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COLOCASIA esculenta 'Elepaio'

Image of Colocasia esculenta 'Elepaio'

Gerald L. Klingaman



Botanical Name

COLOCASIA esculenta 'Elepaio'

Plant Common Name

Elephant Ear, Taro

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

This tropical elephant ear boasts a compact habit and beautifully variegated leaves with irregular, white spots, splotches and flecks across a matte green background. Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’ is named after a Hawaiian endemic bird that is a species of monarch flycatcher and is sometimes referred to as ‘Milky Way.’ It can be difficult to obtain but is well worth searching for.

A large, tuberous perennial native to tropical Asia, taro is grown for its huge, heart-shaped leaves that add drama to the landscape. It originates from India and tropical Asia, Colocasia esculenta where it is better known for its edible, starchy, bulb-like corms. In fact, it is considered one of the first plants cultivated by humans for food and is now naturalized throughout most of the subtropical and tropical regions of the world.

Also called elephant year, Colocasia esculenta produces huge arrow-shaped leaves held on tall leaf stems that arise directly from the corm. The leaf stem attaches to the leaf centrally. This stem attachment is known as “peltate” and is one of the characteristics used to identify Colocasia species. The similar looking leaves of Alocasia and Xanthosoma have leaf stems that attach along the edge of the leaf. Taro flowers are often hidden by the foliage, but the fragrant, calla lily-like flowers are creamy-yellow and appear sporadically in summer. The flowers are occasionally followed by columns of red or orange berry like fruits.

Colocasia prefers full to moderate shade but will also grow in full sun if provided sufficient moisture. It requires moist, organic-rich soil and will even tolerate fully saturated soils, though it does not favor stagnant soil. Evergreen in mild climates, taro is winter-dormant in its coldest hardiness zones and will die back to a starchy corm. Grow taro outdoors in a fertile moist bed, pond side garden or large container. It is easily grown as a tender perennial. Its large corms can be dug and stored in a cool dry place to over winter or container-grown specimens can be brought indoors. ‘Elepaio’ is an exceptionally beautiful container plant.

Though used as a food source in many parts of the world, caution should be taken when preparing taro for consumption. There may be health concerns with the consumption of this plant. For more information see Colocasia esculenta has escaped cultivation in some parts of the world and is considered an invasive weed in places like Hawaii and Florida. For more information about the invasiveness of this species see the reference, the Global Compendium of Weeds at


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Bulb or Corm or Tuber

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun

  • Height

    3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m

  • Width

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Bloom Time


  • Native To

    Eastern Asia, India, Polynesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage


  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    White, Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Orange

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    White, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring) Modifier


  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    White, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer) Modifier


  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    White, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier


  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    White, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter) Modifier


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Bog Garden, Container, Herb / Vegetable, Tropical, Water Gardens

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing