By Melinda Myers ~
Add an exciting new look to your garden, poolside, patio or deck with elephant ears. These natural tropical plants have tall stems and large leaves that measure up to two feet across. You can use them to create an instant focal point in the garden, screen an unwanted view, or extend a bold welcome at the front door.
Grow elephant ears in containers as well as the garden, so if space is an issue, try some of the more compact varieties like Hawaiian Punch. You’ll appreciate the impact this three-foot-tall plant makes with its red stems and bright green leaves with dark red veining.
Alternatively, go big with six-foot tall Black Stem. Its blue-green leaves are atop striking purple-black stems. Variegated varieties are another option. The unusual foliage of the Mojito plant has blue-black dashes and splashes. No two leaves are alike on this beauty. For even more color and drama, don’t miss Black Magic with its dark, blue-black leaves measure 2 feet across and can grow up to 5 feet tall.
These are just a few of the many varieties that are well suited to home gardens. In warm areas (zones 9 to 11) elephant ears can be grown outdoors year-round. In colder regions (zones 4-8) the plants are grown as annuals or can be brought indoors for the winter.
Give these bold beauties a space of their own or combine them with other exotic foliage plants such as caladiums, coleus, begonias, trailing sweet potato vines and other annuals. The narrow leaves of ornamental grasses, such as shade tolerant Japanese forest grass and sedges, contrast nicely with the elephant ears’ bold leaves.
Elephant ears are tropical plants that need warm soil and plenty of moisture all season long. They are happy to grow in the sun or shade, though in hot climates the leaves need to be protected from the midday sun. Fertilizing every 2 to 3 weeks will help your plants reach their full potential.
These beautiful giants are available as spring-planted bulbs or as potted plants. The baseball-sized tubers can be planted outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed to at least 65°F. Prepare the dirt by adding compost or other organic matter before planting. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the tuber and plant it pointy side up. The top of the tuber should be about an inch below the soil surface.
Photos courtesy of Longfield Gardens