How to Grow Elephant Ear Plants: Care Tips & Varieties

By: Matt Slaymaker
May 9, 2024
Elephant Ear Plant Care Guide
Share this post:

Elephant Ear plants are nothing short of statement pieces, exuding tropical vibes in your home. Their oversized leaves form a contrasting backdrop for flowering plants with more delicate foliage and blooms. The easy Elephant Ear plant care makes them quite popular houseplants

You don’t need to be a gardening expert to help an Elephant Ear plant thrive. Even a novice plant enthusiast can make this low-maintenance plant flourish with a little love and attention to its growing needs. You just have to ensure it’s never thirsty or receives direct sunlight.  

While there are different types of Elephant Ear plants, their basic needs are pretty similar. Keep reading to learn how to take care of Elephant Ear plants

About Elephant Ear Plants

About Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant Ear plants are tropical plants that come in various species and cultivars. Every variety has unique leaves, recognizable by their massive size and specific patterns. They’re so unique that no two of them are similar! The Elephant Ear plants are easy to care for, making them popular and much-loved houseplants among indoor gardeners.

Elephant Ear Plant Types

You’ll find many Elephant Ear plant types, each with leaves of different shapes and colors. The most common varieties include:

  • Alocasia Macrorrhizos: Alocasia is often called the Upright Elephant Ear or Giant Taro because its leaves point upwards. For a Goth garden, look out for the Alocasia ‘Portora’ with ruffled leaves and the Alocasia Polly with dark foliage.
  • Colocasia Esculenta: Colocasia is known for its edible tubers, which taste sweet and nutty and can be cooked. Like the Mammoth Elephant Ear plant, this species produces enormous leaves that create a striking look.
  • Caladium Praetermissum: Another popular variety is the Caladium, famed for its colorful, heart-shaped leaves. Look out for varieties with bright crimson shades, like the Red Flash, or speckled stunners ('Princess Pink Beauty'), and more!
  • Xanthosoma Sagittifolium: Also called Tannia or Tiquisque, the Xanthosoma boasts arrow-shaped leaves. The most popular varieties include Lime Zinger and South Dade White, with vibrant leaves.

The Xanthosoma Sagittifolium, Caladium Praetermissum, Alocasia Macrorrhizos, and Colocasia Esculenta care needs may be similar in some ways. Most Elephant Ear plant varieties prefer warm temperatures and high humidity. However, they differ slightly regarding their light and water requirements. Some thrive in indirect sunlight (Caladiums and Alocasia) while others like to be in full sun for at least 6 hours a day (Colocasia). Also, while Colocasia Esculenta and Alocasia prefer consistently moist soil, Caladiums do better if you let the soil dry out between watering sessions.

Elephant Ear Plant: Benefits

Elephant ear plant benefits are numerous, making them an excellent addition to any home or garden. They are as follows: 

  • Great aesthetic appeal: Elephant Ears are ornamental plants with stunning foliage in various colors. They bring a piece of the tropics to any room and evoke a visual interest.
  • Feng Shui symbolism: They represent the Wood element, symbolizing upright movement. They stand for growth, renewal, positive energy, or "chi." 
  • Air-purifying properties: These plants help remove toxins like formaldehyde from indoor spaces. They purify indoor air and enhance oxygen levels.
  • Stress reduction: Those gorgeous leaves create a peaceful green corner in your indoor space or on the porch. The vibrant colors and gentle movement of the plant’s foliage can be a visual tool to calm your mind. 

Elephant Ears Plant Care: The Complete Growing Guide

Elephant Ears Plant Care

Get ready to bring some jungle vibes indoors with Elephant Ears. Keeping these green beauties happy and healthy is easy because Elephant Ears plant care is fairly straightforward. The basic requirements for all these tropical plants are similar as they all thrive in warm, tropical environments. 

Elephant Ear Plant: Light Requirements and Watering 

Xanthosoma, Caladium, Colocasia, and Alocasia care involves regular watering to keep them well-hydrated. However, you should ensure that the soil is moist, not soggy. Note that Caladiums prefer medium water, which means the soil should dry out before the next watering. Most Elephant Ear plants grow, indoors and outdoors, in bright, indirect light.

How Often Should I Water My Elephant Ear Plant?

You may need to water your Elephant Ear plant 1-3 times per week. The frequency depends on the environmental humidity and temperatures. Give the plant a drink when the top layer of the soil, i.e., 2”, starts to feel dry. The key is to keep the soil constantly damp, but not waterlogged.

How to Tell If an Elephant Ear Plant Needs Water 

Always check the soil to detect if your Elephant Ear plant is thirsty. If the top layer feels dry to the touch, you should water the plant. If you notice the leaves turning yellow or brown, it's a sign that your plant might need water. Other signs of dehydration are drooping or wilting leaves. 

Do Elephant Ear Plants Need a Lot of Sun? 

Elephant Ears don’t need a lot of sunlight. Varieties, like Colocasia Esculenta, can tolerate direct light. However, prolonged exposure to scorching light can burn them. When placed indoors, they grow best in bright but indirect light. When placed outside, they need a shady spot with filtered sunlight.      

Can Elephant Ear Plant Grow in Low Light?

It’s best to grow Elephant Ears in filtered sunlight. In tropical regions, these plants are often found under the canopy of trees, in partial shade, but with access to brighter light exposure. Although Elephant Ears can survive in low-light conditions, this can lead to discolored leaves. 

Elephant Ear Plant: Temperature Tolerance and Humidity

Elephant Ear Plant Temperature Tolerance

All Elephant Ear plants need high humidity (60% or higher). While they also prefer warmth, the temperature ranges and hardiness zones differ. 

Alocasia varieties thrive at 60°F-80°F in hardiness zones between 10-12. Colocasia, on the other hand, prefers 68°F-86°F and thrives in zones 8-11. Caladium prefers a warmer environment, ideally 70°F-85°F, in zones 9-10. And Xanthosoma flourishes at 65°F-75°F in zones 8-13. 

To sum up, a temperature range of 70°F-75°F is ideal for growing a collection of all these popular Elephant Ears varieties. You should also maintain high humidity to create a tropical environment for these gorgeous plants.

Elephant Ear Plant: Soil, Fertilizer, and Repotting 

To see your Elephant Ear thrive, you should take care of its soil, fertilizer, and repotting needs

Best Soil for Elephant Ears

Elephant Ear plants grow best in loamy soil. It should be fertile and rich in organic matter. The plant needs well-drained soil, but it should be able to retain sufficient moisture to remain consistently moist. The soil’s acidity level should also be slightly high. 

Do Elephant Ears Need a Lot of Fertilizer? 

Elephant Ears must be fertilized once every 2-4 weeks during the growing seasons, in the spring and summer. This is especially true if you want your plant to grow large. Use a 20-10-20 NPK fertilizer, though a 20-20-20 variant is also perfectly acceptable. Do not feed the plant in winter or fall. 

How Often Should I Repot an Elephant Ear Plant?

Elephant Ears hardly need to be repotted. Caladiums, especially, rarely need repotting. It’s enough to transplant them to a new pot every 1-3 years. Repot them in summer or spring or if the roots appear on the soil surface or poke through the drainage holes.  

Related: When Should I Plant My Bulbs?

How to Repot an Elephant Ear Plant

To repot an Elephant Ear, follow the steps below:

  • Pick a pot that’s 2” larger than the current one. It should have sufficient drainage holes. 
  • Place a drainage layer or screen at the bottom of the pot. 
  • Add potting mix. Use a well-draining soil. 
  • Pull the plant gently out of the current container. Loosen the roots. 
  • Place it at the center of the new pot, leaving about half an inch of space at the top. 
  • Add more soil and pat it down gently to remove air pockets.
  • Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain out. 
  • Place your Elephant Ears in a warm, humid spot with bright, indirect light. 

Here’s a short video to show you how to repot an Elephant Ear plant. 

How to Prune an Elephant Ear Plant

Your Xanthosoma, Colocasia, Alocasia, or Caladium plant care also involves pruning damaged foliage. Cut discolored or diseased leaves down to the stem to maintain vibrant foliage with clean scissors.

In addition, you should clean those large leaves monthly. Wipe the leaves gently with a soft, damp cloth or paper towel to keep them dust-free. Work from the stem base toward the leaf tip and clean both sides of the leaf.

Also, remove dead leaves or debris from the soil surface. If your plant is overgrown, you can prune a few healthy leaves that are too large, and this way keep your Elephant Ears plant to a more manageable size.

How to Propagate an Elephant Ear Plant

Did you know that you can easily propagate an Elephant Ear? By using the division method, you can multiply your plant collection or share a new gorgeous Elephant Ear plant as a gift

Follow the steps below to propagate your large-leaf plant:

  1. Divide the tubers after carefully digging them up. Ensure each section has at least one growth bud.
  2. Air dry the tuber for a few days. 
  3. Apply fungicide to the root ball to prevent decay. 
  4. Place the tubers in a dry mix like peat moss, coco coir, and perlite. 
  5. Monitor the tubers, checking monthly for mold. Discard infected tubers, if any. 
  6. Water the soil regularly for healthy growth.   

You can also multiply your Elephant Ears plant by dividing the main plant with already established roots.

Here’s a video that explains how to propagate a potted Elephant Ear (Colocasia Esculenta).

When to Divide Elephant Ears

The best time to divide Elephant Ear plants is early spring. That’s the start of the growing season. Another great time to divide them is fall; when you remove tubers for overwintering. During the cold season, the tubers aren’t hardy, so store them well until it’s time to plant them.

Elephant Ear Plant: Common Problems

Elephant Ear Plant Common Problems

Despite the best Elephant Ear plant care, you may experience some issues with your plants. Leaf discoloration, weak stems, root rot, etc., are common problems that can be prevented and sometimes fixed if you adjust your care routine.

Why Is My Elephant Ear Plant Turning Yellow and Brown? 

Elephant Ear leaves may turn yellow or brown, due to underwatering. Hydrate your underwatered plant 1-3 times a week, ensuring the soil is moist but not soggy. Other reasons for leaf discoloration are extreme low-light conditions or prolonged overexposure to direct scorching sunlight. Keep the plant in a spot receiving bright, indirect sunlight.

What Does an Overwatered Elephant's Ear Look Like?

If your Elephant's Ear is overwatered, the plant’s foliage and roots will indicate this. Yellowing leaves and root rot are signs of an overwatered plant. It’s best to repot it in fresh soil after cleaning the root ball, first.

If the leaves start to curl or droop, it's a clear cry for help. However, similar issues occur if the plant is underwatered, too. To confirm the plant is overwatered, check if the roots are brown and mushy.

How to Get Rid of Bugs on Elephant Ears?

To get rid of bugs on Elephant Ears, blast it with water. Then, apply insecticidal soap or neem oil. Spider mites or other bugs may be the offenders. Repeat the treatment if needed to ensure the bugs are gone for good. Also, isolate the plant and remove infested leaves to prevent their spread.

Elephant Ears Plant Care: FAQs 

Q: When can I put my Elephant Ears outside?

A: If you live in a warm region with mild winters, you can put your Elephant Ears outside at any time of the year. However, if you're in a cooler area, wait until mid-spring before taking your Elephant Ear plant outside on the porch or planting it in the garden. Ensure there’s no risk of frost and that the night temperature is above 50°F. 

Q: Do Elephant Ears like to be rootbound?

A: Elephant Ears can tolerate staying rootbound. Still, don’t let the roots get overly crowded. If the plant is too rootbound, this may lead to stunted growth. That’s because the roots won’t grow and absorb the nutrients for the plant to thrive. You’ll even see roots poking through the soil or drainage holes. 

Q: Can you grow Elephant Ears from cuttings?

A: Elephant Ear plant propagation from cuttings is uncommon. This is especially true for Caladiums. The best method of growing new plants from existing ones is division. You can dig up and divide the tubers during the fall or spring. Use a well-draining potting mix to plant them.   

Q: Is the Elephant Ear plant poisonous to dogs and cats?

A: All Elephant Ear plant varieties are poisonous to dogs and cats, due to the toxic substances they contain, according to the ASPCA. The symptoms of accidental ingestion include swelling of the mouth, drooling, and digestive problems. If you have furry friends, consider growing pet-friendly plants to avoid issues. 

Q: What's killing my Elephant's Ears?

A: Several issues could affect your Elephant’s Ear and kill it. Some common problems include overwatering and underwatering. Exposure to direct sunlight for too long or extreme low-light conditions could also be the reason. Other reasons include pest infestations and diseases. 

Q: What is the difference between Colocasia and Alocasia plants?

A: The main difference between Colocasia and Alocasia plants is in their leaves. Colocasia leaves droop downwards while  Alocasia leaves usually point upwards, giving them an upright appearance. Plus, Colocasia enjoys bright and full sunlight. Alocasia prefers medium-light conditions. 


Elephant Ears plant care involves paying attention to the plant’s water, light, humidity, and soil requirements. Once you learn how to care for Elephant Ear plants, based on the specific variety, you’ll have the rewarding experience of enjoying vibrant and thriving tropical greenery in your living space

Complement your Pink Dragon Alocasia with Pink Flamingo and Guzmania Bromeliad for a tropical corner with contrasting shapes and colors. For a garden with a Gothic theme, pick Black Raven ZZ, Zeylanica Snake plant, and Ficus Burgundy Rubber Tree to grow along your Elephant Ear plants.