Tuber, to be planted in spring
Size: 7/9 inch
The Colocasia esculenta, also known as taro and elephant ear, originates from tropical areas. The tuber is eaten in some parts of the world. But uncooked the Colocasia is poisonous, so be careful with children and pets.
These plants produce many roots. Therefore, use a pot that is at least twice as wide as the tuber. If you want a plant with really large leaves, the pot can be even larger. Plant the tuber as deep as it’s lenght and use nutritious potting soil.
Make sure the soil is slightly moist and place the pot in a warm and light place. The first leaves will appear within a few weeks. After this you can start giving more water.
Tip: it’s sometimes difficult to see how to plant the tuber, especially if it does not have any growth points. Look at the shape: usually the top of the tuber (where the leaves came from) is flattened, and the bottom is a bit pointy. If you still have doubts, put it on its side.
How to water
This plant is very thirsty. In fact, in nature it often grows as a swamp plant, with its roots completely submerged. Always keep the soil moist or, if desired, even wet. In addition, a Colocasia that is growing rapidly may receive a dose of liquid plant food on a weekly basis.
Tip: The plant can sometimes fall a little dry. But be careful: do not switch the soil from soaking wet to slightly dry, or reverse, too many times. Both conditions are fine in principle, but that’s because the plant can form special underwater roots that do not do well without all that moisture, and vice versa. Moreover, potting soil can rot if you suddenly allow all that oxygen into soil that is normally submerged in water.
Sometimes Colocasia shows ‘guttation’, which is a type of plant transpiration. You can recognize it causing drops to hang at the end of the leaves. This is normal; it is a sign that his root system is well developed and that the potting soil is well moist. For some floors, however, it is less harmless and can stain, so think twice about where you place the plant.
Colocasias have the curious feature that they can only have up to three leaves at the same time. This is also the case with very young plants and with specimens that are perfectly healthy. This means that new leaves can wither away very quickly, making it appear that something is not going well at all with your plant. But luckily all those brown leaves are an ordinary part of its growth.
The Colocasia is versatile: in a tropical climate where there is rain all year round (or in the living room) they can grow year round. But in places with a cold and/or dry season, they lose their leaves above ground and only new leaves appear from the tubers the following season.
Ideally, the Colocasia receives a lot of heat throughout the year (at least 15 degrees), a lot of light or even full sun, and a relatively high humidity. That means a place by the window in the living room or on the terrace in the summer.
In the winter it’s a bit more difficult to make your Colocasia happy. The living room is usually warm enough, but the chilly winter sun soon leads to a somewhat spindly outgrowth. Worse, the humidity is often too low in the warm-fired living room. The result is that the plant becomes quite susceptible to pests such as lice and spider mites. In addition, it probably doesn’t look good anymore.
Therefore it’s usually better to dig out the tuber. Prune the leaves, dig up the tubers and pick the roots off. (Note: the juice can be irritating.) Then place the tubers away for the rest of the winter in a cool, dark and dry place. Plant them again in spring and within a few weeks your houseplant will grow happily again.
In this way, you ultimately have a better chance of a really large plant. The tubers stay in a dry place for a few months without any problem. But a plant that has been struggling for a whole winter really gets worse: the leaves keep getting smaller and the tubers shrink. Then in the spring you don’t have a flying start, but you are behind.
Pruning is not possible, if you cut a leaf, it will not come back. If leaves are ugly, you can simply cut them off. If the plant has grown too large, prune the leaves and dig up the tuber. Almost always smaller tubers and/or root shoots have formed that you can pot separately. This is also a way to multiply your Colocasia.
A perfect garden plant
These plants do well as a houseplant, but just as well and in some cases even better as a garden plant. In fact, if you want to grow a really large specimen, the garden is better. This way they can grow unlimited and in full sun they get more light than in the living room. Provide a very nutrient-rich, slightly acidic soil that is always moist. Or even soaking wet; Colocasia are excellent pond plants. If you don’t have room for a location in the full sun, then semi-shade is also fine.
In the Netherlands, Colocasia grow as bulbous plants. As soon as it freezes, the above-ground part dies, but the underground tuber can withstand some frost, up to -15 degrees. Do you want to make sure that it survives? Dig up the bulbs as soon as the leaves begin to die and allow them to hibernate in a cool, dry and dark place, such as in the shed or cellar. As soon as it stops freezing during the day, they can go back to the ground.
Furthermore, they are easy garden plants. You can also add fertilizer and give it extra water during a dry summer. You can also keep them as a patio plant. Place the plant in the winter with a pot in the shed or in another place where it barely freezes – just like all other plants, Colocasia in a pot is more susceptible to freezing cold than in the open ground. Keep in mind that you give a lot of water during the growing season!
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