Elephant ear is a name used to describe several species of plants in three plant genera – these being Colocasia, Alocasia and Xanthosoma – but can elephant ear plants grow in water?
Most species of elephant ear plants thrive when grown in water, and are found in the wild frequently growing in swampy areas and other bodies of water. They grow so well in these conditions, in fact, that they have become invasive in places such as Florida due to their rapid growth and size.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through a few methods for growing elephant ears in water, as well as what to do with them over the winter if you decide to grow them in water.
What Species Of Elephant Ear Plant Are Unsuitable For Water?
Before I dive into the details of how to grow an elephant ear plant in water, it’s important to clarify which types are not suited for water. This is because it’s quite a generic answer to say that all elephant ear plants can be grown in water when this is not the case.
Xanthosoma tends to not grow well in water specifically, whereas most Colocasia or Alocasia will do fine. It’s important to know the difference here as it can save a lot of problems further down the line.
For the purpose of this article, I’ll refer to these generally as elephant ear plants to keep it simple. Let’s get into the details of how to grow these plants in water, as well as some handy tips for making sure they survive.
How To Grow Elephant Ear Plants In Water
There are actually a couple of ways to grow elephant ear plants in water, so I’ve highlighted two of the most popular methods below.
Method #1 – In A Pot
The first method involves planting an elephant ear plant first in a pot with aquatic soil. Use a deep pot, so that the tuber has a good amount of space beneath it for the roots to grow and absorb water from the water.
The idea here is to place the pot into water, but only at a shallow depth (a few inches or so), so that the tuber is not sat in the water but the roots below are able to absorb water from the source.
Method #2 – Directly In Water
Elephant ear plants can be planted directly into ponds or bodies of water at the edges so that the crown of the plant is above water (i.e not fully submerged).
You can use gravel or small stones to hold the base of the plant in place, and it’s advisable to keep the soil around the tuber to provide some stability. This method is a bit more work than method #1 as you’ll need to dig out your plant and then place it into the water, but it’s a great option if you want your elephant ear plant to grow directly in water.
Can Elephant Ear Plants Stay In Water Through The Winter?
Over the winter it’s best to cut back any remaining foliage and store the tubers inside. If you’re unsure what a tuber is, it’s similar to a bulb but a tuber is made up of modified stems rather than leaves.
To do this, trim any foliage and then dig the tuber out, starting a good distance away from the base of the plant. It’s crucial to take care at this stage as any damage to the tuber can cause it to rot during storage.
Remove the tuber gently and place it in a warm, dry room for a week on a paper towel so it can dry out fully. Once it has dried out wrap it in a fresh paper towel and place it in a small box, covering it in peat moss or soil before closing the box.
USDA Zones 7-11
If you live in a USDA zone 7-11 you have the option of planting the tubers outside over winter rather than storing them inside. This is a good option if you don’t have somewhere to store the tubers inside.
To do this, remove the tuber as before and then plant it into the ground. Leave around 4 to 6 inches of stem and then cover it with mulch or leaves.
Do Elephant Ears Grow Faster In Water Or In Soil?
The growth rates of an elephant ear are similar in both water and soil, assuming that you water regularly in the case of soil.
However, it’s easier to grow them in water as it requires less work. It also promotes a natural habitat which is ideal for the plant, so it’s a win-win situation.