Taro (Colocasia esculenta), also called elephant ear, is a herbaceous perennial belonging in the family Araceae. This Asian native's tubers have been cultivated for thousands of years for food. Plants have large, elephant earlike leaves growing up to 3 feet wide and plants can reach up to 8 feet in height at maturity. Taro grows well planted outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 through 11. Cooler regions experiencing annual freezes should grow the plant as an annual or in indoor containers for winter protection. Plants work well as specimens, mass plantings, in shade gardens or in and around water gardens.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Pruning shears
Remove any weeds or grasses in a planting site located in partial shade. Rake up or pull the unwanted vegetation out by hand. Taro will grow in full sun as long as it receives ample doses of water.
Amend the planting site with compost, manure or peat, as taro prefers growing in rich, moist soils on the acidic side. Dig the organic material into the planting site's soil approximately 8 inches.
Dig a hole approximately 3 inches deep, when planting taro seed tubers. Place the tuber into the hole and cover with soil. Space multiple tubers approximately 24 inches apart.
Dig a hole as deep and wide as the taro transplant is growing inside its container, if planting transplants. Remove the plant from the container, place into the hole and cover with soil. Space multiple transplants approximately 24 inches apart.
Water the taro transplants and tubers after planting, saturating the soil. Keep the planting site moist to wet by watering regularly. Taro prefers moist to wet soil conditions, withstanding growing in up to 1 foot of water, according to the University of Florida.
Prune taro plants only to remove brown or yellowing leaves, as plants require little pruning and are generally maintenance free.
Propagate new taro plants by digging up the parent plant and dividing the tubers. Divide taro during its dormancy period of winter through early springtime. Plant the divisions into the garden or into a container.
Bring container-grown taro plants inside to a warm location during frosts or freezes to protect them. Outdoor plants have an evergreen habit in frost-free areas and return in spring in USDA hardiness zone 8b.
Tips and warnings
- Plant taro transplants and tubers inside containers that have drainage and are approximately three to four times larger than the tuber or transplant's root ball. Use a rich potting mix and keep the container's soil moist.
- Florida considers taro an exotic, invasive species taking over natural plant habitats, according to the University of Florida. Gardeners living within this region should plant taro in areas where it is controllable.
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