Taro, this variety has enormous, glossy green leaves.


Colocasia esculenta
Colocasia esculenta Royal Hawaiian Maui Gold

Colocasia, also known as Taro plants, are native to swampy areas of Asia and include around 200 different species. The leaves of Colocasia plants are downward-pointing and can be lush green, red, or purplish-black. Their size varies from 8 inches to as long as 5 feet. Some Colocasia tubers are edible when cooked and are a staple food in Asia.

Notable Colocasia species include:

  • Colocasia Esculenta: Commonly known as Green Taro or Elephant Ear Taro, it has large, bright green leaves.
  • Colocasia Black Magic: Its dark purple leaves have an almost black appearance, contrasting with bright green stems.
  • Colocasia Mojito: This unique variety features green leaves with prominent purple speckling.


Xanthosoma sagittifolium
Xanthosoma sagittifolium taro leaves grow in the shade

Xanthosoma plants are another variety of elephant ear that are known for their impressive foliage. They prefer well-drained soil and are best grown in warm, tropical regions, similar to Alocasia and Colocasia. Some notable Xanthosoma species are:

  • Xanthosoma Lindenii: Often called Angel Wings, this plant has large, velvety leaves in a mix of green, silver, and white shades.
  • Xanthosoma Violaceum: This type has purple-veined, arrowhead-shaped leaves that add a pop of color to gardens.
  • Xanthosoma Mafaffa: Known as the Yellow Taro, it has large, bright yellow leaves, providing a striking contrast to other types of elephant ears.

In conclusion, Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma are three main types of elephant ear plants, each with its unique visual appeal and requirements for optimal growth. These impressive plants can be a stunning addition to any garden or landscape, offering eye-catching foliage and a touch of the tropics.

Caring for Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants, with their large and impressive foliage, can be a fantastic addition to any garden or indoor space. To ensure your plants thrive, there are certain factors to keep in mind when it comes to their care.

Soil Requirements

Ideal soil for elephant ear plants should be well-draining, rich in organic matter, and slightly acidic. A mixture of peat, perlite, and compost can create the perfect environment to promote root growth and plant health. Regularly adding organic mulch around the base of the plant can also help maintain optimal soil conditions.


Elephant ear plants prefer consistently moist, but not waterlogged, soil. Water the plants regularly, ensuring the soil remains damp to the touch. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so allow the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions. Remember that indoor plants may have different watering needs due to varying levels of humidity.

Light Conditions

These tropical plants do well in partial to full sunlight, depending on their variety. Colocasia species typically prefer full sunlight, while Alocasia and Xanthosoma may prefer some shade. For indoor plants, make sure they receive adequate bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn or become discolored.


To support their growth, elephant ear plants require regular fertilization. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer once or twice a month during the growing season. You can also mix a slow-release granular fertilizer into the planting mix. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application rates, and be sure not to over-fertilize, as this can harm the plant.

By providing the appropriate soil, light, water, and nutrients, you’ll ensure that your elephant ear plants continue to thrive and add a touch of the tropics to your living space or garden.

Common Problems and Solutions


Elephant ear plants, like many other plants, can be affected by different types of pests. Common pests include spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. You can prevent or control these infestations by regularly inspecting your plants for signs of pests, such as:

  • Small webs, discolored leaves, or tiny moving dots (indicative of spider mites)
  • White cotton-like masses on leaves and stems (indicative of mealybugs)
  • Distorted leaves, a sticky residue, or small insects on leaves and stems (indicative of aphids)

To treat infestations, try using insecticidal soap or neem oil, applied as directed on the product label. Regularly monitoring the health of your plants and promptly addressing any issues is vital for keeping pests under control.


Fungal diseases can also plague elephant ear plants. Fungal leaf blight is one of the most common diseases, characterized by small round lesions on the leaves that may ooze fluid and turn yellow or purple when dry. Fuzzy growth and eventual leaf collapse can also occur as the disease progresses.

To prevent fungal diseases, it’s crucial to provide the appropriate growing conditions for your elephant ear plants, such as:

  • Moist, well-draining soil
  • Adequate air circulation around the leaves
  • Proper watering techniques, avoiding overhead watering

If you notice signs of fungal diseases, remove the affected leaves and treat the plant with a fungicide as recommended on the product label.

Following these steps, as well as maintaining good overall plant care, will help to prevent and treat common problems with elephant ear plants.

Propagating Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants are visually stunning with their large, bold leaves. They can become the focal point of any garden. Propagating these plants is quite simple and can be done through two primary methods: Division and Tubers.


Division is an effective method to propagate elephant ear plants during their active growing season, which is typically in spring or early summer. To successfully propagate through division, follow these steps:

  1. Carefully dig up your parent elephant ear plant.
  2. Identify the plant’s corms, which are the swollen underground stems.
  3. Separate the corms by gently pulling them apart.
  4. Replant the divided corms into individual pots or directly into prepared garden soil.
  5. Water the newly-planted corms well to help establish their root systems.
  6. Monitor the new plants, keeping their soil consistently moist as they grow.

Using this process, you should see new growth within a few weeks. Patience is key, as it might take some time for the newly-propagated plants to grow large enough to display their trademark leaves.


The second method for propagating elephant ear plants involves growing them from tubers. This technique is best implemented when the plant is in a dormant stage, usually in the winter. Follow these steps to propagate elephant ears using tubers:

  1. Clean off any soil or debris from your tubers.
  2. Check the tubers for any signs of decay or damage, and discard any that appear unhealthy.
  3. Allow the tubers to air-dry at room temperature for a day or two.
  4. Prepare a pot or garden bed with well-draining soil.
  5. Plant the tubers approximately 2-4 inches deep, with the pointed side facing up.
  6. Water them well and maintain consistent soil moisture, taking care not to overwater and cause rot.

As the tubers grow, they’ll eventually produce new elephant ear plants that can be enjoyed indoors or outdoors. By using one or both of these propagation methods, you can easily expand your collection of these beautiful and eye-catching plants.

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