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Dumbo Ears (such an insult)

This is a discussion on Dumbo Ears (such an insult) within the The Jungle forums, part of the Land Plants category; ...

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  1. #1
    TundraKev's Avatar
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    Default Dumbo Ears (such an insult)

    I get tons of grief because I happen to love these plants and hence the nickname “Dumbo Ears”. Most folks call these Elephant Ears and usually are only familiar with the variety commonly sold in just about every garden center or mail order nursery. You know which one I’m talking about – Colocasia esculenta. They’re sold as big tubers that you simply plant in the garden and magically they produce their huge green leaves. These are OK plants, but there are so many other varieties much more interesting.

    The name Elephant Ear is given to a whole bunch of big leafed plants. What we’re really talking about are Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthosoma. All thrive in very warm, humid weather and like lots of fertilizer and water during the growing season. Some will grow in ordinary garden conditions while other like more water, even boggy to wet conditions. Many are often grown in backyard ponds.

    I think people in the deep south are probably more familiar with these plants than northern growers. Surprisingly, many of these are quite cold tolerant surviving temps down to 0 F. with a deep mulch. The foliage dies back, but the tuber or rootstock will survive and begin growing again when temperatures warm up.

    I can’t leave mine outside year round and do not have the room to grow these indoors as houseplants as is often recommended to northern growers. The last few years, I’ve been experimenting with the best methods for overwintering these in my climate.

    Some do form large tubers that can be stored dry at about 50 F. They survive perfectly this way all winter. Others will also form smaller tubers that seem to be able to survive for at least a few months kept dormant and cool. Some of the Colocasia grown in ponds do not form tubers, but have very thick fleshy roots. If these are kept just barely moist, they will begin growing again from the rootstock when temps warm up. These seem to be the trickiest to overwinter. If you keep them to wet, they rot. If you keep them too dry, they shrivel.

    Another way to overwinter these is to pot up some of the pups or small plants that form around the base of the mother plant and simply grow indoors for winter. This past winter I put a number of these in an unused aquarium, hung a 100 watt (23 watt actual) CFL over them and covered the whole thing in plastic to keep in the heat and humidity. It worked very well. The plants didn’t really grow that much, but they did survive. Once outside, these will grow very fast and will be 5-6 foot plants in a couple of months.

    One other thing about growing the ones that form big tubers. The two most commonly available are the above mentioned Colocasia esculenta and the Upright Elephant Ear (Alocasia macrorrhiza). These two form huge tubers and can be stored dry for winter. Unless you live in the south and have a long growing season, don’t simply plant the tubers in your garden come spring. They take at least 2 months to even start growing leaves. It’s better to start these indoors around mid February or early March. I use the same baggie method as I do for my cannas.

    Here are some pictures of a few of my favorites.

    Colocasia multiflora ‘Black Marble’ The coloration on these leaves is just amazing.
    http://www.bonniesplants.com/images_...ack_marble.jpg

    Colocasia antiquorum ‘Illustris’ or Imperial Taro Again, the leaves are gorgeous. This one is often grown in ponds and is widely available.
    http://www.bonniesplants.com/images_...s/imperial.jpg

    Alocasia macrorrhiza (Upright Elephant Ear). I think this one is far more interesting than the ordinary Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta). They both can be grown and stored for winter in the same manner.
    http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/mil...t/yaif/APE.JPG

    Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Variegata’ A variation on the above. Very popular and therefore kind of hard to come by. They always sell out fast. I finally got mine from the guy in Puerto Rico.
    http://www.dutchbulbs.com/spring/images/71862.jpg

    Xanthosoma altrovirens albo marginata ‘Mickey Mouse Taro’ – This one is cute. The leaves kind of look like Mickey Mouse ears.
    http://www.victoria-adventure.org/aq...trovirens2.jpg


    And finally, this is a picture I took today of one I’ve been nursing along all winter - Alocasia clypeolata ‘Green Shield’. It’s still small, but should be amazing this summer when those leaves become 3 feet long. This one doesn’t seem to be widely available yet. Again, my trade partner in PR supplied my plant.


  2. #2
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    Default

    Forgot to say one thing.

    Of the sixteen or so varieties I have, I think I've only purchased one or two. Since these plants multiply fast, it seems you can always find people who are willing to do trades. Some of these plants can be kind of expensive to buy.

    I've also found that there seems to be a lot of crossover between ariod people, orchid people and carnivorous plant people. I've done a lot of trades of orchids for either of the other two. Once you have a few of the more uncommon EE plants, trading becomes even easier.

  3. #3
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    We've only grown the commonly available, marketed as "elephant ears" variety we got at Lowes one year. They overwintered very well in the ground with a good 6 inch layer of mulch over them for several years, but then an odd thing happened.

    Two autumns ago we got an early frost that killed off most of the leaves, then a month of some really nice weather that started new growth coming. When winter finally arrived, the plants all died back, but they never grew again the following spring.

    What's the best way to avoid something like this happening again? If a frost comes, should we just cut the whole plant all the way down, and keep cutting new growth off if the plant tries to put out any?

    Some of those varieties you put up, Kev, are *really* cool looking--definitely a lot more interesting than the Lowes / HD versions, and I just want to make sure I don't screw them up if we ever get some.

  4. #4
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    I grew one as a house plant on the second floor landing , all was well until it bloomed the flower looked a little like a calla lily only small , The down side was it smelled awful a cross between cortisone *sp* and raw meat , persistant plant, I would cut the flower off and it got even by growing 2 more . I found it a new home when we moved here ,no room for it . Gin

  5. #5
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    I can't remember if ours smelled like anything. I don't think they did, or at least, I sure didn't notice. Might be because they were so generic the smell was "Great Valued" out of them.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lja
    We've only grown the commonly available, marketed as "elephant ears" variety we got at Lowes one year. They overwintered very well in the ground with a good 6 inch layer of mulch over them for several years, but then an odd thing happened.

    Two autumns ago we got an early frost that killed off most of the leaves, then a month of some really nice weather that started new growth coming. When winter finally arrived, the plants all died back, but they never grew again the following spring.

    What's the best way to avoid something like this happening again? If a frost comes, should we just cut the whole plant all the way down, and keep cutting new growth off if the plant tries to put out any?

    Some of those varieties you put up, Kev, are *really* cool looking--definitely a lot more interesting than the Lowes / HD versions, and I just want to make sure I don't screw them up if we ever get some.
    I'm not really sure about that. They obviously expended all their energy in the second sprouting and then had nothing in reserve for the spring. You can also force them into dormancy by withholding water. I'm not sure if that would help you situation because you really can't control that when they're in the ground. Dig 'em and store 'em?

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