When I think of tropical plants, I imagine rainforests and liana, and huge leaves and brilliant blossoms, living in the depths of a lush forest. But truth to tell, many of our favorite houseplants come from the tropics, including peace lilies, orchids, birds of paradise, and fiddle leaf ferns. Tropical houseplants love warm weather, and the inside of our homes provides it.
One of my current favorite tropical houseplants is called elephant’s ear. It is easy to fall for the plant’s large leaves and prominent veins and I did. It just makes me happy to look at it.
Meet the Elephant’s Ear
The actual name of this foliage plant is Amazonian elephant’s ear (Alocasia x amazonica), which is odd since it is native to Asia. It is not rare, but a popular tropical houseplant. It’s a hybrid varietal that is both dramatic and gorgeous.
Amazonian elephant’s ear is all about the leaves. They are a deep, forest green that sometimes looks almost purple, and roughly serrated. They are accentuated by prominent light green veins. The plant grows rapidly to its mature height of some 3 feet (0.9 m.). While the plants flower in the tropics, they rarely bloom indoors. Mine never has, but I love it just the same as a foliage plant.
Caring for the Elephant’s Ear
Despite its tropical origins, growing Amazonian elephant’s ear is quite easy. You need to duplicate jungle conditions by offering this tropical houseplant filtered sun and humus-rich soil that is constantly moist.
These plants need plenty of water so don’t let their soil get dry but be sure it isn’t wet. One way to make sure of this is to plant in fast-draining soil. What exactly does this mean? I use a loose organic potting soil that includes a significant amount of peat moss. I lighten the soil up by adding sand from my back yard.
Elephant’s ear likes and needs indirect sun but placing it in direct sun is sure to cause it stress and damage. The ideal is to give them about 60 percent shade and lots of bright, indirect light. Don’t experiment with direct light either since it will scorch the beautiful leaves.
I repot my elephant’s ear every year, putting it into a stable container an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) bigger than the last container. Note that the plant likes to be pot-bound, so moving up too fast is not a good idea.