Is This the Next Monstera? How to Make This Tropical Plant Thrive
Get to know the elephant ears plant.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:01 AM
It’s almost impossible to feel comfortable during the hot and humid days of summer. Unless the air-conditioning is on full blast, we’re probably sitting around patiently waiting for the temperature to cool. And yet, there is one houseguest that doesn’t mind such sweltering conditions: the elephant ears plant.
“Since the natural habitat of elephant ears is a tropical rain forest, they prefer high humidity,” says Joyce Mast, the official “plant mom” at Bloomscape. Also known as Alocasia or Colocasia, the elephant ears plant gains its descriptive name from the size and length of its teardrop-shaped leaves, which can grow 3 feet long. “With a color palette that ranges from bright emerald green to ebony, the effect of their leaves is breathtaking, whether they are in a home or garden,” Mast continues.
Despite this plant’s oversize appearance, its appeal can often be eclipsed by more well-known varieties. This shouldn’t be the case. We spoke to Mast about how to care for elephant ears and why the humidity-friendly green should be on your radar. Use her tips to get started, and you’ll have a buddy to help you through the hot-and-sweaty bouts of summer’s sunny weather.
How to Care for an Elephant Ears
Potting and soil: Mast says that the most important thing to remember about potting an elephant ears plant is to find a vessel that gives it space to grow, since it can span from 2 to 10 feet tall. For starters, a typical one can begin to grow in a pot that’s about 36 inches in diameter, with about an inch between the soil and the top of the pot. If you’re not sure about the size, simply get a pot that’s at least 2 to 3 inches larger than the plant’s original nursery pot.
“Always plant elephant ears in a pot with proper drainage holes, too,” Mast adds. “Use a well-draining potted peat mix for soil, and during the spring and summer months, apply a liquid all-purpose fertilizer about every two to three weeks. Lastly, make sure the soil is damp before any applications.”
Sunlight and water: Elephant ears do best in bright, indirect sunlight, but can also grow in homes that receive a medium amount of light. Because of the plant’s ties to the tropics, watering will be especially important in order to keep its big leaves looking healthy. “I typically suggest that plant owners use the ‘bottom soaking’ method for elephant ears, which includes filling a sink or tub with 2 to 3 inches of water and then placing the pot in the water for 30 minutes. The water will soak the soil through the drainage holes,” explains Mast.
Once the top of the soil begins to feel damp, Mast says to drain the water and allow the plant to expel the excess water over the next couple of hours. This method ensures that it gets the exact amount of water it needs, and once the pot is back on the saucer, you can water it when the top soil begins to dry. “I would also suggest misting daily or placing the pot on a pebble tray with water, but be sure never to have excess water in your saucer,” she notes.
Plants to Pair With an Elephant Ears
Bird-of-paradise: “Both plants thrive in well-lit, bright areas,” Mast says.
Monstera: “An elephant ears plant looks beautiful with a monstera because they both have a tropical feel,” adds Mast.
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