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Alocasia/Colocasia Planting Guide

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Looking for Drama?
Alocasia and colocasia

If flair, pizzazz, drama - an eye popping presentation - are what you're seeking, these stellar foliage plants are just the ticket. In most gardens the visual excitement comes from bright flowers. Blooms tend to be seasonal however, and there are usually periods nothing is flowering. That's when fabulous foliage plants step up to take the lead. Purplish-black leaves, purple and green foliage, or giant green heart-shaped leaves, the choice is yours. Conveniently, these plants will adjust to varying light conditions. In full sun, the leaf pigment will be brightest and the plant form will be slightly more compact (typically not short, mind you!) In lower light situations the deep shading on purple leafed varieties will be less pronounced, the leaves will be slightly smaller and the leaf stems will elongate. In other words, the same variety can assume different roles depending on location, dense or airy.

Outdoor Beds
  1. Elephant ears do not require the well-drained soils that are a necessity for success with most of the plants offered here. In fact, these high-drama plants will grow in moist areas and Black Magic and Colocasia esculenta will even thrive in close to aquatic areas, like the edges of a pond or in a semi-bog setting.
  2. Site your plants where they will receive full sunlight, or light shade. Consider the mature height and tendency of these giants to shade out smaller plants when you choose a location.
  3. For colocasia Illustris, colocasia Black Magic and other potted varieties, plant so that the junction between the roots and the base of the top growth is level with the soil surface. For colocasia esculenta, alocasia macrorrhzia and others that are recieved as huge oval bulbs, plant these 8"-10" deep with the root end pointing down.
  4. After planting, water generously, soaking the soil to settle it around the plant. Top growth will begin to form in 3-8 weeks, depending on the amount of available warmth and moisture. Elephant ears will grow tall over the course of the season and often develop side plants from bulb offsets or root runners.
  5. At the end of the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year's show. Water as needed. Leaves may be removed if they yellow, as typically happens when plants slip into late season dormancy. Whether this occurs is dependant on the variety and your location, some types are evergreen and some are dormant during the winter. (For gardeners in regions colder than zone 8, dig your roots/bulbs after the first frost, shake off the dirt and dry in the shade for a day. Then store indoors in barely moist peat moss. Replant in spring.)
  6. Your elephant ears will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
  7. Because of their tremendous seasonal growth, these are heavy feeders and appreciate an application of half strength 20-20-20 fertilizer every three weeks during their active growing period.
Planters, Pots, Tubs, Urns and Windowboxes
  1. Choose a container that is at least 18" wide and of equal depth. Fill your container with good quality, humus-rich soil. Almost any commercially available potting medium will work fine. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes. For safety, add extra weight to the bottom of the container in the form of stone, gravel or sand, if your site is windy. Large elephant ears, like sails on a boat, will catch the wind and can cause a light pot to tip over.
  2. Site your plants where they will receive full sunlight, or light shade. Consider the mature height and tendency of these giants to shade out smaller plants when you choose companions.
  3. For colocasia Illustris, colocasia Black Magic and other potted varieties, plant so that the junction between the roots and the base of the top growth is level with the soil surface. For colocasia esculenta, alocasia macrorrhzia and others that are recieved as huge oval bulbs, plant these 8"-10" deep with the root end pointing down.
  4. After planting, water generously, soaking the soil to settle it around the plant. Top growth will begin to form in 3-8 weeks, depending on the amount of available warmth and moisture. Elephant ears will grow tall over the course of the season and often develop side plants from bulb offsets or root runners.
  5. At the end of the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year's show. Water as needed. Leaves may be removed if they yellow, as typically happens when plants slip into late season dormancy. Whether this occurs is dependant on the variety and your location, some types are evergreen and some are dormant during the winter. (For gardeners in regions colder than zone 8, dig your roots/bulbs after the first frost, shake off the dirt and dry in the shade for a day. Then store indoors in barely moist peat moss. Replant in spring.)
  6. Your elephant ears will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
  7. Because of their tremendous seasonal growth, these are heavy feeders and appreciate an application of half strength 20-20-20 fertilizer every three weeks during their active growing period.




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