Flower Gardening

Elephant Ears for Mid-Summer Foliage

By Jean Starr

I received a Colocasia start in March from Brian’s Botanicals.  I grew it indoors before using it in a mixed container outdoors. At the time, it sported a few spindly leaves. But, after a spell of really hot weather, Colocasia ‘Red-Eyed Gecko’ suddenly had 13 healthy leaves. To bring out the pink stem and leaf attachment color, I combined it with a deep pink kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos). Either way, indoors or outdoors, use elephant ears for mid-summer foliage.

elephant ears colocasia anigozanthos

Colocasia with Kangaroo Paw – Photo by Jean Starr

Sometimes opposites can coexist

Kangaroo paw is native to Australia and likes well-drained soil. Colocasias are known for their thirst during the growing season. I mixed the two plants with a fancy-leaf geranium, which like the kangaroo paw, prefers it somewhat dry. I placed the container on top of a low concrete wall that tends to bake in the late afternoon sun. I wasn’t sure what would happen to a combination that included a moisture-lover and two that preferred its soil on the dry side.

After a pretty rough start, all was well in the pot from July through September. Each leaf was a work of art, especially when held up to the sun. ‘Red-Eyed Gecko’ was the first Colocasia I overwintered inside. After nearly killing it with kindness, I put it off in a dark corner and left it alone until around March. That’s when it started showing growth. I’m growing it outside again, this time with more suitable companions.

More varieties of elephant ears

If you like chartreuse leaves with more delicate striations of darker green, try Colocasia ‘Midori Sour’, another gorgeous plant that fills out by the end of July in my Zone 6A garden.

In addition to plants with chartreuse leaves, there are many selections whose leaves are variegated, blotched, strikingly-veined (like ‘Blue Hawaii’) and ruffled. They can range in size from the 54-inch ‘Coal Miner’ to the diminutive ‘Dark Shadows’, which grows just eight inches tall.  If you prefer the dark and brooding type, try varieties with deep purple leaves like Colocasia‘ Black Ruffles’, and ‘Diamondhead’.

Colocasia ‘Distant Memory’, was introduced by Walter’s Gardens. What’s more, it donates a portion of profits from sale of this plant to Alzheimer’s research.



In the world of Alocasia (pronounced alo-CAY-zee-uh), one of my favorites has been the hybrid Alocasia Amazonica. It is also known as African mask plant. It’s often sold as a houseplant, but I have had good success growing it outdoors in the summer. Alocasia is not a fast grower, but it loves bright light areas. You can find the light needed most likely on the north side of the house. Its shiny black leaves are striking with its silvery veins.

A plant with some of the most substantial leaves is Alocasia ‘California’. Its bright green, scalloped leaves are stiff enough to use for a platter. Of course, I mixed this with other plants in a container, and it held its own with a strong growing Coleus and geranium.

Elephant Ears Colocasia California

Alocasia Californa – Photo by Jean Starr

One of the more unusual, and I guess you could say, delicate, is Alocasia ‘Sarian’. Leaves are glossy and arrow-shaped with pale veins. They point upward on speckled stems that add to this plant’s charm. Next time I plant ‘Sarian’, I’ll combine it with trailing plants, possibly something with pale yellow and deep green leaves.

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