Exploring Different Types of Elephant Ear Plants

Elephant ear plants are known for their large, heart-shaped leaves that add a tropical touch to gardens and landscapes. They belong to the Araceae family and include several genera, primarily Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma. Understanding the differences between these genera and the various popular and unique varieties can help you choose the right elephant ear plant for your garden.

Overview of Elephant Ear Plant Varieties

Elephant ear plants are distinguished by their striking foliage, which can vary in size, color, and texture. These plants are native to tropical regions, making them ideal for adding a lush, exotic feel to gardens. They are also relatively easy to grow, provided they receive adequate moisture and warmth.

Alocasia vs. Colocasia: Understanding the Differences

While Alocasia and Colocasia are often grouped together due to their similar appearance, there are key differences between the two:

Leaf Orientation:

Alocasia leaves typically point upward or outward, giving them a more upright appearance. Colocasia leaves tend to droop or point downward.

Growth Habit:

Alocasia plants generally have thicker stems and are more rigid. Colocasia plants are more flexible and often form clumps.

Water Requirements:

Colocasia is more tolerant of wet conditions and can even grow in standing water, making it a popular choice for pond edges and water gardens. Alocasia prefers well-drained soil and does not tolerate waterlogging as well.

Popular Elephant Ear Plant Varieties


Colocasiaesculenta is perhaps the most well-known variety, often referred to simply as taro. It is widely cultivated for its edible corms and ornamental value. The leaves are large, heart-shaped, and can grow up to three feet long. This variety is versatile and can thrive in a range of conditions, from full sun to partial shade.


Alocasiamacrorrhiza, commonly known as giant taro or upright elephant ear, is notable for its enormous leaves, which can reach up to five feet in length. This variety has a dramatic, architectural presence in the garden and prefers a warm, humid environment with well-drained soil.


Xanthosomasagittifolium, also known as tannia or malanga, is another popular elephant ear variety. It is similar in appearance to Colocasia but has arrow-shaped leaves that point upward. This plant is valued both for its ornamental appeal and its edible corms, which are a staple food in many tropical regions.

Unique and Exotic Varieties

Black Magic Elephant Ear

Colocasiaesculenta ‘Black Magic’ is a striking variety with dark purple, almost black leaves. This exotic plant adds a dramatic contrast to garden landscapes and is a favorite among collectors and enthusiasts. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and requires consistent moisture.

Upright Elephant Ear Varieties

Several varieties of elephant ear plants have an upright growth habit, adding vertical interest to gardens. These include:

  • Alocasia ‘Polly’: Known for its dark green, deeply veined leaves with a glossy finish.
  • Alocasia ‘Portora’: A hybrid variety with large, ruffled leaves that can reach impressive heights.

Dwarf Elephant Ear Varieties

For gardeners with limited space, dwarf elephant ear varieties offer the same dramatic foliage on a smaller scale. Some popular dwarf varieties include:

  • Alocasia ‘Tiny Dancers’: This compact plant features slender stems and small, upward-pointing leaves.
  • Colocasia ‘Dwarf Palapye’: A miniature version of the traditional Colocasiaesculenta, perfect for container gardens or small spaces.

Tips for Choosing the Right Variety for Your Garden

When selecting an elephant ear plant for your garden, consider the following factors:


Ensure the variety you choose is suitable for your climate. Some elephant ear plants are more cold-tolerant than others, but most prefer warm, humid conditions.


Consider the mature size of the plant. Some varieties can grow very large and may overwhelm small gardens, while dwarf varieties are better suited for compact spaces.

Watering Needs:

Match the plant’s water requirements to your garden’s conditions. Colocasia varieties are ideal for wet areas, while Alocasia and Xanthosoma prefer well-drained soil.


Determine how much sunlight your garden receives. While many elephant ear plants can tolerate partial shade, some varieties thrive in full sun.

FAQs about Exploring Different Types of Elephant Ear Plants

Are elephant ear plants toxic to pets?

Yes, all parts of the elephant ear plant contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can be toxic to pets if ingested. Symptoms may include drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. It’s best to keep these plants out of reach of pets.

How do I overwinter elephant ear plants?

In colder climates, elephant ear plants can be overwintered indoors. Dig up the corms before the first frost, allow them to dry, and store them in a cool, dry place. Alternatively, you can grow them in pots and bring them indoors during the winter months.

Can I grow elephant ear plants indoors?

Yes, many elephant ear varieties can be grown indoors as houseplants. They require bright, indirect light, high humidity, and regular watering. Make sure the soil is well-draining to prevent root rot.

How do I propagate elephant ear plants?

Elephant ear plants can be propagated by dividing the corms or tubers. In spring or early summer, dig up the plant and carefully separate the corms, ensuring each division has a portion of the stem and roots. Replant the divisions in suitable soil and water thoroughly.

How often should I water my elephant ear plant?

Watering frequency depends on the variety and growing conditions. Generally, elephant ear plants prefer consistently moist soil. Colocasia varieties, in particular, can tolerate wetter conditions. In contrast, Alocasia and Xanthosoma need well-drained soil and should not be left in standing water.

What pests and diseases affect elephant ear plants?

Common pests include aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. These can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Diseases such as fungal leaf spot and root rot can occur if the plants are overwatered or grown in poorly drained soil. Ensure proper spacing, good air circulation, and avoid overhead watering to prevent these issues.


By understanding the differences between various elephant ear plant varieties and considering the specific needs of each, you can select the perfect plant to enhance your garden’s tropical appeal. Whether you prefer the classic look of Colocasiaesculenta or the dramatic foliage of Black Magic, there is an elephant ear plant to suit every gardener’s taste and environment.