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COLOCASIA

Image of Colocasia

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Araceae

Botanical Name

COLOCASIA

Plant Common Name

Elephant Ear, Taro

General Description

Colocasia is a small genus of about 7 species of large-leaved tropical plants that inhabit the warm moist areas of southern Asia. The most widely grown species is Colocasia esculenta, otherwise known as elephant ear or taro, which is used worldwide as a dietary staple.

Elephant ears are usually perennial, evergreen or deciduous, and have large tuberous roots and rhizomes (underground lateral stems) that grow at or just below the ground surface. The leaves are roughly arrow-shaped and split at the base where the petiole (leaf stem) attaches. Large prominent veins mark the green or dark green leaves. Several cultivars offer more interesting leaf colors to include variegates and those with deep burgundy, purple or near black leaves and stems.

All have anthurium-like flowers that consist of a finger-like floral column (spadix) surrounded by a green and orange petal-like leaf (spathe). The female flowers are usually at the base of the spadix column and the male flowers are towards the top. The inflorescences are held on short stems that are hidden by the foliage. After pollination the columns become lined with green, white or red berry-like fruits that are moderately showy.

Colocasia are lush beautiful plants that impart a tropical feel. Grow them in partial or full shade in moist, organic-rich soil. Most tolerate moist to very wet conditions and several grow well in full sun. The large leaves of Colocasia can tatter in high wind, so it be best to plant them in moderately protected locations. The plants spread and can form dense clumps, which should be thinned regularly.

Some species are considered invasive, and there are potential health concerns regarding this plant. To learn more go to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Colocsp.htm.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

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

  • Plant Type

    Tender Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Green, Orange

  • Fruit Color

    White, Red, Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • 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

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Tropical, Water Gardens

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes