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COLOCASIA esculenta

Image of Colocasia esculenta

James H. Schutte

Family

Araceae

Botanical Name

COLOCASIA esculenta

Plant Common Name

Elephant Ear, Taro

General Description

A large, perennial native to India and tropical Asia, taro is grown for its starchy, edible, bulb-like corms and huge heart-shaped leaves that add drama to the landscape. 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. There are many colorful cultivated varieties to choose from and all are easy to grow.

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 http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/ce/king/PoisPlant/Tox-SCI.htm 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 http://www.hear.org/gcw/species/colocasia_esculenta/

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Bulb or Corm or Tuber

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun

  • Height

    4'-6' / 1.2m - 1.8m

  • Width

    2'-6' / 0.6m - 1.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Eastern Asia, India

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    White, Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Orange

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green, Violet

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Feature Plant, Herb / Vegetable, Houseplant, Mixed Border, Tropical, Water Gardens

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes