How to plant Colocasia

Also known as Elephants Ears, Colocasia put on an impressive show of large, heart-shaped leaves which unravel continuously, one after another throughout the summer. You won’t believe how much can grow out of one bulb! Each large leaf is held at the top of a sturdy upright stalk, forming a strong and stately plant. Grow them as an impressive summer annual and create a real talking point in the garden. These fascinating plants are marvellously exotic - if you’re creating a tropical planting scheme, you’ve made the right choice!

Colocasias love being in moist soil, which means you can use them to make a feature out of a tricky area of damp or boggy ground. They will also thrive in an ordinary border and containers too, as long as it doesn’t become too dry in summer. These versatile tropical plants are happy in sun or shade, which makes them suitable for growing in virtually any part of the garden. Whilst they grow a little quicker in sun, they maintain a fresher, more vibrant leaf colour in shade.

How to plant Colocasia

Colocasias are tender tropical bulbs and need to be protected from frost. Therefore, it’s important to start them off indoors, preferably in a warm environment such as your home, a conservatory or heated greenhouse. They can take a while to sprout but usually wake up when provided temperatures of around 17-25°C. Waiting until April or May to plant your Colocasia bulbs is a good option if the growing space available is not warm enough in March. If you don’t have time or space to grow on your Colocasias in the spring, you can plant them straight outside when the weather is mild and risk of frost has passed. Once you’ve planted your bulbs, give them a little water regularly to get them started, but not too much at first as they may rot if still dormant. When they are in full growth they will be happy in a consistently moist or wet soil.

Step-by-step

— Plant your Colocasia bulbs in spring. Colocasias need warmth to start growing, start them off in a place which is consistently around 17-25°C.

— You can also plant them straight outside in a warm position after risk of frost has passed. Colocasia bulbs started indoors can be transferred outside at this time too.

— Grow in borders or containers in sun or shade in a rich, reliably moist or wet soil.

— Plant the bulbs shallowly with the top of the bulb level with the soil surface, the side with rings or papery layers should be facing upwards.

— Space the bulbs 25-35cm apart from each other when planting out.

— Water-in after planting and keep well hydrated throughout the season.

Growing Colocasia in pots

Colocasia bulbs grow happily in pots. They can grow to be quite large over the summer, so it’s best to choose a sturdy container which won’t topple over with the weight of the plant. We recommend a container which is around 30-40cm (12-14in) in diameter. For Colocasia, choose a loam-free compost to fill your pot - a good quality multipurpose compost is ideal. If growing Alocasia, choose a soil-based compost. These bulbs like a moist soil, so to save water it is worth reducing drainage by putting a dish underneath your pot. Water your plant whenever the soil surface starts to look dry.

Colocasia as house plants

Tropical Colocasia and Alocasia make impressive house plants, their tall, upright stems and large leaves with intense colouring are a statement feature in the home or office. You’ll need a good space for them to thrive, close to a window or patio doors. Reaching a height of up to 1.5m, they’re best positioned on the floor or a low plant stand.

Colocasia plants grown indoors require regular watering. Top up their water whenever the surface of the soil starts to look dry. They look great in a large terracotta pot, around 30-40cm (12-14in) in diameter, or positioned inside a waterproof indoor plant container. Tropical bulbs love warm, humid conditions which you can mimic by misting with water from time to time. Colocasia die back in the autumn and become dormant. At this point, remove the old foliage and move the container to a cool but frost free place for winter. There is no need to water it while dormant.

Caring for Colocasia

Throughout the season, Colocasia require very little in terms of maintenance. Regular watering is key, then any damaged or tatty leaves can be removed if and when needed. Watering your plants in the evening avoids the risk of scorch marks developing on the beautiful leaves, it also gives the plants all night to absorb plenty of moisture.

These tropical bulbs will not tolerate frost, so if you would like to keep the bulbs for next year they should be moved to a frost free place in autumn. Container-grown Colocasias can simply be moved into a shed or cool greenhouse for winter. Once the foliage starts to die back, snip it off and let the bulbs remain dormant in their pots. Those which are growing in the ground should be carefully dug up and stored in trays or pots surrounded by a loose compost. If you have an Alocasia, it can remain evergreen if kept at room temperature so you can bring it in and enjoy it as a houseplant for the winter months.

Contrasting combinations

With such striking leaves in summer, you can really get creative with Colocasia combinations. These fantastic foliage plants look great with vibrant flowers – for a tropical theme, try pairing them with zesty, long-flowering plants like dahlias and begonias. Other tropical bulbs like Bessera and Gloriosa will also work well to heighten any exotic, leafy display. If you’re growing it as a marginal pond plant, try a chic combination with white-flowered Calla aethiopica.

Planting instructions