How to Plant Elephant Ear Bulbs

These dramatic tropical plants are a perfect addition to your home—indoors or out. Here's how to start elephant ear plants from bulbs.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25
  • Yield: elephant ear plant

Elephant ear plants (also known as colocasia, alocasia, xanthosoma, and remusatia plants) can be a dramatic addition to your garden or your plant collection. Like the animal they're named for, they can grow gigantic (up to 8 feet tall), with mammoth leaves several feet wide.

Elephant ears may be a tropical plant, but they can thrive in most hardiness zones in the country outdoors. You can grow them as a perennial in zones 9 to 12—though they'll still grow as an annual in the other regions, as the bulbs will die off in a frost.

If you're looking to grow an elephant ear plant, planting an elephant ear bulb or tuber is the way to go. Here's how to ensure that they thrive no matter where you plant them.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Bulb planter tool or garden trowel
  • Planter (optional)


  • Elephant ear bulbs
  • Potting soil (for indoors)
  • Nitrogen fertilizer
  • Rich, loamy soil


How to Plant an Elephant Ear Bulb

Elephant ear plants can be grown from bulbs or tubers, depending on the variety you choose. Like most other plant bulbs, they're pretty easy to plant.

  1. Plant when the soil has warmed

    Because elephant ear plants are tropical, try to re-create their environment. Wait to plant the bulbs or tubers until the weather has warmed and is at least 70 degrees in the spring‚ or start the plants indoors. Elephant ear plants like rich, well-fertilized soil, a partly shady spot, and plenty of moisture.

  2. Give the elephant ear bulbs plenty of room to grow

    Plant the elephant ear bulbs about 4 inches into the soil, with the point facing up. Place them 2 to 4 feet apart, to leave room for them to grow.

  3. Give your plants time to grow

    Water sparingly as the elephant ear bulb starts to grow. It may take over a month before you start to see it sprout.

How to Care for an Elephant Ear Plant

Once your elephant ear plant has sprouted, you'll need to change your plant care routine to help it thrive.

  1. Water your elephant ear plant generously

    Once the plant is established, keep the plant well watered and fertilized with a nitrogen fertilizer. (This is a perfect plant for a rain garden, where they'll thrive on the moisture there.)

    If your plant is in a pot outdoors, it may need to be watered more than once a day during a heat wave.

  2. Make plans for the winter

    If you're in the warmer growing zones, your bulb can overwinter in the ground.

    If you live where it's cold, you can either let the elephant ear bulb die away and start again next year, or you can dig up the plant before the first frost. If you decide to preserve the bulbs, let them dry out and remove the soil from the tuber. Store the bulbs wrapped in paper in a warm, dark place with a stable temperature around 60 degrees.

    Then you can replant the following spring!

  3. Use the elephant ear as a houseplant

    if you don't want to go through the trouble of overwintering your elephant ear bulbs, your elephant ear plant can be a beautiful houseplant—just make sure it gets regular watering and bright indirect light to help it thrive.

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  1. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Colocasia. Accessed May 5, 2023.

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